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Our classroom culture

"How do I create a classroom culture that supports all the things I value as a classroom teacher? This inquiry led me to revisit my mission statement that I created years ago. I remember my professor telling me that once written, it should not be laminated and put on the wall only to be forgotten; instead, he encouraged me to look at it as a living and breathing document that needs to be tweaked every now and then in order to keep it authentic, significant, and relevant. My old mission statement was as follows: I will strive to be an educator who recognizes the differing needs of the 21st century learner, who creates meaningful, differentiated and engaging experiences to hone their critical thinking and communication skills. I will nourish their sense of curiosity, value their trust, and cherish their laughter as I aim to equip them with a solid sense of self. I will encourage them to use technological tools and a variety of learning strategies which will help them cope with our i

Spontaneity in the classroom

"The ability to work with, understand, and use data has become an essential life skill and requirement for an ever-expanding range of jobs and careers.  Data is everywhere around us.  Ninety percent of the world’s data has been created in the last two years." (Marr, 2018)   Many of my unplanned lessons (happy deviations) have been far more powerful than my planned ones. This post is not touting the idea of ignoring planning. It is just a recognition and celebration of unplanned inquiry and its potential and power. I would like to share a completely unplanned lesson with you. This happened almost a year ago and unfortunately, I do not have pictures and graphs to garnish my words. Here goes... The vice principal of our school walked into class one day looking very grave. She was clearly upset about something. It turned out that someone in the boys washroom was not following the rules. He was peeing on the floor. As a school, we were all supposed to keep a log of students visiti

We need answers to get answers

"We need answers to get answers," a student reflected, as he shared his 3-2-1 after out lesson on measurement. I was thrilled. He often blurts out replies that are not connected with anything in particular. If was a very powerful lesson I picked up from G. Fletchy's website. The students were engaged and everyone participated with enthusiasm. I wanted the students to understand the following: We can : use different tools to measure things.  connect certain measurements with our body parts to make good estimates or get an idea of "howmuchness" of measurement units. (10 cm spans the the outer edge of my right eye to the outer edge of my left eye.) chunk objects - visually break up an objects into parts. Lesson starter: A 3-Act lesson with this picture: Question: What is the difference in height of the children? What do you notice? What questions do you have? Then I showed the next picture for 5 seconds.                  

Nurturing kids' natural ability to question

One day, a student and his dad arrived in class with a little package. It turned out to be an empty nest they had found in their garden. My students eagerly gathered around it to see it up close. "What if the mummy bird is still looking for it?" one worried boy asked. They all looked at me but I shrugged and kept inspecting the nest. I was thinking about the lesson ahead and decided to shelf it. Long division could wait. The Grade 3s were learning about natural structures and this was a perfect chance to let inquiry flow.  I Step Back,   They Move Forward. We then used SEE THINK WONDER, an often used, yet simple and powerful tool to organize our thoughts. By now, my Grade 3s are readily able to identify HOT and LOT questions  (higher/lower order thinking). Their sheets filled up with their wondering. I noticed there were quite a few Why... What if... I wonder why... Here is our attempt at bu

Reclaiming the power

I start anew. Another continent. Hence the pause in my posts as I have been adjusting to a new culture. I have started work in a school with a distinct culture of its own. As a teacher, my aim is to make my students enjoy learning, and in the process, become confident thinkers and self-directed learners. If I spend my time contemplating how things are done differently and worry about how they should be done, then a lot of energy and time is wasted. It is not fair to the school nor to the students. This time could be better deployed. Blend in with your surrounding community and once you have found your footing,  do what you do best. And in the process, if the school likes what you do, they will embrace it. As an individual, I enjoy reflecting on my actions. I  think things through (um, often) and try to engage in conversations with others in order to clarify my thoughts. I carefully choose my PLN. I choose not to engage with people who are set in their opinions.

Requiem for an educator

There comes a time when teachers may feel like giving up what they do, and take up scorpion petting.  I did. Until I received an email... Dear Ms. Naini, I hope you've had an amazing two years. It's me, Abigail Tadamala (from your Grade 5K class)  I know that I haven't emailed you in a long time, and I apologise profusely; I have so many questions to ask you like,  how's Japan? How are your students? How is your school? How are you? You might not know this, but you are a living legend in the Aga Khan, even in Grade 8.  I left school in Grade 5, and then I came back in Grade 7. This is my second year back, and no teacher has been as amazing as you! Not a single day goes without you being mentioned. Like just the other day, we were talking about your AMAZING brownies.  You might be wondering why I decided to write to you after two years; and the reason is that you are one of the most important people in my life. I'm leaving a

Stretching a strategy

Students were given 6 hexagons to work with. They had to connect them in a way that made most sense  to them. Nothing new here. We've done this activity many times before but there were three additions to the task which I hoped would make them think They were allowed to look for case studies and evidence to support their connections. 1) I added one hexagon that didn't quite seem to fit in with the rest. Another one was there to promote cognitive dissonance- a feeling of discomfort which may stop them from making certain connections. (They may not find it easy to digest the fact that some people eat apes.) 2) Next, I asked them to make a generalization about diseases based on the connections they made. What was a recurring pattern that could prompt them to come up with a big idea. 3) And finally, which one hexagon would they remove and what could they replace it with. They of course had to give reasons. We kept asking "So what?" to hel