HWEO/WWA in Studio4

#Studio4 at ISHCMC are currently beginning a long unit that will run until the end of March. There has been a lot of thought and planning into how this unit might run and it is already feeling VERY right!

Here is a sneak peek of our current week for our students (and this is only 2 periods per day!)Screen Shot 2019-01-16 at 6.28.22 PM.png

Amazing, right?

I have begun to write a progressive blog post about the Studio 4 journey with this particular unit. Since it is progressive, I will not post it here, but it can be found on my blog: http://innovativeinquirers.weebly.com/blog/hweowwa-in-studio-4

I have written about the first two phases and our plans (which may change) for the rest of the unit. I will continue to add and edit it as we go along. Please follow us on our journey and share any thoughts, challenges, ideas, or similarities that you are experiencing with us. It is definitely an exciting time for education. I wish I could have had these opportunities at school when I was their age!


Feeling Backwards About Backwards Design

Until recently (like, last week) backwards design felt right. I always tried to have the end in sight and figure out with the students what learning engagements they could encounter to get to that end. “Best practice,” right?

On my path for more agency with my students I am beginning to question this. Our new unit is really what is making me think more about it. Here is some background information about the unit, if you are interested.

How We Organise Ourselves
CI: Technology is an integral element of our lives
LOI1: Responsible consumption of technology (Responsibility)
LOI2: The positive and negative aspects of current technology (Reflection)
LOI3: The advances that technology has enabled (Function)

We keep trying to think of a summative assessment for this unit… where are we going with this? What do we want them to accomplish or know? How can they show this?

We have had multiple thoughts from “how to” videos showing online safety, to blogs with comments and questions from students safely and positively interacting with each other, to a “show what you know” type thing where they can just tell us (in any form) what they know about the central idea and lines of inquiry. We are also toying with the idea of bringing in the Sustainable Development Goals and having the central idea and lines of inquiry be the driver/lens for it.

Of course formative assessment is key. I don’t want to ignore that fact. We need to be monitoring student actions and knowledge of all lines of inquiry as we go. But if students with agency are choosing their own paths for their learning, should we be contriving a summative assessment for them based on what we think is best? Is this fitting student needs or ours?

I suppose the “backwards design” is starting with the why. Why is this unit important… For us this means why do we need students to know about how technology is an integral element of our lives? Why do we need students to know how to consume technology responsibly? Why do we need students to know the positive and negative aspects of technology? Why do we need students to know the advances technology has enabled? It is a hard one because really it is for their current and future use of technology in their own lives inside and outside of school. The real summative assessment is if they are actually using technology safely and positively as they get older, after they leave our classrooms.

Maybe the “show what you know” is the best option for now? Maybe a mini portfolio of examples of their positive tech use and knowledge in the unit? Aren’t the central idea and lines of inquiry what we want them to accomplish or know? Should we use that for our backwards design thinking instead of a summative? I’m not sure where we are headed, but if students reflections along the way show their knowledge, I am not sure we need to contrive a fake summative for them. Do we?

Original post here

Unlearning Teacher Instincts


(Sorry if this got emailed twice… I am not sure what happened but this post has ended up back in my draft folder and doesn’t seem to be on the blog anymore, so I am clicking publish again…?)

As I continue my #OneWord2018 quest of being more “open” I am having some tough thoughts today.

Unlearning “How to be a Teacher 101” is hard!

I am definitely being more open with my students and seeing amazing benefits. Sometimes, though, this still is not my first instinct.

Today’s example… I have been feeling the need for our reflection wall to progress to a digital version so they can really see their progression and export it at the end of the year as an iBook to show their grade 4 teacher, etc.

Currently, this is what our reflection wall/window looks like:


This is working fine, but we couldn’t see where we were, where we have progressed to, or where we wanted to go.

With Apple Pages new update, we are able to collaborate and also export as an ebook. Page A was made to mimic our existing reflection wall which is fine – a continuum of gradual independence for a certain skill (thank you to @OrenjiButa for the art work we have been using all year for reflecting on ATLs and gradual release of independence which we took ownership over by choosing meaningful descriptors from other classes). I had two versions of page B which I could not decide between. One very structured page (my first version) and one blank page with the title of reflections and goals where they could choose how to reflect.

Version One:

Screen Shot 2018-04-11 at 10.23.40

Version Two:

Screen Shot 2018-04-11 at 10.23.26

Because I am trying so hard to allow room for agency, part of me was saying to use the second version. But I wasn’t quite sure. I was asking teachers and kept thinking about it… until embarrassingly late in the game I finally thought to ask the students.

They surprised me. They want choice, they want flexibility, but their VOICE right now was telling me they wanted structure for this book. They thought it was much more clear. There was a small part of them worrying about running out of room with this option, but I told them we can deal with that when we get there. Their ownership of this is growing, and if I had chosen the more open-ended version for them like my “push for agency” self was trying to say they would have been lost (I could see the panic and confusion on their faces when they saw the second version).

For now, we chose structure for this particular activity. If we had started this at the beginning of the year I could see how it might change into the second version, but with three months left of the school year I am not sure. If we need to change, we will change. I have made pages for all ATLs and also for the areas which will appear on their report card at the end of the year, hoping their reflections will assist and align with the report card process.

My takeaway for today is to keep trying to make a habit of asking them first. I am well on my way but this could have been a big loss for us, had I not asked them. It is hard. I try things myself. I then push to collaborate but still my first instinct is still the adults of the school. Not the ones using the tool I am creating. I am growing.

How are you unlearning your teacher instincts?

Also posted on innovativeinquirers.weebly.com

Agency As and For Professional Development

Teachers need agency too. I find that any book about teaching that I read right now can just as easily be applied from a leadership perspective about teachers. We need the same empowerment. We need the same freedoms. We need the same trust. Otherwise – we are robots. Bored, stuck robots.

Over the course of the year our staff have been speaking up and asking for different types of PD. There was a general frustration about how we were spending precious time. This week we had 3 days of PD scheduled while students are away for Spring Break before we began our own. A week or two ago, our PYP coordinator put out a Google Doc asking if anyone would like to present, as well as asking for the types of things people would like to learn more about. Being someone who just dives in, I of course signed up to speak about student agency. Yesterday was a day full of learning from one another – it was fantastic!

I struggled for a little while to wrap my head around how I was going to present my workshop. I had read Taryn BondClegg (@Makingoodhumans) going through the same journey of leading a workshop about agency. I had the same belief of trying to get staff to really experience agency while learning about it.

As usual, once the idea hit I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I structured the PD the same way I structured my class. Choose, then act, then reflect… with a little bit of time in the beginning to speak about agency in a broad sense and give the small amount of structure that the teachers needed to know what to do. Handout – Planning and Reflection

This is what the schedule for our session looked like:

Screen Shot 2018-03-28 at 19.14.23

Participants also had a list of musts, coulds, and shoulds, similar to what my students would have. I usually make these types of lists/agreements with my students, but again because of the “beginner” aspect of the teachers in the workshop (and lack of time) I provided them with the following checklist:

I had barely even started the workshop when our Tech Integrator (sitting in on the workshop) was already emailing me to pick my brain about the process because he wants to use the structure (agency) in his future PD sessions. Win number one!

They did their research for roughly 35 minutes and I made sure to have a bit of an accountability aspect in their “must” list. I also thank Taryn again for sharing her list of resources with me to share with the staff as an option for their research. We also started to curate our own list (voice and ownership)!

Teachers shared with their grade levels (I had to cut them off) and then I showed them how I interpret student agency and the journey I have been on with my class (you can see our iterations of planning, class routines, class responsibilities, and more on my blog). The previous day, in a hopes and fears sharing exercise, I had told them that a fear of mine was that they would think I was trying to tell them what to do. I made it very clear that I wanted them to take things away as bits of inspiration (hopefully) to adapt and use as they might see fit for their own class. If I had different students, the routines we have really might not look the same way as it does right now. I wanted to be sure that they knew I wasn’t expecting them to take away exactly at I was doing and replicate it. This is also why I got them to research examples of agency before I shared my own experiences.

Ideally, I would have loved to have my class there to explain our routines themselves. Being Spring Break, I settled for making and showing a video of my class routines and then I spoke a little more about workshops. This turned into a section of Q&A I really didn’t expect or plan for, but could feel their need and want for it. We then did personal reflections about what they could start implementing for themselves, as well as identifying what ATLs they used during that session and that was that!

Except I hope it isn’t! I have had incredible feedback from them as well as “second hand compliments” from teachers who weren’t even in the workshop. I have received emails of thanks, and “complaints” that people can’t stop thinking. Yes!! Mission accomplished, I think! People are thinking… hopefully adapting… hopefully diving in…

I already plan to make Student-Led Conferences a similar experience for parents with their children at the end of this month. The structure of choose, act, reflect really fits nicely with the day and I am looking forward to it.

As Taryn would say, “The medium is the message.”

Screen Shot 2018-03-29 at 09.02.17

Adapted from my post originally written on http://innovativeinquirers.weebly.com on March 28, 2018.

Agency on School Trips?

IMG_3244Today we went on a trip to the zoo.

With so many students, half of the group went on a guided tour first while the other group explored, and half way through we switched.

I’ll admit it. I struggled.

Well prepared teachers gave all of the exploring students paper, a pencil, and a clipboard to fill out a chart about their learning as they walked around.

I can tell you right now my group did not do that. Even though they had all been to this zoo before, they were all too excited to apply their new knowledge of animal adaptations to the actual real world. They rushed to see the leopard’s spots, and ran to see the brown bear’s first day out of hibernation. My little group of 6 boys were having a fantastic time exploring the things they wanted to see. We naturally talked about habitats, body coverings, and why so many snakes were still sleeping. The paper, pencils, and clipboards just got carried around. Worksheets were not touched. Should I have pushed it? My gut said no. But what if we were the only group not to do anything on paper? My gut still said no. I’d stand up for them if I needed to. They needed to experience the zoo. (No one said anything about them in the end, so what was their actual purpose to begin with? I am not sure.)

We had lunch by the puffins before meeting our tour guide at the aquarium. Our whole trip could have been in this tiny aquarium. We would have been able to stand there in awe, admiring all of the colourful adaptations and odd shapes for an hour or more. The tour guide was amazing, but the kids just wanted to be kids. I will fully admit that even I was distracted by the fish while she was talking. A moray eel made an appearance and was highly distracting for me. This happened again at the monkeys, and again in a jungle room we sat in where a mouse-deer appeared out of nowhere (one of the weirdest things I have ever seen)! I definitely also saw other students lose interest at various different points. Was it worth having a guided tour where students were forced to stand in one spot and listen to someone talk about something they may or may not be interested in?


Naturally, this got me thinking more about student agency and what the students actually wanted to do at the zoo. I understand that learning to listen to speakers is still something that the students need to learn to do. Of course I also understand that she was extremely knowledgeable and had great things for the students to listen to.


When on a trip, can the students not just enjoy?

Could we maybe just make them aware that they will do some sort of reflection of their choice afterwards to make them accountable and to think about their learning?

Could they document the trip and their reflection in any way they want?

Could the students let us know where they want to go and what they want to do there (and why they are there)?
IMG_3426On that note, with some misconnections on public transport some students were actively looking at maps and timetables. Could they plan our route? Our day? We are already toying with the idea of giving the planning duties over to them for our next trip.

Do we underestimate what 9 year olds are actually capable of?

What do you/your team/your school do to promote agency while on school trips?

Originally posted on innovativeinquirers.weebly.com March 22, 2018.