Of the facets of the IB Primary Years Program, my Grade 5/6 class emphasizes Action by focusing on three elements from our school's Mission Statement & Philosophy: 'inspired', 'independent', and 'contribute to world peace'.
With this in mind, in the first week of school we discussed and agreed to a class identity: Uniters.
Rather than addressing my class as 'Grade 5/6' or 'children' or 'hey you', I say 'Uniters'. Aesthetically, it's a bit like being a team of superheroes. Compared to being called a number or being identified by one's category, who wouldn't prefer being called 'Uniter', 'Peacemaker', or 'Humanitarian'?
The theme of 'unity' provides a rich context for inspiring, evoking, sharing, discussing, and reflecting on action. An emphasis on action will be particularly important in the spring when this class prepares their PYP Exhibition, a self-directed inquiry project with the ambitious goals of authentic action, community service, and engagement with globally significant issue.
Along the LX Design line of inquiry, I realized that we need an interactive tool to document and share our 'action' in its various forms. At first I considered digital tools, but none seemed to provide the immediacy and high visibility required. Thinking of my wife, Yuka's 'inspiration board' at home, I wondered if a bulletin board would be best.
The following tweet from Craig Dwyer and the informative Action in the PYP document to which it links helped to stimulate my thinking further.
What does ACTION, Look Like, Sound Like, Feel Like? https://t.co/y753w9ilPh #pypchat #ibpyp #inquirymaths
— Craig (@DwyerTeacher) September 8, 2014
The primary goal being to move students' awareness from thinking about action to planning and doing, our classroom dry erase whiteboard would be ideal. It's an easily accessible space, simple to edit, conspicuously located near the front door, and doesn't get much use other than reminders and doodles otherwise. However, we also needed the capability of categorizing our actions and seeing them develop through different stages, sharing and discussing.
Although it would take a substantial amount of work, I set out to make a laminated paper graphic organizer. It was a bit of a tedious process, but therapeutic, and an opportunity to model independently and carefully completing a project for my students.
My first iteration had a fatal flaw in that the categories (thought, emotion, planning, conversation, making, reflection) did not properly evoke action. An 'action' chart should be made of verbs.
After disposing of two thirds of it, and having the presence of mind to ask a passing student to take a 'working in progress' photograph, I created a second draft with categories in the more satisfying '-ing' form.
When various forms of action occur to us, we write them in the appropriate boxes. Weekly, we visit the chart and discuss its contents. Often, students have taken action to pursue their inquiries. In those cases, they generally move down the chart from 'thinking' or 'feeling' to 'planning' or 'making'. Sometimes, they need help to continue their inquiries which comes in the form of advice, assistance, or even just a friendly reminder. There have even been a few cases of students being inspired to take up other their peers' lines of inquiry.
It has also been useful for me as an organizer for action within our guided and structured inquiries. It has been effective to model the process of taking considered action and integrating our class inquiries with students' independent inquiries.
A new application of the chart is to share on social media via our class Twitter account:
'How do you make yogurt?' pic.twitter.com/77oadpOEHi
— 'Uniters' JIES Gr5/6 (@JIESgrade6) November 20, 2014
I look forward to exploring this more, perhaps by tweeting to other classes directly or joining in existing 'chats'.
ReflectingIn retrospect, I wish I had included 'researching' and 'playing' as categories.
It is also critical to revisit the chart regularly, as it is too easy to fill it with a few questions and forget about it.
Perhaps a more dynamic design is in order. Considering the meager utility the remainder of the white board gets, I'm considering making a new organizer that fills the entire board, includes additional categories, and has more visual appeal. Any suggestions are welcome!
How do you document and engage with the process of taking action?