Showing posts from December, 2012

Taking the PYP Forward - The Role of ICT in the PYP

This chapter infuriated me.  There, I said it.  That felt better.  They make some good points about higher order skills at the beginning of the chapter, and then go to provide five spotlights where schools could focus on these skills to... well, I'm not really what the purpose is.  Improve learning?  That seems to be what they are saying, that in order to improve learning you need to use technology.  I profoundly disagree with this.  Great learning can happen with or without technology.  Yes, tech can improve on some things, or make others easier, but it does not replace other forms of learning.  I see no separation between technology learning and non-technology learning.

A pencil is technology.

All of the examples of projects or units given in the chapter could have been easily done without technology, with no real change to learning or thinking going on.  That to me is the key word, thinking.

How is technology changing the thinking of your students?  Is it a necessary part of…

Taking the PYP Forward - English as a Second Language

This is a topic that is very relevant to my day to day life.  I appreciated this because it wasn't philosophical but was based on day to day life in the classroom.  There are aspects to teaching ESL that I do well, and those that I need to work on.  This made me feel good about both of those, and put into perspective some of the changes I need to make.  As I am currently working through the ESL in the Mainstream Course, this is all very relevant to me.
HighChallengeHighSupport (pg76)
Focusing on integrating ESL students into the UOI may seem like a simple idea, but it is harder than it looks.  I admit I have had students working on other projects (never alone) because I felt what we were doing was too difficult. This is something that I will stop doing (though I have not done it this year) in the future. It creates a sense of other, and limits the opportunities for meaningful interaction with the teacher and more importantly, their peers.  If I want to follow a Vygotsky approach,…

Taking the PYP Forward - UdB and PYP

I wasn't going to do a post tonight (is it Xmas eve?), but I looked at this chapter and saw it was only a couple of pages long.  My son was tucked into bed snugly, the presents are wrapped under the tree, the living room is prepared for the madness that will follow tomorrow morning, and I too excited at the thought of spending the day tomorrow making Lego and playing that I can't sleep; so why not.

My first thought is this; in 1950 Ralph Tyler came out with his Tyler rationale of curriculum design:
Teaching consists of organizing knowledge into some pattern, of presenting the facts and generalizations in a clear, easily understood fashion, of testing to determine the amount of information acquired, and of marking the pupil’s attainment ... any change from this pattern is a softening of the educative process, a departure from the fundamentals. They are concerned with better ways of telling, explaining, drilling, testing, and marking. Essentially, UbD is taking these principles a…

Taking the PYP forward - 21st Century Assessment

I won't review this chapter, only because I have such a wildly different perception of what assessment means that it is like comparing apples to hairless grizzly bears. There are many ways to assess, and while I disagree (not everything) with the image of assessment presented in this chapter, I do not think it is wrong. Just different.

I will stop there.

Have a happy holiday.

Taking the PYP Forward - What should students learn?

This was superb.  For the length of it, there were so many ideas in here.  I will say that I see curriculum a little bit differently in terms of its shape, but this chapter is so wonderfully articulated and presented in such an open manner that it allows the reader to go into so many different directions.

There is too much to teach (pg 43)

I am glad this was stated right up front.  It is so true, and it is one of those aspects of schooling that teachers seem to shrug their shoulders to and say, meh.  Curriculum is so loaded and heavy (or bloated and stuffed) with content that it is almost overwhelming   The standards and benchmarks often become the goal of school, and learning is forgotten or replaced with an assembly line mentality to cover everything and pass the test.  There are schools out there who have freed themselves from these chains (look at the Sudbury Schools), but for the most part, is it still a trap.

The more rebellious teachers out there (tricksters) will purposely leav…

Taking the PYP Forward - Communities of Inquiry

I don't know, this article felt disjointed.  It was hard to follow and seemed to bounce from place to place.  I struggled to keep the central thesis in mind while I was reading.  At times it was focused on the individual, at other times the collective, and at other times the environment.  I really enjoyed it though!

At it's core, I read it as a defense of the social and collective intelligence of a classroom.  Yes, the tools of inquiry are great, and becoming fluent in them is important for life in the 21st century, but there is a larger layer atop of this.  It is not just about the individual, but the sense of collective, or community.  This lays the conditions for inquiry, as inquiry is not an individual process, but a collective one.

one has to make to make inquiry and its learning processes visible (pg 29)

This is exactly what I have been trying to do with my Making Thinking Visible work this year.

Developing Tools (pg 29)

I have trouble separating the physical tools from t…

Taking the PYP Forward - Inquiry as a stance on curriculum

First off, I loved this article.  Short speaks to everything that I value in an inquiry approach; the focus on the process of learning, that it transcends content, and that it is so much more than just themed units. It is an approach to living within the world, a way of being more than a way of studying.  I see a lot of parelles between Ted Aoki and his sense of the lived curriculum.  She is bang on in her estimation of how inquiry can often become a teacher-centered method, rather than an over-arching philosophy.  The tension that is often ignored in favor of clear outcomes is the place where we begin to reformulate our view of the world, and where learning lives.  This is true of both teachers approaching inquiry in the class, and students living with inquiry as a way of seeing the world.

Wonderful stuff.

I am also struck with how much Short harmonizes with the complexity sciences view of learning and education.  There are so many similarities in thought and philosophy.

Inquiry is a…

Taking the PYP Forward

I can't tell you how many times I have been recommended this book.  For the last two and half years it has been sitting on my shelf.  Whenever it was time to grab a new book, I passed it over, always telling myself that I would eventually get to it.

Perhaps it was because I moved from a PYP school to a different curriculum after 3.11 and it didn't feel necessary.  Or maybe it was because I have been swamped with books and articles from my M.Ed and my mind was just elsewhere.  

Whatever the reason, I am finally getting around to it.  Next year I will be re-joining the PYP community at a school in Germany and I hope to get back into the flow (and speak the language more fluently).  Over the break I hope to get to a chapter a night and reflect on each as I go.  That is an optimistic goal, one that I know I won't be able to keep.  The holidays are a busy time and two and half weeks will fly by.  We shall see.

My initial impressions of the book, having only looked at the cover, s…

I'm a tree

I love Improv drama.  It is such a great way to let kids who are shy jump out of their shells.  In an ESL classroom, it gives a voice to the ones who might not be heard and a chance to practice real grammatical structures that emerge naturally out of situations, rather that being forced (imagine you are at an airport and you are trying to ....zzzzzz).

I have several kids who are doing very well with Improv this year.  They have grown more confident, and more socially aware.  They are also developing creativity and learning to think on their feet.  The kids love our weekly improv session (usually Friday afternoon, good way to end the week!).  I try and guide them through some general rules and principles of improv, introduce a game or an activity, and then stand back and let them self organize.  Sometime the game goes great, other times, it falls flat on its face.  However, that is true of improv in general!

This is a topic I hope to write much more about in the future.

Here are some…

Metaphors, Networks, and Curriculum

Well, my latest semester has come to a close and I am free of studying for another month!  I love it, I truly do, but the breaks are vital....

This term we had a wonderful professor and we tackled an interesting topic; curriculum.  There are so many different ways of viewing what curriculum is, and so many problems with viewing it those ways. My conclusion, there is no perfect answer.  There is no perfect curriculum.  It needs to be emergent and it needs to be based on the needs of the people who matter most; the students.  Easy to say.  Hard to put into practice!

I was introduced to (or studied in more depth) some thinkers in this course who really opened up my view of curriculum.

Bill Pinar.
Ted Aoki.
William Doll.
Maxine Greene.
Paulo Freire.

It is really an amazing field so many interesting and diverse ideas.

We talked a lot about metaphor, and how those embodied metaphors we carry with us impact our official documents and the feeling and tone of the classroom.  Now, I can…


I have moved to Blogger.  My reasons are my own (great interface, linking with google apps, price), but part of me is compelled by a constant need for change.  Change is an addiction for me.  For so many years in my life I had tried (was taught to?) to surpress my urges to make changes.  About 10 years ago, I gave up trying to control it, and began to follow them.  I ended up where I am today, and I couldn't be happier.

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” 
I am incredibly excited....

― Douglas Adams

On that note, I am also excited to be off to Germany next year.  I will be working in a PYP school, teaching either grade 4 or 5.  

A Zen perspective on Curriculum

As I finish up my latest course on Curriculum, I have come across a couple of articles that I would like to share.  They offer a very different view of curriculum, and they take their metaphors from widely different sources.  I have distilled the articles down into visual presentations, but I encourage you to read (if it makes you curious...).

A Zen journey in the living map of curriculum
Jie Yu, Louisiana State University, Journal of Transnational Curriculum Inquiry, Vol 6 No 2, 2006

download article here (free online journal)

A Zen journey into curriculum from dwyerteacher

That time of year...

Well, this time of year tends to be a little crazy in schools.  A lot of class time is diverted into other activities.  Teaching an inquiry based trans-curricular unit takes time, nice chunks of time.  Interrupting thinking routines and reflection time is not the way to make a real difference.  It is hard to get started.  It is hard to jump in and explore when you are being pulled in many different directions and your mind is focused on too many things.

Time is important.  When time is taken out, the class lumbers instead of soars.  As one of my co-workers T-Shirt so aptly states:

It is what it is

I found myself today with a disjointed schedule.  One period here, one there, another over there.  Not enough time to dive into anything new.  So instead, we are spending the day reflecting on our year so far.  I am asking the kids to take their time.  To use the time we have together to think back, to reflect, and to wonder about the new year.

I gave them a bit of structure if they require …

Visible Thinking; Zoom-In

Context:We are studying maps of Japan and its natural landforms

This was a lot of fun.  The kids really got into this strategy and some great discussion ensued.  There was little debate, they seemed to all be on the same page, playing off each others ideas and building up their theories together.  I was orienting attention towards the changes in their discussion.  As each iteration of the picture expanded, the subject of the conversation also changed.

Note: The name of the routine is called zoom-in, but in hindsight, I should have changed that to zoom out!

Iteration 1

Here the conversation surrounded the question of whether or not this was a map.  They knew we were studying maps, so it was obvious that is might be a map.  However, they also know that I like to trick them (their word, my word would be perturbe). There was evidence for both sides and the kids did a great job of collecting both sides of the story.  The made T-Charts and put down all the arguments against it being a map, and …

Visible Thinking Update

I haven't posted a Visible Thinking reflection in quite some time.  That is not because I haven't been using them, but rather because I have been repeating the routines.  At the moment, I am not introducing any new routines (though I will do one this afternoon so be on the lookout for that reflection).

Some observations:

Much easier the second time, especially with the ones that are simple (See, Think, Wonder or Looking Times Ten or Sentence-Phrase-Word)
The ones that are more complex (Chalk Talk, Concept Mapping, The 4 C's) the students don't recall as easily (though that will improve with multiple doings)
The students enjoy them!  They love the structure and they love to talk about how they are thinking
The students don't use them unless I set it up, I have seen no instances of self initiated strategies

For me as the teacher, using these routines has had the interesting benefit of allowing me to create routines on the fly as we go, that are tailor made to our circums…

Flotsam and exploring imaginative questions through literacy

My favorite picture book is Flotsam by David Wiesner.

It is a wordless picture book about a boy who finds a camera on the beach.  He develops the pictures inside and discovers new worlds beyond his imagination.  Every class I have ever shown it to has loved it.  It leads to wonderfully imaginative discussions and so many questions.  The other day we were working on asking imaginative questions and I used this book as a starting point for a writing activity.

As I went through the book and the kids read it (or looked at it, but experienced it is probably the better description) I had them writing down every question that came to their head.  At the end of the book, we had about a hundred questions so we began sharing them and discussing what questions would lead to new and interesting stories, and why.  What about those questions were richer than the other questions?  We concluded that the really rich questions led us to a background story that we didn't have, or that the book did not…