This afternoon I visited Suzanne Kaegi's room (but everyone calls her Suzie) and it was pretty wonderful. I came into the art studio, full of kids I had taught three years ago, and not one of them greeted me with the ‘Mzz Tawska!’ drone that I usually get. All eyes were glued on Suz. I sat on a table at the back of the room and started documenting the learning, and what unfolded was simple, pure and engaging.
“One of my grade 2 classes are tuning in to their unit on How the world works and specifically how states of matter can change. This is a perfect, authentic opportunity to link single subjects within the context of the inquiry. I mean, what better example of matter than a piece of pottery? We wanted to hook students, get them interested in the process of pottery, but also assess their prior knowledge of clay making. We constructed a front-loading experience to explore the process of clay - from its wet stage to a fired piece of pottery. The students used drawings I had created in order to scaffold sequencing the process and this was especially helpful for the second language learners in the group.
The students were invited to sort and order the process of clay making from their prior knowledge. They worked collaboratively to analyze, debate, justify and construct their understanding. As they finished we gathered as a group on the carpet to reflect and address misconceptions. We then started to move away from the 2-dimensional representations I had created of the process and explore the real tangible materials. We examined the properties of each stage of pottery. Drawing on adjectives, and descriptive language the students had been working on in literacy. Great conversation was generated. The children were engaged and I came away with a very clear understanding of their knowledge, vocabulary and individual comfort with the processes of clay. This was all beneficial information to feed forward to their homeroom teacher and add to their portfolio!!
Engaging students in learning experiences like this is a powerful thing to be part of. BIS is my first International school experience, previously I had been teaching in New Hampshire for four years. I worked at three different schools, all part-time, out of my car, with no art budget, and taught in a pottery studio whilst creating my own work. I was busy!
Here in Germany, I teach primary art, grades one through five, over a two-week rotating basis from one nicely decked out art studio. The international mix of students, their love for a variety of mediums, and their willingness to share and pass on information is inspiring. I find that by enabling kids to see how they relate to big concepts, materials and artists, they open up to the possibility of viewing themselves as artists too. Their enthusiasm motivates me each day.”
Suz is right. I was inspired too. The kids were switched on. They wanted to know the steps of pottery making so they could produce a final product. They were focused and invested in the learning.
And that is super cool.
But Ms. Suzie hasn’t shared the coolest bit, so I will for her. This year, along with a colleague, Jo Tilton, Suzie collaborated with teachers across the PYP, MYP and DP to create a scope and sequence for visual art that spanned all three programmes. This was an incredible amount of work that will enable students and teachers to have quick overview of the skills, vocabulary, artist studies and materials explored within the context of IB programmes. The document allows the transitory, third-culture students that enter our school mid-year or mid-programme to assess where they fit in the scheme of learning, to identify skills they already have, as well as those they are working towards. It empowers students to look at their learning and see what they have been able to accomplish over a year, and if they have been at the school long enough, over their educative career.
What an amazing iterative document to create for the school! Suzie and Jo then fed that forward to educators at the ECIS conference in Amsterdam in November.
<strike>I have provided it here for you to share in their process. Why don’t you check it out and give Suzie feedback! I am sure she would love to hear your ideas!</strike>
Thanks again to Suzie for sharing the teaching and learning happening in her classroom!
(*Please note this post was edited at the request of the teacher. The curriculum document is no longer available. Sorry if this inconveniences you, or if you had bookmarked this resource.)
BUT, hey- Don't despair, I can hook you up! if you want a research-backed, FREE, curriculum phase-document that @JeffHoffart and I created in order to help kids to take action and make a difference in the world through service learning- check it out here: HelpTakeAction.
Tsunami of Learning
On November 25th I attended my first #edtechchat, which is pretty unbelievable knowing my addiction to education, technology and chattiness, but still entirely true. I felt like a kid in a candy-shop, which provides two insights into my addled brain-ball.
1) Twitter makes me feel like a kid. I have all these choices and connections; it is pure heaven for someone whose brain is on speed-dial.
2) I may think of candy all the time.
Sometimes a perfect trifecta of information triggers something in that same brain-ball, and what happens, is a tsunami of learning.
Trust me, 140 characters CAN hit home. Hard.
Jeff @JeffHoffart and I defined the ethos of our company ED-ucation Publishing, as one that works to build community and celebrates the teachers and learners within that community. And although my EdD focuses on the ReBranding of education, the research will be 8 looooong years in the making, Mr. Couros and Mr. Hernick made me realize I wasn’t doing nearly enough to celebrate and promote the amazing teachers I had the pleasure of working with over my 14 years in international teaching RIGHT NOW.
But, what the what? Why wait?
Inspired, I put out a call on Facebook for teachers to share their practice with me to share on Twitter and my blogs. This would provide two things:
1) Promotion through self-branding, as many of the teachers I work with are new to, or don’t use Twitter, blogs, or websites to brand themselves, or create a PLN (I am the crazy bird-lady on staff).
2) Celebration of innovative or unshared practice. Every teacher knows a classroom CAN become insular, unless you work hard to embody collaboration.
So, here (with many more to follow, I hope) is the first teacher I would like to share and promote:
James Wex @Wex85 PYPC & Teacher: Barbados
“In my first year of full time IB teaching, I did something, which made my colleagues wince...
It was in my second unit of inquiry with 9-10 year olds, How we organize ourselves, under the Central Idea of - Rule and order protect our human rights. One of the lines of inquiry was 'The attributes of a leader'.
My goal was to create a learning engagement for students to appreciate leaders, show empathy for the challenges that leaders face and understand that leaders change according to situations. Throughout this line of inquiry we looked at different leaders, their similarities and differences and why we need different leaders to function in different areas of society.
It was a Tuesday at 0750, I entered my room and wrote a message on the board-
Mr. James will not be here today, but he's left you with two rules;
1) stick together as a group at all times
2) no electronics
From that point on, I shadowed the class up until lunchtime. The students initially had varied reactions, some seeming lost and confused decided to sit in the corner and read. Other students, clearly happy with a sense of freedom this situation provided started singing, dancing, and parading around to celebrate their ‘independence’.
Quite soon though, the students started to tire of the situation, started to crave something more than this complete lack of direction. This is when the class started to descend into chaos.
Shouts of, 'let's go to the library', 'I want to go do art’; 'let's play foursquare!' rang out.
Eventually the louder voices won and as a group they were all forced to go to the library, where another teacher turned them away. Then they spent 10 minutes on the stairs trying to decide what next!
The dead-end adventures continued throughout the morning, but the learning happening was anything but dead-end. By 11.45 the students were screaming at a non-responsive Mr James, 'TEACH US!!', 'DO SOMETHING!!'. There were; tears of frustration as some couldn't get themselves heard, shouts of anger as decisions were unattainable, and still those that wanted to slink away and find escape in a book.
As a learning community the reflections generated from this experience were rich. Sure, never have I felt more valued as a teacher, but to allow my class to descend into chaos and just watch, was such a difficult challenge.
Two days later, in order to juxtapose roles in leadership, Strict Mr James showed up, and for some students, this surprisingly seemed better. No independence, no decisions, no freedom, and the expectations were clear: sit, work and test. No speaking, no moving, no asking, (some could say) no learning.
Never, have I shouted so much in one morning!
To show these students two extremes and for them to see the pros and cons themselves was really a worthwhile engagement. The students went on to make connections between this and how the governments in our world vary.
*As important side note to any teachers who wish to try this out be sure to warn your fellow faculty and staff before attempting, take my word for it!”
Many thanks to James for his openness and for sharing his practice! I am so grateful for the people I am connected to, each and every day!