I’m quite excited at the moment as the Y7 (G6) students are carrying on with a lot of the things they started during the PYP Exhibition last year. The secondary school has set up something called “Know, Care, Act” which gives the kids the chance to continue with the action they started last year – exactly what I was hoping for!
Here’s an example (hopefully the first of many):
Last year, Johann and Arne became very interested in privacy and safety issues online following an inspirational presentation by Robyn Treyvaud (see her TED Talk here). Both of them spend a lot of time on Facebook (as do their peers) and they were really pleased to hear an adult talk realistically about Facebook instead of telling them not to use it.
For the PYP Exhibition, they narrowed their focus down to privacy settings on Facebook as they felt that this was an area that could really empower people to use social networking safely and responsibly in the future. They set up a Facebook Safety Consultancy Center and helped hundreds of clients set up their privacy settings and learn to do it for themselves.
They are continuing to publicize their actions using their Facebook page
and are continuing to run mini-workshops in our school library – fabulous!
I’m going to attempt use this blog to document all my planning, both before and as everything happens, as I work with my Year 6 students through the PYP exhibition process. I’m going to call this “Blanning”… because “Blagging” is just too honest!
Tomorrow, I’m going to use the Nature lens of the Compass. Through the Nature lens, students are asked to consider the implications of their issues from the natural perspective. So, for example, making links between local beggars and deforestion and loss of homes in Myanmar and Cambodia.
I was thinking of having quite an open-ended day, with students making choices of a number of ways to consider the links between issues and nature. But then I thought it might be good to have a series of finite activities that need to be done within a specific timeframe and then shared and reflected on before moving on to something very different. Perhaps:
- Students could use expressive materials like pastels and charcoal to create an impulsive abstract piece of artwork based on their thoughts about their issues in the green context. I will limit them to using only shades of green and one other significant colour. I got the idea from a session my Dad did for the teachers at the Green School Bali: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=199675&id=114095042424&ref=mf
- Creating quotes, locating quotes, sharing quotes: This would be the search for existing and student-created quotes that illustrate connections between their issue and nature. They will have a set amount of time to find and develop their quotes, and then the same amount of time again to think about how they will share it.
- Green Data: Up-to-date facts and figures that will back up student ideas, arguments and conclusions. Again, they will have a set amount of time to find and collate their data, and then the same amount of time again to think about how they will share it. Emphasis will be placed on producing infographics here, probably leaning heavily on using the SmartArt features of Microsoft Word, or paint.net for the more technologically advanced.
- I’d like to end the day with a lot of talking, walking and looking at what the kids have produced. I’ll try to provoke conversations and play devil’s advocate a bit. Then, I’ll get them to identify the “Key Connections” between their issue and the Nature lens of the Compass. They may blog those by comments on a posting. They may display them visually in the room, they may do both… we’ll see what happens tomorrow!
So, during all of this – hopefully – the Compass Guides will be dropping in whenever they have 5 or 10 minutes to spare and taking a look at what the kids are thinking, what directions they’re moving in and what ideas they have for them.
I've shamelessley created another wordle for this posting by copying pasting the words in the posting into wordle and hitting "randomize" several times. So simple, so good to look at. But... they can't be used all the time.
It’s hard to make exact plans for the next stage of our exhibition as we’re never fully sure the school will be open or that several students will take extended holidays. However, it will be a priority for us to look at the students’ issues through each lens of the Compass in myriad of ways. I ‘m thinking:
- Hi-quality image searching, seeking images that are entirely relevant, powerful and large file sizes for added manipulation and poster design. I get the students using the Creative Commons image search as they have share-alike copyrights which means we can use them as long as they are credited.
- Quotes from media reports and opinion
- Data in the form of infographics – see http://www.coolinfographics.com/
- Use Wordle to create visuals of frequently used words in media stories, blog comments, interviews (see the examples in the slideshow that I created by pasting the text of this posting into Wordle).
Students will spend the day looking at their issue solely from the perspective of one lens and will be responsible for sharing their findings throughout the day. Compass Guides are invited to drop-in to the classroom at any time during the day in order to give feedback, provoke ideas and familiarize the students further with actually talking to different people about their issues.
Technology will play a major part in each day. I’m imagining students will be:
- Searching the Internet for images
- Reading online news and reports
- Watching Youtube videos
- Reading or writing on the 6SS Blog
- Recording video using Flip cameras
- Making calls on Skype
- Designing pages using Word
- Creating infographics using SmartArt or paint.net
- Taking and manipulating photographs
- Using Prezi or PowerPoint to deliver short presentations.
- Developing their own big picture/small picture tasks for other people
Basically, the students will be exploring issues with a very clear focus: Nature, Economy, Society and Well-Being. Have a close look at the original Compass developed by Alan Atkisson.
The Blog that my class and I have developed so far this year has been outstandingly successful. The effects, among others, have been:
- A much greater amount of writing is being published than I have ever experienced in teaching before.
- A worldwide audience has made the students think about their responsibilities and powers as authors.
- The conversations that have happened through comments and replies has taken student understanding to a very deep level.
- The students are increasingly confident about sharing their ideas, thoughts and feelings.
- The parents love the fact that they can go on our Blog at any time and get a real sense of what the students are thinking about at the time.
- The students have naturally started to self and peer edit.
- ESL students have the opportunity to express themselves in writing in a very low-pressure setting, boosting their confidence.
- The students have become genuinely empowered by having the right to create their own posts.
- The students are developing skills and codes of online behaviour that will really set them up for the future.
The Blog has become what it is because:
- Everything on the Blog is relevant to current learning or is based on student interests.
- Students have been trusted to create postings.
- Students have been assigned Blog tasks in school and at home.
- Students have been provided with new skills as they have needed them, not too much too soon and nothing held back because “they are not capable of doing that”.
- Postings contain provocations that get the students thinking and make them want to react.
- Postings contain high-quality images that give the Blog a professional feel.
- Effective use of Tags and Categories makes it possible to access old postings very easily, keeping them alive.
- Effective use of widgets provides extra content and useful information.
- Information about the number of hits and worldwide visitors puts things into perspective for the kids and acts as an extra motivation – “there are people out there who are interested in what we do!”
I was recently very happy to find a similar blog posting to this one: “Let Your Students Blog” by Deborah C. White
I have recently started using rotations in my classroom. Most mornings, the students come into the room and have three tasks to work on. They may decide what order to do these tasks in. Each rotation is about 30 minutes and the students now manage the time themselves, keeping an eye on the clock and trying to time their work accordingly.
As much as possible, rotations are relevant to the unit of inquiry that we are working on at the moment. This is always the case with the writing task. I will provoke their writing with a question, statement or problem and then they will use a basic writing process to produce a piece of work. They will pass their their work on to classmates for comments and proofreading. Very often, the writing task is connected to a conversation we have already had or a conversation we will have.
Another rotation is normally maths-based. We have subscriptions to Mathletics and the rotations give us the chance to use Mathletics for those skills and drills practices and frees up time for genuine maths inquiries at other times.
The third rotation is usually reading. The students have a lot of freedom about what reading materials to select and often I have students reading magazines, fiction books, non-fiction books, comics, newspapers, web pages and so on. Students read independently, in pairs or in groups.
The rotations have worked really well so far. They give us the chance to do a variety of tasks in a way that keeps a good pace. Students like the freedom to choose the order they do things in and they are enjoying the chance to manage their own time.
During this unit of inquiry (central idea: “Being organized empowers us to achieve.”) we have put up a huge display of the Gradual Release of Responsibility Model. We have adapted the model to suit the purposes of this unit of inquiry and to enable students to inquire into how independent they are on a day-to-day basis.
Students are thinking about every aspect of their lives, such as packing bags for school or waking up in the morning, and plotting where each aspect fits into the GRR. As they take more responsibility for the simple things in their lives, they move their index cards along the line towards the goal of increased independence.
Recently, parents came into school for our 3 Way Conferences and were able to share this experience with the students. Some of them agreed new things to focus on and work on at home.
I was going through the resources that Chad Walsh and I created for our workshop at EARCOS last year, “Creating a Community of Learners” and I realised that I hadn’t been using one of my favourites to inform my decisions.
This flowchart is designed to help teachers make decisions about what is worth doing with students, and what is not. It is designed to get us out of the habit of doing things “because we always have” or “because we did it last year”. In my opinion, those are really lame reasons for even the best laid plans.
Use the flowchart to rethink, to criticize, to question, to examine and to arrive at plans that really do promote student empowerment, experience and engagement and also give you the chance to gather evidence of genuine learning.