Tag Archive: learning


This is an idea I have been pondering for a while, inspired by the wonderful professional inquiries that have been going on in the school. I wonder if people would be interested in reading the same professional books and getting together – either in person or online – to discuss the book, share ideas, create resources and put things into practice?

I am currently working through Comprehension Connections by Tanny McGregor, which I borrowed from Trish. Like all of you, I have little time in my life and often start a book and end up forgetting I am reading it!!! Would anyone like to read this book with me? It has really influenced the Year 2 and Year 3 teaching teams and I really want to start putting some of these ideas into practice in my Year 6 classroom. The approaches suggested in the book, however, would work equally well in any age classroom.

What other professional books are you reading at the moment? Could other people read them with you to share the load?

This is a wonderful posting by Cristina Milos on a collaborative blog put together by Edna Sackson, both regular visitors and commentors on Art of Language.

The reason I have put it on here is because, although it is primarily about inquiry and taking students beyond the facts, it is also very rich in language and in the use of language to unlock and deepen student-thinking. It encapsulates the sentiments that all of our teaching teams expressed about language as a “vehicle for inquiry”.

Click on the image to get to the posting. Please feel free to comment either on here or on the posting itself.

Technology is great. But, there’s only a few technology innovations that really do open up a myriad of possibilities that cannot be done easily on a bit of paper or with other, more traditional methods!\

Voicethread is one of them.

Click on the image above to read an outstanding article about Voicethread and to get loads of ideas for how Voicethread could be used in your teaching.

 

 

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The move from the old building to this new, renovated building has been a revelation, I’m sure you will all agree. We have all had to rethink the way we set up our classrooms and consider our use of space with creativity and with the kids firmly in mind.

I was inspired to take photos of the Year 2 classrooms when I popped in there this morning as I felt that they were filled with language and visible thinking. Here’s a virtual tour.

Can any of you spot the object that Colleen went and bought for each class?

The main aim of the language arts presentations was to get a good understanding of our current beliefs and practices about language teaching and learning so that we can look at how they compare with PYP philosophy.

One of the main constants in every team’s presentations was a belief in “integration”, “transdisciplinary teaching” and “language as a vehicle for inquiry” (see the images below).

These beliefs are clearly aligned with the first two sections of the incredibly helpful chart on p. 71 of “Making the PYP Happen:

So, the next step is to see if our practices are just as aligned as our beliefs. The plan is to do this through planning sessions using this diagram from page 4 of the Language Scope and Sequence Document:

We will do this in the planning session following the initial planning of the unit of inquiry by which the following would normally have been covered:

  • Cross-examination and clarification of the central idea
  • Outlining desired conceptual understandings
  • Consensus on assessment tools and/or strategies

At this point, it is appropriate to look at what receptive language will be needed/developed in the unit for students to receive and process information, and the expressive language that will be needed/developed in the unit or students to express their understanding. The outcome of this should be:

  • Clear transdisciplinary links between the unit and language, i.e. language as a genuine “vehicle for inquiry”
  • Clear areas for stand-alone focus
  • Clear direction for skills development
  • Clear focus for Learning Support and ESL Teachers

The presentations were kicked off this time by the Early Years team and a variety of guest performers. They had made a very professional video in the form of a breaking news story about the recent high demand for teaching positions in Early Years! The video was extremely funny but also set out key points about how language is taught and learned. Viewers were challenged to complete a puzzle in order to have a chance of working in EY and the main message of the puzzle was “It’s all about language”. The team feel very strongly that everything they do is about language development, there are no moments in Early Years teaching and learning that do not involve language enrichment.

Here is their video:

 

One thing I’m always on the look-out for is evidence of student thinking. I love to walk into a classroom or down a corridor and be able to get a sense of what the students are thinking about and working on even when they’re not there to explain it to me. The sort of displays that achieve this are often not the beautifully perfect, mounted, manicured displays that we have all been forced to do at various stages in our careers – the kind of displays that take so long to put up that we leave them up for months – long after they are relevant! They are usually messy, imperfect, full of errors and would give one or two heads of school I have worked for nightmares!

However, when teachers use their walls and windows to make thinking visible, they immerse their students in thought, they affirm and give value to the students’ thoughts and they map out where students have come from and where they head to. It is very powerful to see students walking up to a display board to remind themselves of something they put on a post-it note two weeks previously, or pulling a tag off the wall to help them write a reflection or to assess how much their conceptual understanding has developed in a unit of inquiry.

Here’s a slideshow of some examples of making thinking visible that I saw today:

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One thing that really struck me as I went around classrooms today was how teachers at our school cater for different learning styles of students in their classes. Here’s some examples:

This image shows Trish working with a student on his reading. It was clear that Trish was really taking the student’s learning styles into account as she dealt with the tricky issues of learning to read by using a game to make it more interesting for him. What could have been done (and often is) in a very mundane way was instead done in a motivating and entertaining way that the student was obviously enjoying.

Heida and her students were in the middle of a conversation about countries, borders, cultures, people, race and lots of other things when I went into their classroom. One thing I noticed was that the students were not expected to sit perfectly at their tables during the conversation, neither were they all on the carpet huddled around their teacher. Instead, they seemed to be given quite a bit of freedom to make choices – some of them were completely concentrating on the conversation, some zoned in and out, some of the more lively kids were allowed to fiddle or get up and do something while still participating in the discussion. I have been doing a lot of work over the last year or so on “the art of conversation” and I left this classroom with a few fresh ideas and questions, such as, is it always necessary to expect all 24 students to be looking at you and sitting still while having a conversation? Is that a realistic expectation for the “real world”? Is that how adults generally interact with each other?

I felt as though the natural atmosphere in the room allowed the students to be themselves while not detracting from the purposefulness of the conversation.

Believe it or not, these students are doing spelling. The Word Study programme being run in Year 3 encourages the students to develop their knowledge of the way words are put together by using a variety of media to construct the words. By building the words with lego or forming them with modeling clay, the students are able to remember the spelling patterns “automatically” (as one of them said). Hmmm… I thought I’d put them to the test, so I got a couple of them to show me some of the words they have been working on this week, I hid them and then got them to spell the words for me. They did it perfectly. I’m starting to understand why the majority of students that I have taught in Year 6 so far have arrived in my class as pretty strong spellers!

Just like all of us adults, kids have fairly unique positions that they find comfortable for reading – my favourite is lying on my stomach in bed with my head hanging over the side and my book on the floor! Jenny’s class were spread all over the place when I went in, they were all reading avidly too – I tried to distract them but they glanced up at me and ignored me! Their reading position was just part of their engagement with the books. Jenny has a few other things going on in there that gave me a few ideas for my own students.

Each student had a sort of box file thing with about 4 or 5 books in them. Jenny referred to the books as “Good Fit Books” and it is clear that her students are developing the valuable skills involved in selecting books that are just right for them. They use a system called “iPick”. P for Purpose – why am I reading? I for Interest – what am I interested in? C for Comprehension – do I understand the text? K for Know nearly all the words. These strategies have created a culture of student choice in this class and there was a real sense of self-management and the release of responsibility for book choices from the teacher to the students.

Ever heard someone say “we’re not doing Language Arts, we’re doing maths”?

I have.

Well, I saw a few things today that break down that sort of compartmentalization and fragmentation. They will seem pretty obvious to most people, but may be news to others!

This photo shows Joanna, an ESL Teacher, doing a maths lesson. This is the first indication that we understand, in our school, that maths is also language, that mathematical literacy is vital and that our students need language support in mathematics just as much as any other area of the curriculum.

Nicky and I had a good laugh when I walked into her classroom – the students were doing Mathletics. Of course, it was pretty clear that the students were also relying on and developing their language skills when doing Mathletics. Their ability to work through the challenges posed by Mathletics calls for increasingly advanced mathematical literacy. Their ability to navigate through the website involves complex “viewing” skills and reading skills.

A lot of teachers emailed me, jokingly, to say “don’t come to my room – we’re doing ISA tests”. So I didn’t! However, my class did the tests too and we had a good chat together about the tests and about what they were looking for. They really liked the fact that the maths parts were really focusing on mathematical literacy and their ability to read, understand and communicate mathematically rather than their ability to do calculations.

So, lots of maths going on today – and that means lots of language too!

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I went for my first round of drop-ins to people’s classrooms today. I had emailed beforehand and said that I was going to come by as many rooms as I could in order to:

  • Start getting a sense of what is happening in all the classrooms in the Elementary School
  • Get a good relationship going with all of you that is non-confrontational, collegial and spontaneous
  • Get a big picture understanding of beliefs and practices in Language Arts

The experience was really positive and really confirmed how powerful it is to go and see what other teachers are doing. I came away with a much better understanding of what my colleagues are doing and several ideas that I’d like to start putting into practice in my own classroom. It would be wonderful if every teacher did a quick walk-around in one of their free periods each month, for example.

I’m going to do a separate posting for a number of things that I saw so that people can make specific comments.