My 2ndish attempt at using provocations

I would like to think that I teach through Inquiry.  I really try to keep all of my work about the kids and their thinking; however, I do find myself still leading discussions more than I would like.  Then I learned about provocations.  WOW! I know that I have previously blog about this subject but since that time I have tried to use them more.  Today in science I did just that (at least I hope I did).

Here is what I did:

1) I got a bunch of experiments working on air and water

Center 1: AIR

Center 2: Water
Embedded image permalink
(note: some of these items were for other provocations)
Center 3: Water Cycle
Center #4: Pollution
I then broke them into groups had books and iPads at the centers and asked them what do they observe?  Wow, I couldn’t believe the talk, the focus, and  the engagement.  Take a look at this shot:
Here the students were so engrossed in what was happening that they didn’t even notice me.  They were saying, “cool look its raining!”  They were also using the vocabulary that we have been building before this through our watercraft project.
What did I learn?

1) Inquiry (true inquiry) is allowing planned exploration.  Students really need time to explore and make observations about the subjects.
2) This takes a lot of planning.  I been planning this for some time now (many thanks to my amazing PLN for their help in this).  As I have been planning I had to think about questions, get all of the materials ready and even think about possible misconceptions.
3) True assessment.  I was amazed at what the students had absorbed through previous books, the Watercraft project and our discussions.
4) Its a lot of fun to watch the joy and engagement of true learning
So if you haven’t done provocations before, give it ago.  Its a lot of fun and you would be surprised at what you will learn about your students.

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Daily schedule

I have been inspired by Aviva Dunsinger, a teacher in Hamilton, to talk about my daily schedule.  She posted hers not too long ago, take a look at: http://adunsiger.com/2014/01/04/a-glimpse-at-our-day/, great read.

I have been thinking about how to describe what my schedule looks like and have been struggling.  I think the problem lies in that my schedule really blurs, moreso now that I teach primary.  For those that know me, know that I teach predominantly through Inquiry and problem based learning. In fact, it is more the only way I teach. Too me it allows me to reach all of my students and meet all of their needs but enough of that.  Because of this, subjects become obsolete, I mean the curriculum still guides my practice but it’s not like set periods of math, language, social studies, etc.  It becomes more of a fluid motion between subjects where one is integrated into the next.  Let me explain a little more:
Our school day is divided Into eight periods, but first period is short so really seven.  I lose one period a day for prep.  This roughly leaves me with six periods to work in various activities.  But I try not to see it as periods in the day more like blocks of time.  I always try to have a double period of math and a double period for language but this may not necessarily happen in a set time, it’s where ever I feel it fits the flow of learning.  Sometimes we need to do some language because it is building a context for our math or vice versa our math builds the context for our language. It’s also Inportant to note that even though our time may not be back to back, it still continues.  I don’t try to wrap things up because I have to go to gym.  We just leave things were they are at and continue when we get back.  At first this left some redirecting and focusing but now my students don’t even stop they just get right back to work.
So what do these periods look like:  

Math: is always some sort of contextual problem or an inquiry approach to exploring concepts (some strands are harder to find contexts for all big ideas). For example, we are exploring geometry and 3D figures, so the problem might be there are a bunch of figures on the desk what do you notice. Or look at these categories, one is a yes and one is a no, place the other figures into the categories.  These examples are more inquiry base but help build understanding.  Other times we may be exploring distances kids travel to school around the world.  This context would be read about in class, journaled about in writing and then explored in math.

Language: is predominately done in center form.  I would have five centers that students rotate around for the week.  One center is vocabulary, one is writing, a guided reading group, a read and reflect and another that would be dependant on social studies, science or our writing focus.  Students have choice in the various centers and the reading is often about a social justice theme, science or social studies.  Sometimes, I may use this time to work on just writing or just reading.  

As I mentioned above I try to have two periods for each but this often blurs to three or four depending on student engagement, need and work accomplishment.

For my other subjects (social studies, science, drama, art, media, oral) they are all integrated into math and language.  However, I will often put science, social studies on my schedule board so the students know what to expect.

For both of these subjects it is all inquiry. For science, we do a lot of experiments and posing questions that students have to research.  For social studies, it is one big concept and the students read, write, present and pose new questions of their findings.  Often students will push other inquiry from the discussions and ideas they were researching about.  The arts are also taught this way, with making music videos, podcasts, art work to use in math or media posters.

I also do genius hour once a week for my kids.  Genius hour has been the best thing for inquiry and promoting student engagement.  Genius hour is all about allowing students pursue their own interest a as long as it promotes learning and helps the class.  The students are so engage.  But this is not just let the students do what they want time.  It is tied I to researching, writing, reading, and learning skills.  They are also making media posters, oral presenting and so much more.  My students live it.  Follow the genius hour hashtag for more info.
Hopefully, you see my deliema in articulating what my schedule looks like.  Too me, learning is learning and subject content should be integrated, just because you’re in math doesn’t mean we aren’t doing language.  I think this helps students see the bigger picture and use various skills all through the day.  

I know that I may have been a little confiluding but my hope was to show what my day may look like.  In the end, all I know is that learning in my classroom is always happening and it is always connected together.  

I Would love to hear how other people schedule their day.

Being a connected Educator

Being a connected educator started for me one year ago.  It all started with a colleague of mine trying twitter for homework purposes.  I always wanted to try this and needed a push to do it.  This was my push and I am thankful for it.  Of course when I started out i just creeped a little, retweeted a couple of things and then started posting ideas and thoughts.  I finally found some great chats and learned a lot of that has changed many of my views on education.  However, it wasn’t until this year and two experiences in particular that i would say I became a connected educator.

The first experience is meeting an amazing teacher.  Now when I say meet I mean online and through her posts.  I haven’t actually met her in person, though I can’t wait for that to happen (if it ever does).  The person I am referring to is Aviva Dunsinger @avivaloca.  By connecting to her blog and talking to her on twitter, emails and storify she has changed many of my views and thinking on teaching.  Because of her I have been more connected to my parents, learned more about inquiry and have struggled a little less in my transition to grade two from grade four.  Now some of you may say, how is this different from meeting great educators in person.  I would saying nothing; however, without twitter I would never have met Aviva.  We may never have talked and our paths may never have crossed.  This story is the same for many of the amazing people I have met on Twitter,who without it I never would have talked too.

My second experience is something that I am really proud about and has just recently happened.  It all started with a post from Angela Moses @Motechchef, another great educator.  She posted that she was having her kids rewrite the story of How the Grinch Stole Christmas from the Grinch’s point of view.  I thought this was an amazing idea and so did another educator Carol McLaughlin.  Somehow after talking to the two of them we decided to collaborate together and have our three classes write the book together.  So even though we were separated by many kilometers (or miles) and time zones our classes were connected.  This would never have been possible without twitter. 

For this project Angela created a google doc to record our thinking.  You can also read her blog post here: You can also see our discussion here: http://t.co/VIAglPa2Vm.  Carol created a great graphic organizer to help the students understand the Grinch’s feelings and I created a dropbox account for us to share pics and other things.

However, our learning hasn’t stopped at making a story.  We have been posting pictures between classes.  Carol and my class have been blogging and I will be skyping  with Angela’s class later next week.  The kids through twitter have been sharing their amazing ideas and have pushed each others thinking beyond the twenty or so in the classroom.  Not only this but they have been so engaged because of this collaboration.

So I ask you how have you been a connected educator?  Who do you think has helped you on your way?  Anyone that is great person to talk to, collaborate with or follow?

Accountable Talk in the Classroom: Practical Advice for the Classroom

I have recently finished one great book and one great article on Accountable Talk and Classroom Discussions. 

Stein, M. K., Engle, R., Smith, M. & Hughes, E,  Orchestrating productive mathematical discussion: Five practices for  helping teachers move beyond show and tell. Mathematical Thinking and Learning, 10313-340. 

Chapin, Suzanne, O’Connor, Catherine, & Anderson, Nancy. Classroom Discussions: Using         math talk to help students learn. California: Scholastics. 2009.


Accountable talk is one of my passions as I have spent the last four year studying the impact it has on my classroom.  I highly reccomend these two readings for anyone interested in learning more about accountable talk.  However, I also know that in teaching we really don’t have time to sit down and read.  For this reason I thought I would summarize them for you and include them in my blog (I appologize in advance as this will create a rather long post).  These ideas come from the two resources above and my own thesis work.  I hope they are practical advice for anyone in their teaching practice.

Implementing Classroom Discussions
Establishing and Maintaining a Respectful, Supportive Environment:
·         LAY DOWN THE LAW (in a collaborative manner):
o   that every student is listening to what others say
o   that every student can hear what others say
o   that every student may participate by speaking out at some point
o   all have an obligation to listen
·         neither student or teacher will participate in bad environment.  Everyone needs to feel comfortable.
·         Emphasize the positive and forestall the negative
·         Establish classroom norms around talk, partner work, and discussions (what does it look like, sound like and what should we be doing)
·         everyone has the right to participate and an obligation to listen
Focusing Talk on the Mathematics:
·         During the discussion time you need to focus the talk on math:
o   plan your questions carefully
o   Have good formative assessment happening at all times
o   Make a plan as to what big ideas you want to cover
o   Anticipate problems and possible solutions
Providing for Equitable Participation in the Classroom Talk:
·         Here are some strategies that will assist you in making it all equitable:
o   Think-pair-share
o   Wait time
o   Group Talk
o   Partner Talk
o   Debates
o   Random  Choice on who Talks

 

Types of Talk Moves:
Talk Moves That Help Students Clarify and Share Their Own Thoughts
·         Say More:
o   Here you literally ask the student to explain more.  “Can you tell me more?”, “Tell us more about your thinking.  Can you expand on that?”; or “Can you give us an example?”
o   This sends the message that the teacher wants to understand the students’ thinking.
·         Revoicing:
o   It is sometimes hard for students to clearly articulate what they are trying to say by revoicing or having a student do this it allows the original student to check and make sure what they said is true or to hear it in a new way
o   It is not just repeating but more of paraphrasing the students ideas
·         Model students thinking:
o   This is not so much a talk move as it is a way to help talk
o   As students talk record what they are saying without comment.  When they are done ask them , is this what you meant?
o   This allows students to reflect and think about what they said in comparison to what was written
·         Wait Time:
o   Wait time is so important.  I cannot stress this enough.  The longer you wait the better responses you will get.  It allows students to process what you or another student asked and be able to formulate their thinking
Talk Moves That Help Students Orient to Others’ Thinking
·         Who can Repeat?
o   I would classify this under the first category but it also helps students with understanding what their peers are saying
Talk Moves that Help Students Deepen Their Reasoning
·         Press for reasoning
o   Here you are basically asking students to think about why they did this.  This can be done by asking:
§  Why do you think that?
§  What convinced you that was the answer?
§  Why did you think that strategy would work?
§  Where in the text is their support for that claim?
§  What is your evidence?
§  What makes you think that?
§  How did you get that answer?
§  Can you prove that to us?
o   Not only are these excellent talk moves but excellent questions that push students beyond their thinking and make excellent mathematical connections.
Talk Moves That Help Students Engage with Others’ Thinking
·         These are excellent questions that help students build upon their own thinking and the thinking of the community
·         Do you agree or disagree…and why?
o   This really brings students into direct contact with the reasoning of their peers
o   You can do this by:
§  Thumbs up or thumbs down
§  Why do you agree or disagree?
·         Who can add on?
o   When you ask this question make sure that you wait for answers as this may need time to develop connections.
1: Anticipation (P.322)
The first thing is for the teacher to look and see how students might mathematically solve these types of problems.  In addition, teachers should also solve them for themselves.  Anticipating students’ work involves not only what students may do, but what they may not do.  Teachers must be prepared for incorrect responses as well.
2: Monitoring students’ work (P. 326)
While the students are working, it is the responsibility of the teacher to pay close attention to the mathematical thinking that is happening in the classroom.  The goal of monitoring is to identify the mathematical potential of particular strategies and figure out what big ideas are happening in the classroom.  As the teacher is monitoring the students work, they are also selecting who is to present based on the observations that are unfolding in the classroom.
3: Selecting student work (P.327-328)
            Having monitored the students, it is now the role of the teacher to pick strategies that will benefit the class as a whole.  This process is not any different than what most teachers do; however, the emphasis is not on the sharing, but on what the mathematics is that is happening in the strategies that were chosen. 
4: Purposefully sequencing them in discussion (P. 329)
With  the students chosen, it is now up to the teacher to pick the sequence in which the students will present.  What big ideas are unfolding, and how can you sequence them for all to understand?  This sequencing can happen in a couple of ways: 1) most common strategy, 2) stage 1 of a big idea towards a more complex version or 3) contrasting ideas and strategies.
5: Helping students make mathematical sense (P.330-331)
As the students share their strategies, it is the role of the teacher to question and help  them draw connections between the mathematical processes and ideas that are reflected in those strategies.  Stein et. al. suggest that teachers can help students make judgments about the consequences of different approaches. They can also help students see how the strategies are the same even if they are represented differently.  Overall, it is the role of the teacher to bridge the gap between presentations so that students do not see them as separate strategies, but rather as working towards a common understanding or goal of the teacher.

 

Trouble Shooting Talk in the Classroom

My Students won’t Talk:

v  First ask yourself: our my students silent because they have not understood a particular question? –> sometimes they need to hear the question a few times and have time to think
§  if this is the case then give students time to think  (wait time is very important)
§  also revoice it or have another student revoice the question
v  Second they may be shy or unsure of their abilities:
§  If this is the case you may need to revisit strategies for talking
§  Think-pair-share is an excellent way to get kids comfortable to talk
§  it will also take time to get kids comfortable.  Wait time again is important as it holds students accountable.  Also making them feel comfortable and that mistakes are okay will assist with this difficulties
The same few students do all the talking:
v  Wait-Time:
§  I know that I say this a lot but it allows the other students to think and then participate while making the ones who always participate  (it will feel awkward at first but wait as long as you can)
v  Have students Revoice:
§  This is good strategy to bring validity to students answers and encourage others to talk
v  Conferencing with the ones who talk a lot:
§  You also don’t want to ignore the ones who talk  all the time.  You can talk to them and let them know that you are not ignoring them but are just trying to allow others to participate.
v  Turn-Taking/ Random presenters/ group discussions:
§  These are all roughly the same strategy.  It allows you to have certain presenters share their thinking without offending or allowing others to take over the conversation
Should I call on students who do not raise their hands?
v  there is research to suggest that students will learn by listening but you will also hinder the class progress in discussion.  To help try creating a positive space that allows all students to feel comfortable and willing to participate.
v  “right to pass”: 
§  allow students at the beginning of the year the right to pass.  You’ll notice that they may do this at first but as you build the community they do this less and less
v  Call on reluctant to students after partner talk:
§  Often when you give them a chance to share first they are more willing to share or at least have a response from their partner
My students will talk, but they won’t listen
v  Set the classroom Norms:
§  remind each students that they have the right to be heard but that this also means an obligation to listen
v  Students Revoice:
§  When students need to revoice then they have to listen
Huh?” How do I respond to incomprehensible contributions?
v  The temptation is to simply say, “Oh, I see.  How interesting….” and quickly move on to another student.
v  Try Revoicing or repeating what they have said.  After you have done this ask them is this what you meant?
v  Record their strategy on the board and ask them is this what you meant?
Brilliant, but did anyone understand?
v  Repeat what they said, then have another student repeat what they have said (if really important have many students repeat)
v  Break the explanation up into small chunks and revoice or have the students
I have students at very different levels
v  Pair students in ability groups:
§   Similar abilities with similar abilities.  This allows students to contribute at their level and to also struggle at their level.  In addition, it allows you as the teacher to differentiate as needed.  When you scaffold you can do so by group not by individuals
v  Parallel Tasks:
§  Give students similar tasks but with varying degrees of difficulty (still around the same big idea)
What should I do when students are wrong?
v  First ask yourself is there anything wrong with having the wrong answer?  Sometimes wrong answers provide rich and meaningful discussions
v  Need to establish Norms around respectful discourse and discussion with wrong answers
v  Mistakes are always an opportunity for learning to happen

This discussion is not going anywhere or Students’ answers are so superficial!
v  This may be happening because you are asking to many students to share or revoice the ideas that are happening in the classroom or in the case of superficial classroom  norms have not been established or the types of questions have been simple and direct
v  Use the working on phase as an opportunity to direct your bigger discussion:
§  As you are walking around and looking at work, look for the progression your students are taking.  This will lead you to a group discussions.  What questions are the students asking themselves?  What problems are occurring?  What big ideas are they trying to work out, have worked out or are struggling with?
v  Look at the type of questions that you are asking:
§  As teachers we are comfortable asking questions but do our questions already have responses?  Are we leading the kids to OUR thinking or our we allowing the students talk to LEADthe thinking.  Yes you are very much in control of the discuss and have to lead but it is not YOUR thinking but THEIRS that should be articulated.
§  Higher order questions build-upon or go beyond the thinking that is being presented.  As a teacher we need to help with the connections in mathematics.  Compare student work?  Compare strategies, Pros and Cons, naming and identifying.  We need to go beyond just show and tell



Genius hour

So we started Genius Hour! Now you might be asking what is genius hour.  Genius hour is a time set aside so that my kids can pursue their own interests in learning. It allows the students to learn, research, and develop what they what to do. Now you might be thinking, you let your kids have free rain?  Well in a way, yes I did, however, their was one criteria, it had to benefit the classroom.  

I was really hesitant of letting go control to my grade two classroom.  This was not because of letting chaos happen or student discovery but more that I didn’t know if my students need more guidance I organizing their thinking and work.  
I started the process with watching two videos on creativity and what is an idea. We then made a proposal that they had to share with their parents.  The reason chose to have them make. A proposal was that I wanted my students to have a plan in order to succeed or feel like they accomplished something.  My students then had to share this proposal with their parents.  This was an interesting concept for many of my students.  We had to have a discussion about what a proposal was and why it needed to happen.  However, it did fit nicely into our covey habits and once explained with those my students had no trouble in identifying what they wanted to do.  
The ideas have been flowing.  Some of my kids want to get better in soccer, mathematics, and art.  They have planned to research and make videos, or have an art portfolio.
I don’t know if I introduced this right but I. Am hoping that the kids will take off with it and I am really looking forward to what they have planned. We plan to do genius hour once a week. 
Anyone else doing this? Any helpful tips out there for grade two?  Love to hear what other stories.

Asking Good Questions

Asking questions has always been an important aspect of any teachers job but understanding what makes a great question is the hardest part of the job.  As a teacher we have watched those Professional Development (PD) videos on the classes that seem to be in rich discussion, always learning and having students say such wonderful and impacting statements.  I know I often sat in those said PD sessions and said, ” How in the world did that happen?” or “Those students must be the best of the best?”  It wasn’t until I watched my own videos up in a PD session that I realized there was more to this then meets the eye.

Part of my research has been to look at how my questions impact the learning of my students understanding in mathematics.  As a secondary question I also wanted to understand how teachers plan in order to ask good questions.  I have noticed three important aspects that may help in asking good questions.

The first is that as teachers we need to plan for good questions and good talk. Discussion just doesn’t happen.  We may think that they do but real discussion takes time, just like real learning takes time.  If we want to impact our students learning, we, as teachers, need to plan for it to happen.  The first step is planning meaningful, rich tasks that allow students to explore the concepts.  These tasks need to be open ended and have a real context for all students to access the problem/tasks.  The second step is anticipating students problems, responses and learning.  I often have these mapped out based on my experiences, learning and research into the subject matter.  As a teacher we MUST understand my students learning and we MUST understand the curriculum and concepts being taught.  It is more then just opening a textbook and learning steps or procedures to solve the problem.  When you can identify the problems students may have you are better prepared to give a question instead of directly teaching the concept.

The second aspect of asking good questions is the type of questions that we ask as a teacher.  Often, (and I am included in this) we as students questions that only have one answer, or we just want to check for understanding and move on.  If we want our students to develop deeper understanding our questions have to be focused on learning objects and linked to further explanation of concepts.  For this to happen our questions should: 1) push our students beyond the basic procedural output and into connecting it to conceptual big ideas; and 2) introduce connections to other concepts or subjects.

The final aspect is giving our students wait time to respond.  Often, we expect an answer to a question right away.  This is due to the fact we already have an answer that we are looking for or the question only has one answer to respond too.  When we give our students the time to think they have time to develop an true understanding.  When we rescue our students or go right to direct teaching we rob our students of their understanding and thinking.  In addition, the wait time also allows our quieter students to feel a part of the community and wanting to participate.  It honours their learning.

Asking good questions just doesn’t happen.  It takes practise, it takes time and it takes patience.  You will make mistakes but that is okay.  Some times it may seem that you are going backwards in learning but when you sit back and reflect your student’s learning, you may just be surprised; I know I have been.

For more information read the following articles:

http://bfc.sfsu.edu/PRIME/OrchestratingDiscussions.pdf

Orchestrating Productive Mathematical Discussions: Five Practices for Helping Teachers Move Beyond Show and Tell.  Mary Kay Stein, Randi A. Engle, Margaret S. Smith, Elizabeth K. Hughes.