Posted by: sherrattsam | November 14, 2011

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Posted by: sherrattsam | August 10, 2011

Give the parents a voice right away

I forgot to do this last year, but usually I ask the parents of my new students each year to write to me. I ask them to tell me all about their child, to tell me who they are as people and as learners and, basically, to tell me anything that might help me to be a better teacher for them.

Parents love this. They love to have the opportunity to express themselves and give their perspectives about their children. They appreciate being able to do this in a positive way, before parent-teacher conferences or even before something goes wrong.

I learn so much from my students parents, things that may have taken me a long time to find out for myself.

I fully recommend giving this a try. Let me know if you do and how it goes.


Image from RowdyKittens on Flickr
Posted by: sherrattsam | November 29, 2010

What is creativity?

I love this page from Alan Fletcher’s “The Art of Looking Sideways”. We are all sure that we need to inject more creativity into education, but we are all unsure about what creativity actually means! Fletcher’s attributes of creativity work well for me! How about you?

Posted by: sherrattsam | September 22, 2010

Sustaining PYP Exhibitions: It’s happening!

I’m quite excited at the moment as the Y7 (G6) students are carrying on with a lot of the things they started during the PYP Exhibition last year. The secondary school has set up something called “Know, Care, Act” which gives the kids the chance to continue with the action they started last year – exactly what I was hoping for!

Here’s an example (hopefully the first of many):

Last year, Johann and Arne became very interested in privacy and safety issues online following an inspirational presentation by Robyn Treyvaud (see her TED Talk here). Both of them spend a lot of time on Facebook (as do their peers) and they were really pleased to hear an adult talk realistically about Facebook instead of telling them not to use it.

For the PYP Exhibition, they narrowed their focus down to privacy settings on Facebook as they felt that this was an area that could really empower people to use social networking safely and responsibly in the future. They set up a Facebook Safety Consultancy Center and helped hundreds of clients set up their privacy settings and learn to do it for themselves.

They are continuing to publicize their actions using their Facebook page

and are continuing to run mini-workshops in our school library – fabulous!

Posted by: sherrattsam | September 20, 2010

Interesting and Thought-Provoking Quotes

I have been following @anderscj for some time now and enjoyed the content he puts into twitter. Today, however, he has thrown some provocative quotes at his learning community:

I am really interested in the first quote, by Mark Twain. I often think that we learn despite the way we’re taught. How many of the world’s most successful people were successful at school? How many of the world’s most talented people had their talents discovered, enriched and advanced at school? How many of the people who have achieved success in the “real” areas of life such real-estate, business, cooking, social work and creativity were successful at school?

In this technological day and age, also, we have to be curious about the lives lids are living online and how much more creative, non-threatening and collaborative they are than their school lives. Scary stuff, but also exciting for people who are willing to rethink and continue to learn themselves:

I also really like the penultimate quote about education threatening long-held mores and beliefs. I totally agree with this, but often find myself surrounded by teachers who would not agree with it. Why is that? What is it about schools that makes them breed people who deny the need for constant change? How do they become these bubbles that exist in separation from the real world? How do we burst the bubble?

Don't stop believing by Loozrboy.

One thing that frustrates me is how PYP Exhibitions build up to an amazing climax and then, as the dust settles, everyone says things like “bet you’re glad that’s over” or “now the exhibition’s finished you can…”. Just like every unit of inquiry, it’s that sense of learning stopping and being replaced with something else that removes the power of what has just been done. I mean, seriously, the kids have just spent a long time preparing for this exhibition… but over 60% of that time was spent digging deep into their souls to find out what really mattered to them, what issues made them feel real emotions and gave them genuine passion. If we are to be true to them, and ourselves, can we really just down tools and say “Wow… that was hard work. Right, next unit.” and then watch as the students lose all interest, forget what they have done, and cease all action. My students told me that a lot of the older students who came to see their work actually admitted that they couldn’t remember what they had done their PYP exhibition about. Many could remember the products they created (a PowerPoint,  a booth, a bake sale) but they couldn’t remember the issues they had been thinking about.

That is disturbing.

What can be done?

We’re (the students and I) going to do the following things:

  • Discuss how they can continue their work today, tomorrow, next week, until the end of the year, next year and so on. We started this today, have a look at this blog posting:
  • Make genuine, sustainable links with the organizations that we connected with during the exhibition.
  • Embed these issues into who we are on a long-term basis, possibly even continuing the work all the way through school. Imagine how much of a head start these students will have on CAS, Community and Service, MYP Personal Projects and extended essays if they have already been working on issues since Year 6 (Grade 5).

I’m going to really give this a try. This school is the first school I’ve worked in where I would like to stay for at least 10 years! This will, hopefully, be the first time I can follow my students through to graduation. I’m really going to try and meet up with them through the years in order to help them make what they started in the exhibition a sustainable part of their lives at school.

Posted by: sherrattsam | April 22, 2010

The Relative Value of Issues

My students go off to a specialist lesson first thing this morning. Before they go, however, I’m going to get them to make a “human continuum” based on the issues they are inquiring about in the exhibition. I would like them to attach a value to the importance of their issue in terms of our ability to live with the future in mind, and to survive as a species in the future. They will form a line and put themselves in order,from the lowest value to the highest value. They will need to do a lot of talking, arguing, reasoning, compromising and changing.

Here’s the video of it happening!

This could be done again as a continuum of urgency, ranging from least urgent to most urgent.

Posted by: sherrattsam | April 19, 2010

Bringing back the Learner Profile

Salihah profile by bingregory.

The Learner Profile is one of the most complex aspects of teaching and learning in the PYP. You want it to become a part of everyday talk and ingrained in behaviour and attitudes to learning, but you also don’t want to repeat it parrot-fashion until it loses its essence. Many a workshop leader has used the quote “live it, don’t laminate it!” and we’ve all laughed nervously and said “ha ha… hmm” to make it look firmly as though we hadn’t laminated the Profile, stuck it on a wall and forgotten about it.

I’ve been struggling with something recently. I’ve been wondering how aware students need to be of the exact terminology we’re all using to underpin the framework of the PYP in our schools. When they act out of kindness, generosity and warmth do we all have to ceremoniously cry out that they are “Caring”? I’ve always believed that it is the unwritten codes of conduct in societies that are the strongest, do we weaken the Learner Profile by labeling it so distinctly for our students?

Actually, I often wonder if the IB created the Learner Profile primarily with teachers in mind… in the hope that if it can become ingrained in the way we behave, cooperate and collaborate it would become a natural part of student attitudes in good time. I don’t think I’ve been in many schools in which the Learner Profile is used as guidance for us in our meetings, in the way we communicate or even, dare I say it, in the ways that we teach. Bill and Ochan Powell blew us all away with this amazing video about “Mirror Neurons”, I dare anyone to argue that it doesn’t tell us it starts with us.

Back to my dilemma. I’m at a critical stage in the exhibition process with my Year 6 students. The exhibition is the culminating academic “event” of their elementary education. PYP terminology, attitudes, conceptual understandings, transdisciplinary skills and the desire to take action should be bursting from them… BANG! PYP exhibition.

But what if I can see all of those attributes in them every day that I work with them even though they may not be able to tell someone how they are acting. For example, a student who decides to do a presentation in the style of a TED talk on a theatre stage with a massive screen, professional lighting and a packed audience… does he need to be told he’s a “Risk-Taker”? Probably not. Does the subtle use of language over a number of years in a PYP school, the modeling of “risk-taking” behaviour by teachers and older students and the laying down of a series of incremental challenges by a series of good teachers put him up on that stage? Yes, I believe it does.

I am left with two choices for my planning over the next two weeks, do I “remind” the students of the exact wording of the PYP Learner Profile just in case someone comes along to check out they know exactly what they’re doing. Or do I take the risk that they will display the attributes of the Learner Profile to such a full extent that nobody even questions them about it?

Photograph by bingregory on flickr
Posted by: sherrattsam | April 19, 2010

Blanning – A day of “Society”

Tomorrow, we will immerse ourselves in the Society lens of the Compass.

I have given the students some homework to do on our class blog: This outlines, again, what the elements of the Society lens are and poses some questions for the students to ponder tonight so that they are prepared for tomorrow.

The questions are:

  • Communities – How important is your issue in your community? Is anybody in your community already taking action on your issue?
  • Schools – How important are schools in your issue? How could they be more important? Are some schools already taking action?
  • Institutions – What institutions exist that are relevant to your issue?
  • Cultural traditions – What cultural traditions could be important in your issue? What cultural traditions make the situation worse? Could cultural traditions help improve your issue?
  • Arts – How are the arts connected to your issue? Are there any art exhibitions, plays, movies or songs that are relevant to your issue? How are the arts used to make people “rethink”?
  • Organizations – Are there any organizations that are working on your issue?
  • Law – Are there any laws that are connected to your issue? Are there any laws that could help solve your issue? Are there any laws that are actually making the problems worse?

I think I’ll get them to collect their information in the following ways:

  • “Black Books”: a contact list or address book of organizations, community individuals (including journalists) and institutions that are working on the students’ issues in Bangkok/Thailand/Asia. Also, a section on people in the school who are taking action on the same or similar issues.
  • “Headlines”: students write newspaper headlines about the cultural traditions that they think could be causing their issue or could resolve their issue.
  • “Impact Fact”: students search for and present one fact that shows the true nature of the impact of their issue on the society they live in, or the impact of society on their issue.
  • “Art-Power”: students search for examples of local artists, musicians, film-makers, playwrights etc… who are conveying messages about their issue.
  • “Against the law”: Students prepare lists of laws that exist with regard to their issues in Thailand. They also look for laws that exist in other countries, but not in Thailand.
Posted by: sherrattsam | April 19, 2010

“Blanning” – Powerful Quotes

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The second session of the day was all about finding out what people are saying about the connections between issues and nature. Students:

  • searched online
  • looked through newspapers, books and magazines
  • referred to notes they had taken from TED talks, guest speakers and videos they’ve watched
  • wrote their own quotes!

The students were able to locate a lot of very powerful quotes that they can use in the latter stages of their exhibition.

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