Trying to break the “homeroom” mould

Last year we tried many things to help get us and the students to break away from the traditional notion of a homeroom.

  • We encouraged free flow and fluidity between spaces.
  • Teachers and students offered workshops open to anyone in the grade level.
  • Students collaborated with whomever they liked, regardless of whether they were in “their class” or not

But despite our best intentions and efforts, more often that not it was still “my room”, “my teacher”, “my class” (for both us and the students)

So this year we have to decided to keep trying to break that stubborn mould – which as we discovered – is a deeply entrenched concept in the collective current understanding of what school is.

Here are a few things we’ve decided to try this year to hopefully move further away from the mindset of the homeroom:

1. We’re not assigning rooms to teachers. Instead of having Miss Taryn’s room, Mr. Pug’s room, Miss Amanda’s room – where a specific set of students and teachers lay claim – we’ve decide to have all spaces shared and co-owned. It’s been a hard habit to change our language of “my room”, “your room”, but in trying to do so it has made us all more mindful of both the language we use and our own deep rooted habits of thinking and being. We’ve taken to referring to the rooms simply by numbers, but were hoping when students arrive they think of some more creative and purposeful room names!

2. We’re meeting as a grade level first. On the first day of school, after we collect our specifically assigned students from the basketball court, we’ve decided to meet altogether, as a grade level, in our town hall meeting space. We’re hoping that meeting together in a shared space first will help them identify with the larger community and space, instead of reinforcing that idea of “my room” if we take them into a specific, smaller, classroom-like space. From there we will breakout into smaller groups, but we’re planning on purposefully and arbitrarily picking a room and using general language, like “let’s go meet in that room”.

3. We’re purposefully rotating where we meet with students. Building on the ideas above, we’ve also decided to rotate the spaces we use whenever we pull the students into smaller groups. Again hoping to help all students see all spaces as available to them for the betterment of their learning.

4. Students can choose where to keep their things. This was a big discussion as a team. We wanted students to have a consistent homebase – somewhere to put their backpacks, lunch bags, swim clothes each day – but we were also aware that that typically means a cubby section in an assigned classroom. So we’ve decided to make all cubbies available to all students, but have students choose one cubby to make their “home base” for the rest of the year.

5. We’re having one Google Classroom. Another structure that kept us in the mindset of homerooms last year was having separate Google Classrooms. This year we’ve decided to have one centralized Google Classroom where all teachers and all students can connect and collaborate with one another.

6. Students will decide how best to use and set up the variety of learning spaces we have. Our biggest risk – and hopefully biggest crack to the mould of homeroom mentality- is having students set up their learning spaces. But instead of having them set up classrooms, we’ve decided to have the whole cohort take ownership over the whole grade-level area – hallways, quiet learning spaces, loud learning spaces, and regular learning spaces. To assist with this process we have “unsetup” all the spaces to create a blank canvas. We’ve emptied every shelf, bin and cupboard, stock piled every table, couch, pillow and collated all the learning supplies and resources. On the first day of school we’re going to ensure students know they are empowered and trusted to envision, create and take ownership over their learning spaces, resources and materials. After giving them a little bit of time to try, struggle, have tension, solve problems and persevere we’re planning on supporting their thinking as well as the process – having 120 students set up 9 learning spaces will be no small task!

I’m sure there are still many ways that our mindset and that of the students will be stuck within the confines of the “homeroom mould”, but hopefully these 6 steps propel us further down the path of true learning and further away from doing school.

As with any worthwhile risk, I’m feeling the perfect combination of excitement and fear. It’s either going to be amazing or a complete disaster!

The adventure begins tomorrow…

Wish us luck!

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Agency PD – A First Attempt

A few weeks ago I shared my thinking about how best to structure professional development focused around student agency, and this past weekend I had a chance to test it out! I spent the day with an amazing group of passionate and dedicated educators all committed to upping the amount of voice, choice and ownership in the work they do to support their learners in their specific role.

Here is how it went…

The Before:

The first thing I knew I needed to do was get to know them as learners. So I sent out a quick Google Form that helped me begin to understand who they are and what they are hoping for from our time together.

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The results were very informative and helped me put together a day of professional learning about agency tailored to their needs.

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From there I focused on building a workshop where they were able to not only learn about learner agency, but learn through experiencing their own agency as learners. All of my planning and decisions were guided by the question, “How can I help them learn about student agency” instead of focusing on “How can I teach them about student agency”.

Before the day of the workshop I also spent some time putting together a virtual learning space, our own Google Classroom, to help distribute documents and resources.

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I knew that not all participants were comfortable on Google Classroom, so I insured that there were plenty of other options and avenues for accessing resources and using some of the templates.

For example, sending out links via email:

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And having shorty links visible when they arrived the day of the workshop:

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The During:

When participants arrived the day of, I made sure they all had access to the presentation slides – which were editable – as there were a few activities where everyone would need to contribute thoughts and ideas.

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First we started with a simple activity to help them connect with each other, the topic of the workshop and their own experience as a student.

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Then I was transparent about the structure of the workshop – Choose, Act, Reflect – and my thinking behind it.

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The “Choose” Portion of the day…

To help them self-assess where they are in their own journey of understanding and supporting student agency, I used a Gradual Increase of Independence (adapted from the original design by @orenjibuta)

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Next I guided them in using the data from their own self-assessment to create their own personalized success criteria for the day

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Then, we co-constructed a menu about documenting learning – starting with the “why”, and moving to possible “hows” and “whats”

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Everyone took a turn to share how they were planning to document their learning throughout the day, and it was so great to see so many different approaches!

After that, it was time for them to plan their day! I took some time to give them an overview of all the different possible options that could support their learning throughout the day.

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I briefly explained what my optional workshops were about and how the conferences would work:

Who the Skype experts were:

I helped them centralize the things they might want to discuss with one another:

I previewed the resource document that I built for them.

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And then… they were off planning!!! (using their success criteria and self-assessment to inform the choices they made about their learning)

The “Act” Portion of the day…

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Optional Workshops:

1. The “Why” Behind Student Agency

First we started with an opportunity for them to tune into their own understanding of what they think student agency is.

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Next we moved into a “Tug of War” to help them debate and discuss a variety of underlying beliefs, assumptions and philosophies connected to agency.

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Finally, we did Chalk Talk to help them engage with some provocative stimuli to poke and provoke their thinking and emotions further. (Warning – some stimuli are quite extreme!)

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2. Transferring Decision into the Hands of Learners

First, I had everyone brainstorm all the decisions they make in their role as an educator

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Then, I had them use a quote from the Empower book to challenge them to think about which of those decisions learners “should” or “could” be making themselves.

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Then I invited them to visit other groups and leave some feedback to push each other’s thinking a little further.

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Finally, I had them reflect on any shifts in their thinking as a result of the activity.

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3. Self-Reflection and Planning for Action

First I introduced a few self-reflection tools, to help them see where they are already respecting and supporting student agency and also where there might be some space to make some changes in their practice to work towards even more respect and support for student agency.

I used a sketchnote from @terSonya

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and a questionnaire that I developed

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Once they had some time to engage with the tools, I supported them in using their self-reflection to develop a personal action plan

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Optional Guided Groups or Conferences:

I only had one conference slot filled about agency vs. the curriculum. We sat and chatted for 15 minutes about questions, challenges, ideas and resources.

Skypes with experts:

I was so fortunate to have 4 amazing educators donate some of their weekend to support the learning of people in the workshop.

@bondclegg chatted with MYP and DP educators about how to up the agency within and around program restrictions

@hktans chatted with leaders and administrators about how to support the development of teachers when it comes to understanding agency and also how to bend and break rules in order to re-imagine what school could be

@ms_AmandaRomano shared her own personal journey as an experienced educator unlearning, learning and relearning how to support student agency as a classroom teacher

Stephen Flett chatted with educators about how learning support can function within a system that supports more student agency

Collaborative Conversations:

There was LOTS of connecting, chatting, dialoguing, brainstorming and challenging

Independant Inquiry:

There was also lots of personal inquiry into the resource document

The “Reflect” Portion of the day…

When we all came back together at the end of the day, I guided them through a formative self-assessment where they were able to choose how best to assess their personalized success criteria to know where they currently are and where they need to go next

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Then we spent some time collectively brainstorming the “why”, “how” and “what” of reflection

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and everyone chose the style and content of reflection that was most useful and comfortable for them. It was great to see such a wide range of approaches to reflection! Everything from painting, writing, sketching, talking, sleeping… to even graphing!

Then we spent a few minutes talking about how the learning doesn’t have to end…

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How fears are normal…

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And how leaving your comfort zone often leads to something amazing!

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Finally, before they left, I asked if they could share their honest feedback with me about the day. I wanted to make sure I was honouring their voice as learners!

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The After:

When I got home, I read through the feedback:

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Reading through their feedback was so helpful. It helped me reflect on what parts of the workshop worked really well, and also some parts of the workshop I need to revise for next time.

As I was reading through the “wishes” I noticed that there were many people who felt that two things were missing from the workshop:

At first I started to go down the path of regret and all the shulda, coulda, wouldas…. but then I realized that  just because the workshop was over, didn’t mean that my support for their learning had to end! So I decided to take action and respond to what their feedback was telling me.

I made two Google Slide presentations (linked above) – one to address each area that seemed to be missing from the workshop. And I sent those presentations to the workshop participants via our Google Classroom and email.

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Now I can feel a little bit better that I honoured their voice as learners, and took action to respond to their needs… even if it was technically “after the workshop”.

My reflections….

  • overall, it was a really great day
  • learning through agency is essential in order to understand agency
  • empowering educators to understand themselves as learners and where they are on their own journey helps the learning extend beyond the hours of a workshop
  • investing time in the “before” and “after” really helped me honour their voice as learners
  • this structure created a really relaxed, comfortable vibe for the day
  • the medium IS the message

How do you support educators in developing their understanding of student agency?

What feedback do you have for me as a workshop planner/facilitator in order to better meet the needs of my learners?

APPENDIX (added to the original post)

The Monday after this workshop I received the following email from one of the participants:

workshop action for twitter

workshop action photo

What a great feeling to see that learning from the workshop lead to action that resulted in happy, successful teachers and students!!!

Teacher Spaces vs Student Spaces

Who is most important in the classroom? Who is the classroom designed for?

Obvious answer… the students!

But if you take a second look at a typical classroom, does the physical space and set-up point to the same answer?

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Teachers typically have a large spacious desk with multiple drawers, many of which that lock. 

Do students?

Teachers typically have a large, comfy, adjustable chair with wheels, 

Do students?

Teachers often have a private, locked cabinet for their personal possessions (bags, wallets, phones etc.).

Do students?

Teachers typically have a personalized corner of the classroom where they post pictures of their families, friends, old classes etc. 

Do students?

Arguably you could say that teachers spend more time in the classroom than students – that it is their home away from home and therefore they need more comfortable furniture. Arguably you could say that teachers have more to do than students and therefore need more space. Arguably you could say that teacher’s possessions are more valuable than students and therefore need to be locked up. I’m not sure I agree.

Students spend a large part of their day in their classroom and I’m sure if you asked them they would say it is also their home away from home. Students have SO much to do and organize in a day – multiple subject, assignments, binders, notebooks, projects – and I’m sure if you ask them they would say they would like more space. Students come to school with many valuable things, not only wallets, lunch money and phones, but also precious and sentimental toys, books and artifacts and I’m sure if you asked them they would like to be able to safely lock up their treasure.

So if we return to the original question – who is most important in the classroom – the large desk, comfy chair, extra space, personal photos, locked storage… it would seem like many teachers have a lot more comforts and luxuries than their students. Why is this the way it is? What does this reveal about how teachers and students are viewed in the school system? Does it have to be this way?

As a teacher, I wonder what it would be like to spend a year with a simple desk, a basic chair, an open cubby in the hallway and no personal pictures on the wall.

Maybe I will give it a try and find out… 

“For the Evaluation”

A while back I wrote a post about PYP bad words. I’d like to add a PYP bad phrase.

“For the evaluation”

My school is in the early stages of preparing our self-study for our upcoming multi-program IB visit next spring and I have become acutely aware of the danger in those three words.

We need to make sure that’s in place for the evaluation. 

We should update that for the evaluation. 

We need to work on  improving that for the evaluation

No.

We shouldn’t be doing things for the evaluation – our students deserve better than that. We should be doing all of these things for them. Sure, the evaluation helps us measure and assess how well we are serving our students and gives us  a framework for setting goals and creating a plan of action to improve…  but the evaluation in and of itself cannot be the end goal.

So the next time you catch yourself or a colleague (or me!) saying these three words try to recast the sentence to ensure that we understand that we are investing our time and energy for the betterment of students – not just for the evaluation. 

We need to conduct student self-study groups for the evaluation because it will help us better understand what our students need in order to serve them better. 

We need to update our policies for the evaluation to allow us to better translate our beliefs into practice in order to better serve our students. 

We need to reflect on what we’re doing well and what we can do better for the evaluation to better serve our students. 

The evaluation can’t be misunderstood as the end goal. It needs to be seen as a tool for helping us reach our end goal: doing what’s best for our students. 

PYP Bad Words

There is no denying that teaching and learning looks and feels different in an inquiry-based classroom compared to a more traditional classroom. With that, comes a collection words in an educator’s vernacular that no longer have a place or purpose. Here are a few words commonly used in traditional education, that really don’t belong in a PYP school.

Work“Finish your work.” 

If we truly value learning in the PYP, then why would there ever be a need to talk about work? Here is a great post by Edna Sackson that explores this issue and asks the question of whether our classroom time is being spent more on work or learning. 

Cover. “We didn’t have time to cover everything we wanted to.”

If the PYP is all about inquiry, discovery and exploration then why are we still talking about covering standards and content? The notion of covering something gives way to the ‘checklist’ mentality where we as teachers have a collection of things to teach and we can tick them off as we go. This leads us down the dangerous path of “I taught it, but they didn’t learn it.”

Test“Tomorrow we have a test.” 

If we truly believe that PYP students should own their learning and have a voice in how they share their learning with others, then why are we still giving tests? Tests are usually created by teachers, behind closed doors, without the voice or input of students. Tests often measure if students’ know what their teacher thinks they ought to know. Not to mention they are often closed, detached from real-life, assessed quantitatively and heavily dependant on reading ability. Why can’t we invite students to choose how they are going to share their learning? Here is a great blog post about how to open up summative tasks.

CopyCopy this definition into your notebook.”

As PYP teachers, if we truly value thinking and creativity, then why would there be a need for students to copy something down. Whether it’s a definition, a list of attributes, or instructions for how to do something, doesn’t the act of expecting students to copy down whatever it is we are looking for steal their thinking? If learning is all about making meaning, aren’t we missing an opportunity to have students construct their own meaning if we are expecting them to copy down someone else’s meaning?

Worksheet“I just have to print off this worksheet.”

Oh, worksheets. I have shared my feelings about worksheets before (especially commercially made worksheets). If student questions are meant to drive inquiry in the PYP, how can pre-made, one-size-fits-no-one worksheets contribute to a student’s exploration of their interests and curiosities? I often am met with the argument of “skill practice” in defence of worksheets. However, aren’t skills embedded in context and purpose in the real world? So I often wonder the purpose of isolated skill practice. Even if you can convince me of the value of “skill practice”, aren’t there better – more differentiated ways – to help 22+ students practice the skills that are relevant to them in ways that require true thinking, not just “watch and do” procedures? I hope so! Here is a great post that compares worksheets to candy… some food for though!

Cute“I found this on pinterest. It’s so cute!” 

Beware of cute at the expense of thinking. Before you call something cute, ask yourself if it is based on students’ questions, promotes inquiry, and is driven by deep, conceptual understanding. If so, then go for it. If not, then you may want to reconsider. I’ve read many IB publications providing guidance about making the PYP happen in your classroom. I have never once come across the word cute in any of those documents. Here is a great post about how many cute things on Pinterest have  “glitz and only the appearance of learning”.

Activities“Can we plan our activities for the unit?”

“What a great planning session! We have 10 weeks worth of activities all mapped out.” is something Kath Murdoch claims true inquiry teachers never say. Activities give the impression of something that is done to students. But learning can’t be done to students (or for students). Learning is something students need to do for themselves. Activities also give the impression of a one-off event or experience. If we want inquiries to allow students to generate and explore their own questions, they shouldn’t need a string of disconnected activities chosen by teachers. Instead why not use these guiding questions from Kath’s inquiry cycle to structure each step of the way. Do you really need activities when you can ask “What do you already know about this?”, “What do you want to know about this?” “How are you going to find out about this?” “How are you going to sort out the information you have found?” “What else do you need to find out before you share your discoveries?” “How are you going to share your learning with others?”  “Now that you know what you know, what are you going to do about it?”

These kids. “Inquiry works, just not with these kids.”

In the video What Does it Mean to be an Inquiry Teacher? Kath Murdoch clearly states that one of the defining features of a true inquiry teacher is someone who sees their students as competent, capable, curious, partners in learning  and someone who acknowledges that there is always something in each and every child that makes them intrigued and makes them light up. If we believe this to be true (and who can argue with Kath Murdoch when it comes to inquiry!?) then there would never be any reason to use the phrase “these kids” pejoratively when it comes to learning… regardless of the type of school, the age, the country, the community, the language, the culture, the personality. There are no “these kids” that true inquiry doesn’t work with.

Think about the conversations you have with students, parents, colleagues and administrators about teaching and learning:

  • How often do you find yourself using these PYP bad words?
  • How do the words you use reflect your beliefs about teaching and learning?
  • How can you shift parts of your teaching practice so you no longer have to use these words?

What do you think?

Do any of these words have a place in a PYP teacher’s vocabulary?

What other words do you hear or say that should be considered “PYP bad words”?

 

PYP New Staff Induction as a Unit of Inquiry

This year we had 25 wonderful new staff join our Primary Years Program. As PYP Coordinator, myself and my trusty partner are charged with the privilege of training them in all things PYP. We decided this was a great chance for us – as coordinators- to participate in a process of collaborative planning and design our own Unit of Inquiry to structure our 9 one-hour sessions with our new staff. Here are the big pieces of our UOI:

staff induction UOI

We had 3 overarching goals:

  1. Have our new-to-PYP learn about the PYP, by learning through the PYP
  2. Model inquiry based, concept-driven teaching and learning practices they could take back and use in their own teaching
  3. Stay connected to the process of unit planning, unit delivery and unit reflection from a teaching perspective

Here is a brief (not so brief!) summary of what we did each week to hopefully accomplish these goals!

Week 1 – General overview

Diagnostic Assessment: What do you know, or think you know about the PYP?

Teachers sketched their own model of the elements of the PYP and how they work together.

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Tuning in: How do you feel about your current understanding of the PYP?

Teachers wrote their name or a symbol on a post-it and stuck it to a reflection spectrum that ranged from “I don’t even know what PYP stands for” all the way to “I should take over the PYP Coordinator’s job”

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Tuning in: Introducing the Unit of Inquiry

We shared the central idea, key concepts and lines of inquiry with the teachers.

Tuning in: Q&A

We facilitated an informal question and answer session and made sure to take note of questions that could guide our planning for future sessions.

Week 2 – International Mindedness

Tuning in: What is international mindedness?(Form)  How does it work in the PYP?(Function)

Teachers jotted down what they think they know about the form and function of international mindedness into their “Inquiry Notebooks”.

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Finding Out & Sorting Out: Resource Exploration & Visible Thinking Routine – Connect, Extend, Challenge

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Teachers explored a variety of resources we provided about international mindedness and organized their ideas based on the Connect-Extend-Challenge Visible Thinking Routine.

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Making Conclusions: Reflection – How might I develop IM in the grade/subject I teach?

Teachers sat with colleagues who teach the same grade or subject to chat about and brainstorm ways to put their learning about IM into action.

Week 3 – Transdisciplinary Learning

Taking Action : Reflecting on international mindedness

Teachers discussed how they had put their learning about IM into action in their own teaching and how it went.

Tuning in: Visible Thinking Routine – 3,2,1 Bridge

VTR 2

Teachers completed the first part of the Visible Thinking Routine “3,2,1 Bridge” about transdisciplinary learning.

Provocation: Decomposition Lab

Teachers watched this YouTube video that shows a Grade 4 transdisciplinary unit in action and discussed what they noticed.

Sorting Out: Transdisciplinary Theme Visible Thinking Routine: Chalk Talk

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Teachers completed a chalk talk for each of the 6 TD themes in the PYP, brainstorming what topics or specific areas of study could be explored in that theme.

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Making Conclusions & Reflection: 3,2,1, Bridge

Teachers completed the second part of the VTR “3,2,1 Bridge” and reflected on how their understanding about transdisciplinary learning had shifted and changed.

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Week 4 – Concept-Based Teaching and Learning

Taking Action: Reflecting on transdisciplinary learning

Teachers chatted about how the attempted TD learning in their own teaching practice based on what they had learned the week before.

Tuning in: +1 Routine

Teachers brainstormed a list of all the pieces of information they knew about concept-based learning.

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Provocation: Dr. David Perkins

Teachers read this startling statement “90%  of what we teach in schools is a waste of time… it just doesn’t matter” and then watched this YouTube video of Dr. David Perkins to provoke their thinking about “what’s worth knowing?”

Finding Out & Sorting Out: Resource Exploration & Visible Thinking Routine +1

Teachers explored resources that we provided and added relevant ideas and information to their +1 routine.

Going Further: Key Concept Questions

Teachers brainstormed questions about the Kuwait Towers from each key concept lens.

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Making Conclusions: Visible Thinking Routine- Headlines

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Teachers wrote a “headline” that summarized their current understanding of concept-based teaching and learning

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Reflection: Stop, Start, Continue

Teachers reflected on their learning so far and provided us with feedback about what we could “stop, start and continue” to better impact their learning about the PYP.

Week 5 – Attitudes and Skills

Taking Action: Reflecting on Concept-Based Learning

Teachers discussed how they had used the key concepts with their students.

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Tuning in: Skills and Attitudes as Learning Targets

Teachers experienced what it is like to have learning goals/targets structured through PYP attitudes and skills

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Finding out: Making the PYP Happen Jigsaw

Teachers worked in partners to research either attitudes or skills in order to share their learning with their partner. Teachers inquired into the form and function of the attitudes and skills as described by the IB in Making the PYP Happen.

Going Further: Resource Exploration & Visible Thinking Routine- See, Think, Wonder

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Teachers explored provided resources and organized relevant discoveries through the VTR “See, Think, Wonder”

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Reflection: Attitude Reflection

Teachers reflected and posted which PYP attitudes they used the most throughout their learning activities.

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Week 6 – Action 

Tuning in: Quick Write about action

Teachers took 3 minutes to write everything and anything about action in the PYP.

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Finding Out & Sorting Out: Making the PYP Happen & Visible Thinking Routine- 4Cs

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Teachers read the section about action in MTPYPH and pulled out “connections, challenges, concepts and changes” based on the Visible Thinking Routine.

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Making Conclusions” Visible Thinking Routine- Colour, Symbol, Image

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Teachers choose a colour, symbol and image to represent their understanding of action in the PYP.

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Week 7 – The Role of subjects in the PYP

Taking Action: Reflecting on action

Teachers discuss how they have supported student-initiated action in their teaching recently.

Tuning in: Teachers jotted down what subjects they think make up the PYP.

Finding out: Teachers split up into groups and each group inquired into the role of different subjects in the PYP.

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Making Conclusions: Teachers presented their findings to each other.

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Week 8 – Summative Sharing

Check out this post to see a full recap of the provocative “PYP test” and real PYP summative!

Week 9 – Personalized Learning Plan

Even though our new-to-PYP staff training was coming to an end we did not want the learning or support to stop. We helped our new-to-PYP staff develop Personalized Learning Plans for the remainder of their first year in the PYP.

Tuning in: Teachers reflected on their current learning about the PYP and identified areas they wanted to pursue further. They set their own “learning objectives” based on what they want to learn more about.

Finding Out & Sorting Out: Teachers explored the OCC and this google doc to find resources that would support each of their learning objectives. Teachers browsed, skimmed, bookmarked, printed, and copied links that would be of interest later on when they had time to dive in. The idea is to invest all the time it takes to find, vet and organize resources so that for the remainder of the year, if there is a pocket of time to learn you already have everything you need!

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After our last session, we knew what we had to do… REFLECT! So, true to our goal of treating this like a Unit of Inquiry, my partner and I sat down together and collaboratively completed the PYP unit reflections.

Staff Induction 23

We also completed an inquiry self-reflection to help us identify how many ‘signals of inquiry’ were present in our adult learning community and if there we any ‘warning bells’.

Staff Induction 22

We discovered that next year we need to work on noticing, honouring and using our learners’ questions more to drive the inquiry and better build an environment filled with wonder and curiosity. We also noticed that after 9 weeks our new-to-PYP teachers learned so much about the PYP yet we never “taught” them anything, in the traditional sense. There were no Powerpoints filled with information. There were no lectures. There was no standing and delivering. That felt good!

What a great experience it was to plan, deliver, assess and reflect on our new-to-PYP staff training as a PYP Unit of Inquiry! We can’t wait to have a second chance next year to put our reflections and new goals into action!

We would love your feedback about our Unit of Inquiry! Please share your questions, comments, connections and suggestions with us. 

Inquiry-Based Staff Orientation

Warning: This is a long post! My partner and I wanted to be risk-takers and, as much as possible, run an inquiry-based orientation for our new and returning PYP staff. Here is a sneak peak into how it went.

Our leadership team had four main goals to guide our staff orientation this year:

essential agreements

So first we set-up our inquiry-based professional learning environment…

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  • collaborative, flexible groupings
  • learning materials on each table (blank paper, markers, recipe cards, post-its etc.)
  • blank walls to display learners’ questions and thinking
  • resource wall to post strategies and visible thinking routines we use
  • wonder wall for questions

Day 1: An inquiry into learning spaces…

We did a Think, Write, Sort to open up a discussion around classroom set-up.

Think: What are the usual tasks of setting up a classroom?

Write: Write each classroom set-up task on a separate post-it note and place it in the middle of your group.

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Sort: Organize all post-it notes into 3 categories. 1 – Tasks to do with students, 2 – Tasks to do before students arrive, 3 – Tasks that don’t belong in a PYP classroom. (Get rid of duplicates!)

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Walk: Walk around and see what other groups think.

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Post: Display teachers’ thinking in the learning space.

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Day 2: An inquiry into learning communities…

We brainstormed the ways we, as staff, demonstrate the attributes of the learner profile in our professional learning community.

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Then we took a break to play together. We played rock, paper, scissor entourage and it was AWESOME!

Everyone faces off against a colleague for a one-stop shot of rock, paper, scissor.

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The winner goes on to face another winner, and the loser becomes the winner’s entourage who then cheers on the winner!

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Then the loser and his or her entourage join the entourage of the winner, as the winner faces off with another winner. And do the pattern continues until there are only 2 winners left with HUGE entourages, cheering loudly!

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Then we got back to work learning, using a Growing Definition to draft our staff essential agreements.

First in partners,

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Then in groups,

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Finally, as a whole staff (or in our case with a staff of 120, with a collection of representatives from each group!)

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Now, we are ready to post our essential agreements. We plan to “live ’em, not laminate ’em” and continually reflect on them throughout the year as needed.

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Last but not least, a reflection! Not about what we learned, but instead about how we learned.

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Day 3: An inquiry into inquiry…

We mixed and mingled our PYP, MYP and DP teachers to learn and share about inquiry across the continuum. Inspired by this post by What Ed Said.

PYP MYP DP staff

We used the Kath Murdoch inquiry cycle and this prezi to structure our inquiry.

Provocation: What ideas about teacher and learning does this video portray?

Tuning In: What is your experience with inquiry?

Finding Out: Based on your current understanding, what are you questions about inquiry?

Sorting Out: Using the resources provided, self-select some blog posts, videos, twitter hashtags, pictures etc. that are relevant to your questions.

If you are beginning your understanding of inquiry:

 Blog Posts:

Strategies for Inquiry Based Learning

What do you notice? A first step down the path towards inquiry

Introduction to Inquiry Based Learning

Inquiry Cycle: Why, what and how

What does inquiry look like?

Planning and Inquiry Based Start to the Year

Videos:

An inquiry approach

Inquiry based learning – developing student questions

If you are developing your understanding of inquiry:

 Blog Posts:

Developing independence and inquiry

Inquiry, inquiry, inquiry… but how do I do it?

What does inquiry learning look like?

Said no true inquiry teacher ever

Different models of inquiry

Inquiry and the specialist teacher

Moving on from the KWL chart

Is inquiry a struggle for you?

If you are extending your understanding of inquiry:

Blog Posts:

Letting inquiry unravel naturally

What inquiry isn’t

Busting some myths about the inquiry cycle

Minding our language: teaching in the inquiry classroom

This is how inquiry teachers teach

Inquiry and the art of listening

Inquiry and the culture of permission

Effects of Inquiry-based Learning on Students’ Science Literacy Skills and Confidence

Classroom Set-up: How much should we be doing without students?

Twitter Hashtags:

#pypchat 

#mypchat

#dpchat

#inquiryteaching

#inquiryclassroom

#inquirylearning 

 

Going Further: Using what you’ve learned, create a Frayer model that demonstrates your current understanding of inquiry.

frayer inquiry

Making Conclusions: Based on what you discovered, what are you new questions?

Taking Action: Now that you know what you know, what are you going to do about it?

Reflection: What was it like to learn through inquiry? What did you notice about yourself as a learner? How will that impact that work you do with your students?

notice self learner what was it like inquiry impact work with students

Day 4: An inquiry into the first week of school…

Provocation: We used this post from What Ed Said to disrupt our comfortable thinking about what should take place the first days of school.

Then we gave time to grade and subject teams to collaboratively plan their first week of school, using the following resources.

Examples of Inquiry-Based First Week Activities:

What do you want to do on your first day of school?

What do you believe about learning?

Essential Agreements

Students Creating their learning space

Photos of student’s designing the classroom set-up

 Blog Posts:

10 things to do on the first day of school

Essential Agreements

What’s Your Story?

Who Owns the Learning?

First Impressions and the Inquiry Classroom

Tips for Creating a Classroom Agreement

Beginning of the Year Student Questionnaire 

Re-Thinking the Start of the Year

First Day Back Fun 

10 Back to School Icebreaker Games

3 Non-Icebreaker Things to Do the First Week of School 

8 First Day of School Activities

Why the first week of school needs to be vigorous 

Day 5: Reflection and Feedback…

Using this visual, we encouraged teachers to think about what they learned this week, and more importantly what action they took based on their learning.

action look like

Teachers then filled in post-its with their action and posted them on our action wall.

action post action wall

Finally, we asked for their feedback. We referred back to the 4 goals we introduced on the first day of orientation week and asked for “stars and wishes”  about what we did to accomplish those goals and what may have hindered those goals. We will keep this valuable feedback to help improve our staff orientation week next year!

stars and wishes example

After 5 days, our empty walls were filled with resources along with our teachers’ questions, thinking and action!

resource wall full walla

Now we are ready to start an amazing new school year!

How have your teachers prepared for a new year in the PYP?