ConvertKit Form

Tag: classroom culture

Student Voice: Taking Interest so We Can Facilitate Action

Student Voice: Taking Interest so We Can Facilitate Action

As we begin to reflect on community spaces,  we did a deep dive into our community space of our classroom. In one of my previous posts, A Journey Into Design Thinking To Tackle Classroom Challenges, I confessed that I needed to go back to the “drawing board” and collect more ideas from the students so I can transform the challenge of”managing them” and more on empowering them with our learning environment. This is definitely a shift from my former thinking as a classroom teacher as I work on developing my student-centered learning environment and an “innovator’s mindset”.

Innovation starts not by providing answers but by asking questions.

-George Curous- #Innovator’s Mindset

So, I created a provocation with a Google Slide presentation of different interesting classroom spaces that I found from the internet and also included some environments from our own school. Then I asked the students to draw sketches of what they thought our learning space should look like. Yes, there were some students who wanted to put in a nerf gun obstacle course and jumping castle inside our classroom–they are 1st graders with lovely imaginations– but through questioning and dialogue, I was able to determine what elements of the learning space were important to them. I was also able to get some formative assessement of what their understanding of our central idea is, Community spaces provide opportunities to connect, as it related to our community of learning.

It was delightful to discuss with them what they felt we needed for our learning spaces and why they personally needed them. Some of the conversations made me laugh, others surprised me with their insight and awareness, while others made me feel a bit disappointed. Here are some of the ideas that came up during my interviews:

  • Have a space for relaxation so that students should take a rest. (3 votes for hammocks!)
  • Big whiteboards that we (the students) can write on.
  • Have our ‘own space’ and an ‘everyone space’
  • A place for some free choice.
  • We can eat inside the classroom.
  • A space just for computers.
  • A ‘mini’ makerspace.
  • More artwork displayed in our class.
  • Students should teach more.
  • A tent as a meeting area.
  • Pleasant smelling flowers. Plants in the room.

As I reflect on these conversations,  two things stood out to me: firstly, a desire to be trusted and given “space”, and how their ideas closely mirrored the elements of a learning space that are suggested from The Space: A Guide for Educators: spaces for collaboration, creation, showcasing learning, and quiet.

Image from the book: The Space: A Guide for Educators 

So as we move forward on this journey, I really want to facilitate students’ initiative to take ownership of their learning space and cultivate their interest in co-designing it. As I tune into their ideas, I will continue to collect data from them, finding out what’s essential for them to feel comfortable and confident. While this is just a beginning, there is something that is exciting about making changes to our classrooms, especially as I think about the cultural shift that is occurring through this process. I feel hopeful that when our students really feel listened to and their ideas valued, becoming more responsible for the classroom and our learning community is a natural outcome and not something that must be “taught” or “managed”.  I believe that when we, as teachers, show through our actions and words that we trust students, they rise to the challenge and have a desire to be co-designers and collaborators in their own learning.

What experience do you have with this? I’d love to hear your ideas and gain your insights! Please make a comment.

 

Designing a Classroom of Writers: An Inquiry-Based Approach To Writer’s Workshop

Designing a Classroom of Writers: An Inquiry-Based Approach To Writer’s Workshop

I have a desire to be the teacher that I always wish I had and to have a classroom whose energy and enthusiasm for learning is palpable. I don’t care if my students remember me when they are older but I certainly wish that who they became as writers might be because of me.

This week was the first full week of school and like many classrooms, the early days of learning are full of cultivating our learning culture and assessing children. However, since we are a PYP (Primary Years Programme) school, we are also trying to determine what they know about our central idea Our choices and actions as individuals define who we become as a community while looking through our lines of inquiry:

  • Ourselves as learners (reflection)
  • How our mindset impacts our behavior (change)

So this week, as we inquired why people write, students examined old exemplars of writing. And when I say old, I mean REALLY old, as in ancient, such as these.

ancient

We did the See, Think, Wonder Visible Thinking routine, and the students came up with lots of wonderful ideas like “words are like codes that have secret messages”, “old humans had different things that they wrote about”, “writing looks different today”. Then their questions began to emerge, with the most poignant being  “what message do they want to tell us”. From there, we decided to create a “message” about something that is important to them. They could write about anything, which would help me assess a bit into the line of inquiry-who we are as learners, and most importantly, who we are as writers. What ideas do they have? Would they use pictures AND words to express their ideas? What words would they use?

So with no other prompt, they began to “write”. All of them drew pictures, none of them wrote words beyond their name on top of the paper. I thought this was very interesting and it was great data. At that point, I decided to stop the class, and have them share their pictures with a buddy. While they partnered up, the partner who drew the picture was silent while the other described what they thought the picture was about. Then they switched roles. When we did a whole group reflection, the students began to articulate what they needed to add to their picture so that its message was clearer: more details in the picture, more color, and add WORDS! Then they set off to work on their writing and the words started to come onto the page naturally. This showed me that they were beginning to understand the purpose of words in our writing and motivated them to use labels and captions.

During our next lesson, students explored books with the learning intention of determining what the author was trying to tell us–what was their message. When the students came back and shared, the purpose of writing began to come into focus: to entertain or to inform us about a certain topic. Then I gave them back their original sample of writing, I asked them if they were “done” with this idea of if they needed more paper to explain what happened before and after the page that I had in my hand. All of them agreed that they had more work to do, and within 30 minutes, their books began to emerge. Students ideas for book making began to spill out and they started to think about their purpose of writing: “When I am done with this book, I want to write about mermaids”, “Next time Batman is going to fight another bad guy.”, “I want to do a different kind of I-Spy book”.  Later students asked when it was writing time and if they could take their books out on break so they could share them with a friend. But my happiest moment of this week came when a student who felt overwhelmed and exasperated about reading came to me and asked if he could do more writing during our classroom ‘personal inquiry time”. I couldn’t help but beam with my joy–Yes!, I thought, they will become genuine writers!

I firmly believe that when students get the “why” of writing and the “how” will come naturally because they are motivated to do the heavy lifting in their learning. So as we work through this unit of inquiry, I intend to find mentor texts to help support them and to “tune into” their voice so they develop their skills as writers.

I am wondering what others have done that has sparked a love of writing. What strategies and provocations have you used that got students motivated and energized about their work? Please share because it elevates teaching, not just in my classroom, but in other’s who read this blog. Sharing is caring! (:

I am the Force, and the Force is Within Me.

I am the Force, and the Force is Within Me.

If you have seen Rogue 1, the latest Star Wars movie, then you know what my title is all about. As I interpret it, it means tapping into the field of our inner potential to overcome challenges and obstacles. I think, as educators, we grapple with this all the time, especially when we contemplate whether or not we are making a positive impact in our classrooms and in our school community.

Recently I reread Ron Ritchart’s Creating Cultures of Thinking: The 8 Forces We Must Master to Truly Transform Our Schools. In case you don’t know the 8 forces that shape a school’s culture of teaching and learning, let me give you a cheat:

  1. Expectations (of learning)
  2. Language (teacher and student talk)
  3. Time
  4. Modeling
  5. Opportunities (powerful learning moments)
  6. Routines (Visible Thinking routines)
  7. Interactions
  8. Environment

As I was rereading the parts I had highlighted and bookmarked, it got me thinking about the 2nd term. We have quite a few staff members leaving, myself included, and there is the danger of coasting instead of pushing the boundaries. I recognize that as a leader I have the choice to either uphold the status quo or to compel myself and others out of our comfort zone and demand more of ourselves and our kids. After watching an episode of Impact Theory with Dr. Moran Cerf, it got me thinking even more deeply about the need to move outside comfort levels:

It all comes down to the narrative that you tell yourself… Because the narrative you tell yourself, about yourself, is the most important thing you have; and if you tell yourself a story about struggle and inadequacy, not being good enough then that is going to reinforce your literal identity. The day I stopped thinking of myself as smart, and I started thinking of myself as a learner-that changed everything…it became this identity that is anti-fragile because if you told me I was stupid, it didn’t matter, it just compelled me to learn more.

Tom Bilyeu

I loved that! And as I listened to the interview, it really inspired me to alter our staff meeting. I felt that we all relate to this idea of “the learner” and that the love of teaching and learning could drive our practice to the next level.

During omindset-outline-graphicur staff PD session, we spoke candidly and asked questions about the concept of “YET”; how we can embrace those parts of us that professionally are “fixed” and encourage the growth mindset in our practice and most importantly in our students. What was funny is that inadvertently every aspect of the Ron Richart’s cultural forces came up in our discussions and reflections today. When we got into our collaborative groups to share and rework our professional goals, there was a greater sense of synergy, purpose, and creativity.

I really look forward to hearing what ideas emerge as we go through this process of achieving our professional goals,  as well as the collaboration and peer support that we can offer each other as we engage in more risk-taking in our classroom practice.

Just as “I am the Force, and the Force is within me”, I know that it is also true for the great teachers that I work with, and moreover, our students. Now I  just can’t wait to see what amazing things come out our second term.

Like Minded? Let's Stay Connected!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 671 other subscribers

Judy Imamudeen

Judy Imamudeen

Developing learners as leaders is my joy! As a highly qualified International Baccaluearate (IB) teacher and educational leader, I am committed and passionate about executing its framework and empowering students in creating a future world that works for everyone.

Personal Links

View Full Profile →