Inquiry into Attitudes: Respect

This is part of a series of inquiry-based provocations for essential elements of the PYP and the Learner Profile. For more, click here.

Respect. It seems to be a character trait frequently invoked when describing another generation (usually not in a very complimentary light). But as with all these provocations, how often do we give our students the opportunity to construct meaning for such traits for themselves?

This week’s provocation is meant to help students investigate the attitude of respect for themselves.

Resource #1: Respect Mother Nature by Jon Rawlinson

Resource #2: Day & Night by Pixar

Resource #3: For the Birds by Pixar

Resource #4: Celebrating Mr. Rogers by GoogleDoodles via The Kid Should See This

Resource #5: A Boy & A Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz & Catia Chien

Provocation Questions:

  • What is the role of noticing and appreciating differences when it comes to respect?
  • How does respect impact relationships with friends and family? Strangers?
  • What is our responsibility to respect our environment?
  • How is kindness similar to respect? How is it different?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Having Better Conversations on Global Awareness #TeacherMom

A few months ago when I shared the book, “This Is How We Do It,” with my 7 year-old, I remember getting flustered over one of the conclusions she drew: that just because that one kid in Peru looked poor, all kids in Peru are poor. I knew my frustration was more about my lack of ability to help her understand relative wealth of individuals vs. countries.

But it’s a misconception that’s certainly not just limited to young children. We make assumptions all the time about what life is like for people in other countries; stereotypes are reinforced by limited media coverage and of course, Hollywood.

This week’s provocation centers around helping our students start having better conversations on how people live across the world.

Resource #1: “See how the rest of the world lives” TED-Talk by Anna Rosling Rönnlund

Resource #2: Dollar Street interactive tool described in the above video!

Resource #3: “If the World Were 100 People” by GOOD Magazine

Resource #4: “Hans Rosling’s 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes – The Joy of Stats by BBC, set to start at :30 to save time (this is a MUST-WATCH, especially if you share the above video!)

Resource #5: This Is How We Do It picture book by Matt LaMothe

Provocation Questions:

  • What are living conditions like across the world?
  • What impacts quality of life?
  • What are patterns you observe when it comes to how people live around the world?
  • Why are their differences in how people live their lives?
  • How is the way people live changing?
  • What is our responsibility to understand the differences in the ways people live around the world
  • What are the different perspectives on what makes a quality life?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Inquiry into LARGE Numbers

My hope is for this provocation’s use to not be limited solely to teaching place, but to help kids gain a greater perspective of this bewilderingly large universe. That though we may be finite, with limited comprehension of the vastness, we do, in fact, have a place in it all. Enjoy!

Resource #1: VIDEO (not embed-able) “Forest of Numbers” by Emmanuelle Moureaux

Resource #2: A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars by Seth Fishman and Isabel Greenberg

Resource #3: How Much is a Million by David M. Schwartz & Steven Kellogg

Resource #4: Infinity & Me by by Kate Hosford, Gabi Swiatkowska

Provocation Questions:

  • How do we measure large numbers?
  • What are characteristics of large numbers?
  • Why does it matter to be able to measure very large numbers, even when they seem beyond comprehension?
  •  What is the difference between large numbers and infinity?
  • What does infinity mean to you?
  • How do large numbers, and/or infinity, impact your life?
  • How do large numbers, and/or infinity, impact society?

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What Happens When We “Let Kids In On the Secret” of Development #TeacherMom

It started with a conversation over birding. Having been raised to share love of bird-watching with her dad, my daughter was casually checking out a few species when she mentioned she wished she had her binoculars with her. That’s when I told her, “Did you know that some people can identify birds with other senses besides sight? If you were blind, what would you use to learn about birds instead?” This led to watching the video entitled, “Blind Birdwatcher Sees With Sound,” followed by all the other videos I recently included in an inquiry into the senses.

All this led to a fascinating conversation about the senses, absolutely packed with “aha moments” for my daughter. The baby video in the above-mentioned post particularly made us think together — we ended up talking about how important sensory experiences are for kids. That’s when she made the connection to why we call our bin filled with dry grain a “sensory box,” as well as other items in our home that she suddenly realized were deliberate choices based on her parents’ understanding of child development.

All at once, and to her delight, she was “in on the secret” on her own development as well as that of her brothers. She started to not only recognize but make suggestions to her environment when it comes to providing sensory experiences (particularly keen to share her pearls of wisdom on bettering her little brothers’ experiences). And quite apart from the learning element from it all, it has simply been a wonderful relationship-builder as well.

What does “letting kids in on the secret” look like at school? 

This phrase is regularly shared by inquiry educator Kath Murdoch. She writes,

“inquiry teachers have a transparent style. It’s not just about putting learning intentions up on the wall – they constantly ensure their kids know why they are doing what they are doing.”

In another post, she adds,

“We know that for many students, school is like a jigsaw puzzle…only no one has given them the picture on the lid of the box. We know now of course that when we hold on tightly to those secret intentions, when we fail to tell kids why they are learning what they are learning…when we take purpose away from the equation – we reduce motivation, engagement and understanding.”

Letting kids in on the secret might mean…

…letting a committee of kids design the next seating chart (after discussing the how and why behind it)

…regularly discussing learning standards/objectives and what they mean and how we get there (and how kids might help in the planning to get there!)

…having meaningful conversations about metacognition, and what specific strategies we seek to better understand our own thinking patterns and self-regulation

…teaching kids to recognize their own time-use and purposes, and then gradually providing them with opportunities to exercise agency in how they spend their time (such as in this Daily 5 example).

…frequently talking about the why behind everything we do!

What about you? What are some ways you have “let students in on the secret?” What has been the impact when you see students with a greater understanding of the big picture of school?

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How Did We Come to Playground Rubber Wood Chips? #TeacherMom

This was my inquiry on Google. Which then changed to “history of playground surfacing.” I earnestly wanted to know how we went from the sand and grass of my childhood to rubber mats and engineered wood fiber. Was it really, as comments on the currently popular image below would have us conclude, that today’s schoolchildren and their parents are over-protective “snowflakes?”

Turns out, there’s quite a bit more to the issue than nostalgia for the good ol’ days of tough kids and tough love.

An element that especially caught my attention was accessibility. In 2000, the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed as a civil rights law to prevent disability discrimination. Sand and gravel do not allow wheelchair-bound children to access playground equipment. Suddenly, I find the nostalgia fading for times when public funds only served able-bodied kids.

The much more slippery slope here, of course, is safety. I know I look back at my playground-sand “rug burns” with some strange fondness, and I’m certainly the last to suggest that preventing all cuts, bumps, or bruises is of a higher priority than play and exploration (I tend to congratulate my kids on “battle scars” when they get hurt while playing).

But I see nothing wrong with taking measures to mitigate serious injuries, especially when they are brain-related. Consider these figures from the CDC:

  • 200,000 children under age 14 visit hospital emergency rooms each year for playground-related injuries
  • 20,000 of these children are treated for traumatic brain injuries each year
  • The rate of hospital visits for traumatic brain injuries has recently increased significantly

While there are those that scoff at the fact that grass isn’t considered a safe playground surface, it’s important to remember that its “ability to absorb shock can be affected greatly by weather conditions and wear (via American Association of Orthopedics)–in other words, it becomes worn, compacted, and ultimately dangerous if you’re going to swing upside-down by your legs above it.

And again, it’s important to note that when we’re talking about brain injuries in children, it’s a serious conversation. According to the Brain Injury Association of America, “The assumption used to be a child with a brain injury would recover better than an adult because there was more “plasticity” in a younger brain.  More recent research has shown that this is not the case. A brain injury actually has a more devastating impact on a child than an injury of the same severity has on a mature adult.”

Of course, all precautions can be taken to an extreme — when we put kids at greater risk for childhood obesity than brain injury because we’ve so associated so much fear with rigorous play, for example, we still put them in harm’s way.

But when we wonder why things have changed since our own childhoods, we should remain curious, careful not to let our reminiscence stray into assumption and generalization.

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Inquiry Into the 5 Essential Elements of the PYP

This is part of a series of inquiry-based provocations for essential elements of the PYP. For more, click here

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

Inquiry: What Trajectory Are YOU On?

This week, I had the privilege to volunteer at my old school as one of the trainers for professional development day. I was asked to focus one of the workshops on inquiry planning and concept-based instruction in science and social studies. But the more I prepared, the more I realized that when it comes to inquiry, it’s not so much WHAT we do, as much as HOW we APPROACH.

So instead of spending our hour discussing science/social studies-specific ideas, we started off with a personal inquiry inventory, adapted from a couple posts by Kath Murdoch.

click for Kath’s post from which this inventory mainly originated

Next, participants used their inventory responses to determine which area of inquiry they wanted to investigate more.

As participants researched, they were also on the hunt for a sentence-phrase-word that helped them determine the difference between the same science/social studies activity used in a traditional teacher-driven classroom vs. an inquiry, concept-driven classroom.

I loved hearing the conversations, and engaging with participants as their research prompted new wonderings.

As everyone shared their Sentence-Phrase-Words, it led to more fabulous, thought-provoking discussions, such as…

  • …the fact that it’s a sacred trust to protect and cultivate the natural curiosity of our young charges — to not allow “the game of school” to drain that from them.
  • …the fact that everyone is on a different trajectory when it comes to adopting an inquiry approach — it’s not so much about how much of your day is dedicated to an inquiry-based instruction, but rather how consistently.

But by far my favorite part of our workshop was finishing up with “I used to think…Now I know…” sticky notes.

In case you can’t quite read them all in the above photo, I’ll list out the content here, too:

  • I used to think that students need to be taught. Now I know that they need to be guided.
  • I used to think the teacher had to give all the instruction using books, videos, etc. to teach about other cultures and countries. Now I know we can connect with other places in the world and talk with REAL people about their culture and country through technology.
  • I used to think that giving students agency can be scary. Now I know that with the right tools, it isn’t.
  • I used to think that joining curriculum and student-driven inquiry was too difficult to join in the classroom. Now I know it’s possible here as it is anywhere & not as hard as we convince ourselves.
  • I used to think that inquiry was complicated. Now I know we are making it complicated.
  • I used to think that questions were used solely at the beginning of a unit to drive the inquiry. Now I know questions can be a result of the inquiry and lead to more exploration.
  • I used to think inquiry was more work on the teacher. Now I know I need to lend it over to the kids — let them be kids.
  • I used to think that you had to fit everything in your lessons. Now I know that student driven lessons are more effective and fun.
  • I used to think that I always had to have an answer. Now I know that I don’t. Students can discover their answers through their own research.

I should add that thanks to the discussion during this workshop, as well as my continued online learning with teachers around the world, I need to add my own:

  • I used to think that to be an inquiry teacher, we must have students directing the learning 100% of the time. Now I know that it’s more about working toward creating a culture of ownership and curiosity, which can be present even during explicit teacher instruction.

Here are the links to all the research I shared with participants. Thank you so much to the many educators who so freely share their thinking and learning. I learn so much every day because of you! Kath Murdoch, Edna Sackson, Taryn BondClegg, Richard Wells, Sonya Terborg, Aviva Dunsinger, Sam Sherratt, and more.

Questioning:

Classroom culture:

Inquiry cycle for forward-moving planning:

Student-driven planning:

Hunter/Gathering for science/social studies:

Agency:

Focusing on CONCEPTS amid curriculum requirements:

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