Inquiry Into Being a Reader

In between larger series of my PYP essential elements provocations and soon-to-begin SDGs provocations, I’m doing a short series on learner identities. Last week was an inquiry into what it means to be a writer. This week is on what it means to be a reader!

Resource #1:  Reading Interest Inventories

There’s an abundance of reading interest inventories, but they all share the same goal: to help students learn and ponder more about themselves as readers. A definite must for this provocation! Explore a few below:

Resource #2: KidLit Childrens’ Books by Caroline Burgess animation

Resource #3: Night Reading by Brian Rea

Resource #4: Authors talking about themselves as readers (from my post, 18 Best Videos to Get to Know Children’s Authors/Illustrators)

Resource #5: Picture Books

Provocation Questions:

  • What does it mean to be a reader?
  • How does being a reader compare with the act of reading?
  • What is our responsibility to read? (for ourselves? for the world?)
  • How does reading shape our communities?
  • What are the different ways we read?
  • What are the perspectives on reading? Why are there different perspectives on reading?

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Inquiry Into Being a Writer

Now that I’ve finished my PYP essential elements provocations, I plan to begin the next series of inquiry-based provocations on the SDG’s (UN’s Sustainable Development Goals by 2030).

But first, I’d like to pause and do a couple of inquiries into more general learning identities. We all hope our students will move from “doing” math, writing, reading, or science” to seeing themselves as mathematicians, writers, readers, or scientists. Amidst the many curriculum-mandated tasks associated with those subjects, however, it can be difficult to hold on to this sense of identity.

This week’s provocation is meant to help students inquire into what it means to be a writer.

Resource #1: My recent post, “18 Best Videos to Get to Know Children’s Authors/Illustrators.” I had so much fun putting this compilation together with my kids. Almost a month later, my kids are still referring to specific videos in our house, recalling some funny thing Oliver Jeffers did or requesting a re-watch. Each of the videos offer a unique lens for what it means to be a picture book-maker, but below are a couple I would especially recommend in this context:

Resource #2: J.K. Rowling’s handwritten notes!

How J.K. Rowling Plotted Harry Potter with a Hand-Drawn Spreadsheet

Resource #3: How to Build a Fictional World Ted Talk by Kate Messner

Resource #4: Picture Books

Provocation Questions:

  • What does it mean to be a writer?
  • Why do people write?
  • How does our identity as writers change over time?
  • What is our responsibility to write? (for ourselves? For the world?)
  • What are the different perspectives on what makes a writer?
  • How does being a writer connect to being an author?
  • What is the connection between voice and writing?

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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: 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?

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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