How do you keep a year’s worth of inquiry visible?
As we make our way through our year long inquiry, I have been struggling a little with how we can track a year’s worth of learning and keep it present and visible.
I wrote here about the wonder wall, which has evolved over the years. This year, the wonder wall evolved into a project where the entire bulletin board evolved into an augmented reality (AR) target that triggered a video about our reflection. I used the living bulletin board for two reasons:
I didn’t want to spend the time creating an AR trigger related to each image
I didn’t think each learner’s process video would be that different than the others
This resulted in a final AR bulletin board that triggers a video of a class discussion about our process. I have yet to have parent feedback but I’m not surprised parents haven’t really checked it out yet. I’ll leave it up through parent-teacher-student conferences and encourage them to try it then.
But… I have been stressing about taking the wonder wall down because it is physically an AR target. Once it’s gone the trigger is gone. The goal has been to track our learning through a year-long inquiry into connection but I have been stumped as to how to track a year’s worth of work and keep it all visible in a room that has no walls (seriously… one wall is smart board and white board, one wall is windows, one wall is a curtain between my classroom and my teaching partner… which leaves one wall) Enter a digital solution! The solution for now is to print the photo graph which we can keep on our blog and catalogue via tags, post beside the bulletin board as an evolving wall, and, at the end of the year (maybe, maybe, I’m not sure on this one yet) print an AR capable photo album that links back to our learning reflections.
*the featured image on this site functions as an Aurasma target (although, as a technical glitch I have not entirely solved yet, I think you need to follow our channel to view it. We are at: tcevans)
What if a classroom looked more like an artist’s studio?
I have spent a lot of time lately thinking about student agency related to creativity in the classroom. Too often art supplies get shut away in a cupboard, or worse yet, rolled down to the storage room, only to be dragged out for art lessons.
This year, I’m trying something new to me: I moved art supplies out of the cupboard and onto the counter where they are accessible to kids as they need them. In our classroom set up we talked in depth about how to use materials responsibly and, in turn, they are given freedom to use them as they see fit. This means not only are they encouraged to create during art period, but they are also encouraged to use art to express understanding in other curricular areas.
Pre-cut artist trading cards in a variety of paper textures (water colour paper, bristol board, construction paper)
Print making supplies (foam blocks, ink)
Texture plates and stencils
Our “maker space” includes a variety of materials (bits of paper, cardboard, yarn, etc.)
Table supplies include scissors, pencils, glue and erasers
I collected supplies over the years, holding on to bits and bobs forever (teachers are the worst hoarders, aren’t we?)
In preparation for art making, we spend time analyzing art work, being clear that it’s good to critique artist, style, and piece of work. In analyzing work, we have discussed line and colour theory and students picked out shade and tint as being something they wanted to work with.
Inevitably, almost, some students don’t use supplies properly, not out of malicious intent, but because of inexperience with the supplies (there is a technique to using a paint brush…) Students have been good about giving each other constructive feedback about art work how to use and care for supplies. I have been stunned by their willingness to make multiple drafts of work and take risks with technique and colour. We watched Austin’s butterfly, a video about using feedback in building excellence in student and the Class Dojo videos about Growth Mindset. Students have been thrilled to look at the results of their drafts.
We spent a lot of time setting up students to use their visual journals as their own. I often demonstrate something and ask that they try it but then they are free to make creative decisions about their own work.
All feedback is made in pencil or on sticky notes so that students are free to move or erase as needed. I have noticed that many students want a “perfect” draft without teacher marks on it and I respect that.
The sign for me that they take ownership is the number of them that ask to take their work home to work on it or share with parents.
If it matters that there is colour then it matters that there is artistic decision making.
Not My Story: the title for this one has been in my drafts folder for well over a year as I struggled with the how and why of making space for Aboriginal stories in my classroom. Every time I sat down to write and organize lesson plans I got derailed: ‘These are not my stories.’ ‘Why does this matter to me?'”How do I make space for these stories in particular?”
This year I got to take part in UBC MET’s ETEC521 Indigeniety, Technology, Education and I think I finally have it straight in my head. The course work challenged my thinking; I said many times over the term that the reading was only a small fraction of the work that went into this term. The reading took hours, as masters course work does, but the thinking took days. Some days I dug into conversation with anyone willing to bat around ideas and some days I got pushback and a reminder that a soapbox is not a helpful platform.
I won’t rewrite here everything I put in the academic paper because the link to there work is in my Website. I spent 50 hours on the final project and feel good about what I will be taking into the classroom in the fall. The catalyst for inquiry is Danielle Daniel’s Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox. I would love your feedback and hope that it can be carried into other classrooms, too. The student side of the project is an ever evolving project, so if you have stories you feel I could include to make the site even better I would love to hear from you!
Welcome to Grade 3. It’s two days before you get to walk into our classroom and see its unadorned walls and furniture that doesn’t seem to quite be in the right place. I did it on purpose. It’s hard though. I look around at teachers’ classrooms who are clearly excited to meet their students and their walls already wear student names, they have prepared notebooks, they have hung posters. Their excitement to meet students is electric!
So it’s hard for me to open the walls to a classroom that looks unfinished and I want you to know that I left it this way on purpose in an effort to know you better. This space belongs to you as much as it does to me. We will spend the first week planning our space together and making it something that meets the needs of everyone. I can’t wait to create with you!
I know I find joy in so many things: in stories, in coffee on Friday morning, in riding bikes, in my family, in my students, especially when we’re making productive messes. I cannot wait to learn about where you find joy! I want to know what you like to read, where your gaze falls when you get to wander, what you wonder, what makes you so excited you can’t wait to share? In this room, we will be learners, teachers, readers, designers, writers, questioners, mathematicians, engineers, scientists, film makers, friends, seekers of joy!
Our classroom is ready for you and I hope you are as excited as I am!
I’ve been reluctant to write lately. I think this is partly due to being mid-masters degree and knowing what academic writing looks like and this blog being a weird hybrid between academic and “hey, friends, here’s what works for me…”
I write partly as a reminder to myself of what works, partly to share and seek feedback from my peers, and partly just because I think writing is fun.
Here’s a feedback strategy I have started to use for student writing, which is the latest iteration of my many varied methods of providing students with feedback over the years. I find this one suits my needs right now and is accessible for my young learners.
Highlighter & sticky notes
I use bright sticky notes with a highlighter in a matching colour. The goal of this colour-coded feedback is for students to be able to identify the error and how to fix it. For the moment, I am trying to stick with two stars and a wish, both of which should be specific. The sticky note feedback is a new iteration of my old colour-code system where I just marked with five highlighters the types of errors students were making without providing much for written feedback.
I have a love affair with coloured pens and many teachers I know do. I always sort of figured I wanted my words to pop out for students so they would find them, but the more I reflect on the purpose of feedback, the more I think pencil makes sense. Students generally want work that looks tidy and reflects their best work. When parents come in and thumb through their notebooks the thing that stands out should be the student’s work NOT the teacher’s. Those with anxiety or a bit of perfectionist tendencies can remove it and have “perfect” final work. My fear was always that students would erase it… “But it won’t show parents what I told the kids…” What is the purpose of the feedback? It’s for students not for parents.
Iris and student process portfolios
As I mark, I keep student profiles open to make notes. This helps with providing students feedback, meeting with parents, and providing next steps on summative reporting like report cards. If the stickies do get lost I have a copy of the next steps for each student, although I don’t take the time to copy everything into the portfolio.
Mark it twice
I have been trying to provide students with this actionable feedback and then allowing them time to respond to it and improve their work. This often leads to a mini-lesson but sometimes the written feedback is enough.
I certainly don’t have it figured all the way out and I’m feeling a bit lax for not providing citations for my writing here… it’s just a personal reflection and nothing more.
Happy teaching, colleagues. I’d love to have your ideas for feedback,too!
“How do you know if a book is a good fit for you?” I honestly asked the question to my class and quickly lead a conversation about how a good-fit book was a lot like finding a good fit shoe. The “five finger” rule was discussed. Then off to the library we went.
And some students still had a hard time picking a book. So I thought some more about how to pick a book. After all, finding a good-fit book is a lot like finding a good fit shoe, but you don’t wear the same shoe to run a 5k as you wear to your best friend’s wedding.
For many of us there is a visceral pleasure in walking book stacks and browsing titles. Being the first to discover a new book with the still uncracked spine or stumbling accross a well-worn tome with someone else’s annotations in the margins. But for many kids, the library or book store is too full of books and overwhelming or a place where magic simply doesn’t live. So we need to support them as a community of readers.
In my classroom, when students read something good they are encouraged to share. We save a few minutes each week for students to read aloud to one another and tell why the LOVED a book. Not for marks. Just because books are awesome and need to be shared. I also stock the classroom library with books from the school library, carefully curating for my students so that there is a little of everything. My goal in the coming months is for my students to take over the job of curating. How should we organize the library? What kinds of books should we include? What do the children in the stories look like? Where are the writers of the stories from? Why should we care?
Ask a friend
In addition to creating formal time for sharing books (we do a breakfast book chat 4 times a year where students eat breakfast together and talk books), I think there needs to be a network of readers built into our classrooms. We come to know one another’s tastes in books and know that Kevin enjoys funny books while Jane loves sweet stories about animals. If you’re looking for your next great read ask a friend.
Keep a list
My students keep a book box and I’m asking them to keep a TBR (to be read) list at the back of their Daily 5 journals. It’s a nice way for them to keep track of what they are reading and what to read next.
Find a topic, character, or author you love
When students are looking for something to read I often send them of in the direction of an author they already know and love or to check out a section of books on a related topic.
Try a new genre
Take a risk! You might find something you love! I always knew I loved wordless books but never considered reading graphic novels. Until I did. I’ll never look back.
Read to learn
Some kids really just don’t get into fiction. And that’s ok. If a made up story isn’t turning their crank how about a good non-fiction or a historical fiction. There are so many to choose from. So what are you wondering right now?
Read for fun
We have to let students read because it’s fun and interesting and not because they will be required to report on their reading.
Use technology and social bookmarking
Social platforms allow for interaction about reading. This is to be used carefully with young readers but they can easily use a classroom “tweet” wall where they share a thought through a sticky note or a quick book talk on a closed website.
Story many ways
I have had more than one student come to me in tears because their ability to decode text did not match their ability to understand story. Wanting to read a novel but unable to access the text they felt helpless. So we tried many ways, finally settling on reading the book with the support of the audio book. This can be an especially powerful tool for our immersion students who benefit from hearing words at the same time as they see them.
Pick a book off the shelf. Turn it over in your hands. Read the back cover and the about the author. Read a sample chapter. Give it a chance, but know that…
It’s ok to quit a book
Please don’t plod through a book you hate. If the book jumps the shark or just plain peters out it’s ok to walk away.
A word about the five finger rule
I respect this general guideline, but that’s all it is. In the end students need to understand that the goal of reading is to understand the text and I’m not sure many of them understand that, haltingly decoding their way through a book that exceeds their reading ability and confidently declaring their level but unable to talk about their book! It’s not about the number! Please let kids love books. When they stumble through it they enjoy it in a different way than when they read it for the fourth time fluently and with expression. I am living proof that I can read a book with fluency and expression and have no idea what the book says… hello bedtime stories. Sometimes I love them. Sometimes I have no idea what I just read… take chances. Read way above your level. But also take chances and read below your level and find a book that speaks to you in another way.
Happy reading everyone! I’d love to hear your ideas on how to hook kids on books!