How much time do you spend shushing twenty-four children while one child speaks?

Do you find yourself frequently shushing twenty-four children while one child speaks? 

It is true that children need to learn to listen as well as talk. It is true that patience is a virtue. It is true that we need to teach our children to be polite and wait their turn. It is true that sometimes (but not always!) it’s worth everyone listening to what one person says.

But…

Have you added up the number of minutes in a day, a week, a year, that all except one child in your class are passively waiting their turn, while one child at a time (or the teacher!) talks? 

Have you considered the possibility that every idea does not have to go via the teacher?

Instead of every child getting a turn to share their idea while the whole class listens, would any of the following work?

  • Turn and talk to a partner.
  • Discuss in a group – Share only one thing that surprised you or one thing that was controversial.
  • Write your thoughts on a sticky note and post it up for everyone to read.
  • Share your thinking in a back channel like Todays Meet.
  • Write on big poster sheets then move around and read others’ responses.
  • A Chalk Walk, or a Carousel.
  • Collaborate on a google doc.
  • Use virtual sticky notes to post your thoughts in Linoit or Padlet or respond in Answer Garden.

Benefits:

  • More efficient use of learning time.
  • Active and social learning.
  • Increased student ownership.
  • Practising a range of skills in addition to listening (and waiting) – speaking, reading, writing, thinking, collaboration, cooperation, tech skills.

#1 in a series on making small changes

What other ideas can you add to the list above?

** Would you like to contribute a post to the series on making small changes? Something we all tend to do or you have observed in classrooms? Ideas of simple ways to do it differently? 

 

 

The school effect…

Do you encourage learners to construct meaning and make sense of the world around them?
Or do you feel bound by the constraints of the curriculum?

Do you encourage creativity, imagination and initiative?
Or is it more important that students learn to play to the game of school?

Are you constantly seeking ways to pique learners’ curiosity and provoke thinking ?
Or are you usually covering content and ensuring they learn what they need to know?

My curious grandson Shai is a fearless explorer and learner at the age of two, and I often wonder what effect school will have on him.

Imagination

Here’s what four year olds said about imagination…

What is your imagination?

  • When you think about something that’s not real.
  • It could be something that you dream about like a dragon that could bite you.
  • My imagination is a rainbow coloured.
  • It gives you stories.
  • It gives you pictures in your head.
  • I think my imagination starts in my head but then it just pops out of your head.

Do adults have an imagination?

  • It’s only for children because it’s very special.
  • I think adults do have imagination as well, but children’s are better.
  • Adults think about real things.

And then here’s what Grade 2s said about stories…

(They had just been exposed to a range of lovely stories told in different ways!)

What do you know about stories?

  • They have a beginning, a middle and an end.
  • They have words in them.
  • They have to be read.
  • Some are fiction and some are non fiction.
  • It can’t just be short.
  • They have characters.

Why do we tell stories?

  • To get information.
  • So we can learn from them.
  • To use up time.
  • So we learn new words.

Hmm… Is that the ‘school effect’?

Observing learning… A letter to my grandson

Dear Shai

Observing you learn, even from the other side of the world, is as enlightening as it is rewarding.

Watching your videos over and over (as faraway grandparents must do) reveal, with each viewing, new things about you and your learning…

Your unbridled curiosity as you explore new things, experiment, play and investigate.

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Your hutzpah, as you engage in activities intended for the older kids.

Your joy in your learning as you jiggle and dance while you ‘work’.

Your intensity when you find something that interests you, applying yourself to the same task again and again in different ways to see what happens.

Your fearlessness as you approach new encounters, patting a hamster and an iguana with equal enthusiasm.

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Your thoughtfulness, as you stop to consider the best solutions to problems that present themselves- How will you climb up the step while carrying Granny (in the iPad)?

Your initiative, as you approach new equipment and new experiences – Who says you can’t photocopy a spoon?

Your creativity in finding new ways to use toys and nontoys, irrespective of how they are ‘supposed’ to be used.

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Your impatience, pointing and grunting when you don’t have the language to ask for the help you need in achieving the task at hand.

Your persistence, not giving up till you succeed at what it is you seek to do. Who says you can’t fit through the laundry doorway with two washing baskets in tow?

Your pride in your own achievements as you cheerfully applaud your successful attempts at placing the shapes in the appropriate holes.

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Your disdain for ‘the rules’, as you insist on choosing your own learning experiences.

I hope you retain these qualities as you grow and that they are not knocked out of you once you go to school…

Always sharing in your learning,

Granny xx

 

No secret teacher business…

One of the things I enjoy most, now that I no longer have my own class, is when teachers excitedly share examples of student thinking and learning with me.

Here is a lovely learning reflection by 12 year old Sassi (with her permission)…

At the beginning of this year, our teacher sent us an ibook called ‘Making The PYP Happen.’ This book has so much information on different ways of learning, how to look at different big ideas, this book explains concepts, explains attitudes, clarifies learner profiles and gives me great ideas on how to look at a big chunk of information.

At the start of Term 1 in Mrs. B’s class, I didnt really understand how I could go deeper in my learning and wasn’t sure how to take the information and learn in this different way. Now, half way into Term 3, I can’t imagine learning in the other way that I used to.

A big word that Mrs. B taught us at the beginning of the year was ‘metacognition’ and that means thinking about thinking. I now realize that to really be successful in your learning (in 2014) you first have to make sure that the way you look at your learning is the best way of doing so.

I am now a reflective learner who gets more out of the activity by looking back and also observing as I go. I really like having my own Weebly blog and I love adding posts to the ‘Learning Journey’ page, where I look back at what skills I have used in the last week. I take into account how those skills helped me so that I can use them and improve when I do another activity. I have become a critical thinker and I look at each side of any story or fact.

I used to think that learning would stop when I went out of the classroom. I now know that if one wants, one can be a life long learner and always learn and be a thinker in any situation.

This way of learning definitely suits me and I can definitely see how much I have developed as a learner – from just doing work and making sure I understand the formula, into a learner who inquires and clarifies how it works to understand why it is like it is.

I will take all of my metacognitive skills with me throughout my life in school and outside of school. Because I have developed so much as a learner, I feel that I can pick up on things faster and learn in a better way.

My observations about learning in this class:

  • Learners have access to the ‘handbook’ which details the desired knowledge framework, conceptual lenses, skills and attitudes we hope they will develop. No ‘secret teacher business’!
  • Learners use the language of learning, without the teacher being concerned about difficult vocabulary. She has faith in her students’ ability to learn.
  • Learners are empowered to take ownership of their learning and given the tools with which to do so.
  • Learners are encouraged to think deeply, not just just about WHAT they learn but about HOW they learn. They consciously observe themselves as learners and reflect on their learning.
  • Documenting their own learning supports students in the reflection process. Doing so on a blog means others beyond their classroom can participate and comment. (This class also has bubble catchers in which they capture their thinking through writing, mind mapping or illustration, taking care to ‘tag’ their reflections with the big ideas.)
  • Learning isn’t viewed as class work, but as an ongoing, indeed lifelong process. Our learning principles are alive and evident in this learning space!
  • Learning how to learn, think critically, see different perspectives and understand themselves as learners takes students far beyond content or curriculum.

Unfortunately, it seems that some learners see this as a different ‘way of learning’. Isn’t this what learning should always be like?

Building an understanding of digital citizenship…

What do these two words mean?

consume           create

Everyone in the class knows what ‘create’ means but only a few are familiar with the word ‘consume’. mostly in the context of eating, although one girl says ‘It’s when you take something in, for instance information’.

We use breakfast as our example and they get the idea that making the eggs could be seen as creating and eating them as consuming. We deliberately do not use a dictionary, so that they construct meaning for themselves, rather than narrow down their understanding with a fixed definition at the start.

In groups, the children then brainstorm all the things they do in a day, making sure every item includes a verb – watch TV, play Minecraft, eat lunch, write a story…

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Using two colours, they highlight which of these are consuming and which are creating. The conversations are rich, as they build their understanding and discover that it’s not either/or, that some are both and some are neither… maybe.

Which of their daily activities are digital? In new groups, they now brainstorm their digital activities, taking care to include verbs, so that, for instance, ’email’ becomes ‘read email’ and ‘write email’…

They are already discussing consuming vs creating before we even ask the question. They are totally engaged and, apart from building their understanding of the desired concepts, so many trans-disciplinary skills are evident – communication, thinking and social skills – and, quite incidentally, a host of outcomes from the English scope and sequence.

At the end they write down what they understand about creating and consuming now…

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They’re clearly ready to move ahead in developing the desired conceptual understandings in this unit of inquiry…

CONCEPTUAL UNDERSTANDING BEGINNING DEVELOPING ESTABLISHED
We need to think critically about digital content that we view and create.

Reflection

I don’t think critically about digital content.I believe what I read on the internet.

I don’t think critically about what I post online.

 

I understand that not everything on the internet might be valid or true and can explain why.I can give some some examples of how I consider audience and purpose when I create digital content online.

 

I can explain how to assess if a website is reliable or not.I can identify and analyse techniques used to influence consumers.

I choose appropriate techniques to communicate creatively and  effectively online and can give examples.

People are responsible for digital content they create.

Responsibility

I can give some examples of how I can be responsible online.  I can explain how things I post online can affect my own reputation.I can explain how things I post online can affect the wellbeing of others. I take responsibility for my digital footprint and can explain how and why I do this.I can demonstrate my positive digital footprint.

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The internet enables us to communicate and collaborate with people all over the world.

Connection

I can identify ways that I communicate with others online.  I can compare and evaluate different tools for online communication and collaboration. I connect, communicate and collaborate with people online and can say what I have learned from my interactions.

Our learners are gearing up to connect with kids in other parts of Australia as well as India, Japan, Thailand, New Zealand, Canada and other countries via Skype, Twitter and blogs. And they are already asking a range of interesting questions into which they might inquire!

In addition to refining this unit of inquiry with the Year 5 teachers at my school, I’ll be leading an IB workshop on Digital Citizenship in Melbourne in May, so feedback, resources, ideas and other perspectives are invited.  Please leave a comment!

Welcome to the world…

Hello little guy,

Welcome to the world.

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Your mom and dad are teachers and learners. I wonder what kind of learner you will be…

  • Will you build a house of books, taken from the overflowing shelves in your parents’ home and read voraciously?
  • Will you be curious, continuously asking questions about the world, including how you can make it a better place?
  • Will you think deeply about everything, and courageously take a stand towards changing things that matter to you?
  • Will you care intensely about others, your family, your friends, the people of the world… and learn from them all?

… just like your parents do.

We look forward to finding out!

Love from

Your excited grandparents.

10 questions to help you become a better teacher…

I read the post 10 Questions To Help You Become A Better Teacher This School Year by Terry Heick with interest.

The post grabbed my attention as I often sum up my own ideas in ten points. It has some interesting questions for teachers to consider, but I wonder if the post perpetuates the (mistaken?) idea that we should focus mainly on what we do and how we teach in order to improve as educators. In my opinion, focusing more on learning and less on teaching is a more worthwhile endeavour.

So here’s my take. 10 (other) questions to ask yourself that I think might help you be a better teacher…

1. What do I believe about learning?

How does learning best take place? Do kids learn by listening? By doing? By finding out for themselves? Does everyone learn in different ways? Do I value collaboration? Do some kids need to work alone? Does compliance contribute to learning?

2. Does my practice reflect my beliefs?

Do I provide opportunities for learning to flourish? Are learning experiences in my class aligned with my beliefs? Do I reflect regularly and critically to check if they are? Can someone else observe my classes and give me feedback? What if I asked the kids?

3. How do I shift my focus from what I teach to how they learn?

Is my teaching responsive? Do I constantly change the plans, depending on the learning? Do I step back and listen to the learners? Do I carefully observe and record where learners are at? How do I use my observations to inform teaching and learning?

4. Is the learner at the centre of everything?

Do I know every child’s story? What makes them happy? What do they care deeply about? What bothers them? How they do like to learn? What’s not working for them? How can I help connect the learning to their personal experience?

5. Do my students own their learning?

Do I talk too much? Test too much? Am I always in control? Does every conversation need to go through me? Do my learners have choice? How can I encourage them to take responsibility for the learning?

6. How can I ‘make friends with the curriculum’?

(Thanks for the quote, Sam Sherratt). Do I let the demands of curriculum get the better of me? Am I always trying to fit things in and tick things off? Can I become really familiar with the curriculum so that it’s woven through the learning experiences? How can I make trans-disciplinary connections? Am I ready to jump in with ‘just in time’ teaching?

7. How do I encourage creativity?

Can I stop playing ‘guess what’s in my head’? Do I encourage divergent thinking? How can I help my learners seek worthwhile problems to solve, rather than just the ones I set? How can I incorporate the arts into the learning? Is imagination as important as information?

8. How can I ensure the learning space promotes learning?

Did I get rid of rows facing the front years ago? Are the tables arranged for collaboration? Do we even need all the tables? Can we change the room around, depending on the learning needs? Do we need all the ‘stuff’ that clutters the room? What makes the learners comfortable? Will some colourful cushions change the feel of the learning? Can calming music affect the mood?

9. How can I ensure I am a learner first?

Am I a connected educator? Have I built a global PLN (professional learning network) using social media? Have I been to a Teachmeet or an Edcamp? Am I constantly reading and thinking about learning? Do I create my own learning opportunities? Or do I expect PD to be done to me?

10. How can I contribute to a culture of learning?

Am I a continual learner? Do I talk about my learning? Am I open to new ways of thinking? Am I ready to learn from my colleagues and my students? Do I willingly share my ideas? Do I bring solutions and suggestions rather than problems and complaints?

OK, so there are actually more than fifty questions, if you don’t just count the headings…

Who said becoming a better teacher was easy?

10 principles of effective professional learning…

Tweet

Apparently this random comment (my response to a tweet in last week’s #edchat) was well received!

This got me thinking (again) about the principles of effective professional learning for educators. In no particular order, the following points are based on my own experience.

Effective professional learning needs to be…

1. Conceptual

Effective learning for teachers is not always about things you can try tomorrow, but rather big ideas that shift your understanding of teaching and learning.

2. Self directed

Teachers need opportunities to set their own goals, choose their own learning and follow their own interests. (Sometimes the most effective medium to achieve that is social media.)

3. Inquiry driven

The most effective learning isn’t usually ‘delivered and received’. Teachers need to question, experiment, apply, find and solve problems, engage in action reasearch.

4. Collaborative

Learn with and from others. build a personal learning network. Create communities of practice in your own school, your neighbourhood, the world…

5. Creative

Think beyond one-size-fits-all PD delivered by ‘experts’ on special days set aside for the purpose. Create your own learning opportunities. Visit other classes. Start voluntary groups. Participate in Teachmeets. Engage via Twitter and blogs. Find your own people!

6. Personalised

How often are teachers compelled to attend one-size-fits-no-one sessions, not relevant to their current programs, practice, interests or experience? Even on school wide ‘PD days‘, teachers can have a choice.

7. Reflective

Too often, teachers are expected to shift rapidly from one ‘topic’ to the next (@lisaburman called it ‘Hit and run’). Effective learning includes sufficient time for reflection, application… and further reflection.

8. Active

Learning is often less effective when the expectation is for learners to listen passively. There need to be active participation and engagement, opportunities to interact, reflect and construct meaning.

9. Enjoyable
(I crowd sourced this one). Teachers like their professional learning to include humour and a sense of fun. It doesn’t need to be a boring chore!

10. Challenging

Professional learning (like any learning) can be messy. There should be tensions to work through and big ideas to connect. It goes beyond solutions and formulae and things to try out tomorrow… which takes us back to where we started!

Of course, all of this applies to any learners, not just teachers. Try replacing the word ‘teachers’ throughout the above post with ‘students’, or simply ‘learners’… which takes me back to a post I wrote a while ago about adult vs child learners. What are your thoughts on that?

What’s been your best professional learning experience? Did it fit the above criteria? What have a I missed?

What kind of leader are you?

Autonomy. Mastery. Purpose.

This is Daniel Pink’s message today about what motivates people.

So…

Dear Principals all over the world,

How do you motivate your staff?

Is there real educational dialogue between you and your teachers? Do you meet with them regularly to share conversation about teaching and learning?

What’s your educational vision? What do you believe about learning? Are you driven by your passion for education? Are all of these evident in the way that you speak and act?

Do you value the perspectives of the people on the ground? Do you pay attention to their opinions and encourage them to act on their beliefs?

Do you know who the real leaders are in your school? Do you encourage their creativity, passion and innovation?

What kind of leader are you?

MANAGER VS LEADER