Showing posts from March, 2014

Re-thinking the PYP Planner

I originally wrote this for the IB's request for feedback on their upcoming program review. However, they are only looking for 350 word responses. Oh well. 

UPDATE: I have been informed there is an email address where longer responses can be sent.
Here is the whole thing. Please leave comments and thoughts. Am I the only one who feels like this about the planner? I would like to see it grow and evolve in new directions, so please share ideas.
My main interest in reviewing the planner is how we can make it more dynamic in its support of teaching and learning (I would also add knowing in there as well). At the present moment, I feel that the planner is more extra work than it is reflective tool. It also leads itself open to creating a plan for the next teacher or the next year, which is against the principles of inquiry learning. Inquiry learning should be driven by the learners questions. In my own practice, I do not find the planner to be a living document that is …

Book Review: The Third Teacher

The Third Teacher is a book about designing physical and mental spaces in schools. It was written by a group of designers who are passionate about education and community action. The book itself is a beautiful work of art, wonderfully put together and pleasing on the senses.

I found myself oscillating between being:

a) totally and utterly inspired
b) angry and disagreeing
c) living in a world of budget-less wonder that does not exist in most schools

It is well worth the read, even if there is nothing really that new here. It is a collection of research that teachers have known about for a long time but together in a pleasing way. That being said, if you are building a school from the ground up, or re-positioning a school for the 21st century, this would be a wonderful resource to go back to time and time again. It contains some great interviews with experts in various fields, and gives a picture of a very different and modern way of education that is inspiring, if not occasionally fru…

"New Math"

I was going to respond to this, but other bloggers have beaten me to the punch, and they say it perfectly.

Imagination enabling Inquiry cycle

I love this inquiry cycle. I love how it starts with imagine. I love how it ends with imagine. I love how it includes play. The possibilities..... This is not just for kindergarten. 

A Book Club Conversation: Growth and Fixed Mindset and Finding your Passion

I read a list of alternatives to boring PD about a week ago. One of the ideas that made me smile was the Book Club. At the beginning of this year I started a book club, and it has been a wonderful source of ideas and inspiration. But this Book Club is not with teachers, it is with Parents. Together as a group (we have about 4-6 regulars) we decide on a book, give ourselves a couple of weeks to read it, and then meet and discuss how it applies to our kids and how they learn. As parents (and I count myself as a parent ahead of a teacher) it has helped to give us new ideas for how to engage our kids in school and life. As a teacher, it has helped me bond with the parents, and it has been a wonderful source of ideas and different perspectives.

So far this year we have read:
Finding your Element, by Sir Ken Robinson The Giver, by Lois LowryMindset, by Carol DweckAnd then something interesting happened.... 

While we were discussing Dweck's Mindset, we all felt that as much as we loved he…

Central Ideas should be questions

I have long asked for this. There is something more open and thought provoking about a well worded and well intentioned question at cannot be replicated with a statement. How do we know what the central idea of a unit is going to be even before we start investigating?

A moment today, as we were fine tuning Central Idea's for the upcoming exhibition, brought me back to this point:

Me: There is a great idea in here, but the wording is missing something.
S: Yeah, it is missing a focus, but how am I supposed to include anything before I have even started researching?

Now, I have thoroughly enjoyed the one on one process of sitting down with students and working on these statements. It has involved some fantastic thinking and the kids have shown incredible open mindedness in changing their ideas. They are letting the ideas flow, and going with the changes. I am very proud of them.

However, I think that we would feel the same way even if we were using this time to craft a question, rath…


Sometimes the lesson yo have planned is completely the wrong way to tackle a topic.

Sometimes doing the wrong way is the only way to shed light on the right way.

Sometimes we have to make mistakes in order to move forward.

I had this lesson planned that I thought was wonderful. I thought it would focus their questions about Exhibition onto the essential elements on the Who We Are theme. I thought they would begin to focus their ideas down into manageable pieces.

I was wrong.

It confused.

During the whole ordeal, I realized something, the missing element. I almost kicked myself. It is something that I have been focusing on the entire year.


What is your story? What do you want to tell? What is the purpose of your story?

From here, I feel like we have new life, and can begin afresh and start to tell our stories.

Tuning into Exhibition

The PYP Exhibition
What are we learning? Why are we learning it?

This was an engaging activity that took the better part of an entire day. There were several layers to the organization of this;

first, a short class discussion about what each of the Key Concepts meanssecond, brainstorming how this concept applies to the PYP Exhibition in small groupsand third, collecting our ideas into a large class mind-map (made using
I wanted to see what their perceptions of the Exhibitions of the exhibition were. I was also curious as to how much they understood the Key Concepts (I admit I don't do a great job of including them regularly in the class eco-system). I also wanted them thinking about the exhibition itself, as its own entity, before we just into out topics and research and all the other fun stuff that follows.

Why are we doing this? What is the purpose?

Before doing this I had no idea what it would be like. I was expecting to sit back, listen, and ride whatever trains of th…


Exhibition starts.

During the week off I have been avoiding thinking about it. I don't want to plan too much and have it to structured. I want to be more 'reacting' than 'controlling' their inquiries. Since the beginning of school we have been inquiring into our passions and what it is we love to do. From there, we have chosen a very broad topic that we care about. Next, we need to start to focus it down and decide what about it interests us, and what we are going to inquire into.

First off though, we need to de-construct the whole 'exhibition' idea. What does it mean? What is the purpose? Why are we doing this?

I don't know yet what the purpose of looking into this is, but I hope that we become visible as we start to ask ourselves these questions.