Bringing Parents into the Conversation

It’s no secret that the grade level I am involved in does things a little differently. Ok, “a little” might be an understatement. We are very different. And as a result, sometimes parents need support understanding and feeling comfortable having their children become part of our pilot program. With only a few months left in the school year -and next year right around the corner – this is one of those times.

Parents from the grade level below us started to share some worries and concerns with the school about next year, so we decided to get out ahead of things and offer an evening parent session for all of the parents in the grade level below us. Our PYP coordinator contacted the parents and invited them for an evening with us.

invitation p night

It was important for us to collect their concerns, questions and worries to inform our planning for the session in response to their needs. So we asked them to fill out a short Google Form to help us gather that information.

google form p night

Then as a team, we analyzed their responses.

79C3207D-7EE6-4645-B3D0-7217A08DE64B.jpeg

After analyzing their responses, it was clear most of them were looking for specifics about how things work and what exactly happens on a day to day basis.

But jumping into hows and whats without investing first in the why is not really our style… and not something that we felt would help to build sustainable buy-in for the long run. We believed the overarching goal should be to bring parents into the conversation about education, to help them develop themselves as critical thinkers. To be able to look at the current paradigm and question it, challenge it – hopefully even criticize it! So we had to figure out a way to address what they wanted from the session with what we felt was important for the session.

We decided to frame the evening as “Starting the Conversation” with a heavy focus on the whys, followed by a brief overview of hows and whats – with transparency about our plan for continuing the conversation in order to ensure they felt their voices were heard.

PS pic 1.JPG

We had a great response! We had 40 families RSVP for the event.

And true to our collaborative approach, we had 10 representatives from our team there, each of whom took ownership over a small section of the presentation. It was important for us to show Who We Are in the way we work together in each and every thing that we do.

Section 1: Provocations

If our main goal was to bring parents into the conversation, it was essential to begin by poking and provoking their thinking about education. Both by ‘stepping in’ in order to connect with their own experience as a student and ‘stepping back’ to attempt to objectively look at the system of school from a distance.

We decided to use a chalk talk with a range of provoking questions to stimulate these types of thinking.

PS pic 2.JPG

Then we brought the whole group together to pull out the big ideas from each of the provocation chalk talks. At first the parents were hesitant to contribute, but once we got the ball rolling lots of great ‘noticings’ were shared.

We finished the discussion with what parents hoped for their childrens’ future, which acted as a great segueway to our next provocation about skills. Instead of telling parents what skills are currently valued, we wanted them to make those discoveries for themselves. So – in the vernacular of our students – we had them “search it up”!

Ps pic 3.JPG

All the parents took out their phones and did a little research about what skills are currently valued in post-secondary and the workplace. After some inquiry time, we had parents shout their discoveries. Some began to make connections with responses from the chalk talk, which was an unexpected bonus!

Then we shared a provocation from the World Economic Forum to provoke their thinking about how rapidly the landscape of skills continue to change…

PS pic 4.JPG

Which walked them right into one of our main provocations….

If the nature of desired skills keep changing so rapidly, who amoung us knows exactly what will be needed by the time their child graduates in 2030?

Which helped us usher in AJ Juliani’s quote:

PS pic6.JPG

Section 2: The “Why”

Investing a large chunk of time into provoking parents’ thinking, let us transition smoothly into talking about the “why”.

ps pic7

We touched on that nature of the industrial model of education…

ps pic 8

ps pic9

We touched on the growing body of educators standing up to say that something is wrong with the traditional paradigm of school…

ps pic 10

And we ended with the need for a radically different approach.

ps pic 11

Section 3: The “Hows”

Even though our main focus was the “why” behind our approach, we also wanted to honour our parents and most of their worries and concerns were centered around “hows” and “whats”. So we made sure to briefly touch on some of the most important “hows” without going too deep into the details.

ps how.JPG

We explained how our mission statement drives everything we do as well as the time, thought and energy that went into developing it.

Ps pic12

We explained how we have a broad view of “success” and how we make sure success in one area does not come at the expense of another area.

ps pic 13

We hilghted the importance of learning how to learning and how we use the PYP ATL skills to support that.

ps pic 14ps pic 15

We touched on how we use Dan Pink’s work on motivation as a driving force behind what we do.

ps pic 16

We explained how we work as a team with parents and students to ensure everyone’s voice is heard and perspective is valued.

ps pic 17

We shared how Learning Support, Challenge and Enrichment and EAL support works in our model.

ps pic 18

Section 4: The “Whats”

The one part of the presentation that the parents wanted the most, was the one part of the conversation that we chose to dedicate the least amount of time to.

what 1

The majority of the worries and concerns that parents shared in the aforementioned Google Form were about ‘what’ exactly happens on a day to day basis. And although we wanted to honour their voices, we also wanted to be careful not to oversimplify this part or give off the idea that it is static and concrete. Because the truth is that the “whats” are constantly changing. So “what” a typical day looks like now, is not what a typical day looked like a month ago, and will not be what a typical day will like for their child next year. So we decided to acknowledge the whats, without committing to any specifics.

For example, we addressed the fact that our approach still includes transdisciplinary Units of Inquiry as well as stand-alone math and literacy…

whats 2what 3what 4what 5

We explained that our approach includes many different pathways for learning…

what 6what 7

We acknowledged many of the nuts and bolts of our approach, but were transparent about the fact that even though the function of these elements stay the same, the specific form is constantly growing, changing and evolving.

what 8

We were open about the role of our own reflections and action research as a vital part of what we do, and linked that back to our non-committal approach to explaining the “nuts and bolts”.

what9

Part 5: Next Steps

Before wrapping up the session, it was important for us to explicitly acknowledge the worries and concerns that came through the Google Form that we chose not to address in this first session. Again, we re-iterated that the session was just the “beginning of the conversation” and clearly explained our plan moving forward to ensure they knew that all of their needs would be addressed at later times.

ns 1

We also focused their attention on what specifically they could do now, in the interim, to prepare themselves for the experience of being a parent in our model next year. We hilighted the importance of having them join the current conversation about changes needed in education.

ns2

In order to support them in this, we shared a resources document with them that included any source we referenced throughout the presentation, as well as other resources we felt might help them along in their journey to think critically about the education system.

ns3

Overall, it was a really successful evening! The energy in the room was great – parents were engaged in the conversation, sharing stories, reflections, thoughts and discoveries. Of course there were a few parents that hung back to speak to us one on one about further worries and concerns – and we were glad they did! Our goal was to start the conversation, so we were happy to have parents engage further with it right away!

Sadly, I won’t be there next year to continue the conversation with this group of parents… but I hope one of my colleagues picks up the mantle and documents the rest of this journey!

How do you bring your parent community “into the conversation”?

How do you support and challenge your parent community to develop a critical thinking approach about the current educational paradigm?

Advertisements

A week in the life…

A few weeks ago I was leading a workshop and one of the participants asked what a “normal day” is like for me. Although the easy answer is – there is never a normal day – the truth is, at this point of the year, we have settled into somewhat of a routine. However, just sharing one day wouldn’t make sense, because so much of what we do is part of a bigger system or routine. So I’ve instead decided to share what a “normal week” is like for me.

Friday Afternoon

A huge part of supporting our students to take ownership over their learning is helping them set weekly goals. Goals that are personal, relevant and meaningful to them. We spent months and months teaching them how to set goals – focusing on how to know you need to focus on something (using data to inform goals) and also how to know you’ve achieved or accomplished what you set out to (defining success criteria).

A0DA8405-DF87-4B9D-8C87-C707FE82810D.jpeg

We started off small at the beginning of the year having students set one personal goal for the week. Then as the weeks went on and their goal setting skills improved, we began to roll in other goals.

3FB22E75-7137-4070-8332-9B2A0E1D5D98.jpeg

Always partnering the expectation of setting a new goal, with instruction and support for setting a goal of that kind. We spent a lot of time discussing how to know what you need to work on, and how different sources of data can be useful in that process.

For a personal goal it may be your screen time statistics…

51B90D25-33DD-4151-BCDE-BB0C668BF8B8.jpeg

Or feedback from a three-way conference…

Screen Shot 2019-03-16 at 1.07.47 PM.png

For a literacy goal, it may be assessment data…

C28445FE-1D16-4FD9-8B69-41159C7861E8

Or something from a personal learning plan…

3B922D01-10F8-4280-8998-7546D88D3438

For math it may be feedback from a math conference…

D69AFDA3-0553-48CF-A83B-16406C9FD393.jpeg

Or an online assessment tool…

1BD3E4E1-E421-4693-9274-41B6FB9843A7

For UOI it may be from a unit plan….

F53C511C-DDBA-4B1D-AAAC-3E8955FC0620

Or a backwards plan…

4C4BF8DA-F044-4EBC-AE52-456DB13EEBA1

Now at this point of the year, students are fairly independent at analyzing different sources of data to know what they need to focus on and establishing what success might look like for them for all areas of their learning.

F8B44696-8AB6-405B-A68F-E56E560AACA3.jpeg

As partners in their learning, we still play an important role in supporting students to set goals. Sometimes we are co-planning their goals with them. Sometimes they plan independently, then conference with us face-to-face for advice and consultation. Sometimes they plan and request digital feedback.

8B9F1DFF-A4E4-440D-98DB-8B91913C2148

Another essential element, is keeping the parents involved in this process. After students have drafted their goals and received some form of feedback from an advisor, they share their goals with their parents. Both as a way to keep parents in the loop about what their child is learning; but also as a source of feedback to help them further strengthen their goal setting.

BC59565E-D51E-423D-A734-CFDC6AE36E03.jpeg

Monday Period 1

Each morning I start the day by previewing the schedule with students to ensure we all have a shared understanding of the day.

65148890-2881-48AA-A8BA-B2C3393F41EE.jpeg

Then I go through our “ads”. The ads show the array of adult-led and student-led learning opportunities and experiences for that day.

9761D829-D083-46A4-8116-04DFB75D8A2E892CA29A-BFD4-433E-9CEA-72247443A52AD1C69749-DE21-498B-B1B9-11229E7A461F568E2FF7-D6EB-4830-BA73-A2A89EF245F38B9923BD-594E-47C0-9719-EF422C1CE4F07200C0C2-C5B3-4835-B073-4C7CB0CE14B1

30195816-F48F-4662-8DE1-F04CE3FDE082CE203062-808B-4D6F-A791-C2818EA26EB113EF8E6F-2A6D-424A-88F6-B9D7E61BA41D240E0122-85CA-4D78-8515-C3452B28265D

Screen Shot 2019-03-16 at 1.10.53 PM.png

Then we look at the “MOSCOW” for the day. Typically the “musts” are always the same – achieve your weekly goals – but the shoulds, coulds, and wants depend on what’s happening that week or something specific we are focusing on.

A15C6F96-656A-49CD-A3B9-A7B29F2A7A5B.jpeg

Then students plan their day. Each week we push out a day plan template via Google Classroom for each student.

D9CD1617-0441-4FAE-8C85-6D1653B6AE3EE3CCE5C2-C37D-4B1D-9586-76DE40009E57

We also share all the advisors’ timetables to allow any students to sign-up for one-on-one conferences, guided groups, supervision etc. with any of the available adults.

A2C72040-D1BC-4BD9-ABD8-DAF6A928A976970719A9-FAE7-447C-A918-69B36D09A509

Support for students planning their day ranges from planning with an advisor, to planning independently then getting feedback from an advisor to planning independently and seeking feedback from a peer.

Screen Shot 2019-03-16 at 10.04.51 AM

Monday Period 8

When we come back together as a community at the end of the day, we have two main focuses: analyzing and reflecting on our day plan and updating documentation of learning.

14A3AE58-F680-4B89-8B74-F5547FF39A96.jpeg

The first thing students do is colour code their day plan. As a class, we came up with a  system that made sense for us:

Green = completely stuck to the learning I planned for myself

Yellow = Mostly stuck to the learning I planned for myself

Orange = Kind of stuck to the learning I planned for myself

Red = Totally did not stick to the learning I planned for myself

CBA5FE6A-D916-4CC6-95A0-A0FC20F96F6E.jpeg

As a community we worked very hard to build a culture of honesty, not fear, when it comes to colour-coding day plans. Students feel comfortable knowing that they can admit to the times when they got distracted or pulled off-course without fearing that they will get in trouble. This culture of honestly lets students get to know themselves better as learners, and allows us as advisors to have some powerful, open conversations with them about what got in their way of learning and what they are going to do differently in the future.

92FE4F15-7226-42B1-8804-FD00B793C96A

Once students are finished colour-coding their day plans they jump into documenting the learning and curating evidence from their day. Similar to the goal setting, they are fairly independent in this process at this point in the year. But that is a result of intentional focus on helping students see the “why” behind documentation, encouraging their exploration of different “hows” and supporting their awareness of possible “what’s”.

At this point in the year, some students curate their evidence using Seesaw

img_7614

Others use Portfolios (using Google Slides)

img_7616

Some prefer to blog

img_7615

Some are quite creative – like my comic maker who uses his love of comics to capture his reflections and evidence of learning each day!

484EAA41-C76E-4A41-93D4-031CDD5AB4F2

While students are updating their documenting myself and my co-advisor have one-on-one meetings with students who benefit from additional support to reflect on their day plans or generate and analyze evidence to support their colour-coding.

Monday after school

After the students head home I sift through their colour coded day plans (which is made so easy by Google Classroom!) and make decisions about what type of support each student needs for the following morning based on how their day went.

Screen Shot 2019-03-16 at 9.45.10 AM

If a student seemed to have a difficult time carrying out their plans I might have them plan with me or another advisor so we can have long, uninterrupted conversations about their choices and what they plan to do differently. If the student had only one or two areas of difficulty then they will likely plan on their own, but pop by for a conference with an advisor where we could have a quick check in on that specific area of need. If a student had no difficulty sticking to their plan, and is on somewhat of a streak of “green days” then they are trusted to plan and seek feedback from a peer.

Screen Shot 2019-03-16 at 10.04.51 AM.png

After I’ve finished going through their day plans, I sift through their documentation for the day. To help myself stay organized, I have a document where I keep track of where they keep track of their evidence of learning. This allows me to easily find and browse through their documentation as another way to plan support for learning and conversations about learning for the following day.

Screen Shot 2019-03-16 at 9.46.28 AM

As I am going through their colour-coded day plans and their documentation of learning, I usually keep a list of talking points for students I am planning with or conferencing with the following day (just to help me stay organized, and maximize my time with each student).

Screen Shot 2019-03-16 at 10.16.30 AM

Tuesday

Rinse and repeat.

Wednesday Morning

Mostly rinse and repeat… but since Wednesday is the halfway point in our week, we use it as an opportunity to check in with progress on goals. At the end of the day students use a colour coding system that we created as a class to see which goals they are closest to achieving, and which goals are farthest away from completion.

Green = goal achieved; success criteria met; evidence of success complete

Yellow = goal achieved but need time for success criteria and evidence

Orange = progress made, but more time and support is needed to achieve success

Red = not progress made YET

Screen Shot 2019-03-16 at 10.02.44 AM.png

This routine gives them really strong data for making informed choices the following day about what areas of their learning need the most time, support and additional strategies.

Thursday

Mostly rinse and repeat… but during our planning meeting and conferences in the morning we use the colour-coded goal data to drive our conversations about the students’ day plans.

“I noticed your UOI goal is red, but you haven’t given any time to it today. Can you tell me about that?”

“I see that your math goal is green, but you’ve scheduled a block for math today. What was your thinking behind that decision?”

“I noticed your literacy goal is orange. What time, support and strategies do you need to get it to green by the end of the week?”

Friday period 1

Mostly rinse and repeat… but the focus during period 1 is on evidence and documentation, thus slightly changing the “musts” to really highlight that focus.

Screen Shot 2019-03-16 at 9.51.33 AM

Friday afternoon

Before students set new goals, we always build in time to reflect and analyze their goals from the current week. Students re-colour code their goals, based on the action they’ve taken since Wednesday and use that new data to decide which goals need to be carried over into the next week and in which areas of learning they are ready for a new goal.

Screen Shot 2019-03-16 at 9.48.59 AM

Then we repeat the goal setting procedure I explained at the beginning of this post.

Friday After school

Similar to the other days of the week, I spend my time after school browsing through their stuff to help me figure out how to move forward. I scroll through their finalized goal colour-coding, their day plans, and their documentation to make informed choices about what level of support might be best for each individual child the following week.

I also take this time to not only focus on the needs of specific students, but also trends that point to larger areas of need for groups of children and sometimes, the whole class. This could be anything from screen time, support with goal setting, taking math learning deeper, stronger documentation, choosing learning locations etc.

If I notice a larger need, I block out my time table to address those areas of need the following week with the specific groups of students struggling in that specific area.

Screen Shot 2019-03-16 at 10.08.11 AM.png

Monday Morning 

The whole thing starts all over again!!!!!

TWO MASSIVE DISCLAIMERS:

1. This blog post is a snapshot of what a ‘week in the life’ looks like for me right now. But it is such an organic, iterative, ever-evolving process, that this is not what a week would have looked like a month back, and will definitely not be what a week looks like one month hence. As a team, we are constantly reflecting, tweaking, analyzing, taking new risks, letting go of old risks.

(As an example of that, this is a current brainstorm from a recent team meeting of what we feel is currently “working” and “not working” at the moment.)

83C0288A-9500-42C4-943F-430E71DD1E38.jpeg

2. This is what makes sense for me – based on my philosophies, my comfort level, my context, my constraints, my resources, my students and my team. So, as much as I am happy to share what I’m doing, it’s also important for me to urge you to figure out what makes sense for you– based on your philosophy, your comfort level, your context, your constraints, your resources, your students and your team. As tempting as it may be to transplant, my best advice is to grow your own innovation. 

B16D8B1D-DF0F-4C06-A8CF-F2FDA5EF83E4

I’m still very much at the beginning of my journey. Constantly reflecting on my own why, rebuilding my repertoire of how’s and experimenting with many different what’s. This post is simply a snapshot of what a ‘week in the life’ is like for me right now. I have no idea what my “normal” will be in the future…

But I hope it continues to get me closer and closer to my goal of respecting and supporting student agency.

What is a “week in the life” like for you?

What are the nuts and bolts of attempting to support your students’ agency?

What are the routines, structures and systems that help you make the best use of time, people and resources your students have?

Taking It Public

Sometimes my team and I get crazy ideas. Like having 120 students share their 120 personalized Units of Inquiry, 8 different ways, 3 days after the winter holiday.

It always seems like a great at the time. We hold hands, jump in with both feet, happily submerge into new waters… then we pop back up to the surface, catch our breath and look around.

What is first excitement, soon becomes panic.

“What were we thinking!?”

“What have we done!?”

“How do we get out of this!?”

Then the realization hits us. The fact that we are constantly asking our students to:

– think big

– take risks

– leave their comfort zone

– do something that scares them

– embrace failure

So in order to avoid being the world’s biggest hypocrites, we commit to our crazy idea, get all hands on deck and continue full steam ahead.

Here is the story of how we muddled through our first attempt at supporting students to “Take Their Learning Public”

As always, the idea came from a long and heated chat. This time, about how to wrap up the students’ first personalized Units of Inquiry. We all agreed, there needed to be some way in which they shared their learning with parents and the school community, but we wanted to ensure it was as authentic and student-driven as possible. So we settled on the idea of having all students “take it public” but in a way that made sense for what their unit was.

As a team, we brainstormed all the possible ways student could take their learning public, and because we’re crazy, we thought… “Why not have them all happening on the same day!?”

And because we’re even crazier, we figured “Why not the Friday after they return from winter holiday”.

So then we introduced the idea to students, as usual starting with the “why”. We talked about how regardless of what someone is working on, learning about, or pursuing, there typically comes a point where that person takes their journey public. It may be when a fashion designer puts on a show. Or when a scientist publishes their findings. Or perhaps when an inventor showcases a prototype at a trade show. Or even when a musician performs a new song.

So since they’ve been working on pursuing a purpose for the past 6 weeks, it was time for them to take their learning public and share it with others.

screen shot 2019-01-12 at 10.18.00 am

Then we shared our plan for “how” we were going to help students to make this happen.

screen shot 2019-01-12 at 10.18.10 am

We shared our plan for support.

screen shot 2019-01-12 at 10.18.17 am

We shared our plan for time.

screen shot 2019-01-12 at 10.18.25 am

Then we shared our thinking about “what” ways they could take their learning public. For each option, we shared stories and photos from previous years to help students understand and visualize what that might look like for them – hopefully helping them more of an informed choice when it came time to commit to one of the options.

screen shot 2019-01-12 at 10.18.37 amscreen shot 2019-01-12 at 10.18.50 amscreen shot 2019-01-12 at 10.19.07 amscreen shot 2019-01-12 at 10.19.18 amscreen shot 2019-01-12 at 10.19.28 amscreen shot 2019-01-12 at 10.19.38 amscreen shot 2019-01-12 at 10.19.49 amscreen shot 2019-01-12 at 10.20.00 amscreen shot 2019-01-12 at 10.20.08 am

Then we had all student complete a Google Form to give us the data we needed to plan our support for them.

screen shot 2019-01-12 at 10.21.34 amscreen shot 2019-01-12 at 10.21.43 am

We analyzed the data in order to make decisions about groups and adult allocations. We looked for styles of taking it public that could be grouped together (like Ted Talks and live performances; gallery and showcase) and we also took into consideration our individual strengths and preferences for which group we felt we could best support.

screen shot 2019-01-12 at 10.27.09 am

Then we shared this information with students…

screen shot 2019-01-12 at 10.17.34 am

and had our first meetings with our “TIP” groups where we able to get to know the students (since they were made of mixed groupings) and begin to co-construct a vision for what success would look like.

img_5637img_5632img_5634img_5629img_5630

These “Take it Public” (or “TIP” as it came to be known) groups would continue to meet at the beginning of each day, so the adult responsible for the group could support the students to create to-do lists and day plans in order to prepare and meet again at the end of each day to support students in reflecting on progress, challenges and next steps. Many advisors also set up TIP Google Classrooms to help with the logistics, organization and communication.

screen shot 2019-01-12 at 10.22.06 am

At this point, we also knew it was important to communicate with parents to let them know the “why, how, and whats” of Taking It Public, so they could make arrangement to hopefully come in and be part of it. We decided to be completely transparent with the parent community, and position ourselves as risk-takers, hence the name “A Friday of Firsts” – both for students and ourselves.

12

Then, the next few days were full of:

Researching…

Building…

Rehearsing…

Designing…

Practicing…

Preparing…

Memorizing…

Organizing…

and lots and LOTS of conferencing!

img_6371

Many of us used a variety of approaches to track the students’ progress and find out what support they wanted from us. This helped us stay involved with what they needed and the amount and level of support that made sense for them.

Some of us collected this data with small check-in Google Forms at the end of each day:

screen shot 2019-01-12 at 10.22.43 amscreen shot 2019-01-12 at 10.22.53 am

Screen Shot 2019-01-12 at 10.41.06 AM.png

Others took anecdotal notes, or had one-on-one, regular check-ins with the members of their group.

Regardless of how we collected this data, we all made sure to use it in order to inform our planning for the following day.

screen shot 2019-01-12 at 10.23.31 am

We also paid attention to planning the logistics for the actual day. Taking into consideration what is happening when, who is involved, who is supervising whom and who is available to come an observe/participate.

Screen Shot 2019-01-12 at 12.07.53 PM.png

The morning of the event, students did their final touches and preparations…

And then…. ready, set, GO!

Ted Talks

Live Performancesscreen shot 2019-01-12 at 10.50.56 am

A Marketplace

A showcase 

screen shot 2019-01-12 at 10.49.34 am

screen shot 2019-01-12 at 10.51.04 am

A gallery

screen shot 2019-01-12 at 10.50.45 am

A catered “Food Friday”

Workshops for younger students

screen shot 2019-01-12 at 10.47.44 am

And read alouds

screen shot 2019-01-12 at 12.03.45 pm

Photo credits: @puglifevn @juouelle @hktans @ms_amandaromano 

Reflections:

  • All in all it was a successful day – there was a palpable energy amongst students, advisors and the parent community, as well as feelings of pride, success and accomplishment
  • There were a few difficult conversations between parents and students, but we welcome and encourage that as part of the learning process from students first attempt planning and directing their own Unit of Inquiry – it’s all about failing forward and learning from mistakes 
  • As a team, we were glad we took the plunge and tried something new and scary – we left our comfort zone, and magic really did happen!
  • It was SO great to work with a mixed group of students and continue to build relationships with students across the grade level
  • It was surprising how smooth the transition was from winter holiday, right back into TIP preparations – we were shocked and provoked at the idea not necessarily needing to wrap up one thing before a break, and the unexpected benefits of having something familiar to jump right back into

 Future Thoughts:

  • next time it would be great for us to acknowledge the students that “took it public” on their own accord at some point throughout their unit, as we had a few students point out that they had already hosted a workshop, catered an event, participated in a market at a more authentic time in their journey. Maybe this teacher-led “take it public” does not need to be for everyone, but could be more for those students who missed this part of the process on their own
  • it would be great if we could figure out how to break this “taking it public” out of school-land, beyond parents and students, and support students to share their learning and accomplishments with the wider community

 

How do you support your students to have ownership over taking their learning public?

How do you model and experience taking risks and facing failures alongside your students?

PYPx – Beyond Poster Boards

Google “PYP Exhibition” and you’re likely to find many images of students standing beside a poster board that tells what they’ve learned about over 6 week period.

Our school’s approach to PYPx is a little different…

Firstly, we believe that PYPx is more than having students share what they’ve learned about, and should be an opportunity for students to share what they’ve learned about themselves as learners during their time in the Primary Years Program.

Secondly, we believe that it’s a much more deep, meaningful and powerful process to have students show what they’ve learned about themselves as learners rather than tell it.

Thirdly, we believe that the PYPx is not a presentation, but rather an invitation to a conversation where the learner is able to engage with their visitors, share their stories, respond to questions and also ask questions.

This approach became even more essential last year when we decided to empower Grade 5 students to plan all of their own personalized Units of Inquiry. Which meant they didn’t have one 6 week block of a personal inquiry to share, but rather a year’s worth of experiences, successes, failures, discoveries and life lessons.

Here’s a glimpse into how it went:

Introducing the PYP Exhibition

Screen Shot 2018-12-09 at 8.15.44 AM.png

Screen Shot 2018-12-09 at 8.19.26 AM.png

Sampling symbolic representations

To help students make an informed choice about how best to symbolically represent their journey as a learner, we led them through an inquiry where they got to “sample” many small tasting of different symbolic representations: colours, sounds, images, symbols, movements, shapes etc.

Screen Shot 2018-12-09 at 8.16.09 AMScreen Shot 2018-12-09 at 8.16.16 AMScreen Shot 2018-12-09 at 8.16.23 AMScreen Shot 2018-12-09 at 8.16.28 AMScreen Shot 2018-12-09 at 8.16.33 AMScreen Shot 2018-12-09 at 8.16.38 AMScreen Shot 2018-12-09 at 8.16.44 AMScreen Shot 2018-12-09 at 8.16.50 AMScreen Shot 2018-12-09 at 8.16.55 AMScreen Shot 2018-12-09 at 8.17.01 AM

Screen Shot 2018-12-09 at 8.17.40 AMScreen Shot 2018-12-09 at 8.17.35 AMScreen Shot 2018-12-09 at 8.17.46 AMScreen Shot 2018-12-09 at 8.17.52 AMScreen Shot 2018-12-09 at 8.18.01 AM

After students had sampled all the different types of symbolic representation, we helped them reflect on which modes of communication allowed them to express themselves most effectively in order to make an informed choice about their PYPx symbolic piece.

Co-constructing success criteria

Before beginning to plan their symbolic piece, we took the time to co-construct what success would look like.

We used the VTR Growing Definition to allow each students to start with their own criteria, then moving to synthesize with a partner, then a group, then the entire class.

Screen Shot 2018-12-09 at 8.18.39 AM.png

This list of criteria became a constant point of reference for reflections and feedback during their planning and creation process.

Planning their vision

To support their planning of creating a vision we used a few optional tools to help students identify the modes that help them best express their journey and the skills and talents they already have that they can use to create something.

Screen Shot 2018-12-09 at 8.19.02 AMScreen Shot 2018-12-09 at 8.19.11 AMScreen Shot 2018-12-09 at 8.19.18 AM

Creating

Once students were committed to a vision, they jumped in with both feet! Thanks to many years of experiencing voice, choice and ownership in their art classes with @annadeibisu  and @NaomiFeil  the students were empowered, dedicated and resourceful creators.

Some chose to represent their learning journey through music…

Others through film…

Or paint…

shapes and structures…

words and fonts…

video clips…

Images…

Fabrics and textures…

Objects…

Maps…

Movement…

Even a Rube Goldberg!

Support from each other

Even though each student had their own symbolic piece, it was beautiful to watch the way they took interest in each other’s creations and offered guidance, support and feedback.

Support from adults

Throughout the creation process, it was all-hands-on-deck and we were lucky to have so much support from adults within the community – specifically connecting with students and sharing their personal interests and areas of expertise.

We were also fortunate to have art and music teachers who were comfortable collapsing their timetable for the Grade level in order to create a open “studio-style” schedule where art and music spaces, people and materials were open throughout the day for students.

Screen Shot 2018-12-09 at 8.20.12 AM.png

Ongoing Feedback and Reflection

Throughout the creation process we continually worked with students to provoke their thinking about the symbolic piece in hopes of deepening the layers of symbolic representation.

Screen Shot 2018-12-09 at 8.20.29 AMScreen Shot 2018-12-09 at 8.20.59 AMScreen Shot 2018-12-09 at 8.21.31 AMScreen Shot 2018-12-09 at 8.21.43 AMScreen Shot 2018-12-09 at 8.22.02 AM

This process also included helping students think through the lens of the Learner Profile, PYP Attitudes and ATL Skills and how might those layers be represented in their symbolic piece.

Screen Shot 2018-12-09 at 8.24.15 AMScreen Shot 2018-12-09 at 8.24.08 AMScreen Shot 2018-12-09 at 8.23.58 AMScreen Shot 2018-12-09 at 8.23.50 AM

Artist Statements

Since we knew there would be times throughout the Exhibition when students wouldn’t be standing next to their piece, we wanted to make sure students were still able to share their story with any visitor at any time. So we supported them to create “Artist Statements” to allow for members of the community to understand what they had made, why they had made it and how it represents their PYP learning journey.

Screen Shot 2018-12-09 at 8.24.44 AM.png

Staging and installation

Once the pieces and artist statements were complete (or almost complete!) it was time to stage the exhibition!

We started with our multipurpose room, added some cloth, lanterns, lamps, wires, walls, boxes and stands to set the mood…

Then students began to move their installations into the space and made their final adjustments to their pieces.

Finally the PYPx staging was complete!

There were 80 unique symbolic pieces to represent 80 unique PYP learning journeys!

An invitation for a conversation

As mentioned above, we strongly urge our students away from thinking about PYPx as a presentation where they memorize a spiel and repeat it over and over again. Instead, we support our students to think of it as an invitation to a conversation where they are able to engage and interact more authentically with their visitors.

To help prepare them for this we offered optional workshops on conversational skills.

Screen Shot 2018-12-09 at 8.22.50 AMScreen Shot 2018-12-09 at 8.23.12 AM

Sharing with the community

Then it was time to invite parents, teachers, students and community members to celebrate our learners’ journeys!

Feedback

The response from the community was overwhelmingly positive. Everyone was proud to see how confident, creative, reflective, self-aware and articulate all the students were.

Screen Shot 2018-12-09 at 8.25.51 AMScreen Shot 2018-12-09 at 8.25.56 AM

Screen Shot 2018-12-09 at 8.46.21 AM.png

Moving Forward…

This was my first PYPx experience, and although it was an amazing experience I am always looking to reflect and improve. So as I head into the final half of our school year – knowing another PYPx is just around the corner – I’d love to hear your thoughts:

What is your school doing to innovate and push the boundaries of the typical approach to PYPx?

What feedback do you have for us to make our process more student-centred, learning-driven and agency-supportive?

What blog posts out there have poked and provoked your own thinking about PYPx?

Getting Parents Onboard

One of my big professional goals this year is to do a better job getting parents to understand and support our agency-based approach to learning.

I used to do a pretty good job of this at my old school, but last year – with a new country, new school, new grade, new approach – it fell off my list of priorities. I lost sight of how crucial it truly is.

So this year I’m making a more concerted effort, to not only help the parents understand what is going on in the classroom and why, but more importantly to bring them into to the conversation about why school is broken and get them onboard as allies in the education revolution!

Screen Shot 2018-09-15 at 9.21.39 AM.png

Design by @orenjibuta

Here are a few things I’ve done so far:

1. Embrace and encourage parent meetings

Sometimes as educators we try to avoid, sidestep and minimize parent meetings. This year I’ve tried to shift my perspective to wanting and welcoming parent meetings.

Right at the beginning of the year I sent out an open invitation to any parents who had questions, comments and concerns about our agency-supportive model. I had about a handful of parents reply and set-up a meeting.

If the reason for the meeting was more about their specific child within our agency-supportive model then I made sure to encourage a 3-way conference approach to the meeting. Making it clear that our school philosophy was that meetings that take place about a child, should include that child.

To structure the meeting I used an adapted protocol where child, parent and teacher all had an opportunity to share their goals, needs, worries and suggestions.

screen-shot-2018-09-15-at-9-42-38-am.png

Moving on from these initial meetings I had some families that wanted to schedule regular meetings – once a month – to stay connected and involved in their child’s learning. And others who felt that the initial meeting had met their needs.

Another thing that came to light from these meetings was that parents wanted to feel more involved in the model, wanted to better understand the model and wanted help and support learning how to be a parent within the model. This feedback informed many of the following steps I’ve been taking this year to get parents on board.

2. Harnessing the power of digital platforms

It was clear that many parents wanted to feel involved and part of their child’s learning at school, but because it was so different from when they went to school themselves, they weren’t exactly sure how.

So thanks to the power of Google, SeeSaw, Weebly and other platforms we were able to start helping them feel more involved. We got in the routine of digitally sharing assessments, weekly goals, day plans, reflections and documentation.

Screen Shot 2018-09-15 at 9.29.32 AM.png

Screen Shot 2018-09-15 at 9.23.53 AM.png

This not only gave parents insight into their child’s learning but allowed for them to leave comments, suggestions and feedback to become part of the learning process.

Screen Shot 2018-09-15 at 9.36.24 AM.png

Screen Shot 2018-09-15 at 9.34.46 AM.png

3. Make planning transparent

“No secret teacher business” is a pretty common phrase for agency-supportive educators when sharing their thinking and planning with their students – why not with parents as well? What better way to have parents understand not only what is happening in the classroom, but also (and probably more importantly) why and how.

So each Monday I take a screenshot of our actual team planning (which is built around Simon Sinek’s Golden Circles) and record a voice note to explain, in detail, the thinking, reasons and research behind our planning.

Screen Shot 2018-09-15 at 9.38.29 AM.png

There has been a really positive response to these posts from parents!

Screen Shot 2018-09-15 at 9.39.51 AM.png

So this prompted me to start to share beyond the weekly why, how, what to other important systems and structures that we have in place to support students’ learning.

Screen Shot 2018-09-15 at 9.41.47 AM.png

4. Hook parents as allies

One of the most crucial aspects of getting parents on board is helping them become critical thinkers about the current paradigm of education and what needs to change. Each week I send home a provocation – a video, blog, post, article, tweet, or quote – that is meant to poke and provoke their thinking about education.

Screen Shot 2018-09-15 at 9.44.45 AM.png

Screen Shot 2018-09-15 at 9.45.47 AM.png

I’m lucky that I’m part of a team that shares similar philosophies and practices getting parents on board, because we work together to collect and collate parent provocations.

Screen Shot 2018-09-15 at 9.47.18 AM.png

5. Seek and Action Parent Feedback

I think it’s also important to recognize and make space for parents’ thoughts, ideas, and feedback – not just with regards to their specific child, but also in more general ways as well.

Whether it’s taking time to collect their philosophies and beliefs about education…

Screen Shot 2018-09-15 at 9.55.45 AM

Taking time to ask them about their child…

Screen Shot 2018-09-15 at 9.57.14 AM.png

Seeking feedback about the new ways you are approaching teaching and learning…

Screen Shot 2018-09-15 at 9.59.51 AM.png

Or seeking feedback about how you are doing as a teacher

Screen Shot 2018-09-15 at 10.14.39 AM.png

It is important that they have a voice and they feel like their voice is heard and honoured.

My Reflections

One of most important things I’ve learned so far is that the more it feels like an invitation – whether it’s to come in for a meeting, have access to their child’s documents, listen to the thinking behind our planning, engage with a parent provocation or fill out a survey – the more comfortable it feels for parents. That way parents can be as involved as they wish to be. And for some that means very involved and for other less so to not at all.

As a classroom teacher it definitely becomes easier to get parents on board the more your PYPC, administrators and Head of School take similar approaches in the work they do with parents. I’m thankful to be part of a school where everyone shares a similar approach to energize, engage and empower our parent community as an essential part of shifting the educational paradigm. Maybe I can even get my PYPC coordinatorprincipal or Head of School to write a guest post about their contribution to getting parents on board within their role… Stay tuned!

How do you get parents on board for agency-supportive models of learning?

How are you inviting parent voice into the process?

The Magic of a Student Designed Studio

We have 120 Grade 5 students.

We have 10 learning spaces in our Grade 5 hallway.

And to start the year we believed that those 120 students should have the trust and ownership to collectively design and set-up those 10 learning spaces.

So they did. And it was pretty amazing.

Before Day 1

As usual, our team started with why. With the help of our PYPC and instructional coaches, we talked as a team to ensure we were all on the same page about why having students set-up their learning spaces was essential to starting a year full of respect and support for their agency. From there we were able to move onto possible hows and whats , but we knew that most of the planning would be in response to what actually happened each day, so we started small, with one first step – “unsetting up” the space.

img_3697-1

We knew that in order for students to be able to truly own the space, we would need to provide them with a blank canvas – essentially undoing any thinking, decisions or organization from us. We also knew it was important that students could easily see and access all the furniture, resources and materials that we had as a grade level, so we decided to collate it all into separate areas. We put all the tables in one area, all the couches in another area, all the shelves in another area, all the baskets/bins/organizers in another area, all the consumable materials in another area and all the learning resources and manipulative in another area. We also ensured every wall, shelf, cupboard, and bin was completely empty.

img_3640-1

We also knew that is was essential to keep parents informed and involved. So we sent them this email a few days before their child’s first day of school:

img_3816

Day 1

On day 1, we pretty much just said “Go! Set-up your studios!”. We wanted to prevent too much guidance and ensure our thinking wasn’t accidentally seeping into their thinking. We also wanted to use this as a cold diagnostic – to see who they are and what they currently think and understand about learning and school. Since there were lots of big, heavy pieces of furniture we did have a safety briefing to talk about how to lift and carry furniture and how to ask for help when needed.

Then they were off…

And it was incredible to see the action, initiative, thinking and teamwork right out of the gate!

b68b09fb-a9a5-4d94-9614-b51f1eabf83e-1

 Immediately we started to see creativity and great ideas:

A table for adults to drop of forgotten lunches….

An indoor handball court…

A welcome sign…

We also started to see different types of learning spaces emerge:

And by the end of day 1, students had successfully set-up 7…. classrooms.

Day 2

Although students did an AMAZING job with their first attempt of setting-up, it was clear that many of them were still in the mindset of “doing school” – a paradigm we knew we wanted to challenge immediately. So in small advisory groups we all facilitated a guided brainstorm activity to get them thinking about the concept of a studio.

img_3667-1img_3669-1

Once we helped students organize and unpack their own thinking about the concept of a studio, we asked them a challenging question.

“Yesterday we told you to go set-up your studios. Looking at the people, places, materials, and purposes from your brainstorms this morning…. did you actually set-up ‘studios’?” – Us

“No….” – Them

“Yesterday, what did you set-up?” – Us

“Classrooms” – Them

“Do you guys want some more time to try again?” – Us

“YAASSSSSS!!!!!” – Them

So they tried again. And it was just as – if not more – amazing! We started to see spaces emerge that would support authentic and purposeful pursuits and endeavours.

img_3709img_3710img_3711img_3712

But we noticed students weren’t really considering the purpose-built spaces. We have two small rooms with doors, one large room with doors, 4 medium rooms with 3 and 3/4 walls and two large open spaces. Yet students weren’t matching the purpose of the space to the unique features of the space. So we broke into small advisory groups again to push their thinking further. We analyzed the features of each space and debated what type of studio would be most appropriate in that space. Obviously there was no clear right or wrong answer, so we ended up with several, equally good options.

Day 3

We took the most popular options that arose from discussions within advisory groups and synthesized them into 3 main floor plans. Then students and advisors analyzed the floor plans and cast their vote.

Screen Shot 2018-08-11 at 2.57.43 PM

It was clear that “option B” had the majority of votes, so that is what we went with.

Screen Shot 2018-08-11 at 2.58.27 PM.png

Next, we had students commit to a team that they felt motivated to help with.

Screen Shot 2018-08-11 at 2.57.54 PM.png

Then we let them go again to bring “option B” to life in their new teams.

We started to see the space take shape, but noticed they were focused mostly on the big things and not yet thinking about the smaller details. So we pulled them together and provoked their thinking further with these 6 questions.

Screen Shot 2018-08-11 at 2.58.05 PM.png

Then we really started to see the spaces take shape.

We saw more thinking and action connected to organization…

We saw more attention to aesthetics…

We started to see signs and instructions…

We saw more thought into what was needed in each space and how to get it…

Day 4

Since all the spaces will be used be all 130 of us, it was important that the teams responsible for each space were considering and using the ideas and opinions of people who were not on their team. So we gave students the opportunity to “tour” each space and then leave feedback for the group responsible for designing that specific studio.

Then teams had time to analyze the feedback and decided how they were going to take action to honour the ideas and concerns of their peers.

Day 5

At this point spaces were starting to shape up, but we noticed that most students (with an exception of a few) weren’t looking beyond what they already had in their space. So we poked their thinking further into what else they might need, where they could get it and, of course, how we as adults could support them in that process.

Screen Shot 2018-08-25 at 9.58.46 AM.png

Day 6,7,8

At this point in the process, we noticed a plateau. It seems that students took themselves as far as they could and weren’t sure where to go next. So that was a big clue for us, that it was time to jump in and help them go beyond where they could take themselves. So we had one adult join each of the teams and act as a coach. Each person had their own style of how they supported their group, but we all shared the common theme of helping support students’ thinking and organization towards their next steps.

We noticed that this support helped students go further and begin to think about the smaller details within their space.

Even MORE cool ideas began to emerge!

Day 9

Then, finally, the spaces were “done” (knowing that there is always opportunities for reflections, refinements, new ideas and changes throughout the year!)

We ended up with a book nook…

An art and design studio…

A recording studio…

A science and maths lab…

A town hall space…

A drama studio…

A fitness studio…

A digital production studio…

And a “chillax” studio…

At this point it was important to take time to pause and reflect in order to look for learning. We challenged the students to think about the last 9 days and notice and name the attributes of the IB Learner Profile, PYP attitudes, ATL skills, strands of math and stands of language that have been embedded within their experience designing and setting-up their learning spaces – even if they didn’t realize it at the time.

We then displayed their reflections for the community – to help parents, other grade-levels and visitors to our school understand where the learning has been during the first two weeks of the year.

Day 10

Now that the studios were fully set-up it was time for all of us to explore and use the amazing spaces!

It was also time to show and share the spaces with their families. So during Back to School Night, students gave their families a tour of all the learning spaces in our hallway. We invited parents to leave their feedback so we could include their voice in the process.

Here is what they had to say:

Reflections

  • It was such an enjoyable first few weeks of school
  • It provided great diagnostic data about our students’ thinking, initiative, teamwork, problem solving and creativity
  • It established a really strong sense of community
  • It set the tone for a culture of initiative, not a culture of permission
  • It helped students understand the spaces, resources and materials they have available to them this year
  • It challenged us all to break down our “homeroom” mentality
  • It showed students we are serious about respecting and supporting their agency as learners and as a people

I feel extremely lucky to be part of a team of fellow risk-takers who were all on board to jump in with both feet. I also feel extremely lucky to be at a school with a parent community who trusted us and tried their best to understand our approach and how they could be part of it. I also also feel extremely fortunate to be at a school where our leadership, admin and even Head of School not only understood what we were trying to do, but supported us and even publically shared and celebrated our approach.

Screen Shot 2018-08-25 at 9.06.12 AM.png

If you want to involve your students in setting up their learning spaces, but happen to be at a school where your team, leadership, admin and/or Head of School are not on board (yet), take comfort in the fact that the Enhanced PYP has your back!

Screen Shot 2018-08-25 at 11.54.48 AM

How do you involve your students in setting up their learning spaces?

Student-Planned UOIs

Currently, our grade level has 84 different Units of Inquiry happening simultaneously – a different one for each student. All connecting to different transdisciplinary themes, exploring different key concepts, developing different ATL skills, strengthening different attitudes, developing different attributes of the Learner Profile and lasting for different lengths of time.

It is PYPx?

Nope… it’s just a “normal” week in Studio 5!

How did we get here? What was our “why”? Our “how? Our “what”? And where do we go from here? Stick with me for this lengthy blog post and I will try to capture and share our journey through supporting our students to plan, execute, and report on, their own Units of Inquiry.

Why?

So often as PYP educators, we start with the UOI and then work hard to figure out how to wrap each student around the unit we have planned. We use provocations, tuning in activities and student-generated questions to help students find “their connection” to the UOI. And although UOIs are broad and conceptual with lots of space for inquiry within, at the end of the day we are still trying to get students to find their connection to our units.

 

The more and more my team and I began to understand and value student agency, the more and more we began to wonder:

Why do all of our students need to be inquiring into the same UOI all at once, for the exact same length of time?

Aren’t all of these teacher-made decisions when planning a UOI pulling us away from our goal of respecting and supporting students’ agency as learners?

Do all of our students even need to be inquiring into the same TD theme at the same time?

Dissatisfied with our previous attempt to reconcile agency and teacher-planned Units of Inquiry, we decided to be risk-takers and take action. Instead of trying to wrap each student around a UOI, we decided to try and wrap a UOI around each student.

Our goal was to help students plan their own Units of Inquiry based around their own passions, interests and curiosities, while at the same time protecting and maintaining the role each of the 5 essential elements of the PYP played within a UOI.

How?

If we were going to expect our students to plan their own units based around things they were intrinsically motivated to learn about, we knew we had to empower students to understand motivation and more specifically, understand their own motivation. So with the help of Dan Pink’s research and resources we began an inquiry into motivation.

Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 5.01.01 PM.png

Next, we wanted to help students be able to choose something they were truly motivated to learn. We knew that jumping straight into “What’s one thing you are intrinsically motivated to learn” was unlikely to get us where we wanted to be, so instead we crafted some questions to hopefully help students uncover things in their lives that already showed evidence of intrinsic motivation.

Students filled one in about themselves:

Their parents also filled one in about their child:

Then students used both “planners” to select one “purpose”. We chose the word “purpose”… well, purposefully! We knew that eventually we wanted to have students plan their unit using a modified PYP Bubble Planner, and we wanted to keep the essence of that planner as much as possible. And since box 1, question 1 on the Bubble Planner is “What is our purpose?” we knew that eventually the student Bubble Planner would ask “What is your purpose?” Another reason we chose purpose is because we wanted to steer clear of the word passion. Earlier on in the year, our Head of School provoked our thinking with the article “7 Habits Instead of Passion” which posits that ‘follow your passion’ can be dangerous advice. Ever since then we as a team have been very careful not to de-rail our student planned UOIs by focusing on “passion”.

We also discussed the concept of purpose with students –  with the help of this “continuum of purpose” compliments of @sylviaduckworth.

cop.jpg

Knowing that this was the first time many (if not all) students had planned their own UOI around their own purpose, we knew there would be a range of the types of “purposes” that fuelled these units – many which we guessed correctly would start in the “self-awareness” and “discovery” stages.

Once students had nailed down their first “purpose” they met with a learning advisor to plan their first personalized Unit of Inquiry. Since this approach was new for my team, we all decided to use a different planner –  but all of which were based off of the PYP Bubble Planner, and connected to Dan Pink’s 3 magic ingredients of motivation. As the experts on the PYP, we helped students to “wrap the PYP” around their purpose by identifying how their purpose connected to each of the 5 elements.

As can be seen from these examples, students selected their purpose, decided how long they would need to achieve their purpose, chose how best they would document their learning, what their evidence of mastery would be, and what specifically would need to be “learned about” and “developed” throughout their unit. Careful time and consideration was also given to supporting students to brainstorm resources for their learning, both within the school and beyond.

Next students were supported in creating their own timelines, tailored to the amount of time they estimated they needed to achieve their purpose.

Then students were off an running!

Along the way, students had regular check-ins with their learning advisors to discuss their progress, challenges, adjustments to timelines, needs for resources etc. We also organized an adult-database that collated teacher and parent professions, hobbies and interests and showed students how to make use of the database to contact experts connected to their purpose.

Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 4.32.20 PM.png

We also put together a procedure for students to organize their own field trips out into the community.

Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 4.33.27 PM

Students also received support, guidance and encouragement from their parents who were invited for “learning conversations”. Parents were brought into the fold about the “why, how and what” behind student-planned UOIs and were coached in how to stimulate conversation about their child’s learning, while showing respect for their child’s agency over their learning.

We even had students who had “virtual conversations” with their parents via Skype and FaceTime!

Most impressively though was the way students supported themselves and one another. It was not uncommon to see students curate their own learning resources and materials (microscopes, scales, glue, wood, cameras, safety glasses etc.)

img_9788

And reach out to one another for advice, expertise and support.

Students were also great at knowing when they needed an adult’s help and sought out assistance, supervision or feedback – regardless of whether it was “their teacher”.

It’s also been great to see that opportunities for sharing learning have been organic, authentic, purposeful and student-initiated. Most of the time it’s the simple “you gotta see this!” or “check this out!” moments.

4afd5d1e-1aeb-4ef7-a818-c90b1f5194a8

img_9736

img_9800

But occasionally there have been some bigger, more planned moments where students have “taken their learning public”.

Whether it’s asking to perform a song around the campfire during a school camping trip

Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 4.24.22 PM.png

(photo cred @puglifevn)

Or signing up to sell a product at our school’s weekly market

img_7757

Or putting together a student-led workshop, to more formally teach other students what they have learned.

Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 8.00.14 PM.png

(photo cred @puglifevn)

What?

So what exactly did these student-planned UOIs explore? Anything and everything under the sun!

Robot hands and flying shoes

Digital design

Special effects movie make-up

Entomology

5ab316de-2c4e-432f-a79d-67263e02499a

(photo cred @puglifevn)

Film production

Doll house construction

Mosquito repelant and anti-itch serum

Digital music mash-ups

Cooking

Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 7.58.43 PM.png

Photography

basketball skills

Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 4.26.04 PM.png

(photo cred @puglifevn)

font design

Miniature Models

img_9756

A scale replica of the KL race track

img_9880

Not to mention… taking care of young children, building mini arcade games, coaching swimming, writing poetry, shoe “flipping” (buying bulk at a low cost and selling individually at a profit), app development, singing covers of pop songs, shoe design, dress making, stand-up comedy and the list goes on…

Looking over this list, I can’t help but think of this quote from John Taylor Gatto:

Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 4.15.32 PM.png

So, where do we go from here?

Currently students are at a fork in the road, where they have the option to “pivot or persevere”. Students who have achieved their purpose or have noticed their intrinsic motivation has dropped (or perhaps was never there to begin with) can choose to move on to a new purpose. Students who feel their intrinsic motivation is going strong and would like to continue to pursue their first purpose can choose to stick with it.

Either way, students will reflect on and report their learning at this check-point. “Pivot-ers” will write a summative evaluation of their learning that will be shared to parents and “Persevere-ers” will write an in-progress, update of their learning so far, which will also be shared with their parents. Both templates are built around the 5 essential elements of the PYP.

Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 4.13.57 PMScreen Shot 2018-02-17 at 4.13.35 PM

Finalized comments, such as the one below, will be shared with parents as the official UOI Evaluation of Learning (report card) via Mangebac.

Screen Shot 2018-02-18 at 10.11.20 AM.png

Then the cycle starts again, and those wishing to explore a new purpose will be supported to develop a second Unit of Inquiry, while those continuing with their first purpose will be supported to continue to act on their plan. No need to limit learning to a pre-determined, 6 week block.

Another consideration at this stage in the game is documentation. If students plan their own UOIs, then what happens to the POI? I say….If a Unit of Inquiry can be personalized, why can’t a Program of Inquiry also be personalized!?

My vision would be a long-term tracking, ever growing and evolving document that captures students’ personalized learning throughout their PYP journey. If we as teachers, follow the process of “start with each child and wrap the PYP around them” then each year we could note what TD themes have been explored, which understanding of concepts of have been deepened, which skills developed, which attitudes strengthened and what action has been taken.

As a homeroom teacher, I am envisioning a type of Google Sheet, where each student in my class would have a tab and thought the year I would use their bubble planner and their EOL to retroactively document the 5 EEs of the PYP. This would allow me to help support and guide them to find balance as well as vertical and horizontal articulation within their own personalized POI over the course of the year.

Screen Shot 2018-02-18 at 10.02.39 AM.png

And what about the PYP Exhibition? Isn’t that supposed to be the one time when students have the chance to plan their own unit? And I guess our retort to that is – Why would we sacrifice our students’ agency across 5 other units, just to protect the  specialness of having students design their own unit once? We would much rather approach PYPX as an opportunity for students to reflect upon who they have become as learners and people, and what they have discovered about themselves – their motivation, their purpose, their success – a true culminating PYP experience.

If we refer back to the purpose of PYPX from the Exhibition Guidelines document, we feel confident that we are doing right by our students, not only having them experience these features once, for a pre-determined 6 week period, but at different times and in different ways all throughout their final year in the PYP.

Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 10.08.48 PM

Final Thoughts…

Now my team and I are at a place where we feel much more comfortable about “Agency and the UOI”. It’s not perfect by any means – we are still learning, growing, failing, arguing, reflecting and tweaking. We know (and are glad) that there will be many iterations to our approach, our process and the templates that we use. But in the meantime we feel a much greater sense of ease that we have managed to respect and support our students’ agency, while still honouring the essence and expectations of the PYP.

I think that if we as a PYP community are going to talk the talk of agency, then we also need to be prepared to walk the walk of agency. And that is likely going to look and feel different from what we’ve always done and what we’re comfortable with… but isn’t stepping out of our comfort zone, where we keep telling our students that the magic happens?

Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 4.56.20 PM.png