Our Grade 2 students are currently learning about emotions and emotional intelligence. They went on a field trip to the cinema to see Inside Out and the movie has inspired some very interesting thinking.
Cathy, one of the G2 teachers, gave her students a blank piece of A3 paper and asked them to draw what’s inside their heads. She got back a combination of ideas from the movie and original ideas developed by the students. This kind of open task brings out creative ideas, misconceptions, interesting language and unique interpretations that can drive inquiry in ways that teachers would not be able to predict. All too often, teachers provide their students with closed tasks designed to elicit predetermined responses that the teacher determines to be right or wrong, good or bad. When they design ways that create space in the learning for the students’ genuine responses, things are very different!
When I saw the drawings, I immediately wondered what it would be like to photograph them, put them in one of our green screen studios and film the students inside their own heads taking us on a trip around what’s inside their heads! This extended the task into new territory as the students stretched their ability to explain their thinking and to coordinate both sides of their brain as they watched themselves live on the monitor!
So, next time you’re trying to think of a way to find out your students’ ideas, thoughts or feelings, don’t design a closed set of questions to which you can anticipate the answers. Instead, design something open that creates space for them to release information that you couldn’t predict – it’ll be much more interesting.
A couple of years ago, I made a posting and video about the power of setting up classrooms to suit the nature of the learning going on at the time. The context, at that time, was visual art and each student was involved in their own visual art project. They were artists. Turning the classrooms into art studios was a natural step towards making them really feel like artists.
You can do this for any context.
In this clip, the Grade 5 classrooms at my school are becoming art studios and the students are creating their own workspaces and innovation boards. One student said “its organized… but its organized in our own way”.
I have been following @anderscj for some time now and enjoyed the content he puts into twitter. Today, however, he has thrown some provocative quotes at his learning community:
I am really interested in the first quote, by Mark Twain. I often think that we learn despite the way we’re taught. How many of the world’s most successful people were successful at school? How many of the world’s most talented people had their talents discovered, enriched and advanced at school? How many of the people who have achieved success in the “real” areas of life such real-estate, business, cooking, social work and creativity were successful at school?
In this technological day and age, also, we have to be curious about the lives lids are living online and how much more creative, non-threatening and collaborative they are than their school lives. Scary stuff, but also exciting for people who are willing to rethink and continue to learn themselves:
I also really like the penultimate quote about education threatening long-held mores and beliefs. I totally agree with this, but often find myself surrounded by teachers who would not agree with it. Why is that? What is it about schools that makes them breed people who deny the need for constant change? How do they become these bubbles that exist in separation from the real world? How do we burst the bubble?
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
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.