Friday, November 21, 2014

Handing over reins to my students

We have just started our unit on Ancient Civilisations. My students had been complaining about their summative task for the last unit. They were experts on the human body systems and we had a "Hot Seat" session where they were asked a few questions. They found it boring after a while. Frankly, so did I.

And so I decided to relinquish control of the IB planner to least stages 3 and 4. I have never tried this before. I will be working on the " reflection stage" with them later on.

What can I say! The past two days have been exciting, eventful, noisy and very, very fruitful.
As they looked at the central idea and the lines of inquiry, the whole class brainstormed tuning-in activities in groups. As they spoke, I updated my planner (stage 4 - learning engagements) This is what they came up with:

  • Play "Chinese Whispers" to see how messages from the past can change as they filter down to us.
  • Watch” Night at the Museum”
  • Interview grandparents about the past
  • Watch pictures /artefacts brought by them  and discuss. (Maybe use visible thinking tools such as See think Wonder or 10 X 2)
  • Make a cave and cave paintings somewhere in the classroom.
  • Write on leaves and sand as the early human "writers" did (during a mental maths session
  • Games played in the olden days.( I asked them how they knew the games were played in the past; they said they were, like stories, handed down from generation to generation). Will discuss this further of course.
  • KWL charts
  • Wonder wall ...after they have poured over the unit related books from the library
  • Bus stop Activity ( They asked me to come up with pictures and prompts)

I was impressed by the list.

I don't know where the unit will take us. However, as a modern educator in today's changing world, I feel I owe it to them. 

I am really excited to see what they come up during the Finding Out stage of our inquiry. I will be looking forward to finding out what they do about assessing themselves. They will need to design their own checklists, rubrics and continuums.

As a facilitator , I will be keeping a hawk's eye and tweaking things wherever necessary.

Stay tuned!

Designing our learning environment

Friday, October 3, 2014

Media message from one of my students

This was a summative task. The class rubric helped this child create a powerful message.

The moment I usually look forward to!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Being "Creative" with the PYP Attitudes

We had great fun doing this! I asked the students to think of ways they could convey the meaning of each attitude using their hands only. We are still thinking of how to show a few (empathy, commitment, etc.) but here are a few of them. Take a guess!







This one is too literal...So we need to come up with something else!








Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Using social media to promote world peace

My students have been closely monitoring the Israel-Palestine conflict. They decided to use their knowledge of social media and Yang Liu's style of communication to propagate the idea of peace based on similarities between Jews and Muslims. Here's what they came up with. (Notice how they use colour to distinguish the two religions).

Jews and Muslims pray in the same manner.

They both believe in angels.

This one could be a little hard to guess. But that's the whole point. Keeps you thinking!
(Answer: Men and women are required to pray separately.)

In both cultures, they avoid eating pig.
:) Reminds me of Minchin's song:

Women are required to wear veils in the prayer hall.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Use of symbols in an inquiry lesson

Every year when school starts, I have observed how quickly some classes put up the learner profile attributes, attitudes and concepts on the classroom walls.  Up they go, pat pat pat, on the wall followed by a relieved tick against their "things to do" list. Then the "real" learning begins. 

As a tuning-in activity for our unit of inquiry on media, I thought of introducing Yang Liu's representations of two cultures.  Liu's use of media to stereotype cultures will naturally generate dichotomy of thought and emotions among many. I felt it was the perfect provocation which would pave the way for deeper, conceptual learning.  The use of symbols would create enough intrigue among the students in order to generate curiosity and hopefully, higher order thinking skills.

The students loved the lesson. Every slide of Yang Liu's "East Meets West" stirred hearts. We spoke of perspective and bias, racism and the unfairness of over-simplifying communities. They realised the power of symbols, (in this case, dots, lines and simple geometric shapes) to convey messages so powerful as to entice exciting discussions about issues related to everyday life.

After immersing ourselves in Liu's work, I wanted to see how far the students could use their learning to construct meaning and create learner profile representations using symbols and simple colours.

Introducing the work of Liu. Mystery element.

Take a look at what the students came up with. 

As I walked around watching them brainstorm and draft their ideas,  it was encouraging to hear them use words such as "stereotype: and "bias" amongst themselves.

Path of person not clearly visible, but a powerful representation of Courage.

Draft visible in this shot

Snipping, measuring

Motivation, engagement

I was quite surprised with this one. Yang Liu's representation of the "Boss" is so similar!!! I had not shown them this slide.

Absolutely great way to show this LP attribute!

The group changed their background after the mess "the black crayon" made. They resolved the problem on their own. A more presentable final work.

I thought the lesson was very transdisciplinary in nature. Students had to think about colour, patterns and symmetry. They used various skills which involved listening, speaking, sharing resources, editing, and collaborating. One of those exciting lessons which inspired me to blog.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Addressing students' emotional needs through picture books

There are days when I trudge to school. I don't feel on top of the world. My interactions with my students on those days lack vitality; thankfully they don't happen too often!

What about our students? Do we know what's going on in their lives? Are they being bullied, abused, neglected, disrespected? Could they be lonely?  Do you have the time to find out? Does the school timetable breath down your neck?

As a teacher, I realize I cannot solve all their problems. But I can most certainly give them hope.
And so when I came across Oliver Jeffers' story the other day, I felt it was the perfect way to address these issues.

I like to think I am aware of what goes on in my students' lives. Every morning when I chat with them, I get a feel of their mood. I can make out which day is not going to be a fruitful day for a particular child.

This beautiful, heart wrenching story is about a little girl who was very, very curious. Her father was always around encouraging her until...

The saddest, saddest moment in the story.

There is poetry in this illustration.

Task 1
I photocopied this page before I read the story out to my students. Earlier in the year, the students had learnt about warm and cool colours and how they reflect our moods. So I asked them to think about the mood in the picture. Why did they think the chair was empty?  Were there any clues in the picture to help them come up with an answer? Thinking back now, I could also have used the 10 X 2 strategy (Reference: Artful Thinking) with this activity and seen if the students could have come up with more ideas.

It took them over 20 minutes to discuss and jot down their predictions. I let it unravel. It didn't matter if one lesson flew into the next. The children were arguing, laughing, engaged and motivated.

So when I started reading the story, I slyly glanced at them as I turned the pages. I couldn't help but grin at their wide-eyed impatience. They were hooked!

As I read on, I came to the page where the little girl puts her heart in the bottle so that she could keep it safe from harm. (Feelings of loss, despair, heart-break). I then asked the students who would like to keep their heart in a bottle.
The reaction I got from them was an affirmation of what I knew all along. Almost half my students had their hands up. A chin-wobbly moment.

My students initially had trouble making this abstract connection.
When the little girl is all grown up and tries to break the bottle but cannot, one of my students exclaims:

"Why won't a glass bottle break if thrown from such a height?!"

"Maybe it's made of plastic!" retorts another.

At this point, I needed to stop and let them try and figure out what was actually happening. As an educator, we may be quick to give them the answers. But sooner or later, if given time, they will figure it out themselves. I am glad I did the right thing at this juncture. Hopefully, they have begun to understand the power of metaphors.

Adults need to find the child in them! 
...a  little child helps her take her heart out from the bottle.

All characters change in great stories. I asked the kids to compared this picture with the previous one.
 Throughout the school year, one of our focus area when reading fiction had been about how characters change. How beautifully the above picture, juxtaposed with the earlier one, brings this to life.

Time heals. The chair is reclaimed.

What an apt picture representing the attitude "Curiosity" or  Being Alive!
And the story ends when the girl reclaims her heart.
An empty bottle, the metaphorical representation of healing and hope.

When I turned the last page, there was laughter at first.
Then silence. The loud kind.

Task 2
In order to engage the students in conversation, I used the PYP Concepts to generate the following questions.

Form             Why do we think of the heart when we talk about our feelings?
Function        What was the purpose of the bottle in the story?
Connection    Have you ever lost someone? Why is it hard to talk about it?
Causation        Why did the protagonist want to take her heart out when she met the little girl?
Change           What kind of changes happened to the character of the protagonist?
Reflection        Why do you think Oliver Jeffers wrote the story?
Responsibility Why do we need to look after and nourish ourselves?
Perspective      What would have happened if the protagonist had not met the little girl on the beach?

Students sat in a circle. We used a string to monitor who was talking. All the students wanted to participate.

It was an emotionally packed time. Many students cried. Many listened.
Everyone was engaged for over 90 minutes!

Today, the students have gone home to reflect on the story. Let's see what transpires.
Tomorrow, they will look at the pictures and use Slow Writing techniques to come up with a rich paragraph to describe one of their favourite illustrations.