As I wrote in my Goalsetting blog post, one of our school goals this year is to increase opportunities for students to become assessment capable learners.
We have structured our PYP units a little differently this year, as the enhanced PYP is allowing for more freedom and agency to provide authentic experiences for our students. I am planning to write a blog post about that later, but for the purpose of this post I will explain a couple of things.
Our How We Express Ourselves unit is mostly year long. Before any unit begins, we are taking 2 weeks to really focus on HWEO and the communication skills that will support us with the upcoming unit. In this case, our upcoming unit (starting after our October break) is How the World Works.
We are focusing on the "Exchanging Information" sub skills of communication skills, which are listening, interpreting, and speaking.
At the beginning of the first HWEO unit we had 3-way conferences. This was a great opportunity to start looking at these skills... however, we only had 2 days because of other time constraints!
We wanted ALL 100+ students to have input to the process. Our pedagogy coach Fiona Hurtado had already gone through this process with our year group leader Paul Cheevers and his class for time management skills. So one class had experience, but the other 4 did not.
In individual classes, we played some speaking and listening games and role playing.
Then we brainstormed what each of these skills COULD look like. Good, bad, and anything in between.
Then we took all of those things and sorted them into whether this would be Guided, Independent, or Leading (we usually have Shared in between Guided and Independent, but wanted to make it more simple). Each class was a little different than the next.
At this point we had 5 different rubrics that were all FULL of too much information. On the second day, the teachers met and looked at the similarities to make one rubric for the whole studio. We aligned it across the rubric so numbers matched and students would be able to measure themselves on certain pieces of a skill.
We then made one more simplified version to outline what the important things are to measure and remember about each skill. The numbers match the rubric above.
Students used the rubric with their parents at 3-way conferences. Next week, teachers are running 9 workshops to align with each of these important things about each skill. Students will choose 2-3 workshops to attend before reassessing themselves on another speaking/listening activity.
How have you ensured students have voice and ownership over their assessments? Have you gone through a similar process?
Are you thinking of taking this rubric? Of course you can, but I really encourage you to go through the process with your students instead. Rubrics often hold so much information in them, so for students to be involved in making them, you are giving them a better chance to actually understand what is in it.
Hello everyone! I did not realize how long it had been since I posted. I know that since I made the move to ISHCMC I definitely started posting less often than when I was at ISBerne and Ajman Academy. Ironically, I feel like I have so much more to share with everyone! My focus and energy has just been elsewhere. So, one of my goals this year is to blog more. This got me thinking to share my goals for the year with you... maybe you can help with some!
I work at a school owned by Cognita, so I have several "Let's Talk" goals I needed to input onto their website recently. We tied them to our ISHCMC Principals of Learning and ended up with 5 goals each.
Personally, I do feel that 5 is too many. Maybe I would subconsciously end up working on these anyways, but I find it hard to focus on so many goals at one time (well).
1. To improve student learning through being intentional, using data driven planning and authentic assessment.
This is a school-wide goal for primary. It was written for me and we will all be working collaboratively towards this.
2. To provide balanced opportunities for every learner to flourish.
We have spent a lot of time clarifying our "why" of studio 4. Currently we have settled on "to provide opportunities for every learner to flourish." As a team we wanted to try to focus on the balance of that this year, which is why this is our team goal. Just a reminder that these experiences are an opportunity for our students. If they choose not to take them, or not to act on them in a balanced way, it is our job to help them reflect on that. Our goal is to at least provide a balance of opportunities for them.
3. To provide a variety of learning engagements for individual, collaborative, and small groups, suited to help students meet their learning goals.
I wrote this goal before Studio 4 decided on our team goal. Luckily, it ties in really well. I want to really focus on the variety of engagements I can provide for studio 4 students. What can we put out to "rope them in" to some awesome hands on learning when a teacher is not even there? How do we document this? Do we need to? Are they working solo? in groups? teaching others? My mind goes to math when I think about this, but how can we also do this for literacy? Science? Purposeful passions?
4. To document reflections on Studio 4 structures and practices so opportunities for students improve as needed.
AKA - BLOG MORE!!! As I already said, I am aware that I wrote more blog posts in my previous schools. When I really reflected back on my time in Berne I did find that blog writing helped me reflect on that journey. Even reading them now is helping me improve even further, and improve the environment for my students. I want to get back into this... but I also want to keep balance in my life. Finding that balance may be tricky, but I hope to make some more time to write this year.
5. To use my strengths as an ADE to increase staff and student confidence and creativity in using Apple products.
I was lucky enough to be selected for the ADE Class of 2019 this year. I love the connections I have already made around Asia. ISHCMC has just invested in MacBooks for all teachers, so there is a need for training here. I want to assist our Tech Coach as much as I can with this journey, as well as present at other small, school related upskilling sessions in the area.
BONUS: personal goal - To try to keep balance while doing all of these goals!
Another thing I am very aware of is my imbalance when I was in Berne. Yes, I was more reflective and ever changing the environment to better support my students.. but I really had no other life! I was new there so friends were limited (though the few I had were amazing), and social life as a whole in Switzerland is not fantastic... especially after coming from the UAE. Vietnam seems like a good balance so far. Keeping that balance is important. Sometimes that is hard with blogging because when the inspiration comes, I need to just get it out. So keeping the boundaries I set for myself last year here will be important.
Any tips for any of my goals? Please let me know!
All year I have been thinking about how to bring more play into Studio 4. It has been mulling for months. I am lucky to work at a school with many advocates for play. Ainsley Cameron and Melissa Meadows are just two of the fantastic educators that come to mind. Our math coach, Tiffany Eaton, is going back into the grade 4 classroom next year at her new school and recently posted on Twitter how much she aspires to make that classroom as much of a parallel to her daughter's Early Explorers classroom she is currently in.
I come from a background of lower primary and younger aged settings. I worked and volunteered at preschools, before and after school care, and four of my first five years of teaching were all grade 1 and below. To me, having things out is natural. Drawing kids in is a normal purpose. Letting them play is a constant purpose.
Should it be different once they hit grade 2?
What are we trying to instill in them?
Do we take away play because it is a distractor to their normal "work" or goals for the week?
What if it inspired a new goal?
What if it created an "aha" moment for someone?
As we gear up for summer, Tiffany and I thought we would jump in and see how it went. We tore through the studio... literally. Taking covers off of benches to create more workable spaces, adding provocations for math as well as history, for our current Where We Are In Place and Time unit. We went down to the Early Explorers section of the school to see what "spare" things were in storage and changed what we could in one afternoon.
We put out linking blocks, pattern shapes, a crafty/makerspace area that is open for everyone to see all of the resources, 3D connecting pieces, an old typewriter, a cassette/radio player, artifacts from multiple countries, and some extra bamboo rugs to create visual places for them to go to.
Students were immediately drawn in. They put down their iPad and came to question and or build with us.
Is the studio messier? Yes.
Is there more responsibility for belongings? Yes.
Are they 'distracted' from their goals? Sometimes.
Are they linking it to their goals? Sometimes.
Are they talking to others while they build/get curious about the things that are out? For sure.
Do they get bored of what is put out after a few days? Yes! As they would in early years, too.
Are students creating more? YES!
I hope to continue this journey next year. I feel it is important to have things in their sight and readily available to them.
Today I had a luxury all teachers should be able to have.
I work at International School Ho Chi Minh City. At the beginning of the year all teachers were given a "golden ticket." This afforded us one day of cover to use as we wish for PD purposes. Some people use them to visit other schools, some people use them to observe just down the hall, as we don't always get time to do this in our normal busy schedules.
I teach in Studio 4 (grade 4 age). My plan was to mainly spend time in our Early Explorers rooms as well as Studio 5 looking at spaces and structures.
After reviewing my pages of notes, these were my main takeaways from today. These are all based on our own particular structures that are set up already in our school situation.
Questions I have...
1. Instead of whole classrooms used as home bases, could we reframe our thinking to be one carpet/projector area as the home base? This would create "more room" in the studio for specialty areas such as a makerspace/building area, scientific tools/thinking area, a building area (large builds and small), etc. and possibly afford us the time and space to leave things out as provocations for inquiry more often?
2. Do we need a Town Hall that is a dedicated open space for meetings? Could we not find somewhere else to meet? Or meet in a classroom with the sliding walls open to extend the area, if needed?
3. Can we make one room a building/maker-space area? Can we paint a wall green for green screen movies?
4. Can we use TAs and EAL support for daily afternoon CAR time discussions about progress, assistance, and accomplishments? Can specialist teachers be used for these discussions, especially during the HWEO unit?
5. Can we create a common specialist timetable sign up that is consistent through studio 4 and studio 5? Wouldn't this be more efficient for the specialist teachers? And students, in the long run?
6. How can we create more space for provocations and inquiries?
7. What data can we collect from students about their learning? And then how can we involve students in the analysis of that data? Why are teachers only using that data?
8. How can our morning flexible time, 7:45-8:15 be more... more? Is banning iPads the right way? Some of them plan their day at that time.
9. Can we set up book clubs where students talk about more than one book at a time?
10. How can more "circle time" discussions happen, and what would make them the most purposeful for our learners?
Materials I want!
In addition to that, I saw a lot of furniture get added to my wish list!
- folding bookshelves
- coffee tables
- a shelf on its side for large storage
- lines for hanging things on
- large art display areas
We are going through a period of time when educators around the world are learning to understand that the more voice, choice, and ownership students have over their learning, the deeper the understanding. Educators are experimenting with the idea of allowing for as much agency as they can within their constructs. As George Couros puts it, in this blog post, "innovating inside the box." The Enhanced PYP Documents support these beliefs. The results I see from my students also support these beliefs. However, there are still concerns from many people involved. Leadership teams worry about standards, parents worry that it doesn't look the same as when they went to school, teachers worry that they aren't "covering" what they used to cover. I feel like this is a natural step as we venture in to these unknown realms of "teaching" or advising students.
As conceptual units develop and students are choosing what to dive deeper into, I find myself wondering about math. Let's say a student is "above expected grade level" in multiplying and dividing. Yes, of course they can still take this learning further. They could even explore "backwards" a little bit, with concrete items and materials to make sure they really understand the concept and are not just computing rote numbers, yes. But I am wondering if that is more important than the other areas of math that they are weaker in. This same student is not going to have some areas of math that they are weaker at. Maybe their understanding of shape and space is incredibly low, or they don't understand how to convert ml to L, or they can't convert fractions into decimals or percentages. Why should ALL students be working on the same math strand at the same time? I understand that differentiation helps with this, but still don't whole heartedly believe that this is the way forward.
Students need to know how to evaluate their areas for growth and their strengths. They need to know what to do about that. Set goals. Implement strategies to reach those goals independently, collaboratively with peers, and cooperatively with advisors. They need to know who to go to for help, and when. What is available to them, and how do they use these resources to get to a point where they can pivot towards a different goal.
Now that I work at a much larger school, International School Ho Chi Minh City, my team has more opportunities to take this a step further. We have 5 homeroom teachers, an EAL teacher, and 3 TA's available to the students. At the beginning of the year I pitched an idea to my team to run all 5 math strands at one time. They liked the idea but it never really went forward. A big reason for this was a lack of a system for students to self-asses their needs for development. We did not have Mathletics logins at the time, so waited and did some more traditional inquiry-based integrated math units.
After the Winter break, we finally had Mathletics logins and our team felt ready to take a more personalized approach, but slowly. Over a few months we made sure students were acquainted with the Mathletics platform. Here is our process from there. The Mathletics curriculum they are following on the app is "PYP Phase 4" (which includes up to the end of grade 5, theoretically).
3. Teachers emailed students a screenshot of their results from the "Reports" tab.
4. Students identified for themselves what area they are low in and would like to improve first. Of course in most cases this was the clear lowest percentage. But not in all. Sometimes the lowest score was tied, and sometimes the student decided to choose their second or third lowest to work on, because that's what they wanted to improve first.
6. Students committed to a math group for at least one week.
This could look different within each math group. Personally, I made further groups/workshops within the group I was dealing with that week. For example, the first week I was leading the "Measurement - Time" group. There was too many students in "Measurement" overall, so we split it. Within the Time group I had workshops for elapsed time, time taken (time = distance/speed), and time zones. We played some games together, we talked about what is easy, what they are unsure about, and what they find confusing within the time activities. They told me what their math goal for the week was and from this I created workshops for the week. Students signed up for at least one math workshop in the week but were expected to use our math shelf, their iPad, our TA's (who are great at teaching math methods), peers, etc. to reach their math goal for the week. We have two specific math times during the week where all students working on the same math strand meet with a teacher to discuss goals like this and do some group activities or learning strategies.
6. Every Friday students fill in a Google Form confirming what their math goal will be for the following week. This is where, as a teacher, things start to get tricky. Yes, each of the five of us have chosen a strand to organize and lead. However, we all know that student needs, wants, and numbers never magically work out into 5 equal groups. The Google Form is to be filled out after meeting with their teacher to talk about their how weekly goals went that week and decide whether they are pivoting or persevering the next week.
In the beginning of this process, a lot of the goals were very limited and concrete. "I only have 30% on the time test, and my goal is to get at least 70% before I pivot." We are now at the point where the wording of these goals is too limited for them. They understand that having success criteria helps them reach the goal, but this test result should now be one of those success criteria, not the actual goal itself. This is the next step. A more open-ended goal that they can still measure success against.
The email finally came! I was in a morning meeting at school and saw on Twitter that the #ADE2019 hashtag was starting to blow up. The alumni were receiving their emails and the applicants were eagerly refreshing their email accounts. The meeting ended and I went back to my classroom, and saw that teachers in North America were starting to get their emails. Getting closer! 2 minutes before our school-wide mindfulness was about to start, I finally got the email... written in Vietnamese (I work in Vietnam)!! I called my TA over, quite noisily, and I think she only got one word out (congratulations) before the excitement came out of my mouth, ruining any hope of 10 minutes of mindfulness. I was in!
I am so excited to be going to Australia this summer to participate in the Asia-Pacific institute! I am still in shock that this day has finally come. Below is a bit of a recount of my journey to get here, as well as my application video.
A couple of years ago I was working in the UAE at a school that was applying to become an Apple Distinguished School. Because of this experience I saw huge potential in the products and programs Apple have to offer for students today. I found out about the Apple Distinguished Educator program and immediately set it as a goal. The ADE class of 2017 had just been announced and I was excited to get going. I read all of the details and promised myself to prepare to apply for the class of 2019.
As I read, I found out about the three main areas to focus on for the video application.
I started collecting screenshots, photos, and videos of student work. I set up this blog, joined Twitter, and really focused on transforming the learning experiences for my students. Extending my reach in this way gave me connections I never thought possible. This alone was already helping me become a better teacher. Collaborations, new ideas, conversations and questions all helped me push the boundaries in what I was offering to my students. It made me aware of innovative schools around the world and even helped me land a job in a school that had quickly become my dream school.
My application video below shows many of these ideas. Having the bank of videos and photos to work from not only helped me create the video but also helped me to reflect on how far I have already come as an educator. Piecing it all together was a great reflective experience. Blogging helps me to reflect in smaller steps along the way, but really looking at the past few years of my teaching in one 2 minute video was powerful. I cannot wait for the journey that still lays ahead of me. I don't know what that is yet, but I know it will be fantastic.
Identity, creativity, commitment, oh my!
Studio 4 are currently working on their How We Express Ourselves (HWEO) unit, combined with our year long Who We Are (WWA) unit.
Due to holidays, camp, and a number of other things, this unit is lasting from January until March. I cannot wait that long to write a blog post about this process so along the way I will be writing about each phase of what we do. It was a bit of a complicated process to plan out, but even from the beginning it felt right!
Week 1 - Tuning In - Identity Workshops
We felt that the students needed a bit of an understanding of their identity before starting (their why?) to get creative with it. We did this by first looking at the HWEO descriptor from the PYP.
"An inquiry into the ways in which we discover and express ideas, feelings, nature, culture, beliefs, and values' the ways in which we reflect on, extend, and enjoy our creativity' our appreciation of the aesthetic."
As you can see, it also links well with WWA, which happens to be our year long unit.
We took that descriptor and created 6 workshops to help students tune in to the pieces of their own identities. Here is a gallery of work that came from each of those workshops (Ideas, Feelings, Nature, Culture, Beliefs, and Values).
Each morning, students signed up for a new workshop they had not attended yet. By the end of 6 days they had worked through each of the pieces in their HWEO journal with a variety of different students in each of their workshops.
Week 2/3 - Finding Out and Sorting out - Creativity Workshops
January 17 - 24th
This was an amazing time in the studio. Teachers loved it and so did the students. It felt so incredibly RIGHT. Our timetable for the week was nothing short of amazing. I am truly jealous of the education these students are being exposed to.
I'll admit it. I was weary when I looked at my first list of students. We all know the ones who are not well known for listening particularly well or possibly taking instructions well either.
However, the "why" of all of this shone through and proved my weariness completely wrong. The beauty of this method is that these students wanted to be there. They had ownership over that decision. They were excited. They wanted to learn. They listened to my every word, even when I had to cut them off because movie making is an incredibly long process. They reflected with purpose and attention about how they could use movie making to show their identity later in the unit when they have more time.
Not only were they feeling good about their choices, but so was I. I was teaching something I was passionate about, that I have loved doing since middle school. They loved hearing that I won awards in high school at student film festivals. They soaked in my tips and experience. I showed them how to improve their shots and after repositioning one videographer to capture something from a better angle, he even exclaimed, "wow, you really ARE an expert at this!" It was so much fun to get out of the studio and spend time with students, exposing them to one of my passions and seeing their interests flicker and spark.
I cannot speak for the other Studio 4 Teachers, but this is what has been my experience. Here is a gallery of some of the other photos and work students accomplished in these amazing Creativity Workshops.
Week 4/5/6/7 - Going Further - Commitment Groups
January 28 - March 8
Students committed to one area for at least a week. In reality this turned into a two week commitment, I believe for all students.
The plan was to have the following groups as a week long choice to commit to. However, we noticed that some areas have more interest than others. We listened to student voice and choice during this time, meaning some of these groups were combined.
I led the Digital Creation 1 group. The following slides assisted students students to build their purpose/why, to do lists, planning/scheduling, reflections, progress, and final pivot/persevere.
Come back to see how this goes!
Week 8 - Making Conclusions - Preparation for Mini-X
This week was an interesting one. We collapsed our timetable with most of our specialists. This means that they did not have to go to music or art class, but the teachers were available for ANY of the Studio 4 students to go to them and discuss their work, goals, and next steps to be ready for the exhibition.
This is what that timetable looked like
With so many open times, students needed constant reminders of who was available at what times for them to check in with. A must for every day was to check in with at least ONE advisor, any time throughout the day.
Near the end of the week it felt like a bit much. I am weary that this was a bit of a "trial" of a collapsed timetable, because it was for a different purpose than what I envision as a fantastic opportunity for the future. For the future I see a collapsed time table to be extremely useful for students. Just not in this way (meeting with teachers to finish things up, as opposed to learning new things). For the future I see specialist teachers offering multiple different workshops throughout the week and all students choose which of those art or music classes they want to attend. Something to still have discussions about.
Week 9 - Taking Action - Mini-X
What a night!
Students practiced throughout the day and other classes and year groups came up to have a look. We got loads of fantastic feedback and the students took that afternoon SO seriously after realizing what they needed to change or add to their own display/presentation to be ready for the evening.
There was a great buzz in the evening and students were confident presenters of their identity and creativity.
For some reason Weebly is not allowing me to add other photos at the moment, so here is one for now, showcasing the live performances (including a rap about studio 4 teachers!)
In my last post, I wrote a little about the changing structures and routines we are going through on our Studio 4 journey at #ishcmcIB. In this post I will reflect a little on how that went.
After a How We Organise Ourselves unit with the central idea "Economic Systems Impact..." students had to finish the central idea and justify their answers. We felt that though the workshops we were offering were great, there was little continuation on things. Because of this, students didn't have as deep of an understanding of the unit as we would have liked. We decided to take our Sharing the Planet unit one step further.
These inquiry groups met for 2 periods every day. We had a math line of inquiry in our unit, which helped us to stay accountable for all subject areas within the inquiry groups. Using infographics was a fantastic way to improve mathematical abilities while continuing to deepen our knowledge of our interest area.
Having these inquiry groups helped students to have voice and choice about how they wanted to learn about the unit, and also what they wanted to learn. It worked well because students met every day, creating a continuous unit of work and inquiries for them to work on. It also left time throughout the rest of the day for a variety of other workshops for them to attend (or continue to work on their inquiry group projects). Simply, they had time to deepen their understanding while staying true to our Studio approach.
Overall, I feel that it was a great success. Their presentations were fantastic, and students enjoyed the process. Student's wrote their own Evaluations of Learning at the end of the unit. Teachers were all impressed at how well they reflected on their learning, mistakes, and ideas for their future. When we put this responsibility on the students they have the opportunity to really show us how capable they area.
My first term working at ISHCMC has come to a close. And I cannot believe that my last post was after week 1! It has been hard work, but I wouldn't change it for anything. I am still so happy and grateful to be here.
I love blogging to help me reflect on the process of what is happening. I just have not had as much time to do it here. I really need to make more time for it. Here are a few things I have been pondering. I will try to keep them short.
1. Structures change
One huge learning curve we knew was going to happen is the structures of Studio 4 at ISHCMC. I went through similar things last year at ISBerne with my grade 3 class. But this year there are 5 classes, 6 teachers, and 3 TAs in our studio. Plus learning coaches and coordinators. There are a lot of fantastic voices and ideas going in to what we are doing. But things change a lot. This makes me think of Ken Montgomery's speech I heard the other week at Edutech Asia. He works at Design Tech High and reminded us all that "everything has an expiration date. Just because we do something and then change our practices later doesn't mean we were wrong the first time."
A few things we have tried:
- In the first couple of weeks we had our own classes, but knew this was not the approach we wanted.
- 15 common "star" times where ALL studio 4 students are in the studio at the same time, and students choose what goals to work on/workshops to attend. The rest of the time is with specialists or your own studio.
- 6 dedicated math times, 6 dedicated literacy times where students are still choosing what to do, but must be related to that subject area (trying to create more balance)
- We are now going to try inquiry groups 3-4 times a week for the next unit... more on this in section 4 below.
Although it can be draining, these changes are all a good thing, of course, as we iterate how Studio 4 actually functions. When it comes down to it, our Studio 4 'why' is to provide opportunities for every learner. As long as we keep that in mind, we're good.
2. Smaller routines still matter
We are trying some smaller routine changes that are also making big differences. It doesn't all have to be large, structural changes to make the impact.
- CAR Time (Choose, Act, Reflect) for 40 minutes in the morning and 40 minutes in the afternoon... this sometimes has felt too long and often gets cut to 20 minutes so that we have more time to explicitly explore our UOI
- Reading CAFE - every day after recess everyone (including teachers) read for 25 minutes. This has been a great calm down and focus time for students.
- Mindfulness choices - Every morning ISHCMC has mindfuness times. In Studio 4, students have 6 choices of types of mindfulness that they commit to for the week. This has ranged from guided meditations to yoga, listening to stories, singing, colouring, or tae kwan do.
- Planning digitally has helped students stay organised and have their schedules handy when they need them. They also use Google Keep as a checklist tool.
- We are thinking of using QR codes and digital sign ups for workshops to decrease traffic in our town hall
- Town Hall meetings are a great place for Studio 4 students to receive needed information from teachers and express new ideas.
- Unfinished Central Ideas... Our HWOO central idea was "Economic systems impact..." and the students needed to finish the sentence and justify why this is what they believe. We are still in this process but it has really helped them think for themselves. Our STP unit is carrying on from this, as you can see in section 4 of this post.
3. Math is hard
I am currently working with our Math Coach Tiffany Eaton. We are going through different ideas to figure out how math learning looks in Studio 4. Time is an issue, as it always seems to be... but again, we are tweaking our designs. We want math to be taught/learned conceptually.. but then always have this fighting battle about standards... or at least I do. We have tried to set some challenges in different ways, and implement more manipulatives into our learning. Students also have personalised goals based off of our initial data, so everyone is working on what they really need to work on. We have a few ideas on how to bring this forward even more, which I may blog about in a later post.
4. Moving forward with inquiry groups
This is our next big step for structure changes. Our HWOO unit is flowing into STP. We are looking at this a little bit like how exhibition is typically run. We will have 8 groups of students who will each be lead by a Studio 4 adult. Each of these groups will be researching a central idea with a different ending to "Economic systems impact..." (which was our HWOO central idea). Lines of inquiry are based off of the Sharing the Planet descriptor and have written one line of inquiry to specifically include how math can be used to provide evidence for their central idea. I think this will help us be more accountable for authentically integrating math into the unit. Students have not chosen groups yet, but I am sure I will post more about this as it happens.
What shifts in structures have you gone through? What were the positives and negatives about them?
What small routines do you find helpful in building student agency and ownership?
Do you have examples of teaching math conceptually? I would love to hear them!!
Have you tried smaller inquiry groups like this before? Any tips? Even tips from exhibition groups that may be useful for us?
After a short summer and a big move... I am feeling incredibly welcomed into my new home in Ho Chi Minh City. The employees at my new school have such a fantastic vision for education. Accepting a job at a "dream school" is scary. What bubbles will be burst? Can I keep up with what is happening around me? Will I like it as much as I want to?
So far... so good. That doesn't even seem to cover it. Everyone is open. Everyone is willing. Everyone cares. "Energized, engaged, and empowered" is truly lived here. My colleagues are amazing, and I couldn't ask for a more supportive group of people to work with.
After their success last year beginning #Studio5, the school decided to expand this model, and I am officially part of the #Studio4 team at #ISHCMCib. With different students, we are still not 100% sure what this looks like yet. We are proposing different things and still having discussions about what is best for this group of students as they arise. I envision things changing and growing as we go, just as they did for me last year with my grade 3's in Switzerland.
After a few conversations of what it might look like, last Wednesday we finally met our students! From day 1 we began fostering agency. The returning students had some familiarity with these ideas from their grade 3 experiences last year, but we also have a lot of growth in the school and our grade level.
A few things we have done to try to build a "Studio" atmosphere so far (embracing voice, choice, and ownership from the start).
1. Planning our day as a group. Each teacher wrote a variety of things on one of our moveable whiteboard walls. Some options were more traditional first day things, some were not. Some I had not planned for (and then had to find something at the last minute because they wanted it. Fair!) Each student then decided whether these items should be a must, should, or could for the day by using different colored check marks. Then we talked about them as a group and sorted them into the chart and placed them into our blank (kind of) timetable for the day. Already things have come up where we have had to be flexible and change the schedule. I love that the real world is affecting us and they are learning to make changes as needed. It is teaching them how to become more decisive and flexible, as well as giving my brain a break by taking away a couple of those thousands of decisions we make daily as teachers. We did this every day last week, adding new things. I can see it lasting maybe another week but it is time consuming doing this as a large class group... so wheels are turning about the next step with this.
2. Goal setting. I wanted to get them into this habit right away. I asked them to think of a small, achievable goal that they could complete in one day. For example, learning one new name, being kind to someone new, or making good choices in the playground. At the end of the day they thought about whether they achieved this goal (and put a check mark if they did) and/or if they wanted to keep working on this goal (added a +). Each morning we thought about our goals for the day.
3. Mindfulness. ISHCMC truly lives and breathes mindfulness. It is also embedded in our Who We Are unit as part of making choices and having a clear head when dealing with our day. I am exploring options with the students but love their passion for it, and their routine of calming down when needed.
4. Reflection. As with Studio 5, we have CAR time (Choose, Act, Reflect) in the mornings and afternoons to get this routine into place. I am again showing them a number of ways right now so that later on they can choose the tool they like the best. We have done free writing, drawing, answering specific questions, and walking through our day in our minds. Beginning to think about the next day's goals can also be useful during this time.
5. Collaboration. Our moveable walls are fantastic. A few times now, students have met in the town hall while a collaborative activity is explained, and the teachers open these walls. Then the whole studio has had the chance to feel open and work together. I love the atmosphere that happens when we do this! So far we have had a scavenger hunt within the studio and a marshmallow building challenge. I am excited to see what these open walls will bring us!
6. Exploration. My students explored their studio and wrote an I see, I think, I wonder about it. Then we explored other spaces in school for more inspiration to add to the I think and I wonder parts because of what they saw. This was a great way to see what they are already wanting and seeing in their future studio.
I am excited to see how this year unfolds with these new inquirers. What have you done/plan to do in the first week of school to make students feel welcomed and have ownership over their new space?
Former PYP Coordinator and Head of Computing Curriculum, Apple Distinguished Educator 2019, Google Educator L2, Microsoft Innovative Educator, Book Creator and Seesaw Ambassador. Passionate Canadian PYP Teacher in Vietnam