Wednesday, March 19, 2014

inspiring inquiry classrooms

Every Wednesday morning we have a late start at school - the kids come in at 8:30 instead of 7:45 and our ES faculty meets together for some PD. It's pretty great and keeps everyone involved in the learning process. A few weeks ago, one part of our PD was to take a walk around the school and note examples of inquiry in other classrooms. 

How often do you think to just walk through another teacher's classroom? Just to see what's up, what's been happening? Do you feel comfortable doing so? With seven grade three classrooms, I'm lucky because I get to see quite a lot just bouncing around in the grade level. It was such a great experience to open up all the doors so we could browse around all classes from Pre-K to grade 4. Walk-throughs are something that our elementary school is trying to implement as an open form of communication, investigation, and professional inquiry, and I LOVE it! Here are just a few of the inspiring ideas I saw around:

This display uses cover images of picture books the class used to explore Measurement, with a list of student-written measurement tools below.

A simple but inquiry-focused graphic organizer - for anything! Nothing says inquiry like question starts.

One of our Transdisciplinary Skills displayed with the ActivBoard web from class discussion. You can't really see it, but the kids all added an index-card reflecting on a time when they successfully used Connection and Collaboration in their own lives.

Totally want to make this for my room. Reflection is such a difficult skill, but is so important, and this is a great way to help students frame their thinking.

Mathematical Practices posted with student-generated definitions/understanding below.

Project to show personal inquiry into How-To/Sequence writing. This is a great way for students to really separate the steps of the process visually.

Love the idea of taking big questions the kids have asked ("When did you start to think?" "What is the difference between the truth and a lie?" "What is imagination?") that maybe don't fit in nicely with any of your curriculum content and making them meaningful.

Students address one of this unit's Essential Questions.

Using a See Think Wonder routine to help students inquire into a graph they find personally interesting.

Again - great reflection tool. I'm thinking I should make goal-setting/reflection my professional goal for next school year!

Wondering Wall

Grand finale - one more tool for reflection!

Friday, March 14, 2014

technology + visible thinking

Today we got to see some of the amazing work completed by our High School Robotics classes. There were so many cool things to see - from a hover craft to a fire-throwing robot! Our school has amazing educational opportunities and nurtures some true talent.

Before we headed down, I asked the class to work on a Thinking Routine to inquire more deeply into the topic of Robots. This time we used a digital Think Puzzle Explore routine. The first part, Think, is just that - students thought about what they already know about robots and typed it into a Google Drawing I had shared. In the Puzzle section, they wrote down any puzzles or questions they had about robots. After they got a few questions typed up, I emailed them the link to visit the school's Robolucion blog (full of videos, pictures, and write-ups about the various robotic inventions we would see). From there, they formulated more puzzles - questions they could ask the inventors directly! We then went to the exhibit, Explored, and the class typed up what they found interesting about the display. The whole process led to some great discussion.
Here's just a quick look at some work they shared back with me:
As an "exit slip," they had to write one of their reflections on the board to really make this routine visible in the classroom:

This is a really simple but powerfully thought-provoking routine that can work with any "topic" you choose. The kids were totally engaged... and I was not expecting that on this Friday morning after our long week! And at that, Happy Friday, all! Well-deserved, I'm sure.

PS - True fact: Manila is the selfie capital of the world. (I should be adding a selfie here, but...)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

inquiring into...cockroaches?

Yep, it’s true. After finding a cockroach in our classroom yesterday, students were having all kinds of interesting conversations (and reactions!) about our gross little friend. After some observation, the poor guy was eventually killed. I was really tuned into their conversations - comments ranged from "It's so gross!" to "Why did we have to kill such an innocent creature?" to "Ew ew ew ew ew. Ew!" (Alright, so that last one might have been me...) 
Well, thanks to Wonderopolis and their timely daily wondering (sent straight to my inbox), it turns out that if you find one in your “house,” it really is best to get rid of it! (Not that that necessarily means killing it, but no one was exactly brave enough to pick it up and carry it out…)
So today, we inquired into cockroaches. Two words: totally engaged. We started a Harvard Visible Thinking routine called“Connect-Extend-Challenge” to track our thoughts. The students first shared and then wrote about or diagrammed their connections – prior knowledge, stories, experience, feelings, and reactions to cockroaches. [For the parent blog we keep, I took videos of some kids sharing their thoughts at each stage of the Connect-Extend-Challenge, which was the perfect way to really make thinking visible!]
Afterward, we watched a video

and then used some information from Wonderopolis to learn more about the pesky little cockroach. This article was great because it also loosely connected with our inquiry into energy, as it’s titled “Could a Cockroach Survive A Nuclear War?” We read it together and students wrote some ways their thinking had been extended by the new information: What have you learned? What is really interesting to you? How has your thinking changed or been extended?
We then discussed some of the crazy info: “They’ll eat anything! Even soap…”; “They can hold their breath underwater for thirty minutes!”; “They can live for up to six weeks without a meal!” [What?! I can hardly go an hour these days!] After, students wrote down questions that were still challenging their thinking or understanding about cockroaches: What new wonderings came up? How can you learn more about cockroaches? I was quite surprised to hear students who thought cockroaches were simply disgusting in the beginning, really marveling over just how amazing these resilient little creatures are!
So there you have it – our inquiry into, that’s right, cockroaches! The class did a pretty great job making connections, extending their thinking, and then challenging their understanding of this all-too-familiar Manila staple. [They still freak me out.]