Monthly Archive: November 2019

Measuring Growth

When you think about assessing and measuring the impact of deep learning do you think about quantitative or qualitative information?  Do we think more about test scores and improvements that are measurable, or do we focus more on the ideas and descriptions of growth we see in our students, and more importantly, which is more beneficial to students? This week’s readings couldn’t have come at a better, (or worse), time. Of course, it is report card writing season at my school. As I am currently working on my language comments for writing I will use this as an example of how deep learning is happening and some next steps for improvement. 

Photo by Suzanne D. Williams on Unsplash

Single Point Rubrics

For the past two years, our elementary teachers have been working with Matt Glover to review and enhance our writing units and how we teach the process. We worked together on how to find mentor texts, build mini-lesson progressions, and have writing interviews with our classes. The mentor texts help the students to see what good writing is and from this study, they can pull out what they think their own writing should look like. This progresses to a co-construction of criteria by the students of the qualities, skills, and processes should look like. We always end up creating a single-point rubric together about what skills are used. I prefer the single-point rubric as it is more accessible to younger students as it doesn’t have a lot of text to read, and the text that is there is what is meeting grade-level expectations. It also allows student agency in finding ways that their own products exceed expectations, or ways that still need improvement. Self-evaluation is an important skill that allows students to reflect on their own work and find autonomy in their learning.  

Single point rubric for narrative writing.

Students are given lots of time to write, with minimal whole-class teacher instruction. This provides teachers with the opportunity to meet with individuals and focus on goals about skills and attitudes that need to develop for improvement and gives the students a lot of agency over what they write. At the end of the process, the reflection is on the process of the writing, not just the final piece, students are to reflect on the planning, drafting, and final editing instead as a way to think about the writing process, not just the product. I have found that as I have improved at teaching writing this way, the students’ writing has also improved. Has it improved by the number of spelling mistakes, or development of ideas, or the number of descriptive words, yes, but more importantly the skills and attitudes that the students have as writers have improved and they are more reflective on the process, and how they can continue to improve. All of this is done with technology along the way from students generating knowledge on a Padlet or FlipGrid, to personal reflections about the process on a learning journal, to student-generated topics and success criteria on google docs and book creator for class posters. 

After reading a mentor text, students decided what we need to describe in our writing and we made a poster together.

Other subjects?

This process above can be quite easily transferable to science, social, studies, or personal well-being in PE projects but I have some questions about how to do this in Mathematics. I think that what I need to focus on is how students communicate their thinking, how they work together to solve a problem. Or how they develop and reflect on systems such as games to learn concepts and facts, and also the creation of larger problems that involve multi-stage thinking and sharing. I also need to co-construct criteria more frequently in stand-alone and integrated math classes. One way I have started to do this is by using 3-Act math lessons. They are a great way to get students thinking deeper about math, from being provoked, creating a question to solve, estimating, thinking about other information they need, and then solving and sharing their answers. My students love it as they are the ones creating questions and working together. If you haven’t checked out Grahm Fletcher and 3-Act math yet, give it a shot. 


Chapter 5 in a Rich Seam outlines the amount of curricular content and its effects on deep learning assessment. Last year we reviewed our mathematics and language report card descriptors and a benefit of this process was that we chopped our math report card indicators from twenty-five down to twelve. This is my first year working with less curricular objectives in math and I have loved it because we essentially get to dive deeper into each one. I was on the committee that did this and we basically eliminated a lot of content-based and objectives about “understanding”, something very difficult to measure. Our report cards for mathematics now look much more streamlined and what we can focus on now are the skills and how students apply them. The job now is to develop units that allow for more opportunities for deep learning. 

Figure 10 from A Rich Seam

Course 5

We need to plan for deep learning and I hope to include a lot of these methods into my final project in Course 5. I have started writing a unit, one that I have never taught before as I am new to the grade level and am excited to try some of the strategies mentioned above, as well as others. I will be using the Continuum of New Pedagogies Effectiveness (figure 10) to help me in the planning of experiences through the inquiry cycle. This Unit of Inquiry will be under the transdisciplinary theme of Sharing the Planet with a Central Idea about use and consumption and waste. The students should have a lot of opportunities to observe and record their own use, develop action plans to make an impact, and also follow the design cycle as they turn waste into art. I am thinking now about developing a connection with a school in another country who utilizes the UN Sustainable Development Goals, to help my students through online communication. We will also be bringing in a visiting artist to help with the “Gomi Art” (Japanese for garbage).

Students cleaning up the local Cemetary

The students will be researching and creating non-fiction books to help educate an authentic audience about something connected to the unit of their own choice and there are a lot of opportunities for tech integration and the co-construction of criteria here. I am already excited about it. I would love to hear any ideas you may have if you have taught a similar unit on waste creation and recycling. We are already on our way with our service-learning.


Vulnerability and Creativity

Students being vulnerable by opening up their writing to other’s critiques.

We need to get in front of people to learn, we need to share our ideas, our values, our feelings, and by doing this we are opening ourselves up to others. You can see students “armour up” when sometimes asked to present. This reminds me of the learner profile and the trait of risk-taking. How do we encourage students to step out o their comfort zones and be vulnerable to criticism, to making mistakes in front of their peers, to sharing their emotions and personal stories?  This culture needs to be created by the teacher through the use of cultural forces such as modelling, giving time, the language we use and the opportunities we provide our students. If I as the teacher get up in front of the students and share a personal story about being scared, the students should feel more comfortable right?  Maybe they don’t get up and speak to the whole class but I have found that a good way in my class to start is to at the very least is sharing thinking whether it be showing their work on the projector and have students critique it, passing their writing to a peer for evaluation or explaining their mathematical thinking. These types of baby-steps help students to put themselves “out there” by sharing their work first before they take a more courageous step of presenting their ideas.  The Daring Classrooms resource expounds on the importance of developing vulnerability if we want our students to be courageous and creative. 


Students looking for mistakes and keeping track to celebrate.

This week my students were publishing their writing but before doing that we had an opportunity to be vulnerable. I put my own writing out there and my students printed theirs for one final edit. We had a discussion about what are important things to look for in the final edit and my students came up with spacing, punctuation, spelling, and capital letters. We wrote these on the board and they estimated how many mistakes we would find as a class. As soon as that number was set the students began looking for their mistakes and then celebrating them by adding a tick in the appropriate column on the board. It soon became a giant celebration as the students continued to search for more mistakes and began giving their papers to each other to find more mistakes. To me, this is a vulnerability that leads to learning. Students need to be in an environment that encourages vulnerability and celebrates mistakes. At the end of the lesson, we ended up beating the expected number of mistakes by a long shot and celebrated by playing a little game and then correcting our mistakes online before publishing. 


Students self-assessing our class expectations and developing solutions and the next steps in our learning. This happens weekly.

I think another important cultural force that promotes courage in the classroom is expectations. It should be an expectation in every class that students share their ideas, at the very least with a partner if not a small group or the whole class. There also has to be the expectation of the listener or the audience, that we are kind and helpful to each other, even if we don’t agree with an idea or their answer is wrong. We need to structure language and feedback in our class culture through routines opportunities, and examples. There also has to be an expectation that students will try tasks, and that what is important is the trying, not the perfections but at least the trying of tasks and the knowledge that mistakes will be celebrated as learning opportunities. 

Approaches to Learning enhanced graphics for student reflection

I think that an important part of allowing my students to become independent learners who design and manage the learning process effectively is by explicitly teaching and constantly reflecting on the use of the IB approaches to learning. I use these graphics daily from @orenjibuta in my classroom for students to talk about what skills we will be using to achieve a learning goal, and also again during learning journals or a class discussion about the skills they used during a learning experience. Furthermore, the practice of metacognition about the learning skills used in our online learning journals provides a place for students to think about the approaches they used to learn, which ones they can improve on, and then receive quick feedback from their peers, teacher, and parents about it. The class can then individually and as a whole continue to set goals about which approaches to improve on. 

SAMR and the Edtech Quintet helped me to think about how through the use of technology integration with visualization and storytelling there can be the promotion of deep learning. I think that through the use of tools such as PicCollage, Book Creator, Canva, and Google Slides, students can tell stories about anything they want and visualize their understanding in a way that previously wasn’t available unless they had high-level art skills. Students can combine images, text, backgrounds and drawings in a way that redefines how they express their learning and understanding. They can spend time searching out and understanding deeper content rather than spending the time drawing a picture and quickly choosing fonts and sizes instead of drawing letter, and they can add emojis and colours to express their emotions in a way that is accessible to all students, not just those with the fine motor and art skills necessary to create something with the look they want to communicate. 

From A Rich Seam by Fullan and Langworthy

What these types of technology integration are driving is creativity. The technology is promoting and facilitating the moving away from a fancier more engaging delivery towards a method of giving students a chance to use their creativity. Students can take a picture of something they are learning about, then add their ideas, drawings or calculations on top it, and then further this expression with a voice or text explanation all using one simple app that a 5-year-old can use. Using tools that encouraged creative modes of expression instead of content delivery to allow for deeper learning. Using the visuals from A Rich seam in Chapter 4, high-level tech use involves the creation of knowledge or digital artifacts and not the consumption of it. So how do we continue this in the classroom? Yes, sometimes something like Google-classroom has to be used to share out instructions or a table or template to use for the practice of skills. However, when students are applying skills, they can create and develop real-world artifacts that teach others about the concept they are learning about. The visualization and creation process is a great way for students to consolidate their understanding and the sharing of their ideas with an intended audience gives the artifact a meaningful purpose. The combination of a meaningful purpose and creative opportunities to share help lead to the deep learning that we want to facilitate in our schools.


Student agency

Students choosing objects of study

When I first read Whiting’s article it reminded me of a teaching moment that happened this week. We were in the park estimating, measuring, and comparing our measurements to the measure app on the Ipads. Being the fall in Japan the light was perfect in the rose garden for Cosplay photography, something that you see very often in Japan. One of the cosplay participants taking selfies happened to be a very tall and muscular man dressed as a Japanese Schoolgirl.  The majority of my students who have been in the country may have done a double-take but then went about their learning. However, two of my students who are new to Japan and come from more traditional backgrounds had to repeatedly tell me and their classmates about it. It was beyond their current world view that a man would dress up as a little girl in the park and take pictures. What an opportunity for a teaching moment right? We went to a quiet spot in the park as a class and opened up a discussion about it so that the students could hear each other’s thoughts and perspectives about the photoshoot with the intention of recognizing biases and perspectives.  

Photo by redcharlie on Unsplash

Perspectives and Bias

The article made me think about how we develop perspective and empathy in the classroom and brought up some questions about further ways to teach varied perspectives in the elementary classroom. I think it is imperative that we start with teaching varied perspectives and encourage looking at ideas from different points of view at an early age to help build not only empathy and understanding of each other but also to begin building towards understanding media bias and building digital literacy and also to challenge students to think carefully about ideas and encourage deep learning. I am thinking about how this affects my Grade 3s in their budding research skills and how they look simply for information that interests them, regardless of if it answers their questions or not but I think the bias of students as young as 8 are prevalent in my classroom discussion

Take the other day, for example, we were talking about learning theories and how we learn best. Without getting too much into Vygotsky and Piaget we talked about how scientists want to know how our brain works, and how we learn, but it is difficult to see so we have theories based on behaviour. After a lengthy discussion, two of my students (different from the ones in the first example) talked about how we don’t need a theory, it is in fact very simple, “god just makes our brains work that way”. Being of a non-religious upbringing but wanting to respect the beliefs of others I had to pause for some time to help my students recognize their bias and how that affects how they learn. That even if god just makes our brains that way, understanding how they work can help us learn better. Confronting bias in the classroom when young students are just beginning to recognize their beliefs, and have not been exposed to ideas beyond their families ontologies can be a challenging and delicate operation

Co-Construction Tasks

Since last year the new buzz word in the IB is agency, and how we allow our students agency over their learning. In Chapter 3 of Rich Seam, we see how creating authentic real-world learning with the students is a way to develop deep learning and agency within our classes. What does this look like in my classroom and how do we co-construct learning with our students? In our writing classes, we always co-construct our criteria for success for a unit we are working on. This involves time spent with the students looking at mentor texts, deciding on a real-world audience for their work (within the school, parents, class, etc), and then brainstorming what a good piece of writing would look like. This is the students and teacher deciding this together. Co-construction of criteria helps students to think deeper about their own learning process through generation, sorting, and elaborating on what a good product should look like, and gives the students ownership over the task generation and assessment of their own work. They design the criteria with you, it is not a top-down approach. 

Reflection and Feedback

Further deep learning takes place through reflection and feedback throughout the cycle, this process is accomplished through their online learning journals where they get feedback from the teacher and their peers as they reflect on each part of the writing process from planning, through rough drafts, to revising and editing skills. We continually refer back to the original single-point rubric that we together created to help assess our progress and product. 

Independent student action during service learning

Citizenship and deep learning

Another type of deep learning that I thought about after reading the Six C’s and thinking about citizenship. I have the additional role of service-learning coordinator in the elementary division and one of the reasons that we promote service-learning is the amount of deep learning that happens through the process of service initiatives. Just last week during our weekly fresh fruit and vegetable drive for the homeless something fantastic happened. The students were sorting and counting the produce when two students suddenly jumped up, ran away and came back with their iPads. They quickly opened up a spreadsheet and began putting in categories and names for graphing to show the whole school what we received, and some areas of further need at the next assembly. Running with any type of student action such as this is a fantastic way to work with a student to think about their impact, reflect on their effectiveness, celebrate their successes and plan further action. Service-learning is a great way to develop deep learning in the classroom and as a school community to build a culture of citizenship, caring, empathy and community relationships.  This type of deep learning is further exemplified in the case studies in the section on Key Future Skills. 

Give the students the map, let them lead the field trip.

Continuing student involvement.

Sometimes planning is important when it comes to deep learning, like when we need to plan the co-construction of success criteria in a written piece or an art project and it is important that educators consider student input and agency in the development of learning experiences and assessments. Luckily, IB schools are continually finding new ways to reflect on student action and drive it further. That being said, there are also lots of opportunities to create meaningful tasks that connect to curricular content on the fly such as the fruit graphing, or researching and construction of a passion project during maker time. The importance is that the teachers understand that know their curriculum so that when these opportunities present themselves we can roll with it. I will continue to find ways to incorporate student input into the design of the task, the planning of it, and the success criteria