Showing posts from January, 2015

Book Review: The Baron in the Trees

To date, all of my book reviews on this site have been related to books on education. Which, if you think about it, is really kind of silly. Am I suggesting that non-fiction books about teaching and learning are the only books which can inspire teaching and learning? Of course not. Literature has been inspiring people from all walks of life for centuries.

Italo Calvino is my favorite author. His writing is magical, challenging, imaginative, and infused with an unmistakable love of the natural world.
Once upon a time, somewhere between the innocence of childhood and the pluck of the bold rebel, a young Italian nobleman called Cosimo exercised his right to dissent after twelve long years of abiding by the inherent societal norms of his aristocratic title and refused to eat beheaded snails defying parental authority. In order to avoid the wrath of his authoritarian father, Cosimo climbed to the top of an enormous holm oak situated in the garden of the family estate and promised to never to…

Simple models, please.

Our students are actively using inquiry cycles, reflecting on what it means to inquire. Each year uses a different model (that may vary from unit to unit). We are focusing on making it Visible.

Students are encouraged to reflect on and consider the process. What is the difference between Wonder and Explore? Why is Reflect in the middle? What do you think we are doing right now? What makes you say that?

We have simplified the cycle.

with REFLECT in the middle

There is no order, no flow, no directionality. Inquiry is not simple and does not happen at the same time, in the same way. We have found the model needs to be simple in order to investigate the complexity.

In EYP, our youngest students, the cycle is even more simplified.

Inquiries may take weeks. Or months. Or a whole day. Or they may be over in a matter of minutes (or even less!). Our job is to look for those inquiries, document them, encourage discourse, and then allow fresh ones to arise.

Book Review: The Hundred Languages of Children

I could go on and on about this book. It is so very inspiring. Instead of writing until I am bleary eyed, I will focus on one aspect, one which is resonates closely to me. I have been calling it "Emergent Curriculum" for years, but the author of this book (the book is actually a series of articles) calls it by a different name. It encapsulates the idea of "Emergent Curriculum" much more succinctly. As an Early Years educator, it is a philosophy that guides my work. I highly recommend this book, not only for those of interested in Reggio, but for all teachers, at all levels.
Negotiated Learning.
The curriculum is child-originated and teacher framed. The children, through their natural curiosity and enthusiasm, bring up issues and ideas from their personal realm of understanding, and the teacher reframes those ideas into more achievable and contextual academic goals. This is done through three components; design, discourse, and documentation.

Design. Children and tea…

When it all starts to fit together...

It used to be a unit about homes. Now, it is a unit about how living things adapt to different environments.

It used to be a unit about ancient civilizations. Now, it is a unit about how evidence is used to analyze the past.

It used to be a unit about plants. Now, it is a unit about how matter changes over time.

The students will still learn about homes. They will still investigate ancient civilizations. They will continue to look thoughtfully at plants.

But they will be learning so much more.

A problem with worksheets...

... (no matter how well intentioned or well worded or well designed or carefully constructed) is that it is an isolated entity, an artefact that a student will encounter only once in their life. It is not recursive, it is focused only on the now, and the what (topic). It is a small piece of time, a sliver of knowledge, captured at one point. It is not something a student will carry with them beyond their schooling days.

A Visible Thinking strategy on the other hand, is more.

It is a tool for thinking.

It is a structure for focusing our thoughts and being aware of them.

It is a behavior that our students will use.