25 April 2013

Earth Day Composting

In observance of Earth Day, my class started a compost bin. They were not too keen on tearing up lunch leftovers, but very excited to hold worms.

Yes, that's a blackened banana peel in the foreground.

24 April 2013

Independent Inquiry: Nature Drawing

Student made ten attempts at drawing this! Has a student ever tried a worksheet ten times to make it 'perfect'?

23 April 2013

Independent Inquiry: Fashion Design

This was one of the first independent inquiry successes. With minimal guidance, no assistance, materials from school, and time at home, a student created this little model outfit!
I especially like how there are slight changes from the paper to fabric versions! Many teachers are rethinking homework; many teachers are experimenting with 'genius hour'. I'm trying to combine the two ideas, blurring the boundaries between learning at school and learning at home and harnessing the students' interests to construct their own learning.

17 April 2013

Water Resources Inquiry

To inquire into the effects of access to water around the world, we gained perspective by graphically representing water resources per capita in various countries. The bars at the bottom represent the data.

The lowest bar for Iceland stretched over three meters!
It was supposed to integrate mathematics (division & ratio) into a mainly 'social studies' unit, and worked brilliantly except for the fact that the numbers we used were extremely large and not exactly appropriate for early in fourth grade.

14 April 2013

Is my classroom mastery-oriented?

Having spent the past year trying to understand and utilize the International Baccalaureate Organization Primary-Years-Program for the first time, I've applied a great deal of planning and instructional time to inquiry. I strongly believe in the model and its apparent intention to emphasize much more than academic performance in the education of children. It compliments my previous experiences perfectly and my students and I have enjoyed our journey thus far.

Last week, however, I received my class' results from the International Schools Assessment. Results in Mathematics were impressive, Reading were acceptable, but the Writing results were disappointing, especially non-fiction.

What happened?

This guy is clearly master-oriented.

12 April 2013

Student-created rubrics

I'm fanatical about rubrics. Bridging the divide between specific learning outcomes (standards) and constructionist inquiry would be difficult for me without them.

In the photo, students work in pairs to develop a rubric for assessing an acting performance. They already participated in our school musical in December, so this is a chance for them to develop their understandings of the vocabulary of the theater. We've used rubrics for dozens of assessments throughout the year, so this is a chance to authentically apply what they have learned.

After the pairs completed their rubrics, they switched partners a few times to compare and contrast. Finally, we projected the empty chart on the wall and filled it in based on what they created while collaborating.

11 April 2013

Mystery class in any time zone?

Skype, Google+ Hangout, and other live connections are an excellent way to motivate and personalize collaboration across town or across oceans. The mystery class game is an awesome way to authentically practice geography inquiry, develop communication and research skills, and cultivate international friendships! However, they are limited by time zone. For example, I would like to connect with schools in the Americas, but when it's 9am here in Japan, it's 5pm in California and 8pm in New York!

photo via gfpeck
My solution was to create this Google Document and share it with the other class' teacher. Feel free to make a copy and use it. We're just trying it out, but the plan is to add questions and answers each day until both classes solve the mystery. It's also a good way to introduce collaborative document editing to your class.

There is also the appealing notion of having an all-night, sleepover at school, worldwide Skype-a-thon... just sayin'...

10 April 2013

PYP Superheroes

Caring Girl & Principled-Thinker Man

For Literacy Week, we had a Superhero theme and tried to inegrate the IB Learner Profile.

07 April 2013

The real problem with Common Core

I like content standards and Common Core in particular.

Now, after dodging hurled tomatoes and enduring understandable jeers and hisses from a very vocal majority of people who work with children, I'll explain why.

Content standards like Common Core are written curriculum. Written curriculum is always a work in progress and always up for debate and revision. Any written curriculum has flaws, because what is important to 'know' is always subjective and constantly changing. Most importantly, content standards don't prescribe how to teach and learn, only what should be learned.

In my ideal teaching dream world, the written curriculum is agreed upon, discussed, debated, and revised; the taught and assessed curricula are entirely up to the communities engaged in learning to construct. Typically, that would be students, parents, and teachers. Simple, relevant. 'How we learn' and 'how we show what we have learned' should be the province of the learners, after all.

03 April 2013

Los Perros Magicos de los Volcanes

Back in the Fall, we read one of my favorite books.
Our PYP Unit of Inquiry was entitled “We are what we believe”. We surveyed folk stories from around the world to draw inferences about various cultures’ beliefs and values from their literature. We read Aladdin from Syria, Momotaro from Japan, and Magic Dogs of the Volcanoes from El Salvador. It was a great chance to practice using Venn diagrams to compare and contrast.
The artwork is beautiful and the story is charming and unique. It also has English and Spanish on every page, which everyone always seems to enjoy. I highly recommend the book as well as the International Children’s Digital Library.

01 April 2013

Not an April Fools' Post

Spring Break!

If you're reading this, you likely either just had one or are just starting one. In my case, today was my first official day off and it was glorious.

My one-and-a-half year old son woke me up promptly at seven am and we proceeded to watch an episode of Mr Rogers' Neighborhood about making mistakes. We ate oatmeal, peanut butter and jelly toast, and a banana with mama. I drank coffee; he helped grind the beans. We did some Spring Cleaning and played 'elephants' for awhile.

Once the temperature outside was warm enough, we all walked to the park to slide on the slide, dig in the sandbox, and chase falling cherry blossoms. Lunch at MOS Burger and once returning home, failed to take a nap. After emptying and refilling a box of colored pencils no less than ten times, a little more 'elephants' (my knees are so sore), dinner was ready. It was delicious. Finally, we brushed his teeth, took an efficient shower, and he's now falling asleep with mama.

So what does this post have to do with teaching in my classroom? Nothing! April Fools'!