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?
My classroom is a place of ownership. My students have a voice in what happens with our daily routines, and have choice within that.
Lately I have really noticed a divide between the students who have been here throughout our changing routines and the ones who have joined late or were away for significant portions of time when we made these changes. The "latecomers," as I will call them, seem to be lacking the sense of ownership that the rest of the class have. They are sticking together and avoiding the "musts" that the rest of the class is working so hard to strive for. It is obvious to me, as an observer, that they do not feel ownership over these routines. And it makes sense, because they were not here when we established them.
This leads me to an important understanding and a couple of important (though confusing) questions...
My new understanding:
Agency in the classroom is working, and ownership is an extremely important aspect of this. I knew agency was an important piece of learning authentically and have been working towards this all year. This gap between my students is really outlining just how important voice and ownership is to ensure the learners are using their agency well. These girls didn't really have a voice, and therefore don't feel ownership. All they have is choice. This is not enough.
My new questions:
- Do I need to be thinking of ways to consistently renew this sense of ownership?
- Should we be creating a new set of Musts, Shoulds, and Coulds at the beginning of every unit? Would they change much? They might....
- At the end of the school year, does our focus change? Would new lists help them focus on what they really need to do to tie the year together and finish it off well rounded? Is that important? Is that important to them?
- Does everyone's musts, shoulds, and coulds lists have to be the same? It makes it easier for me, but is that the most important thing?
- Could our lists be more vague? Eg. Must work on your math focus area/weekly goal, Should work on time management skills, Should be more organised, etc.
I believe that next week, on a day that I have 100% attendance, we will delete all of our current musts, shoulds, and coulds. I plan to discuss with them what is important for our final unit. Then create new lists. Maybe these lists will be more vague, maybe they will all be different, maybe they will be different every week. I really don't know yet... But my gut tells me that these two students might finally feel ownership because their voice is being heard and they are part of the new process.
How do you deal with latecomers/absentees in your class? How do you make sure they are owning the process just as much as everyone else?
Watch this space...
I am currently embarking on a few Google related missions. I have recently completed my Level 2 certification and am looking at my next steps. I am looking at some Google Summits next year and am debating whether or not to become a Google Trainer and/or maybe Google Innovator in the future. This week I have organised a training with some staff at my current school, where the following information will be available to them.
I want to show how my grade 3's use multiple Google Apps in our classroom. The apps have allowed them more voice, choice, and ownership of their learning (#StudentAgency). In each section I have added a slideshow of photos. Click the tabs at the top of each slideshow for different examples.
1. Google Forms Unit Review (or multi-unit review)
Before report writing time came, I sent a form to my students regarding the three units we had completed. I asked them two questions per unit, based off of our central ideas. Because it wasn't straight after the unit finished, it was really telling about what content stuck with them. This could also be done as a unit-by-unit reflection. Students have voice and ownership in their reviews.
2. Google Forms Check in
Every now and then I send my students a check in form to see how they are feeling about our classroom and if they have any ideas they or concerns they might not have been comfortable enough to say out loud. Students have voice here, because I do not share their personal results with their name on them. Usually I hold a class discussion after all of the results are in, hiding the names on the document. We talk about how we can fix some of the concerns and what we are good at doing to create positives. Student voice is strongly recognised in these forms.
3. Google Forms Reflection
Before reports I also sent out a reflection Form for my students to fill out. This was very helpful in report writing to show how each student feels about their own learning, and the degree to which I agree with their statements. Students have voice and ownership of their learning (and reports) while reflecting in these forms.
1. Google Sheets Planning and Goal-Setting
We have begun to move our weekly/daily planning to a digital version. Students are liking this because they don't lose it, we use less paper, and they are seeing the benefits of collaboration - how easily it is shared with me and I can quickly add things to their template if needed. Each week, students are also writing 4 goals they would like to work towards. This is keeping them focused. They post these to Seesaw at the beginning of the week and comment a reflection on the same post every day to share how they worked towards one or more of those goals. Students have ownership over their week, planning how, when, and where to get tasks done.
2. Google Sheets Collaboration
We have worked together to complete elements of one document. This is an anonymous way for students to give their ideas. They also authentically wanted to edit their peers' spelling mistakes which was a good example of collaborating to edit. All students have voice and also choice of content areas they are more comfortable with/know more about.
3. Google Sheets Responses from Google Forms
When you collect responses from Google Forms you can also view them in Google Sheets. This can make it easier to search or use other functions in Sheets with the data. Student voice is stored easily for you to access.
1. Google Keep Checklists
We have moved our Musts, Shoulds, and Coulds lists to Google Keep. This is easy for me to check how much students have accomplished during the week. They can easily add or remove items and at the end of the week they can uncheck and reset. I have tagged each student in their lists so it is easy for me to search. I made and shared each list with them so that we both have access. Students can use the split-screen function on the iPad to view their checklist at the same time they are doing their daily planning in Sheets. Students have ownership over their work and prioritise what is important to them, and when to work on it. It also shows the choices they have throughout the week in an organised way.
1. Digital and Collaborative I See, I Think, I Wonder
For the last two units we have experimented with this. I set up the template and students practiced using slides as a collaborative environment. All students have voice, and those with physical writing insecurities can confidently contribute to the same document as their peers.
2. Google Slides Self Marking
Instead of printing multiple copies or having students try to share one copy, we have used Google Slides to post answers. I changed their rights to "view only" so that images can't be erased, etc. Students have ownership over their learning because they are getting feedback on areas they need to work on in mathematics.
3. Google Slides Reflections
We are in the very beginning stages of using Google Slides to reflect on a variety of ATLs/Skills. This is still a work in progress. Students have ownership of what they still need to work on and how they can improve.
1. Google Docs Reading
We have not used Docs much yet, but some other teachers have sent us things to read.
2. Google Docs Writing and Editing
We have not done this yet, but it is a logical next step. I would like to show them the comment mode, and how I use it in my own life when writing and sharing with friends/colleagues to edit with me.
3. Google Docs HyperDocs for PD
I am currently experimenting with a HyperDoc format from https://hyperdocs.co. It goes through the lesson/PD session with links to videos, blogs, websites, examples, etc. Typically it would also include links to collaborative working documents for people to add their work and ideas to. This is my first attempt at a HyperDoc and this blog post is partially inspired by the desire to show examples of GoogleEDU products for this PD. Learners have voice, choice, and ownership through this process.
1. Self-paced steps for writing.
We are learning to write how-to pieces right now. Usually we use Pobble for our weekly writing, but it was harder for me to find a how-to specific one for them to work through. Instead, I emailed them a link to 5 videos to help guide them through this writing process. We watched the first two together, and by that point they were all at different stages. These videos helped them work at their own pace and make their best first draft possible.
This week we took another leap forward. Version 6 of our planning, if you will(here is the post about our previous iterations with resources).
We began using Google Sheets and Google Keep to help us stay organised - and couldn't be happier with the week 1 results! I have been looking for a way to do this in a meaningful way since the beginning of the school year, and think we have found the answer... for now at least!
First I moved all of our musts, shoulds, and coulds onto Google Keep. This was a good learning process. I have shared individual lists with students, and also tagged their names on my end so I can search for them easily to check in with what they have done so far.
Then I made a Google Sheet for each of them, with a template for planning 3 acts a day, as well as an "if I have extra time" section. I have taken away the timetable aspect of this in hopes that they will be more focused on their weekly goals as opposed to WHEN they are doing things in the week. But it is still timetable related, in reality.
As before, on Mondays they plan their workshops for the week. Then every morning they plan what else they will do with their day, keeping a responsible balance of technology in mind.
This could eventually be shared with parents as well, if we want to. Individual weekly goals are at the top as a reminder of what they are working on this week. Originally I left room for a reflection, but we have been doing that on Seesaw instead (with a screen shot of their weekly goals as the main post, and reflections as a comment each day).
Students made some PicCollages with reasons why digital planning is better than paper planning.
I would like to add to this that on the iPad as well as on the computer they can have Google Sheets open to see their planning at the same time as having Google Keep open on the side. This makes multi-tasking super easy for them to inform their daily/weekly planning.
So far, this seems to be a great advance for us. Do you do anything similar?
Until recently (like, last week) backwards design felt right. I always tried to have the end in sight and figure out with the students what learning engagements they could encounter to get to that end. "Best practice," right?
On my path for more agency with my students I am beginning to question this. Our new unit is really what is making me think more about it. Here is some background information about the unit, if you are interested.
How We Organise Ourselves
CI: Technology is an integral element of our lives
LOI1: Responsible consumption of technology (Responsibility)
LOI2: The positive and negative aspects of current technology (Reflection)
LOI3: The advances that technology has enabled (Function)
We keep trying to think of a summative assessment for this unit... where are we going with this? What do we want them to accomplish or know? How can they show this?
We have had multiple thoughts from "how to" videos showing online safety, to blogs with comments and questions from students safely and positively interacting with each other, to a "show what you know" type thing where they can just tell us (in any form) what they know about the central idea and lines of inquiry. We are also toying with the idea of bringing in the Sustainable Development Goals and having the central idea and lines of inquiry be the driver/lens for it.
Of course formative assessment is key. I don't want to ignore that fact. We need to be monitoring student actions and knowledge of all lines of inquiry as we go. But if students with agency are choosing their own paths for their learning, should we be contriving a summative assessment for them based on what we think is best? Is this fitting student needs or ours?
I suppose the "backwards design" is starting with the why. Why is this unit important... For us this means why do we need students to know about how technology is an integral element of our lives? Why do we need students to know how to consume technology responsibly? Why do we need students to know the positive and negative aspects of technology? Why do we need students to know the advances technology has enabled? It is a hard one because really it is for their current and future use of technology in their own lives inside and outside of school. The real summative assessment is if they are actually using technology safely and positively as they get older, after they leave our classrooms.
Maybe the "show what you know" is the best option for now? Maybe a mini portfolio of examples of their positive tech use and knowledge in the unit? Aren't the central idea and lines of inquiry what we want them to accomplish or know? Should we use that for our backwards design thinking instead of a summative? I'm not sure where we are headed, but if students reflections along the way show their knowledge, I am not sure we need to contrive a fake summative for them. Do we?
Today is my one year anniversary on Twitter!
It feels like so much longer. Not in a bad way, of course. In an amazing way!!
I have grown so much as an educator and critical thinker. The connections and advances I have made because of my PLN are plentiful. I can 100% say that I would not be in the situation I am in right now (or heading towards) if I had not joined Twitter one year ago today.
I would like to thank all of my Twitter connections for being open with their sharing and commenting to help everyone around you grow.
If anyone out there is debating it: dive in!!
As I continue my #OneWord2018 quest of being more "open" I am having some tough thoughts today.
Unlearning "How to be a Teacher 101" is hard!
I am definitely being more open with my students and seeing amazing benefits. Sometimes, though, this still is not my first instinct.
Today's example... I have been feeling the need for our reflection wall to progress to a digital version so they can really see their progression and export it at the end of the year as an iBook to show their grade 4 teacher, etc.
Currently, this is what our reflection wall/window looks like:
This is working fine, but we couldn't see where we were, where we have progressed to, or where we wanted to go.
With Apple Pages new update, we are able to collaborate and also export as an ebook. Page A was made to mimic our existing reflection wall which is fine - a continuum of gradual independence for a certain skill (thank you to @OrenjiButa for the art work we have been using all year for reflecting on ATLs and gradual release of independence which we took ownership over by choosing meaningful descriptors from other classes). I had two versions of page B which I could not decide between. One very structured page (my first version) and one blank page with the title of reflections and goals where they could choose how to reflect.
Because I am trying so hard to allow room for agency, part of me was saying to use the second version. But I wasn't quite sure. I was asking teachers and kept thinking about it... until embarrassingly late in the game I finally thought to ask the students.
They surprised me. They want choice, they want flexibility, but their VOICE right now was telling me they wanted structure for this book. They thought it was much more clear. There was a small part of them worrying about running out of room with this option, but I told them we can deal with that when we get there. Their ownership of this is growing, and if I had chosen the more open-ended version for them like my "push for agency" self was trying to say they would have been lost (I could see the panic and confusion on their faces when they saw the second version).
For now, we chose structure for this particular activity. If we had started this at the beginning of the year I could see how it might change into the second version, but with three months left of the school year I am not sure. If we need to change, we will change. I have made pages for all ATLs and also for the areas which will appear on their report card at the end of the year, hoping their reflections will assist and align with the report card process.
My takeaway for today is to keep trying to make a habit of asking them first. I am well on my way but this could have been a big loss for us, had I not asked them. It is hard. I try things myself. I then push to collaborate but still my first instinct is still the adults of the school. Not the ones using the tool I am creating. I am growing.
How are you unlearning your teacher instincts?
Three days of PD and so many things to follow on Twitter over the past week... Learning2 Europe, IB Conference in Singapore, Apple Education Event announcements.... I'm exhausted, but want to write this blog post while I am still on a high!
Over the course of the year our staff have been speaking up and asking for different types of PD. There was a general frustration about how we were spending precious time. This week we had 3 days of PD scheduled while students are away for Spring Break before we began our own. A week or two ago, our PYP coordinator put out a Google Doc asking if anyone would like to present, as well as the types of things people would like to learn more about. Being someone who just dives in, I of course signed up to speak about student agency. Yesterday was a day full of learning from one another - it was fantastic!
I struggled for a little while to wrap my head around how I was going to present my workshop. I had read @Makingoodhumans going through the same journey of leading a workshop about agency. I had the same belief of trying to get staff to really experience agency while learning about it. (Side note: I already plan to make Student-Led Conferences a similar experience for parents with their children, and was drawing off of that plan for inspiration as well).
As usual, once the idea hit I couldn't stop thinking about it. I structured the PD the same way I structured my class. Choose, then act, then reflect... with a little bit of time in the beginning to speak about agency in a broad sense and give the small amount of structure that the teachers needed to know what to do.
This is what the schedule for our session looked like:
The teachers had 4 very open-ended options to choose from for their "act" time. This is something I might have done near the beginning of this journey with my students. I had a document with a few link suggestions to start them off if they needed/wanted it.
Participants also had a list of musts, coulds, and shoulds, similar to what my students would have. I usually make these types of lists/agreements with my students, but again because of the "beginner" aspect of the teachers in the workshop (and lack of time) I provided them with the following checklist:
Another bit of a side note here: I had barely even started the workshop when our Tech Integrator (sitting in on the workshop) was already emailing me to pick my brain about the process because he wants to use the structure (agency) in his future PD sessions. Win number one!
They did their research for roughly 35 minutes and I made sure to have a bit of an accountability aspect in their "must" list. I also thank Taryn BondClegg again (@Makingoodhumans) for sharing her list of resources with me to share with the staff as an option for their research. We also started to curate our own list (voice and ownership)!
Teachers shared with their grade levels (I had to cut them off) and then I showed them how I interpret student agency and the journey I have been on with my class. I made it very clear that I wanted them to take things away as bits of inspiration (hopefully) to adapt and use as they might see fit for their own class. If I had different students, the routines we have really might not look the same way as it does right now. I wanted to be sure that they knew I wasn't expecting them to take away exactly what I was doing and replicate it. This is also why I got them to research examples of agency before I shared my own experiences.
Ideally, I would have loved to have my class there to explain our routines themselves. Being Spring Break, I settled for making and showing a video of my class routines and then I spoke a little more about workshops. This turned into a section of Q&A I really didn't expect or plan for, but could feel their need and want for it. We then did personal reflections about what they could start implementing for themselves, as well as identifying what ATLs they used during that session and that was that!
Except I hope it isn't! I have had incredible feedback from them as well as "second hand compliments" from teachers who weren't even in the workshop. I have received emails of thanks, and "complaints" that people can't stop thinking. Yes!! Mission accomplished, I think! People are thinking... hopefully adapting... hopefully diving in...
I can tell you right now my group did not do that. Even though they had all been to this zoo before, they were all too excited to apply their new knowledge of animal adaptations to the actual real world. They rushed to see the leopard's spots, and ran to see the brown bear's first day out of hibernation. My little group of 6 boys were having a fantastic time exploring the things they wanted to see. We naturally talked about habitats, body coverings, and why so many snakes were still sleeping. The paper, pencils, and clipboards were just something to carry around. Worksheets were not touched. Should I have pushed it? My gut said no. But what if we were the only group not to do anything on paper? My gut still said no. They needed to experience the zoo.
We had lunch by the puffins before meeting our tour guide at the aquarium. I swear, our whole trip could have been in this tiny aquarium. We would have been able to stand there in awe, admiring all of the colourful adaptations and odd shapes for an hour or more. The tour guide was amazing, but the kids just wanted to be kids. I will fully admit that even I was distracted by the fish while she was talking. A moray eel made an appearance and was highly distracting for me! This happened again at the monkeys, and again in a jungle room we sat in where a mouse-deer appeared out of nowhere (one of the weirdest things I have ever seen)! I definitely also saw other students lose interest at various different points. Was it worth having a guided tour where students were forced to stand in one spot and listen to someone talk about something they may or may not be interested in?
When on a trip, can the students not just enjoy?
Could we maybe just make them aware that they will do some sort of reflection of their choice afterwards to make them accountable and to think about their learning?
Could they document the trip and their reflection in any way they want?
Could the students let us know where they want to go and what they want to do there (and why they are there)?
On that note, with some misconnections on public transport some students were actively looking at maps and timetables. Could they plan our route? Our day? We are already toying with the idea of giving the planning duties over to them for our next trip.
Do we underestimate what 9 year olds are actually capable of?
Re-posted (with a couple of edits) on https://ibeducatorvoices.wordpress.com on April 5, 2018.
Let's face it. No matter how much we want to observe other classrooms in our school to share and collaborate on ideas and "best" practices... we don't always have time.
This week I have done two things to try to break those barriers a little bit. Next week we have some in-house PD which I have signed up to share a little about student agency and the routines in my classroom.
1. I have made a feedback #ObserveMe form on Google Forms.
There are only 4 basic questions, two of which are linked to my appraisal goals discussed with the senior leadership team (student agency and conceptual thinking). This was not something expected of me, but I am looking for ways to grow. I have only sent it to a few people so far, who often pop into my classroom, but look to at least share the idea at the PD session in case anyone else is wanting to come see what happens in my room.
2. My class made a video about our daily/weekly routines with "Choose, Act, Reflect."
I also plan to share this next week with the teachers here, but thankfully before making it I thought to seek permission from the parents to see if they would allow me to use videos/photos of their child's faces, voices, and work on social media. 7/12 agreed (lots had reasons to do with diplomat parents), so those are the students which are featured in the video.
Please leave comments for us on ways we can improve or (hopefully) ideas it has inspired you to try in your own classroom.
Former PYP Coordinator and Head of Computing Curriculum, Apple Teacher, Google Educator L2, Microsoft Innovative Educator, Book Creator and Seesaw Ambassador. Passionate Canadian PYP Teacher in Vietnam