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