We are currently inquiry into Where We Are In Place and Time with central idea of Migration is a response to human circumstances. During our Making Conclusions stage of inquiry, students considered their key understandings about each century of Australian migration using a visible thinking routine Here Now There Then. However, we could only explore perspective thoroughly if we considered all points of view.
As we were listening to an expert group share their research about Australian migration in the 1700s, I noticed students had only considered two points of view. As there was four major migration groups we had researched within Australia at the time including First Australians, First Fleet, Convicts and Free Settlers, we actually had a total of 12 perspectives to consider.
To demonstrate these multiple perspectives visually I quickly grabbed a ball of string and a box of sticky notes. I asked for four volunteers to represent each of the four major migration groups. I stretched the string between the two perspectives they had already identified and then asked students to locate the 10 remaining connections.
Their eyes widened when they could see and touch these perspectives. Together students explored each perspective by placing sticky notes onto the string to consider the stances, judgements, feelings and values of the people during that period in time.
It worked so well that we repeated the perspective web to explore the 1800s. The next expert group had researched an additional major migration group. Therefore we now had a total of 20 perspectives to consider. This time we took to writeable surfaces to explore our thinking.
As students constructed key understandings during a class discussion at the Making Conclusions stage of our inquiry, I found they were making multiple connections with each others’ ideas. As each student shared their thinking I typed into our Google Document so that they could see and reflect on their discussion.
However, I realised that this form of note taking was rather linear. I considered using standard thinking maps but these tend to be linear thought processes which may show relationships but not necessarily reveal or build connections. I also found myself in the role of discussion moderator as students had to take turns talking. Only 23% of students were participating. These conditions limited learner responsibility.
I needed to change my approach so I borrowed an idea I learned through #aussieED about Hexagonal Thinking. I outlined the basic routine which my class immediately modified to suit their needs. We would focus on one area at a time (the major events of Australian migration in the 1700s). We would begin with a Think-Pair-Share to support initial thinking. We would listen to each hexagonal note from the Think-Pair-Share and begin mapping. Then we could talk freely in pods, adding our thinking (ideas, feelings, questions, responses) onto hexagonal notes and mapping where it fit best. Finally we would “step back” to see the major branches of key understandings.
Students took quickly to this more suitable approach. It gave them greater control of the discussion removing me as the gatekeeper of conversation. It allowed them to listen to, talk about, record and connect ideas at their own pace. They were able to build onto the thoughts of others simultaneously. It was not only visible it was also physical thinking as students could place and replace their hexagonal notes in consultation with each other. We repeated this approach for the remaining focus areas maintaining 100% participation. What was even more impressive was the key understandings they constructed together.
The class unanimously renamed this visible thinking routine Honeycomb Thinking.
Here's a fun activity that could be done at anytime of the year to introduce or review the PYP concepts with your class. My co-teacher, the awesome Audrey Pagoli shared it in our collaborative planning meeting and I fell in love! It's a great way for the students to look at one thing through the different lenses that the PYP Concepts provide. It can also be used with just about anything across the curriculum. Here, I used it as a whole-class activity to look at our class stuffy, Domo...it's a bit messy and my whiteboard marker stopped working...but you get the idea!
This was a great activity to kick off our Who We Are unit and as an "introduce yourself" task at the beginning of the school year. I am also feeling this as the cover page for student portfolios:
My other Grade 4 partner in crime, Kristi Wheeldon, took this activity and used it to explore materials and matter in our current unit, How the World Works. I really appreciate activities that can be used across curriculum areas and can be easily pulled out of the PYP toolbox.
Attached is a very generic copy of Exploring the Key Concepts. However, it is a very simple thing to whip up a 3X3 table and tweak it to suit what you are doing. Happy exploring!
I also found another handy resources that most of my class love to use. It is called SuperSpeedMath2.0
by Chris Biffle. It is great for those students who enjoy such practice and it is based on self-challenge. It includes more than multiplication with addition facts, subtraction facts, division facts and fraction facts. You can download an explanation pack too. This helps you understand how to use it, but once you get your head around it, its two minutes of practice and fun for each child per day.
Generating Questions and Sorting Questions are Student Keys to Driving an Inquiry. I am always trying to find effective ways to include student voice in planning an inquiry. These two simple but effective resources help me to hand over the keys to the inquiry vehicle so students can drive their own inquiries.
Students can write the central idea in the middle, and begin formulating questions for each concept.
For students to identify their most powerful questions that could guide their inquiry and deepen their understanding, they can sort their questions. The Generative-Genuine double continuum is a great tool to sort questions. Inquiries need questions that are both generative (that take us somewhere) and genuine (that we care about) and this does the trick just nicely. I named each quadrant in order of value to inquiry as:
Although students pursue one DRIVING question, the thinking involved in generating questions and the insight it provides is valuable information about student learning.
When asked to explain inquiry, this is how I make sense of the different inquiry cycles available.
I have made a table with the cycles or processes I use and aligned them with Kath Murdoch’s model. We use the cycle that best supports the student's inquiry and leads to ACTION.
Many cycles or processes have elements that are key to a quality inquiry, such as, the traits for writing, or, the elements of music for composition. I find these equally useful.
As inquiry is an active present verb, it is also important to plan for inquiry where students are actively connecting and thinking within the discipline(s). For example, students should not only study scientists and their discoveries, but also experience BEING a scientist to make his or her own discoveries.
In addition there are skills and key questions, even attitudes, that can be used at different stages to support the inquiry. For example, you can use the questions within Problem Solving Talk and Problem Solving Steps for the Math Problem Solving Process. Alternatively, you can use the Question Frames for the Reading Comprehension Cycle.
These individual posters printed large and displayed, assist students in the problem solving process in Math. Specific questions are selected to support each stage. I reworked them from my original post Math Is How We Organise Ourselves to use in my classroom during problem solving situations mainly in Math but I can see their potential to be useful beyond Math, possibly in social interactions in the playground.
The skills and attitudes of students are equally important to planning and assessment as their knowledge.
I really like the PYP Transdiciplinary Skills and look for ways to explicitly integrate them into my instruction. It is a touchstone in helping me make student learning more "split screen", a term that I picked up from the fabulous, amazing and incredible Kath Murdoch in one of her workshops. Not only do I want students to learn content, but I also want them to learn how to learn. Here is a picture that hopefully shows what I want to be going on in the minds of my students:
Anyway....one Transdiciplinary Skill I find not only important for students to learn but also a skill I feel increasingly confident in making explicit is analysis which is:
taking knowledge or ideas apart; separating into component parts; seeing relationships; finding unique characteristics.
One way my class does this is when they analyse a piece of art. One of my aims for this year was to integrate art into my instruction more regularly. The class worked together to analyse a Piet Mondrian painting....you can see below pretty clearly how we went about it:
Students really liked analysing other works of art. This has been a great activity to start art lessons and as the students learn more Elements of Art, they can expand their analysis.
I am explicitly teaching analysis when we look at writing too, just substitute the Elements of Art with the 6+1 Traits of Writing!
ProDivas is a simple sharing approach, teacher to teacher, for our professional development. We collect and share bite-sized practical ideas. Once you take a bite, you may be self-motivated to eat the whole meal! We aim to find ideas supported by research to then apply for “best practice” but some ideas are too good to miss and are just simple “teacher tips”.