I know it looks like I am blogging less lately... however, I have actually been blogging MORE!
I have started EduroLearning's COETAIL course (Certificate of Educational Technology and Information Literacy). For this course I have set up another blog page on this website (My COETAIL Journey Blog).
Please follow me on this journey and comment with questions or examples related to my posts.
In November I attended some professional development with the Knowledge Source Institute in Thailand. The workshop I chose (along with a colleague at ISHCMC) was Transforming Learners into Self-Regulated Learners with Linda B. Nilson.
One of my main takeaways from this workshop was only a small part of the day, but had a lasting impact on me. It was the notion that students need to experience learning in at least three ways to deepen their understanding. She gave us 8 modes of learning as examples to try to get the students to experience.
I immediately began thinking about how I could adapt this to Studio 4.
My first step was in math lessons.
We briefly discussed what each mode of learning could look like in math.
I gave them a math challenge in groups or as individuals, and when their group used any of the modes of learning they were to come up to the board and write their team name in that column (or they would write their name on the board).
We did this a few times before the Winter holidays.
It was great watching them explore the different ways. What did it mean? What could it mean? How could we do this differently?
When January rolled around I felt that they were ready for the next step. I redesigned their weekly goals/planning document to include the modes of learning.
We took a morning to brainstorm and add to examples of what each mode of learning might look like for our goals (math, literacy, ATL skill).
These are posted in our classrom and have been added to as students write different ideas into their planners. For students that need more/new ideas or help they can look at these posters while planning ways to reach their goals.
Out of the eight modes of learning, we decided it was fair for them to plan five ways each goal could be completed in a week. The expectation was that they complete at least three of these five ways.
My thought process here was at least they were thinking of more ways they could go deeper. If they finished three modes of learning for one goal, it would be clear that the goal is not "finished" or checked off, done, or completed. They could still see more ways they could continue this goals.
We have just gone through two weeks of 100% of the class getting through 100% of their expectations for the week. This was highly celebrated and gave slower students a taste of success with their peers.
Now that they have the hang of it, the plan is to go deeper still. In their individual conversations and reflections with me, we have discussed writing deeper examples in each mode. We have also discussed planning more than 5 for some of the students, as they seem to be getting through them with focused attention.
Looking to get started or go deeper with your students' goals and reflections?
Here is a folder full of a variety of planners (this current one is number 7 in ISHCMC, Studio 4). Please feel free to look through them, make a copy, and see what suits your students in your environment!
At PYP schools we have to cover six transdisciplinary units (unless you are teaching early years, which is a minimum of 4 units). These units are:
Traditionally, PYP schools would look at their year, line up their 6 units in an order that seem to work for them, and see what areas of math, literacy, science, social studies, etc fit into each unit. With the Enhanced PYP came a flexibility with these units. We no longer have to see them as one straight line and have some freedom to play around with structures.
One way to do this is to have a whole school, year long unit. Our school has a Who We Are unit which every grade focuses on the same central idea, but writes their own lines of inquiry to fit the learners they are working with (age as well as personalities, etc). We have done this for a few years now and have just switched to a new central idea after a long process with our PYP Co-ordinators at the end of last year to make sure everyone's opinions were heard.
What other ways are possible to play with the rest of these units?
Last year #Studio4 had one unit feed into another unit. So they are connected but also kind of separate. We are doing that again this year with Sharing the Planet (focused on sustainable businesses) leading into How We Organize Ourselves (an entrepreneurship unit that will hopefully then be focused on sustainability).
That's 3/6 units structured for us.
We had an idea for How We Express Ourselves. We wanted a bit more of a literacy focus throughout the year and to explicitly focus on more writing and communication skills. So we made a unit based on reasons why people communicate and how effective these communications are for different purposes. It is mostly another year-long unit.... BUT we are also breaking it up into 3 chunks with our other units based on the communication skills Approaches to Learning.
So for two weeks we focus on the Exchanging Information Communication Skills (speaking, listening, and interpreting). Then this leads into a How The World Works unit about how scientists communicate their findings after going through an investigation.
When this unit ends, we will take another two weeks to focus on the ICT Communication Skills (Media Representation and Informed Choices). This will lead into the entrepreneur unit mentioned above for STP/HWOO focusing on how businesses advertise themselves and the choices they make to showcase their products and/or beliefs.
For the two weeks before our last unit begins we will again take two weeks to focus on the Literacy Communication Skills (reading and writing). Then we will start Where We Are in Place and Time which is a historical fiction focused unit.
While we are taking two weeks to explicitly go over these skills, the HWEO unit is not "broken" into three chunks. It is still carried on throughout the rest of those 3 units as they transfer and apply their knowledge of the skills.
What other ways have you been creative with the transdisciplinary themes?
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!)
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