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?

 

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Beware of “cute”

Dear teachers on summer vacation,

This is a cautionary post to those of you who are planning on spending hours  browsing through teaching-related Pinterest boards.

pinterest

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE Pinterest. Most of my hairstyles, outfits and potluck contributions come from amazing things I have seen on Pinterest!

But when I overhear a teacher saying, “I found something on Pinterest”… I cringe as the following questions swirl around in my mind:

Is it inquiry-based?

Is it in response to students’ questions?

Is it purposeful to learning?

It is concept-driven?

Is there rich, deep thinking involved?

Or…

Is it cute?

Sure, cute looks good up on a bulletin boards, but don’t our young learners deserve something better? Don’t they deserve learning that is significant, relevant, engaging and challenging… no matter how old they are? Can’t they handle the authentic process of growing and changing their understanding of themselves and the world around them? Shouldn’t they be involved in deep thinking and heavy cognitive lifting?

Or do we want them to spend their precious time at school making/doing something cute?

Do I think you could find some great inquiry-based teaching and learning strategies that will help tune into your learners’ interests, curiosities and misconceptions in order to challenge their thinking, make their own discoveries and build their own knowledge? Yes!!!

But I bet you have to discerningly sift through a lot of cute activities before you find them.