Making Thinking Visible: Building Understanding through Critical and Creative Thinking – May 2015 Harvard Graduate School of Education

Harvard

Welcome to the Orientation Session for the WIDE World online course Making Thinking Visible: Building Understanding through Critical and Creative Thinking. We are Sue Curtin and Jane Nordli Jessep your course co-instructors. Along with our colleagues from WIDE World, we are so pleased that you will be participating. This Orientation Session introduces you to the course, its structure, tools, and will give you an opportunity to meet your course colleagues.

This is exciting! I’m working with a team of teachers from my school to complete the above course. I’ll keep you posted on my journey…

Cheers Nina

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Week 1: What I Know for Sure… random thoughts about schools, teaching and learning!

This year I was given a book to read by a class grandparent after a quick chat. It was What I Know For Sure by Oprah Winfrey. This book has inspired me to write a series of posts on what I know for sure about schools and teaching!

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As I morph into one of those older (experienced sounds better) teachers… and I’m not even sure how that happened, I can reflect on many years and share a few things I know for sure…

1. Everything is about the students. Schools exist for kids, not for the people who work in them. If a decision is being made that isn’t about improving teaching and learning, then its using time that should be about the students!

2. Teachers must to be team players. Difficult with a career structure that is ultimately competitive! And it is!

3. Some of our best teachers are never recognized! I recognize them…

4. We’re all learners… if you think you know it all, maybe I would suggest a new career.

5. Not all leaders should be leaders… challenge me on that statement!

6. It’s important to encourage others and a few words is often enough. I hope I do!

7. Every student deserves the highest quality teaching and learning program we can offer.

8. Don’t ‘dumb down’ learning for anyone and that includes teachers. If you ‘dumb down’ learning for teachers, you ‘dumb down’ programs for students! One day I’ll explain this…

9. Value each student, recognize the potential in all students and promote each student. Look for and find the best in all!

10. What does each student wish you knew about them. Find out!

This week I’ll be looking for my next 10 things I know for sure

Cheers Nina

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JD – ANZAC Day 2015 – 6, 7 and 8 Year Old Australian Students Respond …

My Grandpa Marches on Anzac Day:  Recognizing Anzac Day is an important part of my program each year and needs to be planned and delivered to young children with sensitivity. Using picture story books is the most appropriate way to encourage discussion.

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This is a wonderful picture story book which I use every year. The wonderful illustrations inspire our display. This year two children drew a large portrait of an Anzac soldier with other students painting. We made poppies in our classroom with my student’s Grandparents or special friend who visited school last week. My students then placed their poppies with their special adult onto our display.

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One Minute’s Silence: This picture story book is new to me. I decided to use this book as a mentor text for a piece of writing. The children were given the heading ‘In one minute’s silence … I’ve chosen a few to share here but each student’s response was very special!

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These are rough drafts. My students are responsible for correcting their writing. If required, I will model back their whole piece of writing. Yes, it takes time, but the author needs to have control and ownership at all times.

Cheers Nina

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Question: What does learning Maths look like? How best will we learn? Visible Thinking & Learning!

I asked my students to write on sticky notes what they thought learning Maths looked like. After our poster was finished we discussed their ideas and related their ideas to our Learning Cycle. The children were able to talk about our learning cycle and relate our school cycle to numeracy.

The Learning Cycle enables me to reflect when planning. I need to be able to answer these questions!

What do I want my students to know / learn? How best will they learn? How will I know they know what has been taught?

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Making learning explicit to our students in all areas of the curriculum is essential.

Cheers Nina

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IB-PYP Inquiry: Relationships with each other affect how we feel and behave. Visible Thinking – Using Thinking Tools and more…

I’ve been exploring making thinking visible in all curriculum areas. Thinking tools and questioning are being taught and added to a collection of tools the children can choose from to develop perspective, vocabulary and an understanding of their world.

One of the tools I’ve been exploring with my students is Point of View. This tool can be used for all curriculum areas, whether exploring a character from a book, developing a character for a narrative, or to solve and explore a general problem. When children put themselves in the position of others, their empathy and understanding of a problem, situation or character deepens. Our inquiry for the first 8 weeks of the year has been about relationships.

Central Idea: The relationships we have with each other affect how we feel and behave.

What lines of inquiry will define the scope of the inquiry into the central idea?

  • Self Awareness (LP Attributes, Attitudes, Skills, Mission Statement, Essential Agreement, School Pledge)
  • How we develop relationships (What is  relationship? What relationships do you have in your life? What makes it a relationship?
  • Roles and behaviours within relationships (Scenarios, Role playing, Photos of LP Attributes, Essential Agreement)
  • How relationships affect us (Good, Bod, Reflections task board/Think board- develop their own)

What teacher questions/provocations will drive these inquiries?

How do we develop and maintain healthy relationships?

What makes a supportive relationship?

What/why do actions help to build healthy relationships?

My students have been exploring the relationships they have in their world.

Example: Point of View: Friendship and why we need to have more than one best friend. My role is to record my student’s ideas and not mine, but I think they covered all bases! :)

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Brainstorm: A good friend…

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The Point of View has been a fantastic tool to help sort friendship and playground issues which is part of building healthy relationships. Young children can be egocentric and developing their understanding that there can be other views has led to a very inclusive group of young learners.

The children have also used Point of View to understand the behaviours of a book character and to develop their own characters and plots when writing.

Cheers Nina

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The year of the circle, cycle or pizza! A common approach to learning, a common language and Learner Agency!

This year the class JD displays just happen to be circles or cycles. Young children make connections quickly when learning representations have a common theme and language. This year across my school and for all curriculum areas we have a common Learning Cycle which students know and use.

Photo 1: The IB Learner Profile

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Photo 2: The Fountas and Pinnell Reading Wheel

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Photo 3: My school’s Learning Cycle which is displayed in every classroom and part of daily teaching. Our Learner Cycle is developing its own look, but essentially it’s the same whether laminated or not. Each part of the Learner Cycle is unpacked with students … and when they are learning they need to be able to articulate (deeply) the following.

What do we/I want to learn?

How best will I/we learn?

How will I know that we/I have learned?

Learner Cycle

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Photo 4 & 5: How best we will learn? Unpacked by students

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Young children when exposed to a learning rich diet are able feedback their insightful and unique understanding without prompting. The language of learning has to be used authentically and lived through daily actions to become embedded in the classroom and students.

Photo 6: On its way… The Writing Cycle in four pizza slices! Each pizza slice will encompass one aspect of writing e.g. the writing cycle, word work etc… You can’t eat one slice at a time, you have to constantly nibble at each slice!

Cheers Nina

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The International Baccalaureate IB-PYP Attributes and ANZAC Day 2015

My school is an International Baccalaureate (IB – Primary Years Program) school. Every year we commemorate ANZAC Day in Australia and I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to link the Learner Profile and attributes of the IB authentically into our curriculum.  I teach young learners so I’m always looking for picture story books to help my students understand what this day is about.

This year I’ve gone back to explicitly teaching  the IB Learner Profile and attitudes. Reflecting with my students on the profile and attitudes when relevant has become part of our school day. N.B. I’m not teaching the Learner Profile and attitudes as I did five years ago when I segmented the Learner Profile into parts and focused on each part whilst trying to grasp what an IB curriculum is really about. If you are an IB teacher you’ll know what I mean. The Learner Profile was initially something to ‘hang my hat on’ back then as I unpacked the elements of a program of inquiry and what being an IB teacher meant. Now the Learner Profile and attributes are lived and naturally discussed by my students.

I’ve come along way as an IB teacher, because I now know what I don’t know and also now know the next part of my journey. Phew!

This year I started building a display with my students showing the Learner Profile and attitudes.

Photo 1– The beginning.

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Photo 2– March

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Sticky notes will now be used to record (as we’re learning) anything which relates to the Learner Profile and attributes. My students have started inquiring about ANZAC Day and our thoughts/new understandings will be placed on our display with connections made to the attitudes and profile.

Launch

Once again, I’m using the wonderful picture story book My Grandad Marches on Anzac Day by Catriona Hoy and Ben Johnson as my launch story. I’ve included prior student’s responses to this book in this post. Their Anzac portraits are beautiful.

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This year our inspiration has once again come from this picture story book.

Activity: Two of my students have drawn the outline for our Anzac portrait inspired by the portrait photos in the book. Other students have painted our Anzac soldier. We haven’t finished and have just began our display which will include a grandparent’s precious items she acquired from a visit to Gallipoli.

Photo: The start of our display. A very large portrait (now in base colors) which will have a grey background and painted bright red poppies. My students and I aren’t quite sure how our portrait will come together but it will!

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I’ll keep you posted.

Cheers Nina

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