Inquiry Into Learner Profiles: Caring

For a culture of kindness to truly grow in our school, we need to constantly nourish and discuss it. After all, if we limit the discussion to the occasional anti-bullying assembly we can’t really expect students to thoroughly catch the vision of what it really looks like, and to feel comfortable speaking up for kindness. If your class is in need of a recharge, please use any or all of these resources to inquire into what it means to be caring!

Resource #1: “Give a Little Love, Get A Little Love” Kritovatka

Resource #2: Kind is…Radical Hospitality by Soul Pancake

Resource #3: The Gnomist: A Great Big Beautiful Act of Kindness by Great Big Story (this is a longer video at 17 minutes, but if you happen to be able to make the time, I promise it’s worthwhile. Here’s the trailer, too!)

Resource #4: “Those Shoes” by Maribeth Boelts and Noah Z. Jones

Provocation Questions: 

  • What does it mean to be caring?
  • What is people’s responsibility to be caring?
  • What are the different perspectives in a community when it comes to public acts of kindness?
  • What are some obstacles that sometimes stand in the way of expressing caring?
  • What can we do to overcome obstacles that sometimes stand in the way of being caring?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Inquiry Into Learner Profiles: Knowledgeable

I wrote a post as recently as just a few weeks ago about the need to prioritize relationships over content. But, of course, that does not mean that content does not have its own essential place. This week’s provocation is about being knowledgeable, and why that matters.

Resource #1: How The Animal Kingdom Sleeps by The Atlantic, via The Kid Should See This

How The Animal Kingdom Sleeps

Sleep is universal in the animal kingdom, but each species slumbers in a different — and often mysterious — way. Some animals snooze with half their brain, while others only sleep for two hours a day (without even suffering sleep deprivation!). Ed Yong guides us through the latest research on how creatures catch their z’s.

Posted by Animalism on Monday, November 13, 2017

Resource #2: Lisa Winter Robot Builder, via The Kid Should See This

Resource #3: Google Engine Timelapse Page

“Timelapse is an example that illustrates the power of Earth Engine’s cloud-computing model, which enables users such as scientists, researchers, and journalists to detect changes, map trends, and quantify differences on the Earth’s surface using Google’s computational infrastructure and the multi-petabyte Earth Engine data catalog.”

Resource #4: If Picasso Painted A Snowman, by Amy and Greg Newbold

Provocation Questions: 

  • How does knowledge impact our actions?
  • How does knowledge impact our ability to relate to people and events around us?
  • What is the relationship between knowledge and curiosity?
  • What is our responsibility to be knowledgeable, especially if we have Google to help us answer so many questions?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Inquiry Into Attitudes: Empathy

We understand the power of empathy. It can help us find a sense of belonging. It can help us cross boundaries in reaching those around us. It can help us process our past pain and understand the struggles of others.

Surely, such a powerful attitude should never be taken for granted where our students are concerned. Here are resources to help them investigate it.

Resource #1: Scarlett, by the STUDIO NYC

Resource #2: The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig

Resource #3: If We Could See Inside Others’ Hearts

Resource #4: Empathy by Brene Brown

Provocation Questions:

  • What is empathy like?
  • What is empathy not like?
  • What is the relationship between empathy and connection?
  • What are the different perspectives on a empathy?
  • How does a person’s ability to feel empathy change?
  • How does empathy impact our communities?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Inquiry Into the 5 Essential Elements of the PYP

I remember receiving a box of laminated cut-outs to display in my classroom which were intended to help remind us about our goals as teachers and learners using the International Baccalaureate (IB) PYP Programme — specifically, the 5 Essential Elements of the PYP.

via TIGS Illawara Grammar School

Use of these cutouts went about as well as my feeble attempts to use Key Concepts questions (read that story here — fortunately, it does have happy ending).

In retrospect, I realize that my mind was in such a frenzy trying to “get it together” as a new teacher, I never had the quiet time necessary to sit and process in its entirety this more subtle approach to teaching and learning.

As I’ve continued to reflect on my experiences at a PYP school, and on inquiry in general, I’ve come to better glimpse how and why all five of these elements truly are essential. This week’s provocation is intended as an investigation on where they come into play for learners. (I will also plan on designing additional provocations based on individual essential elements in the future!)

Resource #1: The Potter, video by Josh Burton

Resource #2: Soar by Alyce Tzue via The CGBros

Provocation Questions:

  • What is the connection between a growth mindset and these essential elements?
  • Why are concepts, skills, knowledge, attitudes, and action necessary for learning? What would happen if one element was missing?
  • How do the different elements support each other?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

A How We Express Ourselves [In the 21st Century] Provocation

This is part of a series of of IB PYP units of inquiry provocations. For more, click here.

The IB PYP unit of “How We express ourselves centers around “An exploration of the way which we discover and express our nature, ideas, feelings, beliefs, and values through language and the arts.”

When I taught at a PYP school, I associated this mainly with communication mediums such as painting and poetry. But the more I think about how our world is evolving, the more I realize that “how we express ourselves” has boundless possibilities.

And it’s not just the fact that we have a large volume of choices that matters. It’s that, if we have a more open mind toward change, that volume can allow our children to shape their self-expression/communication –and with it, their futures — in ways that are unprecedented and literally world-changing.

With that in mind (and a bit of humor below), here are 3 resources to help your students inquire into the nature of how we express ourselves in a 21st century connected world.

Resource #1: The Moxie Institute‘s “The Adaptable Mind”

“The skills we need most in today’s world, in any profession, boil down to being human. Basically the qualities that machines don’t have…We’ve arrived at a time when your human skills are just as important as your knowledge.” (Curiosity, Creativity, Initiative, Multi-disciplinary thinking, Empathy).

Resource #2: “Rosie Revere, Engineer” by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts

picture via Amazon
picture via Amazon

Resource #3: Pixar’s “La Luna”

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

When We Love Spreadsheets Too Much: Matching the Tech to the Need

Three years ago, I was hit with bed rest right before the start of our school’s IB PYP Exhibition (a student-led unit in which students exhibit their abilities to direct their own learning on a topic of their choice).

Though disappointed to miss out, I was pleased to discover that I could still mentor groups via Skype, which I’ve continued to do each year since.

However, we still had some hurdles to overcome with our unique mentor “meeting” setup. How to organize our ideas? How to keep track of when we’d meet next? How to exchange links to helpful resources?

I turned, as always, to Google apps, whipping up the collaborative little beauty below to send to the students via the teacher. With more than a little extra time on my hands (remember the whole bed-rest thing?), I found fancy fonts, froze the top rows, and everything.

It was a spreadsheet to be proud of, and I was excited to see it in action!

Only… it didn’t quite perform to my expectations.

For one thing, the kids didn’t have access to 1:1 tech, so they usually only saw the document through their teacher.

For another, they were frankly too busy to be bothered with updating yet another form! Exhibition is one fast-moving, action-packed unit!

Ultimately, the kids didn’t get a lot of the resources they needed in a timely manner, and our communications often felt encumbered.

So, as this year’s exhibition kicks off, we’re keeping it as functional as possible. As we Skype (something I continue as the school is too far from where I live), I type notes in a basic Google Doc just to keep track of the different groups’ ideas. Afterward, I’m emailing the teacher easy-to-print feedback or even pasted-out articles to get resources in those kids’ hands asap!

In the end, it’s possible that this problem might be unique to my quirky infatuation with creating neat and color-coded spreadsheets. However, the general principle applies universally. When we keep our sights on what’s best for the kids, we are less likely to get caught up in bells, whistles, and all-around helpful-in-theory-but-not-in-practice methods and resources. Here’s to a better year of exhibition mentoring!

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

I’m Finally Using the PYP Key Concepts!

I hope I’m not the only one who struggled with all the lingo when starting out as a teacher at an IB PYP school (International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme). Units of inquiry? Learner profile attributes? Transdisciplinary skills? 

I was so bogged down by the extensive framework that partway through my first year, I may or may not have complained about, “all this IB crap.”

The key concepts were no exception.

I had a token key concept “parking lot” (laminated poster) at the back of my classroom, where we’d occasionally stick up questions for the unit at hand (that would often get forgotten until they fell off, littering the corner depressingly behind the door).

via Graeme Anshaw at Mathematical Enquiries

Worse still, whenever I would try to get my students to use the key concepts to ask deeper questions, I’d consistently wind up with the same hoop-jumping I was definitely modeling. ie, if the topic was “adaptation,” the questions just parroted the key concept guidelines with little to no real curiosity or connection behind them:

  •  Form: What is adaptation like?
  • Function: How does adaptation work?
  • Change: How is adaptation changing?
  • Reflection: How do we know about adaptation?

And so on.

Over the years, I gained a much better understanding and appreciation of what the IB was all about. But I still struggled making those key concepts genuinely accessible.

That’s why it was with surprise and enthusiasm when it finally clicked for me as I’ve started writing provocation posts. After carefully curating resources to help inspire inquiry into bigger concepts, I write possible questions one can use for discussion with students.

That’s where the key concepts have come in. Not only do they help me consider questions, but they help me see the resources with different lenses.

For instance, in my recent “How People Get Their Food” post, the key concepts of perspective and responsibility made me think that it would be interesting to discuss why we should even consider why people eat differently around the world–I realized that with the resources provided, big concepts this question could elicit might include economics, geography, politics, nutrition, cultures, and more.

The key concepts are finally valuable tools for me to to unearth bigger concepts!

Zooming out from this experience even further, I can now see that it wasn’t even so much about the IB jargon; I needed to completely rewire my mindset about asking powerful questions, prioritizing student voice, and making room for the “unplanned.”

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto