Re-thinking “morning work”

How many adults wake up and start their day with a worksheet?

None that I know of.

Whether it is called “bell work” “morning work” or a “a daily warm up” lots of students begin their day by completing a worksheet, answering questions or a doing a pre-planned activity – all of which have been decided for them by the teacher.

Just check out Google or Pinterest to see all the different varieties:

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But how do people start their day in their ‘real world’?

I start my day by scrolling through my Twitter.

My husband starts his day by meditating.

My mother starts her day by doing a crossword puzzle.

My father starts his day by playing chess.

My best friend starts her day by working out.

My mother-in-law starts her day by reading.

My father-in-law starts his day checking sports scores.

All different. All valuable. All self-chosen.

Why can’t students start their school days like this? Why can’t students choose how they start their own school days? Perhaps if we allowed students to choose how to begin their school day we would not have to stand in the halls and count down from 10 and compel our students to enter the classroom. Perhaps they would want to enter because they are excited and happy to be at school and start their day. I know teachers have many administrative responsibilities at the beginning of the day like attendance and collecting field trip forms, so a 10 – 15 minute window of time is needed to ensure these responsibilities are met. But why are we dictating how students spend those first 10-15 minutes warming up to their day?

Next year I plan to have a discussion with my students about how humans start their days. I plan to share how my friends and family begin their days, and I hope my students will share how their friends and family begin their day. I hope we can use this to create a list of possibilities about how students might start their day and post it somewhere in our room. Then I plan to respect their freedom and choice over how they start their school day while I am competing my administrative responsibilities.

Imagine the learning that might happen….

Imagine the connections that might happen….

Imagine the skills that might be developed….

Imagine no longer needing to find, photocopy and mark “bell work”…

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An Inquiry into the Inquiry Cycle

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When teachers are transitioning into the PYP-ways of collaboratively planning a Unit of Inquiry, it is not uncommon to receive requests to spend time “coming up with activities for the unit“. Such was true last week, when I received this request from our wonderful Grade 3 team. I have recently shared my perspective of the role of activities in the PYP, so I had to be careful to make sure that I resisted the urge to give them my meaning and instead provided them with an opportunity to construct their own meaning. In short, I wanted to take an inquiry-based approach!

Here is how it went:

Tuning in – Each teacher brainstormed 2-3 activities for their upcoming unit and wrote them on half-sheets of paper. I collected these so we could use them later. This also gave me a great insight into their understanding of what an activity is and their approach to inquiry-based planning.

Provocation – To provoke their thinking about activities and inquiry-based planning, I showed them the following excerpts from a collection of blog posts and encouraged them to share their reactions, connections, tensions and questions.

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What inquiry teachers are saying…

IC provocation 2 IC provocation 3 IC Provocation 4 IC Provocation 5 Sorting Out – First, the teachers spread the stages of the Kath Murdoch inquiry cycle around our multipurpose room floor.

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Then, they took all the questions from this version of the inquiry cycle and placed them beside the stage of inquiry they felt the questions supported.

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Next, they took a collection of Visible Thinking Routines and matched them to the specific questions they felt the VTR could help explore.

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After that, they took 20 printed out Tweets from #pypchat of actual PYP classroom examples and matched them the stages of inquiry or the respective question.

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Finally, they took their own activities from the beginning of our time together and placed them around the inquiry cycle.

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After much discussion, collaboration, disagreement, debate and deep thinking, the final result was a collection of questions, VTRs and classrooms examples that they could walk away with for their upcoming unit, that would hopefully help satiate their need for “activities” without stealing too much thinking from their students.

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I also hope this inquiry helped to challenge their understanding of what planning looks like in the PYP, as well as to continue to experience what learning through inquiry feels like.

I haven’t had a chance yet to debrief and reflect with the whole team, but I did receive an email from one of the teachers  saying:

“Thank you so much for today. The activity really provoked me and it really got me thinking. It was great!”

I look forward to hearing the rest of the team’s reflections and what action they have taken since this inquiry!

 

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:

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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

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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.

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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’.

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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. 

What is the PYP? From the perspective of new-to-PYP Teachers

We have 25 wonderful new PYP staff. They have been working SO hard to make sense of a completely new education framework. They have spent 9 weeks after school reading IB documents, browsing blogs, teaching one another and sharing ideas. Now comes the time for consolidation and sharing… aka a “summative”.

To provoke their thinking about summatives, we first gave them a 4 page “PYP Test” as a provocation to experience what it is like to be on the receiving end of a test and to hopefully challenge the thinking that summative means tests. Their reactions and reflections about being “tested” were fascinating:

  • I was instantly fearful
  • I went blank
  • I knew everything, but I just couldn’t explain it in words
  • I remember learning it but I didn’t have it all memorized
  • I was worried about failing

This lead into a great conversation about shifting the notion of “summatives” away from tests and more towards authentic opportunities to share one’s learning with others. We used the RAFT format to structure our real PYP summative.image

So here they are! 25 PYP summatives where our new-to-PYP staff share their current understanding of the PYP with all of you! We’ve got songs, videos, raps, drawings, models, Prezis, journals, blog posts and more! Enjoy…

Blog post: IB in Kindergarten? Yes, IB in Kindergarten.

Prezi: Examining the PYP

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How creative, confident, reflective and knowledgable are our new-to-PYP teachers!?!? We feel very thankful to have 25 teachers who are truly living the IB learner profile.

After they finished their summative task, they assessed their own understanding of each line of inquiry and the central idea. Our hope is that at the end of the year we can pull the new staff back together and have them self-assess their understanding of the PYP again and see evidence of the growth and progress they have made over the year.

Do you know one of the most interesting discoveries throughout this process? I, as the ‘teacher’, couldn’t pull myself away from reading, watching and exploring their summatives! So often teachers dread marking. Maybe that is a clue that a summative is not actually an authentic sharing of learning, because apparently when it is… you actually look forward to exploring their summative and providing feedback!

Please help us continue to learn and grow! 

Leave us a comment and let us know what you think.

Stealing their thinking at recess: Are you telling or asking?

Last year I wrote a post asking teachers to reflect on whether or not they are stealing their students’ thinking. At the time when I wrote that, my understanding was that an inquiry-based approach to teaching was something that happened within the classroom – an approach to academic teaching. Now as my own understanding of inquiry grows and evolves I am starting to see how inquiry as a philosophy should inform our interactions with students throughout the entire school day and extend to include those teachable moments about behaviour, personal choices and social interactions. The biggest part of the school day, where I have noticed that an inquiry-based approach is missing… is at recess.

Recently, I have tried to be an inquirer at recess and observe how teachers deal with problems and situations. More often than not I am seeing and hearing teacher telling students what they did wrong, why it was wrong and what they need to do next time.

Where’s the thinking in that?

I have to admit that before reading a blog post from @h_sopeirce about her Magic Question, I too was approaching recess interactions this way. But when I started to use the magic question “What will I see differently next time” in my conversations with students I started to see the power of asking instead of telling. I realized that for as long as we are telling students what they did wrong, why it was wrong and what to do next time, we are stealing their thinking. We are doing the thinking and reflecting for them and all they have to do is look at us and listen.

How can we expect change in their actions or behaviours without helping them reflect on and change their thinking?

How can we expect them to change their thinking, if we are doing their thinking for them?

So over the past few weeks I have been testing out ‘an inquiry-based approach’ to recess duty! Here is how it usually goes after I notice something of concern and invite the student(s) involved over for a chat:

What do you think I would like to speak to you about? 

I have found this is a key question. If our goal is to have our students be truly reflective, then they need to be the ones who notice and name their undesirable behaviour and I have yet to have a student who is unable to do so when asked this question.

Why do you think that is a problem in our school community?

I have noticed that many times I have asked this question and students truly have no idea why their choice or action is problematic. How can we expect students to behave a certain way if they do not understand the reasons behind those expectations.  I have also noticed that this question allows students to develop the understanding that sometimes expectations for school look and feel different from home and it is important to understand why in the context of school a certain behaviour or action is not welcome.

What will I see differently from your next time?

This is the magic question from the Globally Minded Counsellor. Check our her post to see why it is so magical!

And if I don’t see that next time what should I do?

This questions is an interesting one for a few different reasons. First of all because it throws the students for a loop. Most of them are thrown when they realize I am asking for their advice about what to do as a teacher. Second, the suggestions are usually grossly disproportionate to the behaviour. “Send me to the principal office” or “Call my parents” or “Expel me” are typical pieces of advice for choices  like running in the halls or throwing garbage on the floor. Thirdly, their suggestions are usually quite punitive and come in the form of punishments. This requires some guidance and reframing that my job is to help them learn about their choices and grow as people, not punish them and I am looking for a suggestions that will help them think about their choice and hopefully learn from their mistakes.

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If we think of the golden 80/20 ratio we strive for within the classroom (where students are doing 80% of the talking and teachers are only doing 20% of the talking), perhaps we should be striving for the same ratio during recess conversations.

Afterall… whoever is doing the talking is doing the thinking. So if we are doing all the talking in a conversation with students at recess, we can be pretty sure that we are stealing their thinking.

Thoughts?

 

 

What’s wrong with worksheets?

Worksheets.

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The pariah of the PYP. The enemy of inquiry.

But why? What could be so bad about worksheets?

Through many collaborative planning sessions, professional development afternoons and informal conversations our staff has discussed some of the limitations of using worksheets in the classroom. Here is what we’ve come up with so far:

One-size-fits-hardly-anyone: For some students the worksheet will be too easy and they will fly through it. For other students the worksheet will be too difficult and they will struggle through it.

Detached from student questions: Worksheets are usually selected by the teacher, based on what they want their students to learn, often before or irregardless of students’ interests and questions.

Work without learning: Students can complete a worksheet without learning anything. A student who already knows how to add two-digit numbers or locate a verb in a sentence can complete the 20 questions on the page without building their knowledge, gaining new understanding or challenging a misconception.

Work without thinking: Students can complete worksheets without really thinking. Many worksheets are watch and do, read and copy, fill in the blank, or find the ‘right answer’. This doesn’t leave a lot of room critical thinking or heavy cognitive lifting.

School land: Worksheets force students to operate in ‘school land’, a place detached from their  real life. How many toys does Adam have total? Who is Adam? Who cares how many toys this make believe person has?

Focus on finishing: When worksheets are being used, ‘finishing’ is usually the goal. “Finish your work before recess?” “Stay in and finish your work.” “Put your work in the unfinished bin.” If a student isn’t ‘finished’ their work, maybe that is a sign that it was too difficult for them, or too easy… or just plain boring. Who cares if they don’t finish anyway? Shouldn’t our focus be on their learning and thinking, not finishing a worksheet?

(Not to mention worksheets are wasteful, bad for the environment, clutter causing, hard to organize, time consuming to prep and mark…)

In the words of Leah Osbourne –  worksheets are to thinking, what candy is to nutrition. 

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What are your thoughts about worksheets?

What would you add to our list?

We tuned in!

Before our Units of Inquiry started, grade-level teams inquired into “tuning in” (with the help of  this post from Kath Murdoch). Many teachers walked away with a new, or deeper, understanding of the purpose behind the “tuning in” phase of inquiry. Teachers were excited to put their new learning into practice… here is how it turned out in our Grade 1 to 5 classes:

Grade 1: Peaceful relationships are created through mutual understanding and respect.

Students tuned in to problems and solutions:

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Students tuned in to the concept of numbers:

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Grade 2: Citizens build communities.

Students tuned in to the concepts of “community” and “citizenship”:

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Grade 3: Decisions impact conseqeunces.

Students tuned in to “decisions” and “consequences”:

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Students shared important decisions they made in their life:

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Students tuned in to decisions made by readers:

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Students tuned in to the decisions they make as mathematicians:

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Students tuned in to the number of decisions they make:

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Teachers tuned in to the type of decisions they make:

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Grade 4: Relationships are affected by learning about people’s perspectives and communicating our own. 

Students tuned in to the concepts of perspective and relationships:

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Students tuned in to different representations of numbers:

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Grade 5: Relationships among human body systems contribute to health and survival. 

Students (and teachers) tuned in to the concept of systems:

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Students tuned in to what they think they know about body systems:

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I love that the students’ thinking is front and centre!

I love that the students’ thinking is visible!

I love that students were able to demonstrate their thinking in a variety of ways!

I love that teachers tuned into conceptual understandings, not just topic knowledge! 

I love that transdisciplinarity is evident!

I love that teachers were acting as inquiries themselves… doing reconnaissance to find out about what their students bring to a Unit of Inquiry!

The feedback from teachers about “tuning in” has been great! Teachers are excited because they have learned about their students’ prior knowledge, their misconceptions, their interests and their questions. It has not only provided them with diagnostic assessment data, but also a road map that illuminates “where to next?” based on students’ needs and interests! I can’t wait to see where these inquires lead!

How do you “tune in” to your students’ thinking?