This week’s readings and resources were (as always) timely and relevant to the work I’m currently doing with students and teachers. As I settle into my new role and school, I find myself looking for ways to meaningfully connect with teachers and I’m finding that many of these connections are made in curriculum meetings. It’s not that this comes as a surprise to me, it’s just that I’ve been too caught up in the day-to-day flurry of activity to actually sit back and reflect at the progress that’s already been made this year. And while I may be new to PYP, I’ve been in education for almost a decade and good pedagogical practices have always been at the center of teaching and learning for me.
I’ve used several of the cooperative learning tasks, visible thinking routines and discussion protocols throughout the years, but I tend to default to just a few. The resources shared this week, especially from Thinking Collaborative and NSRF, served as great reminders of just how many tools and strategies we can apply when facilitating collaborative tasks. And my favorite part about these is that so many of them can be used in meetings and professional development sessions with teachers, not just students.
In my reflections from the last few weeks, a couple of learning activities have stood out to me as examples of ways I try to facilitate collaboration in different settings across the school.
The first was a recent staff meeting dedicated to Seesaw in an informal setting called ‘Teachers Teaching Teachers’ (TTT). As the facilitator of this session, I tried to incorporate differentiation, visible thinking and collaborative learning tasks to make it more meaningful for participants. The result was an engaging session with mostly positive feedback. Here’s an overview of the planning I used for the event and below are some photos of the station discussion topics and tasks.
Another recent collaborative discussion that incorporated elements from the resources shared this week happened a few weeks ago when I was working with students to unpack the school’s Acceptable Use Policy and review expectations when using technology at school. In grade 5, it took the form of a Chalk Talk visible thinking routine with group sharing afterward and with 4th graders, it was a group brainstorm and gallery walk sharing. Both were good, but as I mentioned earlier, I tend to use these strategies more than others, so I’d like to revisit the sites from this week when leading the next classroom activity.
As is usually the case with these weekly assignments, I find myself looking for things I can apply in upcoming lessons and meetings. This week, the resource that has stuck with me most is the Slate article about how technology can help with facilitating discussions. It got me to thinking about creative ways I’ve used technology to spark, sustain, track and give feedback about students’ involvement in discussions and here are some of my favorites that I hope to pull out of the vault and use over the next few weeks:
You can do this to some degree with paper in a Socratic Seminar-style group discussion, but the app has tons more options for tracking conversations and presenting the data in powerful, visual ways. It’s a great tool to highlight the members of the group who tend to dominate or avoid discussions.
This site is great for eliciting questions, responses, and opinions from participants that can move a lesson or activity forward. It’s great for engaging the shy students who have things to contribute but don’t necessarily feel comfortable verbalizing.
WHEEL OF NAMES
This is a site I used a lot last year to help get kids talking, especially during our morning meetings. I would write questions or would-you-rather prompts on the wheel instead of names and then whatever it landed on became our topic for sharing that day.