Responsive planning… and the biography of an idea

Our early years teachers call it ‘ping pong’.

What invitation or provocation do we throw to the children?  How do they respond?  How do we decide where to go next, based on what’s been revealed?

Whilst early years teachers are skilled at documenting learning, and at making decisions about what to catch and what to throw back to the children, teachers of older learners traditionally plan further in advance, paying more attention to addressing curriculum outcomes than to where children might lead the learning.

Drawing on our work with Sam Sherratt a few years ago, we have been working on a more responsive approach to planning, even in the upper grades.

In our Learning Team Leaders meeting, teachers reflected on the ways that ongoing collaborative planning meetings in their teams have changed over time…

  • We are more flexible in when we meet, so that we can plan responsively.
  • Google slides are live documents that allow ongoing collaboration.
  • We create guiding questions that might unfold in different ways in each class.
  • We agree on conceptual understandings and plan less of how are we going to get there.
  • Our focus is less on what we will be doing and more on the why.
  • We are planning less. We’ve slowed down a lot.
  • We have refined the planner so that it is a live document, ever changing as we see where the learners take us.
  • The ‘what’s been revealed’ slide has helped make decisions about how to move the learning forward.

When I posted the ‘what’s been revealed‘ slide on Twitter recently, it was viewed with appreciation by educators around the world and I enjoyed seeing the idea loop back to @sherrattsam. In another loop, I found our Early Years Leader, @shanupiter’s ‘ping pong’ referred to in an old post by Sam and I was reminded of a clip I made some years ago illustrating where my ideas come from.

I’m intrigued by the notion of the biography of an idea, recently brought back from a Cultures of Thinking conference by our Year 6 teachers, as we explore possibilities for further opening up our PYP expedition. Over the years we have simplified PYPX, shifting the focus from product to process, from a fact finding mission to the development of self as a learner...

  • What if the the biography of an idea was a through-line for the expedition and the exhibition?
  • What if instead of ‘coming up with a topic,’ learners were encouraged to generate and play with ideas, within the broad context of ‘thinking beyond ourselves’?
  • What if learners were encouraged to document what and who inspired them during their journey?
  • What if learners visually represented their understanding of the back and forth involved in the process of developing ideas?
  • What if they used their failures productively and could explain how these helped them move ideas forward?
  • What if they mapped the ways that various inquiries over the year (and previous years) influenced their current ideas?

What else?

It’s a ‘ping pong’ provocation.

By Monday, the team will have picked up the ball and be ready to throw something back! Within a few days, the idea will either have rolled into the gutter, or my entire network will help develop it further by responding with elaborations and further ‘what if’s.

I know that much about the biography of an idea!

2 thoughts on “Responsive planning… and the biography of an idea

  1. When I asked my class whether it was possible to write a biography of an idea, most of the children responded as an emphatic “No” but a handful said that it was possible. The argumentative aspect of it was most interesting. After an animated discussion, about half of my class had a mind shift.

    Liked by 1 person

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