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)
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?
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!
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.
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.
So embedded are our own culture’s idiosyncrasies that we generally take them for granted. This is particularly true when it comes to our idioms. That’s why, when I came across this list of 40 idioms that don’t translate on TED-Ed, I just knew it would make an intriguing provocation.
Other resources for students inquiring into language might include this animated map of “how Indo-European languages may have evolved:”
Or this video, also from TED-Ed on how our languages evolve (might be a little complex for younger students, but you never know…):
Why do humans use figurative language?
How do you think idioms from certain countries are related to the way of life in that country?
How does language diversity affect our world?
How are human beings connected through language even when we speak different words?
How does becoming more fluent (readers and writers) in our own language help us? How does studying other languages help us?
If you’re as passionate about improving education as we are, chances are you’ve had moments of discouragement, too. However, lately, we’ve come across several campaigns that had us smiling. We thought we’d pass on the optimism to remind us all that positive change in education happens every day–and to let you know how you can take part!
“There’s something powerful and exciting about the society-wide experiment the digital age has thrust upon us.” ~James Estrin, National Geographic¹
Whatever shape our personal digital involvement takes, the above statement has become irrefutable. With an exponential quantity of global interaction on our hands, we can already identify many ways our lives have changed. However, time has yet to fully reveal the long term and unintended impacts of technology, known as “drip effects” (Peter Skillen gives the example of cars, where their original purpose was to simply transport people places; the unexpected drip effect became the phenomenon of city sprawl and suburban life²). To us, the most thrilling aspect of this “society wide experiment” lies in education.
Sudden Educational Evolution
For many years, education remained fairly static. Professors of education could share similar concepts and resources for decades, with little deviation. Sure, the pendulum would, at times, swing between such matters as phonics vs. whole language, but nothing altered too radically.
Now, all that is changing thanks to technology. It’s not just social media platforms that create customized professional development for teachers. It’s not just cloud storage like Google Drive that foster global collaboration. It’s not even just Youtube videos that provide instant tutorials for every topic under the sun. It’s a revolutionizing and unexpected drip-effect: the manner in which teachers are pioneering new practices. Since even those who graduated college 5 years ago were unlikely to have possessed a textbook on the benefits of Twitter in the classroom, teachers are tinkering and experimenting with new resources themselves–learning and growing right alongside their students!
The Counterintuitive Effects of Vulnerability
This kind of pioneering requires teachers to share their personal, authentic, and vulnerable learning processes–the out-loud wondering, the messy brainstorming, the trial and error, the failed projects–all are brought front and center in the classroom. What is the result when students watch adults experience genuine learning? In the “Pencil Metaphor” below (as shared in other posts), the erasers, ferrules, and hangers-on may fear that exposing their limitations could result in a loss of respect, productivity, or control. The the rest are discovering the true results: strengthened relationships as students see their teachers as more human; heightened motivation as students are inspired by what lifelong learning looks like; and abundant empowerment for everyone in an atmosphere where it is safe to experiment, fail, discover, and grow.
During the most recent #5thchat (held Tuesday nights at 8 pm ET), Tyson Lane summarized this approach well:
@mary_teaching@ICTmagic definitely. It’s very much like life; develop and share values rather than force and instruct to get better outcome
Such common sharing and learning is also reinforced by the findings of vulnerability and shame researcher, Brene Brown, when she describes the necessary shift in education and business alike, “from controlling to engaging with vulnerability–taking risks and cultivating trust”³ (p. 209. See her terrific manifesto for leaders here).
Walking the Talk
I was always surprised at how much one phrase delighted my students: “I don’t know.” Giggles and slightly dropped jaws would consistently ensue, followed by profound discussions on whether I should find out myself (while modeling to them), or whether they could help me figure it out. My most carefully crafted inquiry questions rarely elicited as much engagement from my students as those three words. Similarly, I once attempted to create a DIY interactive whiteboard with a Wii remote–a venture that ultimately proved completely ineffective. Though one might expect that students would respond to such failure with scorn, my students were keenly supportive through every step–and in turn, showed increased willingness to try and share new ideas themselves.
Through blogs, Twitter, and more, I have learned from exceptional individuals who are boldly learning with their students. Listed below are a few:
Jon Bergmann: Within a couple years of Youtube’s debut, Jon wondered what would happen if he gave his lessons in video format as homework instead of teaching them in class. The result has been the Flipped Class Movement.
Numerous other educators in my PLN who daily share their triumphs, trials, and resources on Twitter.
Trying new technology to improve your classroom is risky. But even if the intended goal fails, the drip effect of being vulnerable with your students and allowing them to watch you authentically learn is priceless.