Provocation into Possibility

We stick so closely to the known facts and conventions all in the name of preparation (whether for testing or for becoming grown-ups in general) that I wonder if we sometimes limit our own capacity to push what might be possible in the future…

Resource #1: How to Unboil an Egg, by Ted Ed

Years ago, to help my students better understand the difference between physical and chemical change, I created a Prezi that included frying eggs as a clear irreversible change because it is a chemical change. But in the video below, the word “yet” simply radiates the pioneering spirit that has brought and continues to bring most scientific advances to the world.

Resource #2: Balderdash!: John Newbery & the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books.

This picture book will take you and your students back to a time when the accepted custom was for children only to read books of rules, study, or religion — until John Newbery changed all that.

Provocation Questions:

  • What does it mean to be a pioneer?
  • How does pioneering differ across different subjects (science, history, etc.). How is it the same?
  • What is our responsibility to ask questions?
  • Why might some worry about questioning the way things are already done?
  • What is pioneering like in the 21st century?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

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?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Inquiry Into Where We Live

The notion of home elicits powerfully personal responses from us all. So what do our students gain when we help them inquire into what that means for more than just themselves?

This week’s provocation can be easily applied for the IB PYP “Who We Are” unit of inquiry (see more provocations for units of inquiry here), but it can also apply to other units involving geography, economics, humanities, adaptation, and change.

Resource #1: This House, Once, by Deborah Freedman

A fabulous picture book to get kids thinking about where each element of a home comes from.

via Amazon.com
via Amazon.com
via Amazon.com

Resource #2: Subprime, by Beeple

A fascinating video to elicit thinking about how the idea of home has evolved over the years.

Resource #3: “This Home was 3D Printed in Only 24 Hours and for Just $10,000” (Futurism article and video)

A remarkable view of the possibilities of the future in home construction.

Resource #4: The Bedrooms of Children Around the World, by BuzzFeed

A powerful video to show the vast differences in what today’s children call home.

Provocation Questions: 

  • How has the idea of home changed over human history? What has caused that change?
  • How might the idea of home change in the future?
  • What are the different points of view of home for people around the world?
  • How are people’s homes connected to where they live?
  • What responsibilities do humans have when it comes to creating homes?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

That Time I Failed At Inquiry: 5 Missing Elements

Years ago, toward the end of the school year, I felt like our class was in a rut. I wasn’t sure what we were missing–Autonomy? Inspiration? Creativity? All of the above?

Whatever it was, I decided to do something drastic. I had recently come across a story online of a teacher who encouraged her students to create videos, and it seemed like a great idea to me.

So the next day, I checked out the laptop carts and dived head-long. I told them they had to work in small groups. I told them they could create any commercial they wanted. I might have had slightly more structure than I can recall, but if there was, it wasn’t much. And I stepped back, awaiting the student-centered magic to come to life.

It was bedlam.

Shocked and dismayed at the chaos and the discord and the aimlessness, I cancelled the whole thing the next day.

Today, a small part of me still wants to leave this experience forever buried in the corner of my memory labeled, “I-can’t-believe-you-actually-tried-that.”

But the rest of me knows that our failures are rich with learning opportunities. It reminds me of a teacher’s remarks during a PD session on inquiry this fall in which she expressed a wish to hear more about inquiry attempts that have crashed and burned. So, having come a long way since then (I hope!), I think I’m ready to finally retrieve that memory from its dark recesses and shed light and learning on it instead.

Here are 5 major elements that I now realize I was missing:

Zipcodes: A “How We Organize Ourselves” Provocation

A while back, I shared a provocation to support one of the IB Primary Years Programme Units known as Who We Are. This week, I want to share one that can be used with How We Organize Ourselves. Take a look at this fascinating video to find out how the US went about the problem of an exponentially growing volume of mail.

Provocation Questions:

  • How are problem-solving and organization connected?
  • How did the zip-code solution change over time?
  • How might future zip code solutions impact people?
  • Why do we keep changing the way we organize systems?
  • What is our responsibility to keep changing the way we organize systems?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

An Inquiry Into Inquiry Planning…

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to run a few PD sessions at my old school, one of which was a session on inquiry planning–specifically, starting with our students first, rather than the content/curriculum. My first step in preparation, of course, was to consult my PLN:

Here were the responses:

And then, after some additional direct message chatting/advice, Edna Sackson posed one of her trademark call-to-action challenges:

ednas-advice

It made complete sense, so I immediately accepted. But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous!

But I knew that to really be there for my colleagues and their concerns about planning this way, modeling was really the way to go.

So we started with the following provocation:

I jotted down a few questions beforehand, including:

  • What are our limitations from an education stance?
  • What if we don’t embrace the “Shake” or what if our students do not?
  • How can being creative within our confines transform ourselves, our students, and our world?
  • What accepted norms do we challenge when we plan around our students instead of content?
  • How is inquiry be seen as “seizing the limitation” instead of “seizing the day?”

Then, knowing the concerns that often surround this topic, I chose to conduct the Compass Points protocol to bring those to the surface (another pointer from Edna)!
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What excited our group about planning from an inquiry stance:

  • Students come up with and create learning
  • Allowing the students to teach their peers as well as me as the teacher
  • Kids are excited and chattering about the concept
  • Student centered
  • New fresh ideas from little minds
  • Freedom for creativity & flexible thinking
  • Kids just come alive and are excited to share their learning in meaningful ways
  • Continue learning trial and error
  • It allows students to be more invested in what they’re learning. Memorable & relevant.

Their worries:

  • Classroom management
  • Getting in content and making it all work together
  • Time limited
  • Kids don’t participate or stay on task. Lose control.
  • Chaos–students putting forth no effort to learn.
  • Students won’t come up with ideas or be silent about the concept.
  • Not meeting expectations. Some failed lessons as wasted time?
  • Lots of planning and unsure where to lead lesson.
  • Having 825 kids for only 30 minutes once a week (specials teachers).
  • Students miss out on valuable time to be active (from the PE teacher)

Their “Need to Knows:”

  • Methods I can take and use right away
  • How to make it all day long and put in the content in a way that can be easily accessed.
  • How to set up behavior expectations without squelching thinking.
  • What counts as an inquiry lesson or activity?
  • The process of guiding and directing the students better.
  • What will excite and engage students.
  • My students–their personalities, limitations/struggles, where they need to go next.
  • Be more familiar with process and what it looks like in my situation

Their Stances (how we might move forward in our opinions):

  • Being flexible and allowing things to get maybe more out of hand than usual
  • Continue learning trial and error
  • Being balanced
  • Ask myself the questions
  • Bring inquiry into more subjects
  • It’s a great idea but often conflicts with how I need to run my classroom

Next, we sorted each of the categories. We focused on the worries for this, and decided we were most concerned about not meeting expectations (ie “covering” curriculum), classroom management, time management, and the logistics of planning this way.

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We were at the “where do we go next” juncture, and together, we decided to look at examples of individuals who are addressing these concerns in their teaching:

  • A couple of first grade teachers examined this literacy example of Jessica Lifshitz allowing her students’ questions to drive the planning.
  • The art teacher read Taryn Bondclegg’s A Class Misunderstood because she was especially interested in what it looks like when issues arise in an inquiry approach, and how we deal with them.
  • Some first grade teachers also looked at Taryn Bondclegg’s summary of her first month of all-in inquiry.
  • A couple of second grade teachers looked at math examples from this grade 2 class and Simon Gregg’s class.
  • Several others browsed Kath Murdoch’s downloads, particularly her “What do Inquiry Teachers Do?”

Unfortunately, we ran out of time to have a proper wrap-up (it was only an hour session and they were in the thralls of exploring the above resources), but I heard some wonderful conversations happening, ranging from how teachers really use their students’ questions, to realizations that giving up teacher control does not mean allowing chaos to rule in the classroom.

And I learned/reaffirmed…

…a solid provocation and relevant visible thinking routine are powerful tools to elicit serious thinking.

…deciding “where do we go from here?” with our students is an act of trust in them and in ourselves as professionals.

…collaboration and curation are essential skills for inquiry teachers. We can lean on one another both for our initial planning (a huge thank you to my PLN!) and subsequent decisions on where to go with our learners.

I think the next step for this group involves a closer look at the daily process of student-responsive planning. What do you think?

featured image: shehan peruma

A Provocation Into Who We Are & Reflection

In the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (IB PYP), teachers organize their curriculum into six units of inquiry with broad titles. One of them is designated as the “Who We Are” unit, and it’s always a pleasure to watch my students investigate the central idea within this framework. A powerful resource to help provoke their thinking is a photo series by Tom Hussey called, “Reflections” (see his site for more).

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Provocation Questions

  • What does reflection look like for you?
  • How does reflection help us figure out who we are?
  • How does looking back help us move forward?
  • Why is reflection sometimes difficult for people?
  • How does the process of reflection change for people over time?
  • What causes people to become more interested in reflecting?

featured image: Shin-ichi Ueda