Showing posts from January, 2014

Guessing the Central Idea Pt. 2

Last year I tried this once.

My reasons were just pure curiosity. Just to see how the kids would react, and how they would engage with creating their own central ideas. I was not at an official PYP school, so there was no exhibition. This year however, there is an exhibition, and its coming up fast. My reasons for hiding the central idea and having kids create their own is more pragmatic. It is scaffolding and preparation for when they have to do it themselves.

This year though, I am not framing it as a guessing game. Last year they were trying to figure our what it said under the paper. My hope was that they would compare their CI to the one the curriculum provided and find the pros and cons. They did that, but I was uncomfortable with the idea of them trying to guess. This year, we will be making our own CI and debating the differences with our classmates. I can't say where it will go, but my hope is that some shared language emerges from these debates, and the students begin to…

The Fractal Nature of Inquiry

I had a deadline looming. A term paper that needed to be done by the following Sunday evening. One week away, and of course, I hadn't started yet.

A friend had given me a book about a terrible couple of days on Mount Everest. People trying to beat nature and defy her highest peak. They failed. Many died. The story is sad, touching, and impossible to put down (even if it is not that well written and the author takes many dramatic liberties with the tale).

It got me wondering about the mountain itself. Not just that mountain, though it does get an unbalanced amount of attention being the largest, but mountains in general. As a lover of mountains, someone who feels at home in the thin, fresh air, I wondered why? Why do we attempt to defy these places? Why do we feel the pull to explore? Why do these monolithic slabs of rock formed by slamming tectonic plates draw us into their snow, and clouds, and peaks?

I moved onto a documentary about the first person to attempt to climb Everest. …

An idea: Should I do my own Exhibition

Modelling is one of the most powerful acts of teaching (that, and drawing attention to).

I have been thinking about how to support my students through the Exhibition. One of the ideas I have come up with is to do my own Exhibition to model the process. It would have to be something that I love, and be related to our central idea.

Tentatively, I have come up with the idea of inquiring into Stories, and how they can be used to learn. It is something I love and something that I am passionately curious about. I would love to dig deeper. I would love to structure my ideas into more concrete representations.

Still, I am flip-flopping on the whole idea. I see pros and cons for doing something like this.


I would be able to use my own writing as a provocation for improving theirsI could model research, and how to cite others workI could use this broad topic to generate my own lines of inquiry that are focused (since I am all over the place with this idea)I could use the theme to create a pr…

Book Review: Finding your Element

At the beginning of the school year, during our 'Back to School Night', I floated the idea of doing a book club with the parents of my class. A couple of parents took the idea and decided to organize those willing. After getting a small group together, about 4-6, I sent out a list of books. The group voted and decided that this book would be our first inquiry.

It's about the kids

From the beginning we decided that we would be reading the book with the intention of helping them to find their Element. As adults who are reasonably comfortable with our place in life, we felt that the message would not apply to us. That being said, for several members of the group, it did reaffirm the choices we have made in our lives, and that, possibly yes, we are living our Element.

So, how to help our kids get to their Element? Robinson goes into great detail about all the factors involved in finding your Element and doing what you love, and poses them as simple to ask, but difficult to ans…

Book Review: Teaching Unmasked

This blog started as a final project for my B.Ed. We were supposed to make a portfolio of all the highs and lows of our year, and then present it in a conference with our supervisors. I looked around at classmates and saw sketches, beautiful handwriting, painting, graphic novels, ornately bound books with leather covers and silk strings for bookmarks, and a host of other creative ideas. As someone who doesn't have very good fine motor skills, I decided I would make a website (funnily, even though this was 2010, I was the only one to use tech in my portfolio, out of close to 70 students in the cohort).

The year had been a challenging year, flipping between diapers and a baby learning to walk and talk, to teaching practicums, lesson plans, essays, and articles. When we were given the task of the portfolio, many students groaned as this seemed like more "work" on top of what we were already doing. Many of them were sick of reflecting (in fairness to them, our instructors d…

The Beginnings of an Inquiry into 'Story'

At the beginning of the year (way back in August), I introduced the concept of a 50 word story to help engage my students with writing. They love to tell stories, but often they got bogged down in too many ideas and they spiral out of control, losing all sense of cohesiveness. This is a normal upper elementary phenomenon. Even really strong writers succumb to this. To keep them focused on the story, and how to make it more interesting, I introduced a 50 word story.

This is an Enabling Constraint. It limits what you can do, and the scope in which you do it, but it opens a space for a completely new way of thinking and being. That is what I was after, a re-conception of what stories are, and a fresh way to look at them.

This was before I had read Kendall Haven's Story-Proof. Now, I am feeling as if we should re-examine our previous stories and start to make some definitive choices about what a story is. I have a feeling we are all defining this term differently, which is of course, …

Readjusting for Inquiry

I think the words matter. A lot of teachers hate having those conversations where we endlessly bicker about the wording of Central Ideas and Lines of Inquiry. I understand why, however, I think that it is important to set up the boundaries for an inquiry, and I think we do that through words. New insights arise, new ideas bubble to the top, new ideas collide with other new ideas and create more new ideas.

If you are listening. If you could care less, because you already know how the whole unit is going to unfold and you have every activity pre-planned, well...

That is not inquiry.

Inquiry (from my perspective, we all use different words) is about being aware, listening, and following paths that open. Yet, we need boundaries. We need an area to explore, a map with clearly defined lines around, a few topographical features, and no streets. The streets are the thing we are trying to find.

Inquiry as exploration.

I have an upcoming Unit of Inquiry on Poetry. I am very excited, this is one…

Book Review: Story Proof

I haven't always been an avid reader of fiction. When I was younger I ate books for breakfast, but around high school I kind of stepped away from fiction. I have always guessed it was because I was being told what to read, and never had enough time to read what I wanted to read. To this day, I still hate Shakespeare, and have an involuntary gut reaction to any mention of him. It wasn't until I was in my early twenties that my appetite for stories was rekindled. For me, I think it was partly because of the wonderful worlds of Jasper Fforde and the opening of new horizons in Japanese fiction, as well as comic books, mythology, and folklore.

"Story Proof" was a wonderful read, and I highly recommend it (would be a great #pypchat book club book, or something to read as a staff). I reminisced about why I love fiction so much, and why stories are so important to me. Kendall Haven goes through the literature from the worlds of neurological science, evolutionary theory, edu…