Tag: inquiry

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! (:

Central Ideas: The Good, The Bad and The Messy. How the Primary Years Program Can Rethink and Define Them

Central Ideas: The Good, The Bad and The Messy. How the Primary Years Program Can Rethink and Define Them

The Primary Years Program is a challenging curriculum. As you work in this framework, it forces you to put all of your educational values under the microscope and really analyze what you truly believe about how children learn best.  Often the ideas sound good on paper but can really be a struggle in practice, especially depending upon the constraints their school puts upon them with math and literacy programs. As a coordinator who works with new-to-IB staff, getting them to “drink the Kool-Aid” isn’t always an easy sell, especially at first because all the jargon overwhelms them. But I think that the first step to convincing new PYP teachers that this is the best approach to learning out there is the central idea. Well written central capture students interest and make for powerful inquiries.

So how do you know if your central ideas are “bad”?  Here’s the main clue: Your teachers say “huh, what does this mean?” when they look at it.  I’ll share an example to clarify:

Natural materials are used to inspire and express ideas. (How We Express Ourselves)

This is bad for all sorts of reasons–it’s ambiguous yet narrow focus on “natural materials” and the words “inspire” and “express” seem to be subjective in this context. These are two things that jump out at you. But what did you say after reading this? Let me guess:  “huh, what does this mean?”    Yep, that’s the hallmark of a failed attempt at a central idea.

What about messy? Well, I love this handy-dandy guide to developing a central idea that I’m pretty sure ever PYP school references at some point in their review of their Programme of Inquiry (POI). It’s well-intentioned and tries to be thorough, but when you put pen to paper, you can really get some gobbly-gook.  This part, below, is what causes some major mumbo-jumbo in our fabrication of central ideas:

How do I know if I have written a good Central Idea?

 Did you include two or more concepts in your statement?

 Have you used an active, present-tense verb?

 Did you avoid using proper and personal nouns?

 Did you avoid the use of to be (is, are) and have verbs?

 Did you write a complete sentence

You couple this with the advice in the Developing a Transdisciplanary Programme of Inquiry, and you can really have some creative wordsmithing. I say this all respectfully, especially since the PYP is undergoing a big review at the moment, but put yourself in the shoes of a new IB educator.

developing a transdisciplanr
From the publication: Developing a Transdisciplanary Programme of Inquiry

It takes a sharp eye to see the delineation between the 2 versions and you got to remember that this is a central idea for a 1st grader/Primary 1 student–words like organization, endeavor, and enterprise take a week (at least) to unpack before you get to those 4 lines of inquiry. You can totally appreciate why new IB teachers are absolutely overwhelmed with the notion of writing or revising a central idea. Furthermore, you can understand why a candidate school would just copy a sample POI that is either posted on the Online Curriculum Centre or on another IB school’s website.  Just the other day I was having a coffee with a candidate’s school appointed PYP coordinator. At first, I didn’t quite understand her intention- her school’s POI looked fine, decent central ideas- but after an hour I came to understand that what she actually wanted me to help her with writing lesson plans for her teachers. Her teachers needed help with lesson planning because they personally hadn’t gone through the process, they had no skin in the game and definitely no understanding of what it means to do an “inquiry into…..

But this goes back to the point I was making–a good central idea should generate more possibilities. If a teacher can’t look at a central idea and come up with a place to start, then the inquiry is going to get messy.  Just look at that central idea above: People create organizations that solve problems and support human endeavor. They will probably just fumble around for at least a week instead of hitting the ground running doing a bonafide inquiry because they can’t get past those words. The words–the ones that the summative task is supposed to be built around–is a major stumbling block, especially for a 1st-grade teacher. Let’s be honest, right?If the central idea is messy than it typically demands that we put a stake in the ground at some point and say, “ok kids, this is where you need to go with your inquiry–it’s nearly summative time!” I know IB understands these challenges, which is why it is painfully taking a knife to the PYP and rethinking how we can approach central ideas.

Let me give you another example from a 2nd-grade unit at our school:

The population of a community can determine the structure of its organizations within it.

When we wrote that central idea under How We Organize Ourselves theme, we followed the handy-dandy aforementioned guide. I’ve highlighted the concepts that we pulled out the IB Social Studies Scope and Sequence. The purpose of this unit was to help students start gaining an understanding of government and economics that was lacking in some of the future P4 and P5 units. The summative task is to have the students form a “city council” and create a community with a given population, using a budget to provide for its goods and services. So that was the intention of this wordy central idea. This year, when a new 2nd-grade teacher came in and looked and looked at this unit, her response to the central idea indicated that it was messy. In our last meeting, we discussed how well the kids, who LOVED this unit, understood the central idea. She said that she spent more time focusing on the lines of inquiry because of the wording of the central idea, but that ultimately yes they understood the relationship between population and community design. The fact that she circumvented the Central Idea is definitely a symptom of a messy central idea. So we thought about ditching all those big words and simplifying the central idea to reflect a more kid-accessible central idea:

People design communities to fit the needs of its population.  

(I think we have transformed it into a “good” central idea–or at least a better iteration.)

So, a perfect central idea isn’t so wordy and nebulous that you can’t find a place to start, nor creates an exhausting level of teacher content delivery or misguided student research. What do I mean about this? Look at this:

Signs and Symbols can be used to communicate messages through different media.

Screams transdisciplinary right?–Instantly specialists want to jump in and connect with the ideas of signs and symbols, and it’s an easy link with literacy, social studies, technology, and math. Not to mention that it’s got friendlier language so we can dive right into the inquiry. And assessment organically emerges, with the kids being able to contribute to what a summative task might look like. It’s interesting, it’s engaging and student action is prominent.

So let me summarize my definition of a “good” central idea:

  • Transdisciplinarity ( I don’t know if that’s a word, but it is now!) can happen organically.
  • It is easily understood by the teacher so they know how to start the inquiry.
  • The students can access its language.
  • A clear summative task naturally arises and students can provide input into how it can be assessed.
  • It connects students to concepts that will be needed in future units of inquiry.

Now, perhaps you share my opinion about central ideas or you may want to lambaste me. This is a hotly contested area between educators. Fair enough. But as a coordinator, I make a good stab at being knowledgeable and reflective, however, the only thing that I am certain of is my experience as an educator with this framework.  Perhaps your experience matches mine or maybe you think I’m speaking blasphemy–fantastic! Let’s debate! I’d love to hear your definitions–what are the attributes of a “good” central idea?

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I Think, therefore I Math

I Think, therefore I Math

I remember the first time I fell in love with math. I was enrolled in Mr. MacFarlene’s DP Math class. He often told jokes and odd stories about mathematicians but one day he did this lesson proving Pythagoras’ theorem using origami–that changed my life! After that lesson, I began to enjoy thinking mathematically. Math suddenly became real to me and I started to see it in my everyday life.

square-numbers Recently, during a conversation about math standards with a fellow primary school teacher,  we talked about how math symbols and algorithms can be very off-putting for students when they don’t understand the conceptual basis of an idea. We had a  love rant over using inquiry-based approaches in order to conceptualize problems and build models in order to show visual representations. When done in this way, math can become suddenly interesting, even “beautiful”.

Have you ever seen this TED Talk by Jo Boaler? (If not, watch it now–seriously it’s awesome!) As someone who once struggled with math, and later “got it”, minoring in it in university, I can appreciate the research that demonstrates how mindset is everything in overcoming barriers to problem-solving.

 

Most of the math taught in schools is over 400 years old and is not actually the mathetmatics that students need. -Jo Boaler-

When I reflect on my own experience as a learner and ponder this educational research, I wholeheartedly agree that inquiry-based learning naturally cultivates a joy in the struggle as students actively engage in problems that are relevant and interesting. Boaler calls this a multi-dimensional approach to teaching math, which would include the following:

  1. Posing  stimulating questions
  2. Providing multiple approaches to problem-solving
  3. Communicating student thinking
  4. Representing ideas in a variety of ways
  5. Using reasoning in order to justify the validity of a solution.

When engaged in this way, students begin to grasp ideas extensively, making connections to other mathematical concepts and applying them in a range of different contexts. The best part is that students become fascinated by math problems and solving them can be fun.

What I love most about the comparative research of inquiry-based math and traditional approaches to teaching is that this multi-dimensional approach not only closes the achievement gap but increases achievement, especially in more diverse socioeconomic schools like this group ; in fact, in more linguistically diverse populations, this approach not only improves math scores but also reading and science. As someone whose IB school population is mostly ELLs (English Language Learners), I have witnessed how transdisciplanary learning accelerates learning in so many subject areas. It feels like a no-brainer to teach this way, yet so many schools still rely on textbooks and worksheets. It’s a shame that those students miss out on all the juicy thinking.

However, I believe with all the focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education, the trend towards favoring slow and deep mathematical thinking (vs. fast yet shallow problem-solving) will be inevitable. With 21st century learning, there’s a greater demand for integration of disciplines. Creating authentic situations in which real and compelling questions naturally develop, with a sublime amount of mystery lurking in it so that students can imagine and debate ideas during their problem-solving process, is becoming more universally accepted as effective math teaching, even in non-IB schools.

As a lover of math, the transition into these approaches gives me hope that my daughter might not have to wait until high school before she can relish the effort and be absorbed in a math task. I dream that one day she fumbles the words of Descartes and whispers into my ear, I think, therefore I math.

 

A’ Wondering about Educational Technology

A’ Wondering about Educational Technology

Have you eve thought that at one time in human history cave art was a huge technological leap. As as we evolved and paper was invented, scrolls were considered controversial forms of educational technology; according to this research, ancient philosophers felt that if things were written down, then it depleted your memory. Quite surprising, huh? Thus our current digital technologies are no different: there will always be people who embrace technology wholeheartedly and those who resist it.

Nevertheless, iPads and other tablets have infiltrated so many households that to not use them in the classroom would be a sin. At our school, we have a BYO-ipad policy for students in grade levels 3-5. And as educators this type of technology transcends so much of what we can do with pen and paper. But where to begin?

I’ve been really inspired by the presentation by  Tom Daccord & Justin Reich as they strive to guide teachers through the murky waters of using iPads in the classroom. I appreciate how succinctly they spell out the taxonomy of their use with 4 levels: Consume, Curate, Create and Connect.

ipads

Although I get enthusiastic about using apps for education, there are some thorny issues that we have been discussing, especially with regards to research skills. Not only has there been much debate over having students use books vs. internet websites as primary sources of information, but whether using apps like Notability or One Note to curate content really helped students digest the information and convert it into personal knowledge. As I reflect on the graphic above, it makes me wonder if these are not really levels, but the process by which we should take students through a project or problem that they must solve as they research ideas using the iPads. As more of our classrooms begin to shift to embrace these technologies, I think we need to consider how we can go deeper in our learning so that, not only does the technology evolve, but also the thinking in our classrooms.

What do you think?

 

 

 

 

 

From Mind into Matter: 5 Ways to cultivate the Mindset of the MakerSpace

From Mind into Matter: 5 Ways to cultivate the Mindset of the MakerSpace

There is a Zen saying, “to know and not do is to not yet know.”  This seems relevant in today’s shifting views about learning, and I recognize my own struggle as an educator in preparing students for the unknown of the future. One of the skills that seem most intangible for me is teaching students to be more discerning in their learning-how to get them to love the journey and not the destination, so they want to ask more questions and dig deeper.

Lately, I’ve been inspired by the book, Invent to Learn. I think it really speaks to this disposition of curiosity as the impetus for extended learning, in which the child’s mind becomes the essential “makerspace”; our classrooms merely become the concrete representation of this immaterial world of their ideas. Experimenting and creating something is an act of discovering that a thought can be made solid.

It acknowledges that the power of making something comes from a question or impulse that the learner has, and is not imposed from the outside. Questions like “How can my car go faster?” or “I like the way this looks, can I make it prettier?” are treated as valid, and in fact, potentially more valid than criteria imposed by anyone else, including a teacher. Learners are empowered to connect with everything they know, feel, and wonder to stretch themselves into learning new things. We seek to liberate learners from their dependency on being taught.

Sylvia Libow Martinez, Invent to Learn.

As I reflect on the quote above, I think about how important it is to catch students in the act of curiosity so that I can implore them to engage in their ideas. In this way, I am no longer the guide but their champion. I wonder if this encouragement can compensate for the attitudes in our societies, in which quick fixes are highly valued. I believe it’s important to have students develop their stamina and see failure as an important element for their inevitable success.

Making things has changed the way they look at the world around them, opening new doors and presenting new opportunities to get deeply involved in processes that require knowledge, skill building, creativity, critical thinking, decision making, risk taking, social interaction, and resourcefulness. They understand that when you do something yourself, the thing that changes most profoundly is you. (Frauenfelder, 2011)

There are several units in our POI (programme of inquiry) that could incorporate many of ideals of the makers mindset. I know in the Early Years, this is easiest to do because students at this age have the permission to play. This seems a bit unfair when you think of it. “Play is called recreation because it makes us new again, it re-creates us and our world.” (Brown & Vaughan, 2010). I think this process of re-creation is ongoing and the foundation of life-long learner. Implanting design-processthis mindset into classrooms could not only empower students, but also teachers. Moving out of our instructional comfort-zones then becomes an act of faith, because we have to be trust that students can learn on their own. As soon as I write that sentence, it seems self-evident–of course students can learn on their own–that is their natural inclination!! But how can we nudge them to taking their discoveries from thoughts into doings? How can we translate the ideas of the minds into real learning.

Here are 5 strategies that might help teachers render the MindSpace of the Learner into a reality:

  1. Be curious about what students are curious about. Not all students will present their curiosities as questions–in fact many young students present their ideas as statements. Write and track them, even if anecdotally.
  2. Use self-evaluation for students to reflect and assess their attitudes towards the design mindset. This could be as formal or informal as you like, such as a discussion with a 1-3 finger self-assessment or a journal entry.
  3. Advertise problems and promote solutions, even if they are silly.
  4. Set up a classroom “creation station” with some”junk” to be repurposed.
  5. Share inspirational stories as exemplars. You can connect with other classrooms either in your school or virtually through a resource like ePals.

I know that I will take my own advice as I strive to make my classroom more engaging and student-centered. I wonder what suggestions others might have about shifting our classrooms into laboratories of the mind. Perhaps you can share below what other ideas or strategies you might have.

Until then, stay in Joy!

 

Shifting the Classroom

Shifting the Classroom

The Creature in the Classroom

It appeared inside our classroom

at a quarter after ten,

it gobbled up the blackboard,

three erasers and a pen.

It gobbled teacher’s apple

and it bopped her with the core.

“How dare you!” she responded.

“You must leave us . . . there’s the door.”

The Creature didn’t listen but described an arabesque as it gobbled all her pencils, seven notebooks and her desk.

Teacher stated very calmly, “Sir! You simply cannot stay,

I’ll report you to the principal

unless you go away!”

But the thing continued eating,

it ate paper, swallowed ink,

as it gobbled up our homework

I believe I saw it wink.

Teacher finally lost her temper.

“OUT!” she shouted at the creature.

The creature hopped beside her

and GLOPP . . . it gobbled teacher.

When I think about how much education has been transformed in the last decade,  I find this poem a bit ironic and have to wonder if the poet knew what was in store for  today’s classroom when he wrote that. Did he know how technology would “gobble” up paper and ink–even to some extent the teacher?
 However, there’s no doubt that our classrooms have become more student-orientated rather than teacher-centered. And I was reminded lately  during an IB webinar, Creating Inspiring Places, that our classrooms need to be designed for learning rather than merely being decorated. With that in mind, I loved this infographic that I snagged from the presentation.

todays-classroom

While looking at this, I asked myself what do I do well and what do I need to work on more this year in my own classroom? I’m feeling lucky that I have a long holiday week nearing the corner so I can sit down and take this all in more so. And what can I share with teachers? What would inspire their learning spaces?-What needs to be “gobbled up” in our school so that our “creatures” get the best education that they deserve? Hmm…

What about you?–What do you think needs to be “gobbled up” in your classroom?

My Challenge with Inquiry-Based Learning

My Challenge with Inquiry-Based Learning

The longer I teach in the PYP, the more I recognize how much learning I have to do, especially since I am coming from an American educational background, in which my own student learning experiences did not include inquiry-based learning, let alone my professional teaching training. I’ve had little framework in my personal life experience. So I often find that I have to step away from national standards and think about how I can best construct meaning of the central idea. Most of the time it feels exciting, but sometimes it feels overwhelming–there’s so much unknown as I am a guide on my student’s learning journey. And I’m often wondering to myself: Am I doing this right?

I’ve decided that my that the only way I know I am moving in the right direction is if I see that student action is taking place. Are students taking personal responsibility in their learning? Are they inspired into action?–do they need a nudge or a push to get them moving?

student-action-motivator
Taken from Jessica O’Hanley’s webpage

Granted not all action will be a project or consist of a product. I love how Sonya Terborg’s blog lays out 6 ways in which action can be demonstrated by:

  1. Having-more knowledge, more care, more determination and more respect.
  2. Thinking differently-wondering and/or changing your opinion.
  3. Feeling differently-empathizing, loving, admiring, worrying or feeling inspired to make a change.
  4. Doing something or NOT doing something like giving time, money and effort to a cause or stoping a behavior.
  5. Saying-explaining, discussing, debating, asking or thanking.
  6. Being-changing one’s behavior as to be more patient and respectful

I think when I use these ideas as guideposts, I can reflect better on the inquiry and determine what worked and what didn’t work. And, like all things, I need to remain patient with my learning journey, staying open to the process of discovery and growth in this professional area of mine.

I wonder how other educators determine if they are successful in their practice of inquiry based learning. Please share what you consider as your markers of success!

 

 

Ancient World, Modern Times

Ancient World, Modern Times

Have you ever taught a unit that you wanted to do over again-either because you bombed at it or because it was so engaging? Well I’m closing the year on a high because this unit went so much better than expected.

Our central idea was: Ancient civilizations have influenced many things in our modern world.

The art teacher and I decided to use the Greek civilization as our model for an influential civilization. The history of us provided the fodder for our discussions and then we began to talk about the Greek philosophers as we began tuning into and engaging into our unit. The students were intrigued by Socrates, mostly because he drank poison. These lively stories cultivated a keen interest in crafting questions that “hurt our brains” to think about, as we explored metacognition.  img_9429-1

As we delved into aspect of the Greek civilization, I decided that I would focus on reading content of our unit on myths and legends, Greek and Latin roots in our English words, while developing their listing and speaking skills. I provided a variety of media sources other than books, and decided to introduce them to podcasts to add a twist to the listening skills. Listen Current  was a great resource and provided listening guides for their podcasts which was very ELL friendly and helped us to tackle challenging vocabulary terms.

I asked them what ancient cultures they were curious about and explained that we would do podcasts, in which they interview each other about their civilizations.They were so excited, which genuinely surprised me. It was hilarious to see them craft questions for these interviews that were meant to “hurt each other’s brains”, going deeper than their typical questions.  We used the app Spreaker Studio to create very simple podcasts.

The podcasts took longer than I expected, as they needed more guidance with writing scripts and all those tricky questions made it a bit of a challenge to find research materials that were at their reading levels. However, it created a need to find multiple sources of information and it was a true RE-SEARCH unit, in which they had to keep reading, watching videos and keep looking for information on the internet.  They would stop and discuss their civilizations naturally and made a lot of great connections. The students researched the Aztecs, Chinese, Egyptians, Incas, Mesopotamians, Mayans, Norse, Romans and Nubians.

img_9613

My co-teaching partner and I had talked about having the kids put together a “museum of ancient history” as summative task, but the podcast ended up taking up more time than we expected and instead we had them decide to take something that we take for granted in our modern world and trace it back to its ancient roots. Students chose topics that resulted from some things that they learned about from these podcasts–from armor to lipstick, from books to medicine. It was a rich variety of topics. The kids made “fortune tellers” that described the why and how of this invention, and then they shared them, taking turns with each other.
img_9603img_9615

 

 

 

 

Although I would do things a bit differently if taught again, it is a good feeling to know that our students can appreciate the drive, creativity and curiosity of ancient people. I was generally concerned if this was too heavy of a history unit, but the curiosity and motivation sustained itself.

 

 

img_9616

 

Have you ever taught a unit that you thought would be awful and turned out great OR vice-ver
sa, you thought it was going to be wonderful and turned flat? I wonder what makes students’ so committed to their research on topics.

 

 

My Quest to be a Know-It-All

My Quest to be a Know-It-All

Professional Development is something that I take seriously, and I am constantly researching about the latest developments in education and I am eager to share with my colleagues what I have learned. When I’m not reading, I’m engaging in Educational “Hangouts” or Twitter chats. I love MOOCs and take at least 3 a year.

I have highlighted just some of my professional development that I have formally received.

Professional Development that I have attended:

  • Introduction to the Primary Years Programme Curriculum Model (International Baccalaureate)
  •  Teaching and Learning (International Baccalaureate)
  • 3-5 Year Olds (International Baccalaureate)
  • Role of the Coordinator (International Baccalaureate)
  • Differentiated Instruction (Staff Development for Educators)
  • Digital Learning (Intel Teach to the Future Program)
  • Structured English Immersion (Arizona State University)
  • Systematic Change in Reading  (Arizona Department of Education)
  • Conceptual Based Learning in Math (Math and Science Partnership Grant, University of Arizona)
  • Enhancing Creativity (University of Phoenix)

I also have an IB Webinar Pass and frequently listen and learn from new and archived webinars, as well as IB conference talks on iTunes. As a member of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), I regularly attend webinars and online courses offered on topics such as formative assessment, managing differentiation, and creating high quality units.

On My Bookshelf (or Kindle)

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Our Trip to the Outback

Our Trip to the Outback

As a part of EY4’s final task on their unit about how people use transportation systems to stay connected, I decided that the summative task was going to be a rather large scale simulation of a trip. Originally I had thought that I could have them individually plan a trip, but then I worried that it might be too basic–a trip to the shop to buy ice cream, for example–so I wanted us to experience the  idea of a system, which is more complex and involves many steps.  We came up with a list of different countries around the globe: Egypt, Australia, Italy, Korea, and Mexico. We researched the countries and determined a list of reasons why we might go there:

  • seeing interesting places
  • trying new foods
  • seeing family  (in some cases)
  • meeting new people
  • having different experiences
  • seeing different kinds of animals
  • shopping

Then we researched the countries–what would be the interesting things to do, see or eat? Students got really excited to go to Egypt and Australia, although Italy, with its pizza, was close behind. We took it to a vote, and Australia won.  We took an interest survey of what students would like to do there.  Next, we started to consider how we might go to Australia. We looked at maps and thought about how long it might take us to go there. Most students agreed that taking an airplane was the most sensible form of travel, although one student did suggest that a submarine could be faster. Since we had never been on a submarine, it became a ” I Wonder” and a point of inquiry. I love when we chase up these wonderful imaginings (and yes, there is a supersonic submarine that is in the making which would be faster than an aircraft, but its not ready yet). 

After that, we set into motion getting our passports ready, our tickets “booked”, and packing our bags. I had a wonderful Australian mum help me with the snacks for our in-board flight, our Humanities teacher was one of the tour guides when we “arrived” in Sydney, and the art teacher provided me with some inspiration for Aboriginal dot paintings for our visit to the “Australian Children’s Art and Culture Museum”.

IMG_1502
Everyone boarded Tiger Airlines to Sydney and enjoyed in-flight entertainment and snacks. Then they were met by Mr Horton from Outback Tours who took us to the Kangaroo Park and we even saw Koala Bears. After our tour, we headed to the Australian Children’s Culture and Art Museum in which we made dreamtime paintings, read and watched cultural videos, and made didgeridoos. It was a lot of fun and the kids learned a lot.

So the summative task involved:

  • Country preference ranking
  • Country research (topics explored: foods, places, animals)
  • Interest Survey
  • Trip Reflection

As you might imagine, it was very successful. The students really got a sense of how involved taking transportation can be. Even my students with little English were able to participate fully, and, although it was hard to articulate their reflection, I had enough evidence to demonstrate that understanding took place.

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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.

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