Monthly Archives: February 2017


How might we... use a variety of strategies to engage all learners and to build creative confidence?

For now, we see through a glass, darkly... - from an old letter

While trying to address my "How might we..." question, I have been puzzling over how to capture the magic of Reggio-inspired inquiry with my Grades 6, 7, and 8 science classes and my Grade 8 Social Studies classes. I have been catching glimpses, but the way ahead has seemed dimly lit. Certain things obscure the view - my own conventionality, the learning needs of the students, the reality of team teaching (which is awesome!) and trying to plan this out amidst the hectic life of (insert any school name here), and the hammer on the anvil call of the curriculum. What to do? Our head of Teaching Learning gave some good advice - start small with one project. Good advice - that is but one of the many, many reasons she has a chair that spins and a room with a view! As well, Cohort21 colleagues suggest that we ask our "clients" what they think. Another good idea, so that is what I did.

I never cared much for moonlit skies
I never wink back at fireflies
But now that the stars are in your eyes
I'm beginning to see the light... - from old song

Here is what I learned from the survey (Due to the nature of my questions, my graphs were Jackson Pollock-Like squirrelly, so I did the math in my typical analog way - proving yet again that dinosaurs are not really extinct, at least one of them is alive and well and wearing glasses and a lab coat at Montcrest School)...

  • Nearly two-thirds of our students like to dive in, explore a topic by watching a video or messing around with gear BEFORE reading about it and discussing it - they like to have some "that's interesting.." and "Why?" time before getting too far down the road.
  • It is about a 50/50 split between those who like to choose their own adventure within a topic and those who like to "order from the menu", whether the topic list is created by the teacher or generated by the class.
  • It is about a 50/50 split between those who like to learn new skills while doing scaffolding tasks and those who like to acquire new skills when they need them.
  • Two-thirds of our students liked to have a choice about how to share their learning, though quarter of the Grade 8s survey would rather work from a teacher generated template. Interestingly, none of the Grade 6 students wanted to use a standard template. My hunch-y analysis of this is related to the fact that the Grade 6 students have participated in inquiry-based learning in grades 4 and 5 while the Grade 8 students missed out on that style of learning opportunity while doing very interesting but more scripted tasks.
  • Three-quarters of our students said they were excited, encouraged, motivated or some combination of the three to create their own learning adventure. Of the remaining students, many opted for one or more of the aforementioned feelings while acknowledging that they may still be nervous about the prospect. This feeling mirror that of their teacher...

So where are we now? Well, I think the students are ready and just waiting for the adults to catch up. Therefore, I have worked with my colleagues to open the door a crack and take ACTION! Here is the plan that is going to help me:

Done and done:

  • Consultation with Head of Curriculum
  • Student Survey
  • Reading tea leaves of Student Survey
  • Reading!

In progress:

  • Consult with teaching colleagues about inquiry-based learning and planning
  • Having science students mess around with various gear and techniques in different lab activities
  • Viewing and discussing God Grew Tired of Us, the story of Sudanese refugees, with Grade 8 Social Studies students and learning about causes of human migration
  • Grade 6 Science - Maker task requiring students to create a useful device using littleBits, Makey Makey, Sphere, various and sundry electrical gear
  • Grade 7 Science - Maker task requiring to make a structure that will be tested using reasonable force
  • Grade 8 Science - Using what they have learned about the properties of fluids, design and conduct an experiment about a topic of interest using standard and non-Newtonian fluids
  • Grade 8 Social Studies - Students research and report on a family story about migration to Canada or one of the many stories of people who have come to Canada as refugees, from Poles in the 1830s to Syrians in 2016
  • Looking for and reading related articles

Still to come:

  • Trying to join the Hangout on February 28th
  • Taking observational notes about projects, student reactions, ideas for next time
  • Working on Action Plan - the beginning of the beginning
  • Completing slideshow on work and learning to date prior to F2F 4, April 21
  • Attending F2F 4 at Havergal

Ideas? Re-directs? Please and thank you!