29 March 2013

Cartesian Connect-the-Dots

Students use coordinates to write instructions for each other to draw shapes and pictures. Higher-order thinking (application, synthesis) and social interaction make for a fun math session!

28 March 2013

Focus on Imagery

Draw and color a picture based on the poem.

Many students make a comic strip for this imagery activity.

It's very simple, but I think it's a good warm up to focus on descriptive language. One thing I would change is the directions. It should read "draw and color a picture to show what is described in the poem", or something similar to reinforce the 'showing with words' concept of imagery.

27 March 2013

Beginning inquiry with artifacts

To provoke this inquiry into similarities, differences, challenges, and opportunities in different cultures through history, I set out this kit of replica archaeological artifacts. Then, I invited students to write their ideas with whiteboard markers on the posted questions. Sometimes, the concrete should stimulate the conceptual.

26 March 2013


Using Prezi to summarize an inquiry into expressing beliefs through art. Click here to view their presentation!

25 March 2013

Field Trip: Railway Museum

We went to the Railway Museum in Saitama City. It was one of the best field trips I've ever taken with a class. Incredible exhibits and lots of hands-on activities. Perfect for our inquiry into human energy usage. Learned two important lessons for excursions:

1. Take the whole day and expect to move slowly. Plan extra time for everything, then expect it to take even longer.

2. If you want your kids to explore a particular part of the museum during free time, take them there, then set them loose. Don't expect them to find it on their own.

This interactive exhibit lets you control a real train motor, wheel, and brake system!

I must be getting old, because I was most interested in seats. Here's a picture of me traveling back in time sitting on a tatami seat from 1902.

24 March 2013

Metateaching: Teachers as anthropologists and designers.

While reading Gerhard Fischer's Understanding, Fostering, and Supporting Cultures of Participation, I was transported back in time to my semester abroad in Nepal in 1996 when I was immersed in a foreign culture for the first time and inundated with fifteen units of Anthropology and Cultural Geography classes. In the shadow of Mt Nilgiri, we often debated individualism versus collectivism or the importance of the self versus the importance of the group.

Every discussion reached a similar conclusion, surprisingly quickly considering the effects of altitude on alcohol tolerance: A person both supports and is supported by a community.

23 March 2013

Independent Inquiry: Brownies

Rethinking homework just became delicious!
One of my student's goal was to learn to bake brownies. Actually, it was to bake bread but after a bit of inquiry, she decided it would take too long and switched to brownies. She brought some for everyone in class and they were delicious.

16 March 2013

Standing at the crossroads of everything

There may not be many issues on which every rational person can agree, but one of those is certainly the importance of children and their learning.

Consequently, everyone seems to have an opinion about elementary education.

Bloggers agree that kids should blog. Nature lovers insist they should spend more time outside. Musicians are convinced every kid should play an instrument. Inquiry advocates want to see them wondering and wandering, while politicians seem to want to see them at rows of desks with their heads buried in a test. 'Makers' think children should tinker. Counselors think emotional and social health is paramount. Children should think globally, be involved in their communities, pursue their interests, try new things, etc, ad nauseum. They voice those opinions because they are speaking from their passions.

And they're all right. Children should do all those things, and more, and great teachers know it.

09 March 2013

Inquiry should be action-oriented.

I'm new to the PYP, but not inquiry-based learning. I have always shepherded my students along winding paths of inquiry, in and out of concepts, practicing skills and picking up facts and information along the way. However, my approach to action and attitudes is rather different than what I've seen and heard from PYP teachers thus far.

Many of my inquiry plans begin with action. Provocation is done in the form of a challenge to help solve a problem of global and social significance. To do this, we firstly analyze the problem and the attitudes which can be used to set and achieve a service action goal. From there, an inquiry cycle like any other develops naturally and organically while the action plan is being constantly reiterated.

Rather than being "what we want the children to do", action is a clear goal.

Rather than being "how we want the children to behave", attitudes are interwoven into the inquiry.

03 March 2013

Blogging with elementary students - a formative reflection

What's working:
+Child-specific platform
+Specific assignments to learn and explore features of blogging, all documented within the blog.
+Utilizing blog for a variety of tasks, assessments, inquiry organization, interest-based explorations.
+Dedicated class time for blogging.
+Students writing with purpose.
+Seamless integration of technology, skills, and fun.

This year, I started my fourth grade class using Kidblog. What I liked about it when compared with the other very excellent platforms was the simplicity and control, which became an essential aspect of using it to teach and learn. As the students become familiar with the concepts and functionality, I slowly released the reins so that everyone was aware of, comfortable with, and hopefully confident about the experience as it expanded.