Back to school is almost upon us again! Whether you’re ready or not, get a head start on your new IB PYP classroom with the TpT Back to School Sale! Teachers Pay Teachers is having their annual Back to School Sale from August 1-2. All of my products will be 20% off and TPT is offering more when you use the promo code BTS2017.
If you’re looking for high-interest activities and units to start off the new year, I have just what you may need. I’ve been working on providing more IB PYP products and adding to my collection of Complete Units of Inquiry. Take a look in my store and see if anything fits your upcoming Programme of Inquiry.
There are so many wonderful books for helping to teach children about the character traits of the IB Learner Profile. Over the years however, I keep returning to a few that I feel reinforce those profile traits really well. I’ve used these books with 3rd grade up to 6th grade equally successfully, even though they may seem to be a wee bit young for those age groups. They work well as quick read alouds and can be utilised to reinforce many reading skills and strategies too.- inferring, questioning, synthesising, figurative language and more. This page is a list of my favourite books for pulling together the Learner Profile traits. I like to use some of them within our units of inquiry or simply as a stand alone when the opportunity presents itself in my class to look more thoroughly at a particular profile trait.
I have grouped them according to each Learner Profile trait. Each picture is linked to Amazon so that you can click on any one and find out more about the book, customer reviews and so on.
Developing open-mindedness in children isn’t really that difficult since they are actually pretty loving and accepting of others around the world. Opening their minds to the myriad differences surrounding them is tantamount to developing an even greater sense of global awareness and international mindedness in a young person who is going to become our future. Keeping an open mind can also tie in with being a risk taker and trying new experiences. These books help to promote the attitude of acceptance and tolerance as well as inspiring a need for change in certain areas.
Risk Taker/Courageous Both of these books look at how the character faces fears and steps out of their comfort zone.
Journey is a beautiful tale of a girl who travels within her imagination.
Swimmy tells the story of a fish afraid to step out of his comfort zone and, once he does, discovers a whole world of learning and excitement as well as finding his confidence and strength from within. Emmanuel’s Dream is such an inspirational true story of a boy who only has one leg and yet, despite all of the challenges that he faces daily, still had the courage to face each and every one as he pursued his dream. I love to use this book for this profile trait! Especially since its true!
More Parts– I’ve used this book as a funny introduction to our unit about the human body. It was used as part of a lesson that looked into the importance of questioning within communication and of asking the right questions. My fifth graders LOVE it! It also offers a great opportunity to review idioms and other figurative language.
If……A beautiful book that inspires questions as we delve into some mighty big numbers that exist all around us. It is a great tool for reinforcing the reading skill of questioning. Provide each child with a sticky note or two and, as you read it together, have them note down the questions that pop into their minds as they discover the massive numbers within. I’ve also used it as we explored the key concept of FORM within maths for place value and as inspiration for writing using hyperbole.
Ah both of these books are amazing, feel good books. They are all about how human beings can be so incredibly caring to one another and the difference that caring makes to both the receiver and the giver.
Parts is one of my favourites for laugh out loud hilarity. It explores the human body and I have used it as a fun formative assessment about the body systems, as we read through the book, thus tapping into the knowledge of my fifth graders. It appeals to their lavatorial sense of humour at this age range, even though the book is for younger readers.
Hippos Can’t Swim is a non fiction book full of facts about animals and nature. It is a good book to demonstrate the trait of being knowledgeable since there are many facts that the older kids will know already and equally many that they may not yet know. Its fun.
Being a thinker involves using our knowledge to solve problems, thinking things through and even trying out different ways, making mistakes and recognising when we have made a breakthrough. These books look at rial and error as the characters evolve throughout their problems and move towards learning and solutions.
One Hen is set in a village in Africa and explores how one boy learns how to become self-sufficient and help his family to become independent and thrive, escaping hunger and poverty. He works with what he has to begin with and builds upon his previous ideas.
What Do You Do With A Problem? looks into the form and function of a problem and offers suggestions as to how best deal with such things. It’s a great book for reinforcing growth mindset too, especially with the IB Attitudes of independence and tolerance.
Two books that could be initially thought of as too young for upper elementary kids but really, the myriad of ways that they both focus on the trait of being principled is amazing.
Good Dog Carl is one of my all time favourites, not least because I have Rottweiles myself. The illustrations are beautiful, as Carl looks after the baby who seems intent on creating all kinds of mischief. Carl struggles to keep the baby on the right track between right from wrong and safe from danger. He’s such a good boy and so patient too! 🙂
A is for Activist is has an alphabetical list of different ways to promote rights, identify wrongs and how to take action. I have used this book, believe it or not, as a prerequisite to my 5th grade IB Exhibition. It was a great resource for looking at action. It’s a great book for review within Who We Are, How We Express Ourselves and other units of inquiry that inquire into human rights, revolutionaries and taking action for change.
These are fantastic books for looking at the ways we communicate.
Voices in the Park explores perspective as the same story is told in different ways throughout the book. I have used this to reinforce the key concept, Perspective and also within developing our communication skills.
My Mouth is A Volcano is so funny! As we develop our communication skills, we have to learn when to talk and when to be a listener. It covers the attitudes of Respect and Tolerance too.
Both books allow us to reflect upon how the characters changed. Each character goes through a lesson which helps them to develop an awareness of themselves, how they can help themselves to grow and improve and move onwards and upwards.
The Girl Who Never Made A Mistake is great at illustration how perfectionism can be debilitating and that we absolutely can use mistakes positively for our own learning.
Ish is a study of how we can harness our creativity and blossom without having to have everything exactly perfect. It actually questions, what is perfect anyway. I love it!
I hope you find this useful and find something that you can use. Happy clicking!
Back to school preparations are in high gear for some and are coming to a screeching halt for others as summer is upon us! I tend to fall into the latter category myself…despite good intentions every single year. You know, last minute cramming, moments before the kids walk into the classroom? But that’s how I roll after 23 years of this gig! However, for the many, many teachers who will be new or newish to the PYP this year, I wanted to put out a list of the essentials for every PYP classroom, giving even those of you who, like myself, tend to procrastinate all summer long, plenty of time to prepare.
Every PYP classroom, regardless of where you are in the world, ( 4655 IB world schools at the last count in 2017!), will have some commonalities as I’ve listed below. Your PYP coordinator will be able to provide a printed checklist list for you from the OCC ( IB’s Online Curriculum Centre). Entry to this site will require your school code as a password. If you do not have convenient access, you can download this FREE PYP classroom checklist list by clicking here.
I also found a really great, 4 minute video on You Tube a few years ago and still think it is one of the best for peeking into a PYP classroom set up. I’ve no idea who created it but I applaud them and gladly give credit. Check it out here.
The Essential Agreements
Although this is definitely something that will be required to be seen in your PYP classroom, it does require the children to be present and active participants in its creation and so isn’t possible to have it prepared in advance of day 1. But, it’s a fantastic way to help to establish procedures during those first few days when we are all just getting to know one another, as well as have the children be very much a part of forming our classroom community.
The Essential Agreements are essentially a list of agreements that are important to the balance within our classroom. They essentially consist of good attitudes, reinforce learner profile traits and are quite simply essential to a smoothly running, respectful environment. They are expected to stay up, for all to see, all year long. You can of course, add to and adapt them as the opportunities arise. But, essentially, you want to get those babies agreed upon and up within that first month. Essential. 😏
I like to have each child add their signature to our final list of Essential Agreements before we give it pride of place on the wall. Voila! Class contract completed.
The Classroom Posters
A set of PYP posters will be required to be in plain sight and easily accessed by the children so that they can constantly refer to them. You will find that this happens on a daily basis. The posters will need to cover The Learner Profile, The IB Attitudes, the six themes for each unit of inquiry, the transdisciplinary skills, the Key Concepts and the IB Action Cycle. These are things that are looked for by IB evaluators and crucial to a working PYP classroom at all levels. Ideally, the children will be part of the posters creations, evidenced by their own writing and drawings. This is up to you and the needs of yourclass of course. There are a myriad of great posters out there, not least the ones that can be found on the resource site of the IB’s own website but I, of course, am plugging my own creations too! :0 )
The Learner Profile posters are essential in that they describe the character traits of a learner and, since that’s what we are doing every day, it’s important that the children are able to see the language of the Learner Profile and have the posters under our noses as we are constantly referring to those learner traits. Each unit of inquiry will focus on specific learner profile traits. Check your planners to find out which ones are the focus for each. I like to point a big, bold, red arrow at the traits ( and key concepts) that are our focus for each unit. Another blog post that I created recently, does look at my favourite books for reinforcing the Learner Profile. You can link to that post here.
Involve the children & create your own banners or posters.
The IB Attitudes.
There are 12 attitudes that we refer to constantly. Within each unit of inquiry, there will be a focus of a few of them. The attitudes are what we use to develop the Learner Profile traits. I also like to reward the children when they are spotted using these attitudes with my Star Student tickets. This attitude is acknowledged with a star drawn on their work and a wee message for them. The children are taught from day one that they can earn their Star Student ticket by demonstrating the IB Attitudes in their day-to-day action at school. They know that when they see this star, they can independently walk over to the place where I keep the tickets and they will write themselves a Star Student ticket. It requires name, IB Attitude shown and the reason why they receive it. Example, ” I showed commitment when I handed my project in on time.” or ” I was cooperative with Bobby, as we read together to find the answers.” etc. The completed ticket will then be put into the tub ready to be drawn at the end of the day. Every afternoon, I will pull several tickets from our box, read aloud the recipient’s name and the attitude they demonstrated and the winners get to pull a prize from our prize box. Simple, effective classroom management,promotes growth mindset and the kids LOVE it! You can grab a free copy of the Star Student tickets here if you wish.
In addition, I do have a fancier-schmancier packet of positive behaviour prize tickets found in my store that are all related to the 12 IB Attitudes. Click here to view them.
The Key Concepts
These posters are a biggie since we teach everything through the lens of the big ideas of the 8 key concepts. Your students should know the definition of each key concept inside out and back to front by the time the year is over. Everything I taught, each curricular area, is through the key concepts. You can find more ideas as to how to use the key concepts within your teaching in this post from a few years ago.
The Transdisciplinary Themes
There are 6 themes. Each theme is what our unit of inquiry will fall under. Thus, these posters are used every six weeks or so; the length of an average unit of inquiry. They can be displayed altogether and pointed out with an arrow during each unit or, you can add them to an accumulative bulletin board that you use for your units of inquiry. Incidentally, when you introduce each unit, its great to point out the key vocabulary within that unit of the profile, attitudes, concepts, skills and theme by using the posters.
How We Express Ourselves
How the World Works
Sharing the Planet
How We Organise Ourselves
Who We Are
Where We Are in Place and Time
The Transdisciplinary Skills
Every learner is constantly developing the transdisciplinary skills within their learning behaviours. The 5 skills consist of a list of actions and behaviours that are under the umbrella of one main skill. I point the skills out every day, with maths, reading, research, group work, independent work and so on. When the children are asked to reflect upon their day, or at the end of a unit, they often refer to the Skills posters.
The IB Action Cycle
Action. Without it, it’s all just talk. Part of the IB philosophy is to encourage independent action. This will of course look quite different depending on the age of the child. However, within a PYP classroom, the cycle of action is taught, demonstrated, reinforced and encourage. Keeping it simple is key, in my opinion. There are so many smaller actions that can be achieved daily than one big action once a year.
Desks: More than Simply A Place to Sit
Whether you opt for flexible seating or fixed seating is entirely up to you, but the positioning of the desks is far more important. A PYP class is constantly working collaboratively, sharing ideas, thinking through problems and exploring artefacts and sources of evidence. It looks like a busy, productive factory with bodies moving and voices chatting. Positioning your tables or desks into groups is the most effective way of accomplishing this. The children can sit beside and opposite one another, they can move around their group, they can all see, hear and access materials far more easily than if they were sitting in rows. Of course, there are times when a teacher has to single out a few seats and separate children in order to maintain management. I totally get it! It can actually work in your favour in order to get the kids back into group work. Bribery? I prefer to call it motivation. 😈
The Teacher Table- Our Inquiry Table
In addition to having my table groups for the kids, I have a kidney shaped table in my classroom that serves as the gathering place for my group work as well as a place for individual groups to work together. I love this table and it usually doubles as my desk since I spend so much time working with the children at that table. I like to have that positioned in a central spot where I can have my students meet me AND I can still see what’s going on all around me. : if you know what I mean! 😉
On the whole though, you really want to establish the collaborative environment from day one. I plan to write a post for developing collaboration and team work very soon. Stay tuned. 🙂
A Second Language- Making the Room International
Most of the IB schools I have worked in have been truly international schools, with a fantastic group of children coming from all corners of the globe in one classroom. However, depending on where you work, this can vary. And so your Language B will vary too. In order to encourage development of a second language, the PYP classroom will have the basics labelled with both the native language and the second language.- pencils, rulers, door, desk etc. I also like to add a few key sentences in the second language too, posted around the room where the kids can easily refer to them. Examples:
“Please may I use the bathroom?”
“Can I fill up my water bottle please?”
“May I have a drink of water, please?”
These phrases slowly developed as we progress throughout the year, getting to the point that the kids are challenged to ask using the foreign language every time they want to ask. It can often be uncomfortable for some kids in the beginning, but with gentle coaching and firm perseverance, they really do get it mastered and feel immensely proud of their wee selves. You may even find that you are approached with suggestions to add to the repertoire of languages! My trickiest was Hebrew. Haha! Amazing what youwill learn from your kiddos!
So much of learning is inquiry based, student led and teacher facilitated and therefore we are constantly researching. Having the tools handy for research is important within a PYP classroom.
Computers should be kept in central location in your classroom. If you have laptops or tablets, keep them in cart or on a table. Using duct tape to mark the layout of them is handy, especially to encourage responsible ownership. Desktop computers can be spaced around the room or placed together in a kind of computer area.
There should be a plentiful selection of non fiction books readily available in your classroom library or, if they are sourced with each separate unit, keep them on display and hands on for the children, throughout the unit of inquiry.
I have a selection of good old-fashioned encyclopedias, dictionaries and thesaurus also on hand.
Maps or a world globe are fantastic tools too.
Your PYP coordinator will usually give you a deadline as to when you should have accomplished this list. So don’t panic if youre just reading this the night before school goes back! As I said earlier, there are many great tools and resources available to make your life easier for the set up of your PYP classroom. Please do reach out and let me know if there is anything that I could add to my store for you, to help make this set up easier. I am always open to hearing from you.
Student Led Conferences are an incredibly reflective experience for all involved; teacher, student and families. This post will walk you through what I’ve found to work well over the years. Please read on, take what you like and enjoy.
Form: what is it?
The shift from a private, teacher led conference with parents to a student led conference is exactly as it states. The teacher takes a step back and is simply the facilitator of the students’ preparation prior to the conference and the child takes the lead on the day of the event, leading their family through a snap shot of what they have learned, how they learn and how they are progressing.
It is a simply amazing experience to see how children step up to the challenge. They are beaming with pride as they guide their family through their classroom and involve the parents in the process of their day to day learning. Even the most shy pull out their communication skills as they show their visitors around their classroom- a place where they feel comfortable and know.
Behind the Scenes:
Once the family invitation letters have been sent out, along with the parent information letter, “What Are Student Led Conferences”, the preparation for Student Led Conferences can be overwhelming at first. After 8 years, I’ve found the best way to prepare is to actually set aside time in the day for at least a week before the big day. This of course may have to be adjusted based upon your class’s age and your school schedule. But a few hours a day, for a week, does it for me. This preparation can easily be incorporated into writing, speaking and listening skills with group discussions and expressive arts with role play and craft.
Over the years, I have created a selection of tools and forms that make it easier to record goals, communicate with parents and reflect upon our learning. A selection are editable to suit my changing needs with each class. ( not to mention that I’ve switched from 3rd, 5th, 4th, 3rd and back to 5th in 5 years! Phew!) They are easy to print and go and mix and match. These can be found here in my store for free. Yup Free! 🙂
As an IB World school, our children have a record of their learning throughout the years kept within their Student Portfolios. This portfolio plays a key part in our reflection process. If you do not have a portfolio already created, I have a great selection of cover sheets to create your own, within my Student Led Conference Kit.
I like to have the children select pieces of their work that show their learning within Language, Maths, Social Studies/Science and Expressive Arts from our most recent unit of inquiry.( these are usually six week long, cross curricular units)
We focus on things that we are:
Demonstrate our progress
This can be something that we have displayed on our walls, photocopied from their notebook or taken from their working binder. Each piece is reflected upon with either a sentence or a short paragraph, depending on the ability level of the child. I like to put everything into clear plastic pockets and insert them all into our portfolio. I found a pack of 50 poly pockets for only $5.95 on Amazon. A couple boxes of these works for the entire year.
We spend a great deal of time reflecting within an IB PYP school. I have a previous blog post here that goes into this in more depth if you wish. Also, there is an easy to use Learner Profile check list found in my store for free. It’s great to use at any time for any subject. I make a bunch of copies and file them ready to use for any subject or for the end of our units of inquiry.
IB Learner Profile: With the Learner Profile as the centre of the PYP, I spend a bit of time in advance preparing the children to share their perspective of themselves as learners. This is a fun writing and craft activity and the kids LOVE it. ( and for me, the craft is the carrot at the end of the stick for those reluctant writers..hehe)
The children will write a detailed paragraph about themselves and their own learning style, using the Learner Profile vocabulary. With scaffold sheets within my complete kit, its easy to differentiate too. The edited final copy is written or typed in a speech bubble.
The children then create their own self portrait of head and shoulders, attach the speech bubble writing and, on the day of our Conferences, we tape the whole thing to our chairs, tuck the chairs in and voila, we have a class of cute learners just waiting patiently for their guests to visit. Parents love it! They can see where their child sits AND where their friends sit.
Providing a few activities that involves families allows the children to show their visitors how they learn within our classroom, initiates a natural collaboration amongst the adults and children and gives the family an idea of what we have been learning.
I love inquiry based learning activities. These are set out as stations around the classroom. I usually have two or three stations of each activity. This, I determine based upon the number I have visiting throughout the conferences. You will know this from your parent feedback returned after invitations have been sent home. I like to include writing, STEM and research tasks.
Included in my complete kit:
Research- webquest activity
STEM- identifying math with engineering activity
STEM- working through the scientific method designing glasses
Language- writing a triptych using inferring skills.
It is a very good idea to rehearse the whole conference procedure with your kiddos. Once I’ve gone over the scheduled routine with the class, we get into pairs and role play the conference. With my older kids I like to keep the activities a secret. Unseen adds to the authenticity of the inquiry experience. I’ve learned that it’s a good idea to let my younger kids see what’s coming, so that they can lead the activity. Some parents like to take over. And I encourage the kids to be the leader for this time.
Each child takes turns at being the leader and the guest. We then do some peer reviews and practice again with the constructive feedback.
With SLCs you will have several families visiting at one time. This can come as a surprise to some parents even though you’ve sent out the parent information letter. Keep it light-hearted and encourage them to allow their child to share. When you’re scheduling times, it’s a good idea NOT to have more than 4 families in your room at one time. It makes it more personal for the families, keeps the noise down so children’s voices can be heard and allows for better management of your inquiry stations. Try to keep visitors on schedule with a friendly ” five minutes to go” announcement. Otherwise it can become chaotic. ( been there, done that!)
All Right on the Night: no matter how much preparation you do, you can’t control every little detail or the quirks of excited children and their parents. So, once the children have introduced you to their family, quietly sink into the background and let the students lead their parent conference. Take loads of pics and add them to your next classroom blog, newsletter or website. Parents LOVE to see it all.
For those who know me, it’s not unusual for the restlessness to kick in and spark my wanderlust. I returned to Colorado only 18 months ago, after dragging my teenagers around for a year in France for heaven’s sake! The credit card is still recovering from the costs of shipping furniture across the Atlantic and back again! ( I do NOT recommend shipping your entire household goods, its cheaper to start afresh! But that’s a whole other blog post I suppose. ) Yet, here I go again…..planning, planning…my next adventure.
My wings are temporarily clipped however. A promise was made to my teenage children that we wouldn’t move again until they graduated high school. So, two years to plan. 😊 One can come up with a lot of mischief when given two years to think about it.
Keep in mind, when I travel, it isn’t for a two week package tour, although nothing wrong with that if that’s your preference. Oh no. I’m more of the “shut up shop for a year or so” mindset, and off we go! Nothing simple.
Dream Boards: It is Good to Edit One’s Life.
In order to keep the dreams alive and keep my focus on the direction that I am heading, I create a Dream Board. A Dream Board is a magnificent list of pictures, a visual of what it is that you are aiming towards. I came across Dream Boards a long time ago, through a man called John Assaraf. You may recognise his name as one of the speakers from the book and DVD called, The Secret.
Well, I am now onto my 10th dream board. It can take any form that is most comfortable for you. I use it as a visual checklist and also as a way of keeping the dream alive, if you wish.
Whilst we are dreaming of goals in the future, it is also important to appreciate life in the present. My dream boards represent short term goals as well as my longer term targets.
Creating Your Dream Board
I begin by looking through a selection of magazines. It is fabulous to take the time for yourself and prepare a warm drink of tea or a cool glass of wine as you are flipping through glossy pictures. Cutting out the pictures that symbolize what it is that I am aiming for, I create a collage of my dreams and goals by gluing the pictures onto a large sheet of cardstock or poster board. You can be glamorous and opulent or simple and to the point. It is your board and they are your dreams. Think big!
There are many websites that can help you with this process, if that is your preference. Dreamitalive.com is one that I have used in the past. Also, I particularly like the kit by John Assaraf himself. It comes with a book that I like to make notes in, a DVD and a ton of advice on using the power of intention and visualising to reach your goals. I frequently listen to the DVD when I’m in the car, just another method to keep myself focused and work through the steps that it takes to get me to my goals. You can find the kit by clicking on the picture.
My 2017 Dream Board
The completed board becomes a tangible tool that is hung where I can see it everyday. In my case, my board, as you can see below, hangs in my bedroom right where I can see it upon waking first thing and just before I close my eyes at night. I also took a photo of it and I use it as my screen saver on my phone. Thus, it is there, very visible and absolutely present, at the forefront of my mind on a daily basis. Gradually, I put little check marks beside the pictures as I accomplish and meet each target. It is remarkable, when the mind is focused on something, how easy it seems to manifest. I truly appreciate my life as it is today, knowing that I have deliberately created it, whilst still shooting for goals and dreams for tomorrow.
As Helen Keller said, ” Life is a great adventure, or nothing at all.”
All the best to you in 2017 and dream on.
I am a huge fan of inquiry based teaching and learning. After all, I am a die-hard IB PYP teacher. Anything that promotes thinking in an engaged manner and reinforces understanding excites me! Concept based learning looks at a given subject through the lens of concepts or “big ideas” and encourages the children to think about those big ideas rather than having a subject stuffed into a small box. It enables more connections to be made and, in my opinion, creates a more authentic learning experience where all subjects and skills can be utilised. Lets begin with The Concept Map!
The Concept Map-The idea of using background knowledge with inquiry and directing thinking strategies to create understanding in science.
Rather than “giving” students the answers, this form of making thinking visible develops the habit of inquiring in order to find the answers, using thinking strategies such as inferring, questioning, background knowledge and collaborative thinking, when they have to find the answers to their questions. Not to mention, making their learning rigorous and authentic. It is a good idea to model these maps prior. I have used a stand up game called ” Associations” to practise the skill.
Association- an Interactive Game
This involves about 5 or 6 children standing in front of the classroom. One child from the audience has to give the group a starting word such as ” Fish”. The first person standing up in the line will say aloud, ” Fish”. The next person in the line has to immediately think of a word that they associate with fish and say it aloud. And so on along the line. For example: Fish, ocean, shark, danger, drowning, safety, swimming etc. The group continues as far as they can. If one person pauses too long then they are eliminated and must sit down. I usually leave it til there are 2 children left standing. Those 2 remain standing and another 3 or 4 kids are selected to participate. It can also be timed, with a time limit set.
An Example: The Pre-Knowledge Activity
Our key concept was CONNECTION.
I gave the children six commonly known words related to the circulatory system and asked them to work together to show how the words connect. Each line connecting two words had to have a written association or connection. This was done in small groups, which for this vocabulary activity was arranged in ability groups. You can of course implement this with mixed ability groups too. For example: the word CIRCULATION and HEART was connected with a line and 2 words were written on the line showing how the children connected the two words. One group wrote, ” blood” and ” moving in a circle”along their line linking the words. As I chatted with them, they explained to me their thinking. You can see how they children used their knowledge of the heart having something to do with blood and their decomposition of the word circulation. They saw that part of the word looked like CIRCLE and thus they inferred that the word must mean moving in a circle and “perhaps it meant that the blood was moving around the body in a circle”!! Not to far from the facts, right? 🙂
The Post- Knowledge Reflection: Showing How Their Thinking Has Evolved.
After several lessons and experiment activities around the circulatory system, the children had to add six additional, more complex words to their original concept maps. These had to be shown in a different coloured marker so that the ” before” and ” after” knowledge could be seen clearly. As they reflected on their prior knowledge, there were several corrections made, facts added and giggles stifled, as the kids noticed how much their knowledge of the subject had increased. Effective learning that can be used with any concept!
Many more ideas where the children can show their thinking tangibly can be found in the marvellous book, ” Making Thinking Visible” by Ron Ritchart. You can clink this link and find it on Amazon. Hope you can find some use with concept maps. Feel free to let me know how it goes.
Just last week my daughter asked me what my New Year’s resolution would be. Before answering, I cynically thought about how I’ll swear to exercise more, eat less and lose the same 10 lbs I’ve been losing and gaining for the past ten years. I chickened out in my response, ” I haven’t really thought about it yet.” But really, isn’t it good to reflect upon where we are and set goals for where we would like to be? I mean we do it in the classroom very frequently.
Every six weeks we reflect upon our learning within the IB Primary Years Programme. We focus on the Learner Profile trait of being reflective and look back at the central idea and how our understanding has change. We think upon the key concepts covered and contemplate our learning through those concepts. And, of course, the transdisciplinary skills are contemplated and we consider which skills we have improved with and those which still require work. That’s a lot of reflection for our kiddos and the danger I have found is that it can become monotonous, routine and therefore not really meaningful for the kids. Just the same old, same old on the same old piece of paper stuffed into our portfolios until the following six weeks.
Making Reflection Meaningful and Differentiated
With the thought of differentiation looming large ( as our school wide focus), I thought about the rigmarole of reflecting and how it was seriously lacking authenticity. So, in order to help my kiddos who struggled with writing, I created a selection of easy to complete and fun to think about reflection sheets. These began with the simple task of creating a cartoon to show their learning. This was received with far more enthusiasm than the usual reflection sheets. And, some of the more able kids even wanted to use them. Thus the Goal Setting and Reflection packet was born. I went home and thought about how I wanted the kids to be able to choose their own reflection format. It is after all a very personal moment when we are asked to reflect. I wanted to ensure that the important details were considered ( concepts, central idea, profile, skills, attitudes) and then scaffolded the sheets accordingly to suit the different needs within my classroom.
What is Refection?
My fifth graders and I spent some time prior to the end of unit, thinking about what it really means to reflect.
We used the idea of concept maps to look back at the new knowledge that we had gained over the course of the unit of inquiry.
We studied our inquiry bank and wrote down questions that arose from our original questions.
We flipped through our working binders and notebooks and highlighted the learning that showed we had used certain transdisciplinary skills and Learner Profile traits, making notes by those highlighted pages.
We then went back to the central idea and, in our small groups, we broke it down to fit in with the concepts we had studied and wrote a group statement as to what it NOW meant to us and our knowledge now.
After all of that ( which took us about a week), I introduced the new planners for our unit reflection, I selected 3-4 different formats and then allowed the students to pick their
own sheet for reflecting
The children were told to spend at least ten minutes remembering what we discussed about the skill of reflecting and to take the full 40 minutes given, to complete their unit reflection. You could have heard a pin drop! The entire class was engaged in flipping through past notes and activities, silently thinking about their learning and creating a meaningful and authentic piece of work that truly showed their thinking and perspective of their own learning. Voila! Success!