Category Archives: Teaching and Learning

Reflections on #EdCampVic – Connecting Educators

This weekend I had the opportunity to participate in EdCampVictoria – an unconference for educators by educators. While I had never been to an EdCamp before, I was familiar with the concept and was excited to see what might emerge as educators from different schools from all over my city gather to learn from and with each other. The weekend kicked off with a launch event that included guest speaker, George Couros (aka The Principal of Change @gcouros). I was so thrilled to meet one of the first people I had ever followed on Twitter in the flesh. I was not disappointed – George’s human persona is even more impressive than his virtual persona. George gave an engaging presentation that was filled with heart warming, provoking and inspiring messages. He made us laugh. He made us cry. He made us pause. He made us think. His presentation was filled with a myriad of personal stories, images and YouTube clips that helped to illustrate his key points and questions:

  • Adults need to go into the spaces where kids learn – including their virtual spaces. If we don’t show them how to exist in these spaces in positive and meaningful ways, who will?
  • Technology is a powerful tool through which we can share our stories and build meaningful connections.
  • Virtual connections do not replace human connections, but they can help to enhance them.
  • We need to innovate, including with technology – it’s not enough to simply put a $1000 pencil into a child’s hand.
  • It’s not about devices – it’s about culture. What is the culture we are creating in our schools with devices? Today’s kids are born into a world filled with tech.
  • Are kids creating and innovating because of or in spite of school?
  • Inspire curiosity, not compliance.
  • If we only teach the curriculum we have failed kids.
  • And my favorite – the smartest person in the room IS the room.

The bottom line comes down to relationships – how do we cultivate them and nurture them to make a difference in our students’ lives? Even though technology is everywhere (and can be pervasive), we need to deliberately and intentionally explore how to use it to cultivate relationships with our students so they see it as a multi-faceted tool that they can harness to add to the world in positive and powerful ways.

Saturday was all about Ed Camp… A room full of educators is buzzing at 8:30 a.m. There is a table with markers, tape and blank sheets of paper. The invitation is clear – write down a topic for discussion and post it on the wall. Once the first sheet is posted, a couple dozen more emerge. The writing is literally on the wall – every paper that is posted represents something that resonates with someone in the room – whether it’s because they are doing in their school and want to send the bat signal out to other schools to learn from and with them, or because it’s a concept they maybe have heard of and want to explore deeper with other educators. Everyone has three dots to “spend” and as dots are placed on the papers, trends begin to emerge. The organizers remove the patchwork quilt of possibilities and return 20 minutes later with a schedule of topics for the day. Maker Spaces/STEAM, inquiry, Chromebooks, How to bring faculty on board with Technology, Genius Hour, Mindfulness, Grading and Reporting, Flipping Instruction, Indigenous Education, Technology in Nature, Digital Story Telling, Nurturing Creativity, Collaboration and Critical Thinking, and more -the range of options is impressive, but I can only pick three! Who was it that said, “the smartest person in the room IS the room?” This is one smart room!

EdCampVicTopicsOct2015 EdCampWritingsOnTheWallOct2015

We are off and running. The room multiplies into several rooms. There is no facilitator, there is no leader. Just educators in a room willing to talk, ask questions, share and ponder the possibilities together. What strikes me the most is that we are all more connected than we think – even though our schools are different, we are all asking the tough questions and exploring the possibilities for the future of learning. We are all connected by the learners who walk into our buildings each day. We are all united with a desire to give each learner the best possible learning experience that we can with the time, resources and talents that we have. This is my big take away from the day. There is a heart for learning out there in the edusphere and it is beating strong. If it’s beating in my city, then it’s also beating in yours.

I would like to thank all of the people who worked behind the scenes to create a brilliant day of powerful learning. I am already counting the sleeps until the next EdCampVictoria…

Learning Gold

Core competencies, 21st Century skills, transdisciplinary skills, approaches to learning, interdisciplinary skills, fluencies…though called different things in different academic circles, competencies are at the fore-front of many educational conversations relating to teaching and learning. A Google search of the term “core competencies” yields 4,150,000 possibilities. Words like communication, collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving, leadership, responsibility, accountability, productivity, metagcognition, creativity, innovation, information literacy, digital literacy, problem solving, interpersonal skills, self-management, time management…appear repeatedly in these search results. The subtleties of terminology are not what is most important; what is important is that these competencies/skills/fluencies/approaches transcend subject disciplines and have the power to transform teaching and learning.
When I was growing up, achieving independent work habits was the gold standard that defined how successful a student was. Could I start a task and then work on my own, without incident or interaction, to finish it? This was highly valued in the classroom setting, and if you could sit on your own, pencil to page, you might receive a comment like, “Tanya works quietly and independently on tasks. Tanya is a delight to have in class.” If you couldn’t, well then maybe the comment would look like this, “Tanya has difficulty working independently. She is encouraged to spend less time socializing and more time completing tasks independently.” Independence and compliance spelled success in school. If you could follow the rules, sit still, not talk unless asked, repeat facts and print neatly you were a “golden” student. The mantle of leadership was bestowed on those who followed the rules the best, and the polarity of good and bad defined how we were assessed.
Enter core competencies, 21st century skills, or whatever you like to call them. The very nature of these skills turns the old definition of “delightful” or “model” student on its head and defines a new “gold standard” in learning. Even the word student is finding it’s way out of our vernacular. Yesteryear’s student who couldn’t sit still and needed to use his/her hands is today’s learner who is a thinker who learns by doing. Yesteryear’s student who was “chatty” or “social” is today’s learner who is a communicator who collaborates and shares ideas and thinking. Yesteryear’s student who was “slow and quiet” is today’s learner who is purposeful and reflective. Yesteryear’s student who “marched to the beat of their own drum” is today’s learner who is a creative problem solver. When we look at learners through the lens of how instead of what, the old gold standard quickly loses its sheen. A new definition of learning is emerging…and it’s truly gold.

The Great Paradox: Education in a Changing World (a reflection)

url

Education is in a constant state of change, yet it can also be stagnant. The system is both a product of its successes and failures. As global education systems evolve, we continue to grow the innovators of tomorrow while also recycling the sins of the past.

Education systems will only be as good as their worst champions, yet change and growth, no matter how slowly, still occurs. The cycle of constant change manifests itself in opposing ways. Early adopters embrace opportunities to try new strategies and reflect on innovative practice, while those who are sceptics of change set up camp in what has always worked for them, what they believe to be tried, tested and true. It is necessary for both of these to coexist. The early adopters keep us moving forward, while the campers slow us down and make us take pause, lest we make a hasty decisionhttp://philstubbsquotes.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/when-the-winds-of-change-blow.jpeg and move forward too quickly.

As educational theorists digest and publish the latest brain research, translate it into pedagogical learning theory and filter it down to the school or practice level, schools shift to keep up with the pace and demands of change; or, they throw their hands in the air and spin in a vicious circle, unsure of which way to go. The more we learn, the more choices we have. Choice can either motivate us or it can paralyse us.

In the midst of all this change and stagnation is the learner – the one constant, yet also the greatest variable of all. Without the learner, our purpose as educators would be lost. We do what we do for the learner. Yet, no two learners are exactly alike, and each learner is constantly going through his/her own change – physical, intellectual, social, cultural and emotional.

The Great Paradox of Education is both exciting and exhausting. Whether we acknowledge we are or not, all educators are agents of change. We respond to the changing nature of the learner and inevitably, as the learner changes in a changing world, the very nature of learning changes too. It is the learners we teach who grow up and enter the world and make their contribution through science, technology, creativity, innovation….the list goes on! These learners, knowingly or not, drive our change as the education system responds to what what they give back or take from the world we help to prepare them for. The noble calling of education is alive and well and I am so grateful to be able to exist in this ever shifting paradigm, navigating the waters of child development,  innovation, pedagogy, reflection…and change. How about you?

Playing With Time: Friend or Foe

Time has a way of marching on in spite of us. In schools, the clock on the wall is either friend or foe. Time can propel us or it can paralyze us. I’ve had a life long love-hate relationship with time. I’ve tried to master it, manage it, conserve it, speed it up, slow it down…the list goes on. A wise mentor used to laugh at me and tell me that I needed to be more playful with time. Play with time? How can you play with something that is always moving, never still? While I couldn’t see it all those years ago, my mentor was right. You really can play with time. It’s in the very forward motion of time that the beauty of time playfulness lies.  At that point in time, he knew something I did not: time is only scarce if we think it is. I used to think of time as my enemy – it grinded me and wore me down as I constantly tried to battle and slay it. There was never enough time, and worse still, there was no way  for me to somehow get more of this fleeting trickster.

In my own inquiry into how to play with time, I discovered a great book by Elizabeth Saunders called, The Three Secrets of Time Investment. While this book is not written specifically for educators, and my motivation to read it was more personal than professional, I still found myself reading the book through my educator lens and thinking about how Saunders’ principles could be applied to teaching and learning. Saunders proposes that time should not be managed. Instead, she challenges the reader to look at time from an investment perspective. Ultimately, we can choose how we invest our time. Instead of spending time, we need to invest our time. When we look at time from a perspective of scarcity, we are in fact hoarding it. If we always think there will never be enough time, there never will be enough time. However, when we look at time from the perspective of abundance then, and only then, can we have a magical play date with time. Here are some of my key applications of Saunders’ time investment “secrets” to an educational setting:

1. Accept the fact that time is finite. Every school day has a definitive beginning and end and there are only so many hours in a school day, and so many days in a school year. You can’t do it ALL. Face it and move on. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is a learner, so why do we try to cram everything under the sun into a school day? The more time you spend on one discipline, activity, etc., the less time you can spend on

“If you commit to giving more time than you have to spend, you will constantly be running from time debt collectors.”  ― Elizabeth Saunders
“If you commit to giving more time than you have to spend, you will constantly be running from time debt collectors.”
― Elizabeth Saunders

another. A typical school day is approximately 6 hours long. Factor in recess breaks, lunch and transitions and there are about 4.5 hours of quality learning time in a day. How we play with that time is essential. You know you will see your students for a finite portion of their learning day so you have some choices to make about how that time should be invested. To play with time, focus first on the big picture before you start dialling it down to daily specifics. Think about all of the factors that might pull away your time…relational issues that need resolving after recess, assemblies, accidents, unexpected events like fire drills, absences, etc. Stuff happens in schools – there are a lot of variables that can’t be planned for or controlled. Leave room for these and focus on the time you DO have.

2. Clarify priorities. Knowing your curriculum well is the first step to knowing how to prioritize learning time. If you aren’t sure where you are going, how can you decide where to make curricular time investments? Be realistic when you decide on your curricular priorities. Real is not always ideal, and as Saunders puts it, “reality always wins.” Educators tend to have a bent towards the ideal, and in doing so, we lose sight of what is real. Plan with reality in mind – who are your real students (not the ones you imagine)? How much time do you really have (not how much time do you wish you had )? What is really worth knowing and doing? Decide what is essential – less is more. When we put the less is more principle into practice we can make wise time investments that bring playful learning yields. We leave room for learners to have the time to play, explore and inquire. We model prioritization for our students – a pretty necessary skill in today’s fast paced, time challenged world.

3. Habit Patterns Rule. Establishing routines and systems creates stability and security. When you feel stable and secure, fear is replaced by playfulness. One thing I’ve learned is that kids thrive on routines – not rigid routines, but consistent and predictable routines.  Predictability creates the space to for spontaneity. Spontaneity invites inquiry. Inquiry invites motivation. Motivation invites learning. Learning invites growth…  Habit patterns also enable us to make informed choices when setting priorities. (See #2) How often do we “fly by the seat of our pants” in the classroom? When there is a lack of routine, we lose sight of priorities, and we are right back in the trenches fighting the war against time.

Our relationship with time has significant impacts on how we approach every aspect of teaching and learning, from deciding which learning outcomes will have the highest priority, to how much time learners will need to spend on a task or engage in a learning opportunity, to how much room there is for students to engage in inquiry and reflection. If we are hurried, our students will feel hurried. If we are weary, our students will feel weary. If we are playful, then our students will feel playful. How will you invest your time, so that the learners in your classroom will see the value of how they invest theirs?

For more information on the work of Elizabeth Saunders, visit http://www.reallifee.com/

Differentiation vs. the Time Villain

I am going through a cycle in my own learning where I am taking in lots of information and trying to process it as I construct meaning and make connections across a few different related concepts. My mind is sifting and sorting as I try to learn and ultimately, grow both personally and professionally. As I try to inquire into each, I can’t help but make big connections as I explore these concepts individually and in tandem. I have lots of notes on all three and loads of ideas…but my understanding is still growing even though I’ve been at it for months. My inquiry, ideas and thinking are in process, but they are not at the point where I could possibly articulate the new understandings that I am building.

So, my current state has got me pondering and wondering about meaningful learning and the timing of summative assessments. What of the learner who is still making connections and processing their understanding and somehow they are supposed to complete a summative assessment because it’s “the end” of a unit? I was very provoked and inspired by the extremely reflective and insightful blog post recently shared by Sam Sharrett on summative assessments. Recently, I also participated in a webinar hosted by Rick Wormelli. Wormelli got me wondering when he questioned the mixed signals we are sending in the “rush to quantify learning”. I am wondering this: if differentiation is integral to teaching and learning, why is it typical practise to give the summative assessment to all learners at the same time? Even if we are differentiating the task, what if the timing isn’t right for some or all learners? How do we differentiate time in a system where time is often portrayed as the finite villain? It bothers me that the program of inquiry can become like a series of Amazing Race episodes, with learners racing from one line of inquiry to the next with the hopes of making it the big conceptual aha/final destination– except in this case, there is no million dollar prize at the end – just teachers scratching their heads and students lining up to start the race all over again when the next unit begins. And furthermore, how many of our students are eliminated during the race because they run out of time?

I must say that one of the big frustrations that I felt when I was in in the classroom full time, and one that has been shared with me countless times by colleagues and other educators I’ve worked with as a PYP workshop leader is the constraints that 6 transdisciplinary themes in one school year puts on learning. Is the requirement for learners to experience all 6 transdisciplinary themes REALLY about the learner? Six linear units with fairly firm start and end dates on the curricular clock doesn’t give the learner who isn’t ready to move on yet the time they may need to let their learning percolate. What about the learner who can’t process all that rich conceptual information within a 4-6 time-frame? Units of inquiry have a way of marching forward, one unit wrapping up as the other is ready to begin…the relentless calendar reminding us that a school year is finite and that learners must move on, ready or not.

I hope that as the IB revisits the PYP over the coming months that serious consideration will be given to making learning more flexible within the PYP curricular framework. The framework needs some refreshing – it’s been 15 years with no change – except some minor tweaks to a couple of theme names. While I appreciate the value of each unique transdisciplinary theme, I do believe that “coverage” of all six themes across one school year is not always learner centred and can actually be counter-productive to the heart of the best-practise inquiry based pedagogy that the PYP is built on. Schools should be able to make more flexible choices about the ebb and flow of units and which themes are best suited to learners at different developmental stages. Instead of a rigid matrix, perhaps some clear guidelines about minimum criteria around planning curriculum within the framework might help alleviate some of the crunch I know many teachers, and as a result, learners feel. This might give learners who need time to truly explore and inquire into and across transdisciplinary concepts the time they need to process, consolidate, apply and maybe even really have the time to take meaningful action for and from their learning.

The URGE to Inquire

Since the dawn of time, humans have been plagued by urges: primal urges, creative urges, instinctual urges, relational urges…When we have an urge we are propelled to act by either delving into the urge, or repressing it. Learning urges are a necessary part of inquiry. Urgency in learning tells us that we must take action to know more or do more to find out or come to a new understanding. Urges move us forward in the construction of meaning – they are like itches that have to be scratched. If we don’t tend to our urges we can become disengaged or even resentful. In today’s world, when a learner isn’t given the room to follow his/her urges, they often say, “I’m bored.”

When educators see themselves as learning architects who are designing learning spaces built on a strong curricular foundation for learners to inquire and construct meaning while developing skills, they must be open to exploring how to create urgency in learning by both igniting and propelling the urge to inquire.

How do learning architects create urgency within curriculum?

First, they define the inquiry purpose by clearly knowing what knowledge is essential for the learner to come away with after all is said and done. They do away with all the fluff – there’s no urgency in that. Then, they design provocations, opportunities and open-ended engagements that ignite the fire of urgency by inviting learners to connect, explore, wonder, puzzle, collaborate, problem solve, think and apply. They carefully plan opportunities for skills that fit the concept to be introduced, practised and/or mastered.

The learning architect also knows the importance of sharing/modelling their own learning urgency by literally selling the curriculum to the learner so they buy in with their learning currency. Curriculum is much like stock – learning architects are the designers and marketers of that stock and learners are the investors. The more the learner feels the urge invest in the curriculum stock, the higher the learning yield will be.

Finally, learning architects know that less IS more. Because they see curriculum AS architecture, they understand the importance of careful design in the learning process so that learners have plenty of space to explore and construct meaning. Learning architects do away with the seemingly but usually unconnected laundry list of activities and instead design open learning structures that invite the learner to take on the meaning construction process. The learning architect coaches and guides the learner by carefully providing the structural support that a learner needs to grow and thrive.

Teacher or Learning Architect?

“I think…”, “I feel like …”, “Try this…”, “It sounds like…”, “I’m not sure how exactly to describe it, but it’s like…”, “Ahhh…”, “I’m not sure…”, “There has to be…”, “It is…but it isn’t…”, “It’s not…”, “How do you…?”, “I think you are right…”, “What do you think…?”, “We need to think about it in a different way…”, “Can we…?”, “Is that because…?”, “Ohhhh!”, “Ooooo…”  ….

All of the above statements are the inquiry utterances of a group of adult learners engaging in inquiry learning at a recent inquiry based learning workshop that I had the opportunity to facilitate. One of the biggest misconceptions about inquiry based learning is that it is only about asking questions and finding answers. Go back and read the list of utterances again. Inquiry is so much more than asking questions and seeking answers.

Kathy Short put it best when she described inquiry as both a stance and a state of tension. When I share this definition of inquiry with adult learners, they often ask, “but what do stance and tension really mean?”

According to dictionary.com, the second definition they provide for stance is: a mental or emotional position adopted with respect to something. So, inquiry is a mental or emotional position we adopt with respect to learning. Inquiry tension lies in the mental or emotional position of the stance. When we think, feel or believe we have to figure something out, or find out the truth by either confirming something we already believe to be true or dis-confirming something we’ve assumed to be true, or figuring out something that is totally new, we are activating the inquiry stance. As educators, it is our role to be the inquiry architects as we take learners on a journey through an inquiry cycle (there are many! just pick one or make your own hybrid!). Many times I hear other educators lament, “but they just don’t ask questions. How do I get them to ask questions?” Therein lies our first mistake. When we limit the inquiry stance to just asking questions, we limit the potential for meaningful and contextualized inquiry stance learning. Take a step back and really listen to what the learners in your classroom are saying. If you don’t hear anything, then perhaps the flaw lies in the designer and not the learner. Inquiry begs us to examine and challenge our own beliefs and assumptions (our own mental and emotional position) about teaching and learning. Do we see ourselves as teacher or as learning architect? 

The PYP-X Files – Chronicles of an Exhibition: Exhibition Day!

Image
Sharing the Planet
A graphic collage of student art work depicting the sharing the planet theme descriptors. This graphic was used on all posters, invites and thank you cards.

A collective exhale was joyously experienced by our students and faculty as our Grade 6s came through their big day with flying colours! The celebration began with an opening hosted by all of our Grade 6 students where they introduced the exhibition and welcomed guests (in French and English), shared a reflective voice collage where each girl shared her sentence, “Exhibition Is…”, and four students walked guests through a brief outline of the exhibition process from start to finish. Following the opening, guests were invited to view the formal presentations and exhibits. Guests were aslo invited to post their thoughts, feedback and impressions on a live blog site, called Cover it Live! It’s a great way to get feedback. Four of our Grade 5 students served as roving reporters, ipads in hand, gathering comments from guests and posting their own comments throughout the morning.

My writing can’t do justice to what the students contributed through their presentations. Here are some photos and feedback as quoted from our Cover It Live! site to paint the rest of the picture. Thanks for following along on this journey with us – it’s been so great to reflect and share with you!

“Here are some of the amazing things I learned from the exhibition on Friday from the girls in 6R5 and 6r6: 1. The population of the earth is increasing constantly — it grew by more than 2,000 people during the Population presentation alone–yikes! 2. I need to take shorter showers to preserve water and energy (I promise to work on this.) 3. The healthcare system in the UK is much better than the ones in either Canada OR the U.S. (who knew?!) 4. A bystander can be extremely helpful to someone who is bullied, so speak up and help out. 5. It’s possible to light a light bulb with a solar panel from Canadian Tire–cool! 6. Don’t underestimate the power of the media OR social media in transmitting messages about body image. 7. The Grade 6 girls at Branksome Hall are amazing. Thanks for all of these learnings, girls, and for a fantastic morning. Enjoy the last few weeks of school!” (Grace’s Mom)

A model house showing sustainable building options as presented by the Sustainability Group.
A model house showing sustainable building options as presented by the Sustainability Group

 
“The presentations were great: the verbal exposition, role playing, interactive audio-visual on Smartboard all very well executed and educational. The videos were professional quality. Students were well-informed beyond the prepared narrative, and had excellent and informed answers to questions, so it is clear that enquiry went deep.” (Perry’s Mom)

“What a fascinating and powerful morning. As I listened to each of the groups I attended (Sustainability, Food, Social Media), I was so impressed with the depth of research, the professionalism of the presentation skills, and the desire by the teams to impart to their audiences a sense of the importance for changes to our outlook and habits.”(Emily’s Mom)

“This was a very well organized presentation. It was clear that everyone in grade 6 was proud of their work and participation.  What a great start to future group endeavours.” (Claire’s Dad)

20130510_105702
A reflection from the final week.
The Social Media Group examines the negative effects of cyber-bullying.
The Social Media Group examines the negative effects of cyber-bullying.
“Very powerful video, social media group. They spent their time very wisely on how to show people about social media. They educated everyone so well I think many people will think twice about posting things after this presentation. They made an amazing video and really helped build people’s self esteem. Really good job you made me think so, so much about social media now.” (Callista and Sima, Grade 5 Roving Reporters)

“The body image group had an amazing booth that I learnt so much just from the pictures at the booth, and I was amazing how they photoshopped Lochlan’s face. The weapons group also had a great game that we all enjoyed participating in. Now we are watching the water group presentation which has been so interesting so far. Great job girls in 6R6 and 6R5!!!” (Bessie, Grade 5 Roving Reporter)

 

“The healthcare presentation was great! Good work girls. I liked the way you used a debate to compare the 3 different countries’ healthcare (pros and cons). The word wall was a very interesting idea – to uncover people’s real thoughts and emotions about healthcare. Good job!” (Hannah’s Mom)

A book written by the Water Group.
A book written by the Water Group.
OilExperiment
An experiment showing the effects of oil on the environment and birds.
20130510_104132
The Population Group begins their presentation with a visualization, inviting guest to imagine a world…When we open our eyes, we are told this world we imagined is the world of TODAY!
20130510_110556
The Body Image Group challenges observers to undo the effects of negative body image by adding positive (blue) comments to counter all the negative (yellow) thoughts.
20130510_111258
A diorama presented by the Food Group showing the effects of fast food consumption.
A page from the Water Group's Book.
A page from the Water Group’s Book.

The PYP-X Files – Chronicles of an Exhibition, Weeks 6 & 7: Transferring

Our Exhibition is tomorrow! The last week and half have been filled with a busy energy as learners engaged in the hands on work of creating the different components of their presentations and exhibits. Week 6 is all about constructing, creating, collaborating and communicating as students work in their inquiry groups to bring the plans they created in Week 5 to life. Learning spaces become construction zones and Grade 6 student can be found in every available space in the school engaged in the realization of their plans. Sometimes students find challenges in making a plan become reality. It’s our job as the adults to give them the space they need to approach their challenges with their team members to find solutions, and to not step in unless we’re asked for support or to be an objective “third eye”.  It’s amazing to watch the students bring their ideas to life – this is a time to see their confidence and creativity shine. All aspects of the presentations are created and completed at school. They have lots of time to make it all happen and by the end of week 6 each group is feeling ready for the “beginning of the end.”

Image
A web page created by the Water issues group designed to raise awareness and funds to support the building of wells.

Week 7 begins with time for rehearsals. Each group presentation consists of a 10-15 minute presentation where each group shares their issue, perspectives, solutions and action. Students also have the option to have a table where they can share artifacts, art work, statistics, interactive components and any other visuals. All students display their Exhibition journals and planning as well. Students work in their groups to rehearse and interact with their props. Because we believe that Exhibition Day is a day of celebration, group presentations are formally assessed during the “dress rehearsal” in class presentations. They are given immediate feedback (stars and wishes) from their peers and their teacher provides them with feedback and evaluative data as well. We find that this de-emphasises marks and instead places the emphasis on opportunities for continued growth. Students have the opportunity to reflect prior to exhibition day and this means that each group uses the feedback they receive and applies it to their public presentation on Exhibition Day. There are no clip boards, rubrics or check-lists on Exhibition Day – just passionate students sharing their learning . As I watch the dress rehearsals I am in awe of the girls’ Exhibition journey and the diversity their work shows. Every group has chosen unique ways to share their learning about their chosen issue. Passion and commitment are highly evident; knowledge is delivered in creative ways; students show they are risk-takers through their provocations and their confidence.

The range of emotions I experience as I watch our learners transform into teachers leaves me at a loss for words: goose bumps, discomfort as my thinking and assumptions are challenged, teary eyed from shocking facts and statistics, inspired by messages of hope and action, and even laughter. These reactions tell me that the PYP journey is coming to an amazing end for these learners. They are living proof of the power of the IB framework and philosophy in action in our school.

Image
A student working on a model house that will show building materials that support a more sustainable future.
Image
Artwork created by the Animal issues group showing the impact of pollution and waste on habitats.

The exhibition is a process that reflects the development of the Learner Profile and the 5 Essential Elements of the PYP over time. In short, it acts as a school’s summative assessment of its entire PYP program, not just the final year of the program or one day. It is a milestone day that represents a significant journey for every learner and teacher in a PYP school. Presentations should be significant, relevant and engaging. They should also showcase each learner’s unique skills, talents and perspectives. Our job is to set our learners up for success by both challenging and supporting them. Today as I walked the spaces and interacted with our grade 6 students as they made their final preparations, my question to each of them was, “Are we ready?” Their resounding response – “YES WE ARE!”                                    

Image
An interactive game designed to help players compare 3 different health care systems.

The PYP-X Files – Chronicles of an Exhibition, Week 5: Processing

Week 5 is very much a bridge week as students begin to process all of their research and new understandings about thier issues. It’s all about consolidating research and shifting gears into presentation mode. The week begins with students working in their collaborative inquiry teams to share their research by exploring the polarities of their debatable questions. They work together to generate pros and cons for each side of their debatable question. Through discussion and brainstorming, students then choose a side and compose a short essay outlining either the pro or con response to their debatable question. This provides an opportunity for learners to consolidate their understanding of their issue and synthesize their research and thinking as they prepare to move forward into presentation mode. The essay is a formative checkpoint, as students must have enough research to be able to explore the two sides of the response. It’s important that each group member shares her key research points with her group members as this helps to ensure that each girl’s thinking and understanding about the shared issue is brought forward to the final presentation. Students use a wiki to share the most significant aspects of their individual research with their group members

Image
Pros and Cons to explore perspectives on a debatable question.
Image
A visual sketch of a presentation plan.

Students also begin to visualize and plan what their Exhibition Day presentations will look like. Students use two formats to brainstorm ideas and propose an overview of their intended presentation. Each presentation must include a written component, a visual component and an interactive component. Once groups have an initial plan, they meet with their teacher and our Technology Integrator to pitch their ideas. Our Technology Integrator ensures that the IT requirements are realistic and serve to enhance the overall presentation. We encourage students to think creatively about their presentations and which tools will best help them to get their intended messages about their issues across to their audience. Students are encouraged to “think outside the powerpoint” and “beyond the poster board.” Each group’s presentation will take 10-15 minutes of time, so what they choose to do and how they do it is very significant!  This year we have a wide variety of presentations which include movies, animations, models, debates, drama, student composed songs, poetry, Prezzis, art and more! We are thrilled, inspired and blown away by the variety and creativity the students demonstrate.  By the end of the week, all groups have a plan in place and students begin moving into the construction of their exhibits and presentations. The excitement is high as the week ends – 10 school days left until Exhibition!

Students meet with the teacher and Technology Integrator to share their plans and ideas.
Students meet with the teacher and Technology Integrator to share their plans and ideas.
Image
Brainstorming ideas to meet the required components of the Exhibition presentation.