“Perpetual Motion:” The Self Driving Engine of Student Ownership

Take a look at Pamela Kennedy’s “Perpetual Motion in Room 17” time lapse video:

What do you observe?

I notice:

  • Flexible seating choices
  • Variation in working in pairs, groups, or independently
  • Confidence regarding when and where to be
  • Order and efficiency, yet choice and flexibility

Now take a look at Mr. Humphrey’s class:

Choice – Making it Happen with 33 Students in a Math Classroom

Additional observations I make here include:

  • Freedom to set the pace of learning
  • Respect for students’ decision-making in how they explore concepts
  • Individuality

These are both wonderful examples of what can happen when we allow students to drive their own learning. And as students continue to steer more and more of their learning, I wonder what the next steps will be in each of these classrooms in furthering that ownership?

 

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Provocation Into The Possibilities of Going Green

As I sat wondering what to do with all the plastic Easter eggs from last month (and what becomes of the surely millions of eggs sold every year), the idea for this provocation was hatched… (pun intended!).

Resource #1: Lauren Singer’s Mason Jar 

For a lengthier, more in-depth video about Lauren Mason’s zero waste lifestyle, see Vox’s video, “It Shouldn’t Be This Hard to Go Green.”

Resource #2: What Matters, by Alison Hughes

Resource #3: What Really Happens to the Plastic You Throw Away, Ted-Ed

Provocation Questions

  • What does it mean to think about how we use our resources?
  • What is our responsibility to think about how we use our resources?
  • How does thinking about how we use our resources impact our lives? Our world?
  • How are reducing and reusing different than recycling?
  • What are the points of view on responsible use of resources?

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“It Is Never Too Late to Be Who You Might Have Been” #TeacherMom

Our local library has done it again: ignited my 6 year-old’s fervor for a new creative project. Thanks to one of their recent display, this time it’s fairy gardens.

Armed with books, photos, and an entire under-the-stairs nook of sundries she has squirreled away, she literally dug in, starting with removing old flowers:

As she concluded phase one, she announced: “I am awesome. I have a cute brain. I know how to make things. I’ve been practicing, and when I grow up, I will teach everyone that I know how to make a fairy ring.”

It’s the kind of confidence you wish you could store up in bottles and give away to all.

Later that day, I participated in a trending Twitter hashtag, #IfICouldMakeTimeStandStill, with my daughter’s earlier declaration still on my mind:

I have seen it with too many of my 5th graders, who’d often been expert hoop-jumpers for so long by that point that they were initially baffled by any suggestion to take more ownership over their learning. To imagine my daughter’s beautiful innate curiosity and confidence to be similarly reduced almost brings physical pain.

But before I sink fully into despair at what might be, I cling to the places I find hope.

I find hope in the growing research on the growth mindset and how beautifully resilient we as humans can be.

I find hope in the many teachers who are dedicated to changing their practices and giving their students greater voice and choice over their own learning.

I find hope in witnessing how, even when our confidence seems all but extinguished by human judgement and shame, we still manage to reignite curiosity, confidence, and creativity, forged anew with our life experiences.

And I find hope in knowing that greater heights yet unimagined await both my daughter and I as we engage, encourage, and dream together. Which reminds me, I have some fairy gardening to do…

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The Price of Putting What’s Best for Teachers over What’s Best for Students

Heart thumping. Throat catching. I want to sink into the floor. I want to dissolve. One by one, students call out their math quiz scores as my teacher records them in her gradebook. My last name is toward the beginning of the alphabet; my abysmal score will stand out in burning contrast to all the other acceptable scores that come after me.

Mine is never acceptable.

I feel the shame of my teacher’s disapproval.

I feel the humiliation of my classmates’ incredulity.

I feel the weight of the growing belief that I. don’t. belong. 

Day after day, I spent that entire year of elementary school in a sickened panic. I doubt my teacher possessed malicious intent toward me. Perhaps she even hoped that this strategy would help free up her time to better reach her students in other ways.

But put into practice, it served her convenience as a teacher more than my needs as a student.

And as a result, I spent every day, and many years thereafter, believing that she simply despised me. So all-encompassing was that fear and shame, I honestly doubt I was able to absorb much in the way of learning that year.

Now, at first glance, this may seem an extreme example. But here’s the thing: we never know how our kids are internalizing their surroundings; they might be unable as of yet to articulate their feelings even for themselves. With all their personal experiences and circumstances, students often respond differently to identical strategies (for me personally, it didn’t help that that year was also the single most tumultuous period of my childhood).

It is crucial, therefore, that we scrutinize every one of our practices with this question: Is this best for my students? None of us are perfect, and we certainly will make mistakes where this question is concerned, but as long as we keep reflecting, apologizing, and trying again, we can be assured that we are doing all in our power to provide a safe and positive learning environment for our students.

When the answer to that question is anything but a resounding yes, we never know what the price may be.

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Inquiry Into Our Common Ground

This week’s provocation is inspired by this powerful video by Asger Leth (please note that this is not part of the intended provocation for your students as it may be unsuitable for children). 

“There’s more that brings us together than we think.”

Whether you hope to address existing contention in your classroom or to proactively build a stronger sense of community, this provocation aims to unearth more empathy, respect, and common ground.

Resource #1: Step In the Box If…

This resource is an activity I learned from an adult team building exercise a couple years ago. It goes something like this:

1. The leader puts tape on the ground in the shape of a large box, with the participants standing around outside it.

2. The leader starts by asking participants to “Step in the box if…” for fairly innocuous topics, such as, “…if you are wearing jeans today.” “…if you like sports.” “…if you love chocolate.”

3. The leader then asks participants to “Step in the box if…” for more personal concepts: “…if you are nervous about school this year.” “…if you have ever felt like you don’t belong.” “…if you have ever felt afraid.” “…if you have big ideas to change the world.” “…if you are responsible to take care of a younger sibling.” “…if you love someone who has a disability.”

Resource #2: Shawn’s Paper from “Turkey Day,” Season 4, Episode 10 of Boy Meets World (in which Shawn’s and Cory’s families try to come together for Thanksgiving but find discomfort with their social class distinctions)

Provocation Questions:

  • Where does the phrase “common ground” come from?
  • How do people find things they share in common?
  • How does it impact communities when people search for what they have in common?
  • How does it impact individuals when they search for what they have in common with others?
  • What is the relationship between finding what you share in common with others and being true to makes you different?
  • How is finding common ground connected to respect?

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The World Then & Now: A Where We Are in Place & Time Provocation

This week brings another Where We Are in Place and Time provocation–I promise, these resources are too fantastic to wait (for more PYP units of inquiry provocations, see the archive here).

The first is Dear Photograph, a website to which individuals submit photos of photos held up in the same location after time has passed. Quite apart from being a remarkable way to make change, time, and history more tangible, it is also a beautiful example of reflection. Below are a few favorites; see the site for more!

https://maryac88.tumblr.com/post/155501077405/dear-photograph-dont-grow-up-youll-just-have

https://maryac88.tumblr.com/post/155501198690/dear-photograph-its-hard-to-imagine-this-photo

https://maryac88.tumblr.com/post/155501377410/dear-photograph-i-inherited-my-grandmothers

The second is along the same lines: Peter Perry’s “Then/Now” series of photos of historical sites with old photos transposed over the modern location. Below are a few:

1968 Warsaw Pact nations invading Czechoslovakia
1968 Warsaw Pact nations invading Czechoslovakia, Prague National Museum
American forces marching through Germany in 1945

Provocation Questions

  • How is personal change different than global change?
  • How is personal change the same as global change?
  • How can thinking about perspectives of people in the future impact our thinking about world events now?

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Change: A “Where We Are in Place & Time” Provocation

The big picture framework for the PYP “Where We Are in Place & Time” unit is intended to help students explore:

  • our orientation in place and time
  • our personal histories
  • the discoveries, explorations, and migrations of humankind

This morning, the School of Life Youtube channel shared their video, “Why You Can Change the World.” It also contains why so many people feel they cannot. I find this to be a resource that has great potential to help students consider their personal impact on the world’s progress, along with inquiries into the nature of change, history, and confidence.

The second resource that lends itself to an inquiry into change is this Huffington Post photo series of work done by women around the world. In many instances, the juxtaposition of old world tasks/technology with modern tools or clothing provides ample food for thought for students to consider how/why things are changing throughout the world. The captions also provide invaluable background to guide their thinking. Click the above link or any of the photos for more.

“A woman works at a plant of porcelain manufacturing society JL Coquet in Saint-Leonard-de-Noblat near Limoges, France on July 5, 2013. (MEHDI FEDOUACH/AFP/Getty Images)”
“Mahboubeh Khoshsolat, one of the only women’s fire and rescue units in the Middle East, slides down the fire pole at Fire Station No. 9 Oct. 5, 2005 in the city of Karaj, west of the Iranian capital Tehran. (Scott Peterson/Getty Images)”
Photo taken on January 22, 2014, shows women working on a carpet in a tiny factory in Kostandovo, a small village in Bulgaria’s southern Rhodope mountains. (DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP/Getty Images)
“A picture taken on July 8, 2013 shows a woman working on a wind turbine at a plant of Gamesa in the Northern Spanish village of Aoiz, Navarra province. (RAFA RIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)”
“An Indian woman works collecting salt in the salt pans near Dhrangadhra, Gujarat. (Malcolm Chapman/Getty Images)”

Provocation Questions: 

  • What is history like?
  • What do you notice about how people change?
  • Why does work look different for people across the world?
  • How is the “world being made and remade every instant?”
  • How are confidence and change related?

This is part of a series of provocations designed to align with the IB Primary Years’ Programme transdisciplinary themes. Click here for more

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