Concept mapping – helping students to track their learning.

Our Grade 3 teachers, Mr Karl and Ms Stacy have just finished a UOI on Migration, they shared a sample of before and after concept maps and reflections completed at the start and end of the unit. Although there is nothing radically new about concept mapping, like all great thinking tools, simplicity of application lends itself to multiple uses – making them a great tool for assessment and evaluation.

Using the concept maps throughout the unit really helped both children and teachers to see the development of understanding in connection with the big ideas of learning. I was impressed by the quote from one of the students who said “if you learn the language you can understand the culture.”

At the start of the unit a number of students thought migration was about going on holiday. Through ongoing independent work and peer sharing students tracked their learning and made adjustments. Interestingly by the end of the unit some students chose to completely rewrite their concept maps in the light of their learning, a clear indication of metacognition in action. Reflecting on the process at end of the unit a number of students were clearly able to think about their own thinking  through the connections they had made.

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Do we use sub-conscious affirmations in learning?

I recently presented a PYP workshop on assessment in Singapore, during the workshop one observation stuck in my mind; how as learners we seek affirmation of our own knowledge and understanding. There was a side of me that thought I did not teach the participants anything they did not already know, I merely affirmed their prior knowledge. Of course this is not totally true. However, it was only through their own inquiries within a constructivist framework that the participants deepened their understanding. This got me thinking whether affirmations can work at a sub-conscious metacognitive level, beyond the traditional affirmation sense of –  a “pat on the back”, verbal feedback, or telling yourself you did an excellent job following a personal challenge. I am thinking more about something that is sub-conscious, primal and fundamental in our propensity to direct and redirect our learning.  Affirmation in this sense could be seen as part of a natural survival process that supports the evolving mind.

Reflecting on my own learning and inquiries with regard to visible thinking  made me realise, when our sub-conscious affirmations are prompted through inquiry they become a more powerful and evident part of the learning process.

To come full circle… in looking at the many ways in which thinking can be made visible I came across this fabulous technique called typography.  Nothing new really, but with the increasing popularity of free tools like prezi, this kind of learning tool has oodles of potential for use in the classroom. I would love to see what thinking students could show using this this tool.  Here is a wonderful example of a typography for presentingt the universal declaration of human rights.

What is the difference for you watching this as opposed to reading it on paper. What emotive images does it stir? How could you use typography in your class?

Thanks to and for the link.

The tuning in wall…

Hers’s something we have been trying out as part of our “tuning in” sessions to a unit of inquiry exploring the central idea: “peoples needs and wants determine how a city develops and grows.” We wanted the students to connect their thinking with the different systems that serve to maintain and extend a city. After a number of tuning in engagements the students got to post their thinking on wallwisher in response to one of our guiding questions – what connects people in a city?

The posts on the wall show students are beginning to think at a conceptual level, some are getting there… others are impulsive (the elusive “acer”)… and a few reclusive late starters are not quite ready to post their thoughts yet!

Grade 2 Wallwisher – what connects people in a city?

As well as been highly motivating for the kids and expedient for teachers, a wall provides solid evidence of students thinking that can be easily accessed by all. And even embedded into a PYP planner as assessment evidence – don’t you just love 21st century learning.

A continuum for reflection

The creation of this model was inspired partly by reading some of David Perkins work on developing mindfulness and, partly by the desire to help me nurture reflection more effectively with my students (majority ESL learners). I believe reflection is the foundation of all incremental learning, as John Dewey once stated, “we do not learn by experience, but by reflecting on experience” . As a PYP teacher I am in the fortunate position to be able to devote ample time to developing reflection, as it is a philosophical cornerstone of the programme and constructivist learning. This model is definitely a work in progress, I will continue to refine it based on my own reflections, ideas and practices in the classroom. Please let me know if you use it, any feedback very welcome.

Cultivating reflection…

Is metacognition the highest form of thinking?Pondering over this question has made me think about viewing thinking skills through a hierarchical lens. I mean, when we really start to think about metacognition you have to pause and think about what other thinking skills are needed to regulate ones actions… analysis…synthesis…evaluation…
Although thinking is never linear, looking through a hierarchical lens can help us see connections and process our own understanding. Well at least it does for me 🙂

Here are some of my thoughts on moving from G5 to G2 and my attempts at cultivating a culture of mindful learning this year…

“Woh, there a bit more kinesthetic than I’m used to…”
“Maybe I’ll try 5 mins of introductory chat instead of 10mins…”
“OK, kick into next level of behaviour management mode…”
“Phew, glad that journey was short. Routines are starting to kick in, lets try some reflection…”
“Communal dialogue respected and shared by all – petty conflicts diminish”
“Traffic light reflecting working well for affirming instructions and simple reflecting on written work.”
“Thinkers keys introduced through UOI engagements to explore creative thinking – fun for kids, easy to use and great formative assessment”
“Personalities start to unfold…”
“Lets move it on a bit… use post it notes to answer open ended portfolio questions… thinking starts to become more visible… children more secure about their thinking being valued.
“Mmm experimentation… lets try word association strategy and a concentric circles visual to help us reflect on the skills learned in guided reading sessions over the past 5 weeks… ”
“Concentric circles model was valuable and revealed a lot about children’s thinking… has potential, better used on a weekly basis directly after the learning engagement…”

What are your thoughts on cultivating reflection?