Category: Uncategorized

Course four and more

Photo by Charlie Solorzano on Unsplash

So this is a draft, and the students will have to fill it up. I think that all unit plans are live documents that need to be a work in progress as the students need to have a hand in constructing assignments, building rubrics, and deciding on learning experiences. So planners are never really final copies. After the first couple of weeks of teaching the unit during the provocation and tuning phases in it should become clearer what the students need. From here more skill-based lessons and structures inquiries will have to be added to the planner. I have used an IB planner to create my unit plan for Course 5. I chose this format as it is something that we are required to use at my school and I have used something similar for the past nine years. 

The What:  

For this unit, I had to use a Central Idea, Key Concepts, and Lines of Inquiry that already existed from the Grade 3 team reflection last year. I wasn’t a part of creating them but I think they provide a lot of opportunities for students to inquire into the world around them, their own habits, and to take action to improve.

In boxes one and two of the unit planner are the bones that we are learning about. They will be the foundation upon which we build our desired understandings, assessment, learning experiences, and integration of reading, writing, numbers and ICT. 

  • Under the transdisciplinary theme of “Sharing the Planet
  • Central Idea of “The choices that people make as they buy and consume things can lead to the creation of waste.” 
  • Key concepts are form, function, and responsibility. 

The line of inquiry for the unit are:
-What wast is (and isn’t) Form
-How waste is processed and managed – FUNCTION  
-The responsibility of the consumer and the producer – RESPONSIBILITY
-Innovations that help waste management  – FUNCTION

Link to full Unit Plan

I am excited to teach a unit of such global importance and opportunities for personal action. There are so many resources available online, in the library, and more importantly in the community. This unit strongly connects with our service learning in the local community and it should be pretty easy to access student’s prior knowledge about the topic because of this. I always love using the community as a teaching resource because of the opportunities for real-world connections, opportunities for action, and because learning outside is more fun and great for student well-being. There is also a fantastic field trip planned to a waste management facility and this should be a great chance to provoke students thinking and document processes that we can refer back to as resources later on in the unit. Students will be successful in this unit if they will understand their own responsibility in the consumption/waste/recycling process and recognize and plan for steps to reduce their own impact and hopefully to help others recognize their impact. The class has already started noticing the use of plastic in the classroom and garbage in the local community so I think they will connect to this unit quite easily.

The Why:

I think that this is a good unit for Course 5 for a lot of different reasons, some of which are:

  • Timely, this unit starts close to the beginning of the course giving me plenty of time to teach and document during the duration.
  • It is a relevant global and local issue. Japan creates a lot of waste through excess packaging, it is part of the culture and it is important that the students become aware of how they consume and dispose of things. 
  • There are a lot of opportunities for deep learning in constructing criteria for writing, designing final projects, and creativity producing knowledge and artifacts together.
  • There are a lot of opportunities for students to document their thinking, behaviour and learning through technology. 
  • There are lots of opportunities to redefine how students construct understanding together, share their ideas, offer feedback, express their ideas and communicate with the global community through technology
  • Nobody likes garbage
Students digging deep for garbage, they hate it!

The How: 

This unit will be taught using Kath Murdoch’s inquiry cycle. Each step of the cycle is outlined in Box 4 under “How best might we learn”. The lesson flow will build off of the first couple of weeks as we tune into the Central Idea and the key problems and questions. Although this is laid out vertically I expect there to be opportunities to go back and forth between the stages as more questions usually arise after during the “Sorting out” and “Reflect and Act” phases and we have to return again to “Finding out”. This may be done in the space of a day or change the next week’s plans according to the student investigations. Box 4 also has links to integrated to math, writing and technology. mini-units. Another important part of the “how” is what students decide. Depending on their initial questions, ideas about the final project, and assessment criteria are all very important factors in teaching this unit. I have used student questions to drive the inquiry for a while now so I think that having them design an assessment should be a great way to promote deep learning through student agency.

What’s new for me?

This is the first time I have allowed my students to design the final assessment and criteria for success. I have done this in my writing for the past few years but I think that it will take more time for the students to develop a project that reflects their understanding of the Central Idea. This will mean a lot of class meetings, guiding questions, the co-construction criteria, and idea generation by me and the students to help accomplish this. I will be talking to the earlier grades more about this as they do it more often in the lower elementary. This is also the first time I have integrated ISTE standards into an IB planner so I wasn’t sure where to put them. I decided that they should be in Box 2 as they are part of the essential understandings of the unit and I also thought it would be a good idea to put them into Box 4 with the integrated mathematics, writing and EAL units. 


A concern I have about this unit is that there are other classes in my division that have to teach it, and we need to collaborate together. Other teachers have different ways of teaching the same Central Idea and I think it is ok as long as we are assessing the same things. Their assessments may even look different as my students will be constructing there own and I am not sure that the other Grade 3 classes are ready to do that. I also want my colleague’s input on the planner as one of them has taught the unit before so co-planning times will be a little different if we are not all on the same planner, but still have the same goals. I got permission from my curriculum coordinator to create a copy of the team planner and change it as I need for the parameters of this project. 

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash


My COETAIL journey has helped lead up to this unit. Since the beginning of Course 4, I have been thinking about what Unit of Inquiry I can re-write with the intention of adding more opportunities for deep learning and using technology to modify and redefine learning experiences. Reading “A Rich Seam” throughout Course 4 helped to remind me of why and how I should be teaching in the IB program by thinking about how I can continue to give students agency over their learning.

All of the courses to date have taught me the importance of considering the ISTE standards when planning for tech-rich activities and units, and this plan is no different. This is the first time outside of COETAIL projects that I have integrated ISTE standards and they will contribute to the framework to help plan student learning. I have chosen those standards that will enable lots of time for students to build and create knowledge together through the use of technology, follow a design cycle, and reach out to different communities around the world to ask questions and find out about how people are learning and taking action.

The students will be the co-creators of this unit; from projects to rubrics, to e-books, to Padlets and learning journals, there will be a lot of chances for the class to learn, reflect, and create through technology. I am stoked to teach this unit and although I know it will require a lot of additional planning on the fly, I think that there are some great foundations to build on together with the class. Any suggestions about this unit plan are greatly appreciated.


Goals for COETAIL

When thinking about my goals I first looked at the student standards as they are the ones who will be directly affected by how and what I learn during my COETAIL journey. After that, I looked at the educator standards to think about which ones will impact my students in the most positive way keeping in mind the learning needs of upper elementary students in the past few years in regards to digital literacy.  I chose the following goals as I think these will best shape my classroom practice. All the goals I chose are under the ISTE Standards for Educators. I will be doing the COETAIL certificate non-credit.

Citizen 3b
Establish a learning culture that promotes curiosity and critical examination of online resources and fosters digital literacy and media fluency.
Learning Goal
My classes always have a curiosity, and I think that a challenge of promoting research with digital literacy is to allow students to continue to curiously examine resources without getting frustrated because they can’t find appropriate sources to satisfy their needs. In the past we have worked closely with the librarians to used the model of “Take it APART” to analyze digital sources, we have found some success with this and students enjoy examining sites to see if they are reliable and appropriate. I would like to find new methods to do this more seamlessly and try new ways to help develop fluency, literacy, and examination to become more of the classroom culture as current world issues demand a sharp eye when viewing resources. The students have so much that they want to learn about and I want to help them the navigate information in a safe, responsible, and efficient way

Designer 5b
Design authentic learning activities that align with content area standards and use digital tools and resources to maximize active deep learning.
Learning Goal
At the last Learning 2 in Tokyo, I attended a workshop (thanks Tanya) into the idea of student curation and how it can develop deeper connections. I tried a couple of times after returning and it was a great way to get students thinking and making connections. Making connections is what develops the deeper learning and my goal is to continue building authentic learning experiences that are connected to different strands of the curriculum that allow students to use technology and resources that help them dive deeper into content, ideas, and concepts. At the same time, it can be so much work to curate these resources for students. I want to find a better workflow that helps me design activities and platforms that can help students to develop their own agency and discover connections.

Facilitator 6c
Create learning opportunities that challenge students to use a design process and computational thinking to innovate and solve problems.
Learning Goal
In the PYP the inquiry cycle is so similar to the design cycle, but in my practice, I think I can do better incorporating language into more areas of learning.  I am trying to do it now with planning for service learning and started using computational thinking to help with teaching math concepts. I want to continue thinking of creative ways to integrate computational thinking and design thinking into lesson planning in a variety of subjects so students learn a systematic way to solve problems and be creative doing it. By working closely with the tech coach at the school along with my grade level team I hope to accomplish this.


My Learning Communities

Made with Padlet

When thinking about connectivism learning theory the first thing that came to mind is the students in the classroom and how they use their online learning journals as well as the countless prep periods and class time we have spent contributing to the feedback loop with the goal of enhancing learning. I suppose when we use blogs/learning journals like this can be a very effective way to learn as information is visited, added to, then revisited again.

I am fortunate to work in a school community that values peer feedback and has a constant cycle of listening and sharing ideas and then providing insight and support with colleagues. We spend a lot of afternoons together in groups across divisions thinking and implementing experiences to improve on student learning in a very structured way (joining COETAIL actually came out of one of these meetings).  This is always done face-to-face.

I don’t have a strong digital presence. After quitting Facebook over a year ago I felt a bit disconnected from other teachers I had met at previous workshops, and one of my goals in COETAIL is to improve those connections. I am looking forward to joining this community of learners.

I think that my family has to be included in this. Coming from a family of teachers and having a spouse who is also a colleague creates an opportunity for lively dinner table discussions about pedagogy.  This made me think about a question; where is the line between a social and professional learning community?


A bit about Flynn

Hey everyone, my name is Flynn McCreath and I hail from Gabriola Island, a little place off the west coast of Canada. I am currently teaching Grade Four at Yokohama International School in Japan.  I love the enthusiasm for learning and curiosity that students bring in this age group. I have a confession to make, I just created a Twitter account and have yet to use it, but I am not ashamed. Before teaching I worked in the marine industry towing barges and logs, driving yachts, and carrying passengers on fun little ferries.

I thought it was time for COETAIL after participating in Learning 2 and leading a teacher workshop there.  I am always looking for new ways to connect students with the world around them responsibly, helping students to think about media use and visual literacy, and developing the skills, attitudes and conceptual understanding in all disciplines through technology whether it be iPads, drones, or duct tape.

My current professional development plan at school is about using computational thinking and technology to improve collaboration and explore mathematical concepts. I thought that COETAIL would be a rewarding way to learn about why I am doing this plan, and where I will go with it next year.  I look forward to learning with you all.