CREATE!

Design Thinking

Dream, design and Do or Make!

As students develop their own question, they are asked to think deeply and compassionately about their topic.  During our most recent session, students were read the story Turtle Turtle Watch Out by April Pulley Sayre.  We brainstormed questions as we discussed the story, and then compared different types of sea turtles and the issues they face in their ecosystems.  Students then shared their learning on Flipgrid based on their research using WorldBook, Vancouver Aquarium, and safe Google searches using search engines.  

 This coming week we will work on designing a protective solution for turtle babies in their habitat.  I look forward to seeing our students in action next week sharing their amazing creations, their research and their critical thinking!  Part of their sharing next week will include peer feedback based on the core competencies in our standards.  

Pippa Davies

Director HCS Blended LearningCommons

www.hcslearningcommons.org

Heritage Christian Online School

Twitter:  @PippaDavies

Identify and Gather

What Makes a Good Question?

The next step was to discuss the validity of questions.  Ground rules were created to encourage students to ask good questions about each other’s presentations, and to move away from a focus on getting the right answers.  We debated open and closed questions, worked on this at home, and then shared good ideas for why open-ended questions are so much more interesting than closed questions.  We have a strict rule that no question is a bad question, but all good questions lead to more questions!  

It was tough for me to take a step back and wait while students took needed time to shift from answer to question.  Initially, they copied each other’s questions, but slowly the conversation opened up to more interesting questions as I role modeled a few of my own questions.  There were a few students who wanted to give answers, but we had to rein ourselves in and come back to the driving questions around ecosystems.  It was definitely a learning curve to move away from the ‘googlable’ answer to understand what we wanted to research further.  

Students were then encouraged to use Pebble Go as a launching base to further their research and examine more about their topic.  Again, they shared their learning using Flipgrid. Some presented beautiful flowcharts, others used the cool iPad app which comes within the Pebble Go, whilst others made their own dioramas or research reports on the biodiversity of ecosystems in British Columbia and beyond.  Again, the focus was on asking questions about the research, as well as learning from the students who were co-teaching their peers.  We touched on the socio-emotional learning as well with questions reflecting how they were feeling as they researched.  Most students enjoyed the process of researching what they wanted to discover.  Some students shared that making their inventions in the first week was difficult because they could not get the right results.  The time taken for producing was perhaps not conducive for further learning.  I had given a framework of one hour per week to work on assignments, but am discovering we may need more time.

Pippa Davies

Director HCS Blended LearningCommons

www.hcslearningcommons.org

Heritage Christian Online School

Twitter:  @PippaDavies

Virtual STREAM Book Clubs Grade 3

STREAM BOOK CLUBS GR 3

My book clubs are ten week sessions, and we meet virtually using Zoom technology.  My class is limited to 15 students because I want each student to have time to present their learning every other week.

I will share some of the success and challenges of running my primary book clubs online from a guided inquiry, and design thinking perspective.  My intention is to scaffold inquiry and engage students to become active problem solvers, to dream big, solve authentic problems and research with passion!

Facilitator and Presenter Roles

The teacher role has now changed from “sage on the stage” to FACILITATOR, and the student has moved from the role of consumer to one of producer or PRESENTER.  In terms of initiating the teaching parts of the guided inquiry, the teacher needs to hook his or her students in with an essential question or focus.  This year I am using our BC new curriculum grade 3 science standards including the essential question, “What is an Ecosystem?”  My role is to get students excited about the topic and big idea, and channel their thinking into further questions about ecosystems close to home or outside of their community.  I also hope to role model the importance of what makes an essential question in science so important, and praise skills as opposed to content!

 

How did I do this?  The first week, I worked with parents and students to understand the shift in pedagogy, and invited them to read some of these lovely picture books on Overdrive e library which would create the movement towards creative responses, and growth mindset.  These books were used as “hooks” to bring in the discussion about art in science, engineering and PBL, and being curious about the world, as inventors and creative designers.

 

I encouraged students to be inventors of their own questions and design something right off the get go.  Each student came ready to share the following week either in our virtual class or on Flipgrid.  Flipgrid allowed our students to present using video technology, and also view and comment on their classmates’ work.  We spent a full hour listening and praising work effort with our student presentations.  The socio-emotional learning was very evident when things did not turn out right.  Check out this video of our student Davis sharing his Egg Picker Upper.  He did eventually get it to work using some extra ideas and appendages. One of my students who experienced challenges with sharing orally presented his learning authentically using a sock puppet and shadows.

Pippa Davies

Director HCS Blended LearningCommons

www.hcslearningcommons.org

Heritage Christian Online School

Twitter:  @PippaDavies

GID in a Blended Learning Commons in British Columbia

Pippa Davies

Director HCOS Blended Learning Commons

November 19, 2017

Our book clubs have been a huge success at our distributed learning school, Heritage Christian Online School.  We serve approximately 3000 students all over the Province of beautiful British Columbia as an independent partially funded K-12 school.  Our students learn with the support of an accredited teacher, using the British Columbia mandated curriculum from a Christian perspective.   

We are blessed to work with a large special needs group of students who are also included in our book clubs.  

Presently we have 5 book club moderators who run book clubs from a guided inquiry approach either using Lit Circles, or STREAM (Science, Technology, Relationship, Engineering, Art and Math) as a framework.

Everything we do in our learning commons comes from our vision of “Encouraging Christian community through discipleship, literacy and innovation”.  We believe in high tech with high touch!

Pippa Davies

Director HCS Blended LearningCommons

www.hcslearningcommons.org

Heritage Christian Online School

Twitter:  @PippaDavies

Predicting the Future Through Narrative

Today, I’m going to try to explain the current GI unit that my students are wrapping up. This year was my first year teaching English 11 and, therefore, my first time teaching this unit. I was very excited for the unit as many of my grade 11 students are opinionated, motivated, and informed, and I was interested to see how they would communicate their ideas through dystopian fiction—a genre that they have read quite a bit of but have probably never written before.

This unit proved to be rewarding and inspiring for me as a teacher because of the thoughtful and powerful ideas that my students were able to tap into in their narratives. The unit also proved to be challenging for other reasons: I was off work due to a concussion, so we started the project a little later than intended as I sorted out unit/lesson plans with teachers covering for me. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to host our book launch party, but we are still planning to publish an anthology in ebook format to keep in the library.

The objectives for this unit were:

  1. Understand how to communicate opinions and ideas through fiction
  2. Apply understanding of dystopian fiction to own writing

The first objective was important to me because I often teach students how to write stories, but I don’t necessarily ask them to use story to communicate a message. This requirement adds a layer of complexity and causes the students to be more selective in devising their plot.

The second objective was more summative in nature considering we have read many dystopian texts throughout the year. Students have shown understanding of the genre and the messages these authors communicate through analysis pieces but had not had a chance to experiment with the genre themselves. In my mind, this application piece was the students’ opportunity to show a fully developed understanding.

Please note that while students consulted dystopian texts and news articles through this unit, they were not directly quoting or paraphrasing information in their narratives. Therefore, their Works Cited page became a list of sources that informed or inspired their narrative rather than a list of sources that were referenced in the traditional way within their final product.

Below is a rough outline of the unit:

Open
  • Discussion of what we’ve learnt from literature and how communication through fiction differs from non-fiction formats
Immerse
  • Read and analyze Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • Read and discuss “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
Explore
  • Daily journal about a current event in the news that they found interesting/applicable
  • Record articles referenced in journal
Identify
  • Create a premise for the narrative
  • Create a list of sources that were most influential/informative for generating the premise
  • Create assessment rubric as a class
Gather
  • Consult both dystopian fiction examples and non-fiction sources to find more information
  • Write a character description and a setting description—conduct more research if more details are needed
Create
  • Generate a first draft
  • Peer edit first drafts
  • Revise and draft a final version of the story complete with an MLA Works Cited page for sources of information and inspiration
Share
  • Format stories into a class ebook to be published in the school library’s collection
  • Have a “book launch” party to celebrate their achievement
Evaluate
  • Self-assessment on the rubric
  • Reflection on what they have learnt and what they would do differently next time
  • Teacher evaluation of final product and self-regulation through the process

Through conversations I have had with students over the last two weeks, most students are quite pleased with their progress and the project itself. Not once have I had a student ask, “Why can’t we just write an essay?”—a lament that often occurs in longer, inquiry-based units. Furthermore, students have been exploring some very interesting concerns from their lives: stigmas towards students with accommodations, the impact of elite athlete training, schools of unlearning to train students to think a certain way, the impacts of climate change, growing economic divisions in societies, and more!

On Friday, I hope to share more of my reflections and even some excerpts from the students’ writing to further highlight the process of this unit and the overall results of it.

Thanks for reading!

 

Jennifer Torry

English Teacher

St. George’s School

Relationships, Dystopia, and More: Literature and GI

Greetings from sunny (finally!) Vancouver, B.C.! My name is Jennifer, and I am an English teacher at St. George’s School. You may have seen posts from other teachers at my school, like Marc Crompton and Elizabeth Walker. These two have GI figured out!

I will say this now: I am by no means a seasoned practitioner in GI but am developing a better understanding of how to incorporate GI practices in the classroom each time I use it. It’s a fantastic tool to keep in your metaphorical teaching tool belt.

Affinity Protocol: Students brainstormed types of relationships and categorized them to open our Romeo and Juliet unit.

I was introduced to Guided Inquiry through Marc, our senior school librarian extraordinaire. Together, we worked on a GI project for my Grade 10s last year that connected Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet with the concept of relationships to allow students to personalize the play. We also built in protocols from the National School Reform Faculty as our idea to work on this unit together actually came about during our training for this certification. You can read all about it in Chapter 8 of Guided Inqiry Design® in Action: High School.

I also had the chance to meet with Leslie when she came to our school in the fall of 2015 to work with a team of Grade 8 teachers. Our team of nine teachers (teachers of Science 8, English 8, and Socials 8) were trying to plan a cross-curricular, guided inquiry style project. It was wonderful to have her input on how GI could open up the realms of possibility and create both direct and indirect connections between the three subjects.

One Grade 8 student’s “What does it mean to be human?” creation. He compared the anatomy of pigs to humans.

After completing the aforementioned GI units with my students, I was left with some questions that I wanted to try to address the next time I attempted a GI unit. My questions included:

  • How can I ensure that the creation is clearly linked to the literature we are reading?
  • How can I check in with students about their understanding and progress without over-assessing?
  • What is the base that students need to complete to be successful? How can I ensure less motivated students are on track and successful as well?

These questions arose from both the collaborative unit with our Grade 8s and Marc and I’s unit with my Grade 10s. For example, with our 8s, we sometimes had too many steps for the students and it actually slowed them down rather than propelling them forward. With my 10s, the creations were thoughtful and, for the most part, well-researched, but there weren’t enough references to Romeo and Juliet to demonstrate understanding of the play.

This Grade 8 student created a 3D printed brain accompanied by a PowerPoint to explain what it means to be a human intellectually.

This week, I am going to be sharing my Grade 11 English unit on Fahrenheit 451 with you to share my newest discoveries and perhaps some viable solutions to the challenges I mentioned. We explored the dystopian narrative, and the students used this understanding to write their own. Students had ideas that ranged from a post-WWIII era to the post-climate change charred earth and even schools of “un-learning.”

Stay tuned for more about this unit and my reflections and learning!

 

Jennifer Torry

English Teacher

St. George’s School

Giddy for GID!

My name is Elizabeth Walker (everyone calls me Lizzie) and I am the Teacher Librarian at St. George’s School in Vancouver, Canada. I work with about 400 boys from Grades 1 to 7 at our beautiful Junior School.

Like many North American cities, Vancouver is very new – any building older than about 50 years is considered “really old” – so our 1912 former convent heritage building is a truly unique place to work. It’s basically Hogwarts: an imposing grey stone gothic building in the middle of a leafy residential street. Walking through the granite gates and oak door every morning is something I never get tired of. My library occupies one wing of the main floor, and we recently refreshed the furnishings to create a very flexible, kid-friendly, and inviting learning space – a perfect setting for Guided Inquiry.

Oh, just my imposing gothic-revival workplace. No biggie. (Photo credit: stgeorges.bc.ca)

I have worked at the library at Saints for seven years now – in fact, my first cohort of Grade 7s whom I’ve known and worked with since Grade 1 just graduated to the Senior School two weeks ago. It was quite a poignant event for me, marking my own progress as the librarian here.

In my tenure at Saints, I have experimented with a number of educational philosophies and trends – from more traditional “bird units” to Project Based Learning, Inquiry Based Learning, Genius Hour and, of course, Guided Inquiry Design. I had the opportunity to learn about GID from the master herself: a small group of St. George’s teachers met up with Leslie in the Boston area in March 2015 to tour some schools that were implementing it.

From the outset, I knew I liked Guided Inquiry and that it would work well with our students. For one thing, St. George’s is an independent boys’ school, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned working exclusively with the prepubescent XY contingent, it’s that choice in learning is very motivating. Boys need to care about what they’re learning; that Third Space factor is critical. Ergo, projects in the past where teachers have given the students lists of possible topics to research, or have given strict parameters for what information to report, have not always been successful, simply because authentic choice was taken away from the students. The boys would slog through a project on a teacher-selected topic with minimal effort and, in the end, not learn anything significant. Projects like this become a chore.

GID works so well with elementary aged boys because, through the initial phases of the process, they can choose their own area of interest and the direction they want to take their learning. I have used the GID framework (either in its entirety, or the first three phases) in over half a dozen units and projects this year, and it is eye-opening to me how far our boys have gone with topics they are really curious and passionate about. I’ll get into some more details in my follow-up posts this week, but the variety of interests our students have developed is truly astonishing!

Here’s a teaser: any guess what this little creature is? He (or she?) is my Guided Inquiry mascot because he (or she) represents just what kids get curious about when you give them the freedom to explore and learn on their own!

Strange little creature. Photo credit: Alison Murray, ARKive

Strange little creature. Photo credit: Alison Murray, ARKive

Another reason I’ve really taken to GID in a big way is that it is a framework that puts the librarian front and centre (or centER, for you Americans!) of the learning team. Curating sources for students to use in the Explore and Gather phases really ensures that the information they’re accessing is reliable, relatable, and age-appropriate. Gone are the days of teachers letting boys loose on Google: LibGuides, subscription services, pre-selected websites, and – shockingly – books (!) are the stars of the show now. And, with these high quality resources selected for them, our boys learn and practice important research skills like citations, note-taking, and reading for information. Authentically and naturally… and without their librarian feeling like she’s pulling teeth.

One of our Grade 3 students during the Explore phase. Note how no teeth are being pulled. (Photo credit: me)

One of our Grade 3 students reading and taking notes in the Explore phase. Note how no teeth are being pulled. (Photo credit: me)

 

Finally, I like Guided Inquiry because it’s SIMPLE. While organizing the instructional team, planning time and resources can be time consuming, Guided Inquiry itself can be as complex as you wish to make it. In my experience, implementing GID has been smooth sailing because we’ve used resources, people and unit plans that were already there in some form. There was no major investment in supplies or resources (other than some GID books and consulting services from the lovely Leslie) and we didn’t have to reinvent the wheel. GID doesn’t need to be a big production, and that has really helped me secure buy-in from many teachers at my school who previously were hesitant to take on “big projects.” And that, in turn, has meant that our students have been able to enjoy powerful, meaningful and FUN (!) learning experiences.

In my next post I’ll be describing some of the Guided Inquiry units I’ve implemented this year, as well as how I’ve stolen the first three phases of Guided Inquiry to beef up pre-existing projects and units at our school. Until then, enjoy these precious first few days of summer holidays!

~ Elizabeth Walker

@curiousstgeorge

This year I scored a microphone to use in the library. It has totally gone to my head. (Photo credit: me)

This year I scored a microphone to use in the library. It has totally gone to my head. (Photo credit: me)