Tuesday, June 14, 2016

5 classroom routines I plan to focus on for the next school year.


I plan to try and improve communication between our classroom, parents, and students. I'm not sure whether students or parents read my emails or get our classroom news. At times, they do not respond to the posts on Google Classroom. The silence from that side of the wall has been baffling, frustrating and a big challenge for me.

 I just may have found the solution.

The App Remind is an excellent way to overcome this problem. It is a great tool which ensures everyone receives the message instantly on their phones, and it need not be an iPhone or an android!

Last year, being new to Japan, I was unable to take advantage of the resources around me.This country's unique culture and history have much to offer. After reading Ron Berger's "An Ethic of Excellence", and seeing the powerful learning that can take place with the help of the community, I plan to actively learn more about and reach out in order to seek expert help from the community. For example,  the students do not have to just learn about famous people and write their biographies . They can seek out local citizens in their community, who have contributed to the society and make them the focus of their studies. Creating information booklets about these unsung heroes and inviting them to school in order to formally recognize them, is a far more powerful way of tackling the unit on role models.
Culture of Critique 

...Or assessment for learning. Of course, as a PYP educator, this is our primary focus; yet I realize the enormous scope for improvement. Setting high standards, and encouraging students to persevere and come up with multiple* drafts will require that I give them more time than I normally do. I will NOT rush to cover the curriculum. Being a teacher for prospective MYP students does put a bit of pressure on us.
* Berger refers to one of his students creating over 10 drafts to achieve the set standards. What I liked about his attitude towards  formative assessment  was the fact that student either achieved the standard or the work was considered NOT DONE.
My students have been keeping a record of their learning journey in portfolios. Next year, our school will encourage students to create E-portfolios; however, I still intend to keep a binder and will encourage the students to use it more often than once a week. Just like college graduates who create job portfolios, I am excited at the prospect of  reinventing, re-energizing this area of assessment. Our portfolios next year will be a living, breathing testimony to the hard work we put in as a community of learners.
Based on  how much my students relished and enjoyed meditating every morning, (even the reluctant, fidgety ones sought it out in the end), I intend to start our day by switching on the diffuser (I have a choice of bergamot, rosemary, and lemongrass and cinnamon aroma oils), draw the blinds, bathe the classroom in the mellow light of a few lampshades and meditate for 10 minutes... every single day for the rest of the year. If nothing achieved by this, we will have at least set a routine and created a signature classroom culture. Unless , of course ,anyone else wants to emulate!
These are my goals for next year.
What are yours?

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Art of Conversation

"True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.
I know that I am intelligent, because I know that I know nothing.
I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think."


The students in grade 6 are developing their understanding of the world around them by reading news articles from the website newsela. What I like about this website is that it allows you to make the article accessible to students of different reading levels.

It was not the perfect lesson. Students were not following the rules of our socratic seminar. In the beginning, the first group of inner circle students felt nervous and kept repeating key points, without giving evidence from the text. 

A bit of background about the content?

They read the following article: (chosen by a  few students)

Candidate dismisses criticism of his plan to keep Muslims out of U.S.

Activity: Socratic Seminar.

What I liked about this first part of our experience was that two students who generally hardly come forward to share their learning, volunteered to be part of the inner circle. As a class, it seems we had managed to create a safe haven for them. This was a wonderful realisation for me!

And so, we tentatively went into the second round of our socratic seminar. They decided to change the question prompt a bit as they thought it would allow more room for their perspectives.

So from "Why do people vote for Donald Trump?" to
"Would you vote for someone like Donald Trump?" made a huge difference to the quality of conversation as you can see below.

Hope you can take the time to look at the videos!

 (with the second improvised question)


This video was based on the first question.
It's amazing how a powerful question can promote discussion among people, isn't it?

Thanks for reading.


Monday, April 4, 2016

How Reading Looks Like in Grade 6

"No two persons ever read the same book."

–Edmund Wilson 

Our students are learning to read with expression.

After visiting the website http://www.storylineonline.net/ they got to hear what a good reader does as she reads a story aloud.
  • They speak clearly. 
  • They modulate their voice depending on the character's feelings and situation, and when different characters are introduced at various points in the story. 
  • They pause for effect. They cackle, and sob, and rasp away...
Skill Factor 
The students practiced reading to a buddy; and then they read aloud at home.

Will Factor
Most students took on the challenge of reading out aloud to an audience. In class, we have often spoken about moving out of our comfort zone in order to learn. This learning engagement provided the perfect opportunity for them to do so.

Thrill Factor
Listening to the final product, and realizing that they have met their success criteria gives the students the confidence they need to set the bar higher. They also get to see each other's videos and learn from them.

Come and let us listen to them...

Once upon a time... 








Hana Y

What if Kid's narrated BBC's Planet Earth?

Take a look...


A reflective maths post

“So few people are really aware of their thoughts. Their minds run all over the place without their permission, and they go along for the ride unknowingly and without making a choice.” 

The grade 6s have been inquiring into Mean Median Mode and Range.

This lesson required the students to collaborate and discuss various strategies as they used their knowledge of the topic to solve a problem. We used Jo Morgan's website Resourceaholic to access this activity. This website is a highly recommended one!

The students had to match the graph with the data. One of the data had been erased, making the activity a little more challenging than the day before.

They had to organize and show case their group effort.

After the activity, we had a plenary session where the students discussed different strategies they used. These were the guiding questions:

Use your knowledge of today's lesson and answer the following: (( Already discussed in our plenary (concluding) session today.))

1. Which cards were the easiest to match? Why was this?

2. Which cards were difficult to match? Why was this?

3. When matching the cards, did you always start with the bar chart/statistics table? Why was this?

4. Did anyone use a different strategy?
5. Did you enjoy the lesson? Why or why not? Please be very honest with yourself.

Maths Literacy :
Try and incorporate the following words in your reflection (maths exercise book). Please focus on quality presentation. (Date, title, good handwriting). Draw and illustrate your work to make it exciting for your poor teacher.

1. metacognition
2. time-consuming (when referring to 'Mean.')
3. strategy
4. misconception ( for example: when trying to figure out mode)

Enjoy your work and do your best!

This is what the students reflections looked like after our plenary session. It helped them use maths vocabulary effectively. It also helped them with their metacognition skills.

We leave you with a funny one!

Thank you for reading.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Ring a Ring of Roses

...and we all fall down.

Some say that the nursery rhyme arose from the great plague of London in 1665, though many folklorists disagree. I rather like the sinister connotations attached to such a seemingly innocuous rhyme.

Whatever the source of the rhyme, there is no doubt that a viral attack snuffed out over a 100, 000 lives.

It is interesting to note how our students reacted to this.

Some of these microorganisms are so beautiful while others are downright creepy! The students couldn't help but be fascinated by this unseen world and how much it affected their daily lives.

In order to understand the basic difference between a bacteria and a virus, we chose the venn diagram to fish out the details.

A fishbone graphic organizer helped the students to see how a disease spreads and how we can tackle it, once aware of its characteristics.

This sorting out phase is crucial in making thinking visible, almost tangible.

The map helped the students track a disease as they played the game Plague Inc. on their phones.

They chose to assess their understanding by creating board games. This provided the perfect opportunity to deal with the duality of life and death, good choices versus bad, etc.
As you played the games, the disease unfolds and the players becomes aware of how it starts, spreads and can be controlled.

This game on ZIKA  was quite different. As you moved towards hundred, you moved towards Death!
Peer Assessment

 As they worked in groups, they had the opportunity to assess one another and give honest opinions about their peers.

 Here are some examples of their comments/ reflections.  I love the way my students are so frank with one another!

 They had to ensure their research guided their creation. The time finally came when they had to test the game and fine-tune it.

Mers Madness

Testing the game out...

Watch the thrill factor as they play their games.

Students create a video instruction which will be converted into a QR code so that others can scan it and play the game with ease.

Reflection time.

Interesting fact:

As we were learning about diseases, an influenza epidemic kept many students at home. 

They learnt the difference between an A and B strain . Strange coincidence, isn't it?

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Mindfulness Routine in our classroom

"To meditate means to go home to yourself. Then you know how to take care of the things that are happening inside you, and you know how to take care of the things that happen around you."

Last week on twitter, I happened to come across @Samsherrat talking about mindfulness. He asked me to write a post on my experience as a classroom teacher.
Hence this post ...

We have been practicing mindfulness in our class from the very first day of school. Initially, it was hard to keep the students focused...they stirred and giggled and whispered to one another. Some struggled to keep their eyes closed, while others shuffled uncomfortably. Rustling sounds and nervous coughs pervaded the room. One girl complained that she felt sleepy after meditation. Another grumbled the next day when I asked them to close their eyes.  But, like an adamant bull,  I persisted. Today, the students eagerly remind me of this time. The class becomes still and silent as syncopated breathing becomes the order of the day.

The reason I persisted with this practice was because I have experienced the joys of meditation and seen how it has benefitted people around me. My parents meditate for an hour every morning. They are old, yet how healthy and happy they are! My dad's dysfunctional lung (written off by the medics) is as healthy as can be today! Mom and dad wont  start their day without meditation. 
There seems to be something magnetic and alluring about it which cannot be explained unless you experience it. 

Having lived in India for a while, I have seen how mindfulness and yoga are a  part of daily lives of people. Not some fad that has suddenly caught on. It was therefore a tad annoying to read a comment on twitter where someone (no names mentioned) totally brushed aside the efficacy of this practice stating that there was no research to back the practice of mindfulness in the classroom. Of course, I had to disagree. I was subsequently told off for ignoring the advice of some expert (whose name I couldn't really bother to remember) who found meditation pointless.  But this I have to say...I know my students fairly well. Of course, there may be many things I do not know about them, but I have made it my business to know them as well as I can. And I know that our morning sessions have established a calming routine which we all look forward to. 

How does mindfulness look like in our classroom?

Every two weeks, two students take on the duty of the class "zen masters". They conduct the meditation. As students meditate, they guide them. If necessary, they gently  tap the back of someone who happens to be slouching.

When we open our eyes, the world appears brighter. Life seems to be good. A feeling of calmness descends upon our class. 

Listen to what my students have to say about meditation in this voice thread: