When it is time to drop your lesson and talk about world events….

What is your lens?

Maureen Wilson, from Hamilton, Ontario shares her experiences at the Women’s March of Washington

We had to be ready to change our pre-planned lesson…Students wanted to talk about what was happening in the world. The following posts describes why we altered our plan and shares the alternate lesson!

Critical literacies involve people using language to exercise power, to enhance everyday life in schools and communities, and to question practices of privilege and injustice. (Comber, 2017)

Flag at Dr. Davey school is half mast to pay respect to victims at Mosque shooting

Huge events unfolded across the world over the past two weeks which prompted our teaching team to change a “pre-planned lesson” to focus on current issues of Social Activism – locally and globally.  On January 20th, Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration took place. The next day, January 21st, together, over 60 countries – men, women, and children, joined in solidarity to March for human rights – “The Women’s March on Washington” was declared the largest global protest – ever. Then, on January 28th a Mosque in Quebec, Canada was brutally attacked and many innocent people were killed. January 30th – Thousands join together to show support and to honour the victims of the Mosque shooting.

 


Knowledge Circle at Enrichment Centre

It is difficult for the most well-rounded, emotionally and socially strong of people to handle the immense mix of emotions resulting from these events. Regardless of your point of view of Trump (or the platform), or if you are a woman or Muslim – we are all impacted – not just by injustice, hate and fear – but also by the joy, and relief that comes with solidarity and community actions. We are affected by the conflicting and confusing media.

 

Our young people are especially affected.

People in positions of respect and power have made accusations about journalists not being truthful and Journalists have made accusations of people in power not being truthful to the people. The idea of “fake news” has been spread across the inter-webs like wildfire. Twitter, Instagram and Facebook feeds are overwhelmed with political posts and emotions are high.


After watching the powerful poem by Royce Mann, we started our INQUIRY through a discussion of “Privilege and Power”. 


The following lesson is an overview of how we approached these topics as an Inquiry:

We started with the “Big Idea/Inquiry Question”:

  • How can global events impact local/community action and local/community events impact Global action?
  • What is my lens when approaching these issues?
  • How am I privileged?
  • What does it mean to be “in Solidarity?”

We shared the “Culminating task” what  will students do by end of lesson?:

  • Complete a Blog post that focuses on an idea or concept that uses the Women’s March on Washington as a prompt. Write through an optimistic lens, utilize a variety of media and provide questions for further thinking/discussion
  • Create a short podcast that focuses on one aspect of Social Justice and  Solidarity and the impact of positive activism.
  • Create a video that uses a specific lens/perspective showcasing the positive aspects of humanity, people, and social activism.

We used the Curriculum Standards as a guide:

  • Critical Literacy: Opportunities to relate knowledge and skills in language learning to wider contexts, both across the curriculum and in the world beyond the school, motivate students to learn and to become lifelong learners. (The Ontario Curriculum, Language, p. 12)
  • Students must be able to differentiate between fact and opinion; evaluate the credibility of sources; recognize bias; be attuned to discriminatory portrayals of individuals and groups, including women and minorities; and question depictions of violence and crime. (The Ontario Curriculum, Language, p.13)
  • Reading – Point of View identify the point of view presented in texts, including increasingly complex or difficult texts; give evidence of any biases they may contain; and suggest other possible perspectives (e.g., determine whether an author’s choice of voices to include seems justified and suggest how the meaning would change if different voices were chosen) (The Ontario Curriculum, Language, Grade Seven,  p.128)
  • Point of View – Demonstrate understanding that different media texts reflect different points of view
  • Making Inferences/ Interpreting Messages -Interpret increasingly complex or difficult media texts, using overt and implied messages as evidence for their interpretations

We made connection to UN Sustainable Development Goals:

  • Goal 5 – Reduced Inequalities
  • Goal 10 – Gender Equality
  • Goal 16 – Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

We made connections to ISTE Standards and 21st Century Learning: https://www.iste.org/standards/standards/for-students-2016

  • Knowledge Constructor: Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.
  • Digital Citizen: Students recognize the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of living, learning and working in an interconnected digital world, and they act and model in ways that are safe, legal and ethical.
  • Creative Communicator: Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals.  

We invited community members to join our class and share their experiences:

Mary-Louise Pigott shares her experience attending the March on Washington


For the lesson…. Read on!!   Continue reading

Indigenous Worldviews Inspires THIS classroom MAKERSPACE

Reconciliation should include a commitment to bringing in the Indigenous World Views as part of the learning process.  I ask, ‘Would recognizing that we are already moving in this direction be a valuable part of the healing process for Indigenous populations?’ 

Many traditional methods of teaching are being challenged, and now, in Canada (and elsewhere), we have begun to adopt some of the very philosophies and principles (of course, with different names, definition and labels) that were once removed from our First Peoples when they were forced to attend Residential Schools.  

Canada has made a strong commitment toward Truth and Reconciliation in respect to First Nations, Metis and Inuit (FNMI). This is especially important in our Education Systems because these ‘Truths’ have not always been explicitly (or implicitly)  taught to children and thus, the inequities perpetuated. Reconciliation, as we know, is a process of restoring relationships or by making views and beliefs compatible with one another. When the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released a report in 2015, Canada was faced with recognition of  the injustices experienced by the First Nations peoples  when they were forced to attend Residential Schools. This is especially important for schools and how we guide our learners today in their journey through this process.

Prior to these children attending these schools, what was education/learning like for them? Did they learn through Inquiry and discovery? Did children and adults learn through experiences? How was learning and connected to the earth around them? Did empathy play a role? What was the role of making and creating in the learning process? Was balance in life important? How did Storytelling impact learning and was it multi-generational ? What about Environmental Education? Family Connections? Community involvement and relations? Was there focus on spirituality and mindfulness?

“Traditional education allowed children to begin the process of observing from the time they are in their takinaakan and learn by participating as soon as they are able; traditional life was ruled by the principle of production from each according to his ability and distribution to each according to his need. (Red Lake, Heritage Centre, Virtual Museam)

Consider the approaches we are using in Education in the 21st Century –   

*Inquiry approaches are about wondering, discovering and experiencing the world. This approach is being adapted instead of what is seen as ‘traditional’ teaching.  

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*Learning can happen at HOME with the family  (Blended learning, online learning,Family Involvement, Travel, Discovery, Experiential)

 

 

*Education programs include explicit teaching of Environment Education and we emphasize human impact on the earth. Schools are connecting learning to outside environments through the use of natural playgrounds, green walls/roofs and gardens, celebration of  the earth

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*There is more emphasis on Primary Sources and Storytelling (using digital media and internet for world wide connections, learning from elders, learning from each other, accessing networks to connect to remote areas)

 

alternative spaces*Mindfulness is a practice seen as good for students mental health and overall well-being and is being adopted as part of the school program. According to Tobin Hart (2014),  Long dormant in education, the natural capacity for contemplation balances and enriches the analytic. It has the potential to enhance performance, character, and depth of the student’s experience. Perhaps most important, the contemplative helps to return the transformative power of wonder, intimacy, and presence in daily learning and daily living.

DSC_0216_2*Teachers are incorporating lessons about life balance and mental health, nutrition and physical health as part of our daily curriculum which includes looking at non-traditional ways of healing and medicine. Here is one example of how we are incorporating Food and Nutrition into the classroom, not as a separate curriculum topic, but in a holistic way, as part of the learning process.

DSC_0096_4 *The term  “Maker” is being expanded to include approaches to learning that enhance and develop hands-on skills, inquiry and learning through play or through doing, problem solving and creating

 

 

*While the Teacher is still valued as “facilitator” we are emphasizing community and collaboration as a better way to teach and learn.


As I reflect on each of these “new” approaches in education – I am drawn to my knowledge of history and the Indigenous cultures. Are the above approaches to teaching and learning are at the core, inspired from many First Nations Cultures?

While it is true that each Aboriginal group has different ways to express its values and traditions, there are similar themes that are prevalent in each group. As noted in a recent publication from Alberta, ‘ Our Words, Our Ways, 2016, these common “worldview” threads that run through many First Nations cultures are sometimes referred to as ‘foundational worldviews’.

In this report by Alberta Education (2016), there are many examples that connect these world principles in the classrooms, both with indigenous and non-indigenous students. I am not an expert in understanding these principles at a depth in which they are intended, but I can confidently explain how these connect to learning and how classrooms can use these principles (whether they know it or not) as a guiding program strategy.

Take a GLIMPS into a classroom that uses the following approaches to guide teaching and learning…


What do you see?

  • Espousing a holistic perspective and that knowledge is holistic

Cross-Curricular and integrated disciplines are more prevalent, as demonstrated by the structures of classroom schedules (less rotary, more time spent in one classroom with one teacher, combining topics into projects). Further, an inquiry approach to teaching is seen as the best way to engage students in real world issues, social justice and global issues. Most recently, classrooms are adapting “Mindful” practices and are emphasizing that when knowledge and learning is approached in a holistic way, students gain a better sense of self and a stronger self-esteem.

  • Recognizing the interconnectedness of all living things

There is a strong emphasis on critical literacy, inquiry and using world (local and global) issues and big ideas in the classroom. In fact, the new Ontario Social Studies/Geography and History documents emphasis a connection to real world issues which leads to studies about how land, animals and food are interconnected, the impact of global warming on our health, how oil extraction is impacting the earth, how the use of pesticides are impacting Bee populations. There is an emphasis on teaching students to relate curriculum topics and subject matter associated with History, Geography, Social Studies, Sciences and the ARTS to present day issues.

  • Having a strong connection to the land and community

We are inter-connected more than ever before not just due to the internet, but because collaboration and communication are seen as vital components of learning and living in the 21st Century.  This allows us to communicate and share with our communities whether urban or rural. There is more emphasis on eating throughout the school day, on health, and on making different food choices. Schools are using the United Nations Goals to guide teaching and learning.

  • Inclusion of Environment and dynamic nature  of the world in lessons and learning.

Environmental Education is now weaved through all areas of the curriculum. Some schools are participating in community gardening initiatives, community food organizations and local markets are partnering with classrooms as a way to help students to see their connection to the land.

  • Strength in “power with.”

As noted in the Our Words, Our Ways Document, In Aboriginal cultures, worldviews reflect “power with,” rather than “power over.” The image for this concept is a circle, and all living things are viewed as equal within the circle. “Power with” is a dialogue, where everyone stands on the ground, face to face – leadership and learning is “distributed”.

 

How does this look in the classroom today?

Explained in the Our words, Our ways Document (2016):

  • Learn from the students about how they learn best. Work in genuine collaboration with them to determine the approaches that are most effective.
  • Involve students when making decisions about the classroom. Provide opportunities for developing their skills so that they become effective at making real decisions about things that matter. Work toward consensus.
  • Invite older or stronger students to mentor younger or less able students. Find ways to reverse the process, e.g., find a skill that a younger student could mentor in an older student. • Welcome and validate parent input into decision making about their child’s education. Treat them as full partners in the collaboration that is essential for supporting their child’s learning.

(Our words, our ways : teaching First Nations, Métis and Inuit learners. 2016)

While it isn’t often identified as such, it appears to be these very foundational worldviews that are influencing Education in the 21st Century, especially in how our classrooms are designed and curriculum is taught.  There are many examples of classrooms and schools from across the globe transforming their spaces into environments that resemble home, enriched places for art and beauty, quiet spaces that embrace comfort and individuality, community and collaboration stations, connection to the outdoors and balance of life.  

Curriculum, more and more, is being taught holistically with an integrative approach and disciplines being taught together. Inquiry, design thinking, experiential and project based are approaches that are recognized as strong methods to engage and teach students of today.

Are we recognizing that the very principles that are shaping how we are creating the 21st Century Makerspace learning environments are those same principles that have guided the indigenous peoples for centuries, the very principles and values that were taken from them when traditional school was created.  

Example lesson that espouses the Indigenous Worldviews and Principals

LINK

A Makerspace Inquiry Lesson – Minecraft, Yarn, Smoothies and the Honeybee…

What does a ball of yarn, a quilt, a Makespace, the Honey Bee, a podcast, Green Smoothie and a Minecraft Museum all have in common?

The following is an example Inquiry Lesson that infuses Maker Space, Collaborative tools, Inquiry and Design thinking, including Minecraft. We facilitated this lesson at the Enrichment and Innovation Centre in our Grade Six Journalism Program, for Gifted Students.

This Video is the lesson consolidation. Everything is connected. “How Wolves Change Rivers”.

Interconnectivity.

We ask: Is Interconnectedness essential for our survival?

DSC_0290_2*How does the interconnectedness of anything change its course or direction in life?

*What does it mean to depend on someone or something?

*Will the disappearance of the honey bee impact human life at the local to international level? In what ways?

*How can we strengthen our own connectedness to the earth? To each other?

 


Curriculum Connections:

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Social Studies: People and Environments, Political and Physical Regions of Canada (Ontario Curriculum)  For More Detailed Curriculum follow this link

Connections to Sustainable Development Goals:

Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

Goal 13:Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages


Pre-Lesson and Critical Literacy/Inquiry

To begin, we would use a “Flipped” approach. First, students would be given a task to investigate content related to the local and global issue of disappearing bees. Students explore, find, read,watch/listen and discover information related to why honey bees are disappearing. Second, students are  asked to bring a leafy green vegetable and a fruit (and any type of super food such as chia or hemp). Contributing means feeling part of something and recognizing the value you bring in- your importance. This piece is vital. It strengthens community and builds trust.

EXAMPLE LETTER: LINK


YES, Space is IMPORTANT!

Room Design, Bulletin Boards and Relevant Activities (Self-Directed Activities)

Kitchen (connection back to home/family)

healthMock kitchen is created. Vegetables are displayed along with a nutritional information focus; Students would also share in a Tea Circle Discussion upon arrival (as they do most days); The kitchen would also have an assortment of plants (especially those with obvious pollen); A variety of honey types would be on display for students to explore the texture and taste and begin to make personal connections to the topic.

Science:

15375There is also a worm compost bin (vermi composting) to maintain the importance of connections and emphasize the value balancing what we take and give back to the earth.-Flowering plants on display for students to explore with microscope; A variety of informational videos available.

 

Living Room Area (literacy)

alternative spaces DSC_0087_4

Word wall and activities; Knitting/crochet activities (in shape of honeycomb; Sewing (creating a beehive pattern activity); A variety of books, magazines, newspapers and literature

 

Math Area

DSC_0096_4Collaborative puzzle for hands-on activities (an explicit way to demonstrate the connectedness of each individual piece and its necessity for the whole); A display that demonstrates facts and data, along with inquiry questions; A map display showing areas that are impacted; Honey Comb is be available  to help students learn about the geometry of the Bee Hive and how the HoneyComb is made.

Maker and Art Space

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Students will have access to lego; Sewing Machine Activities; 3D printer; Programming activities (using scratch to program geometric shapes);Green Screen applications; Pencil Sketching, Math and GeometryDesigning

 


Introductory

IMG_8002With a cup of tea, the lesson will begin around the “Kitchen Table” where we will feel, touch, smell and taste some of the fruits and veggies that will go into the Smoothies. We will discuss how the veggies change their attributes and nutritional impacts when the are paired with one another (i.e., vitamin C with Iron). As a group we begin asking questions about what we know and don’t know about the vegetables, their interconnections to each other as well as to the earth. We will ask, what would happen if they weren’t available?

Here, we would begin our inquiry.

DSC_0216_2Following our Tea Circle, students will begin an independent exploratory activity where they will participate in a  ‘shared’ Google Document and contribute to collaborative inquiry. (Here, a link is created by opening the document to anyone with link to make the process efficient.) Students contribute to information search focusing solely on the specific foods they brought in (or assigned to) and make explicit connections to nutrients. They use the information to create recipes that focus on a certain need or ailment.

We call it “Brain and Body On”.

LINK to the DOCUMENT

  • We would later use this activity to make the connection that healthy foods are a necessity in our lives and begin the inquiry of WHY so many people continue to suffer obesity and health problems – relating this to our connections to the people and world around us.
  • We would discuss Nutrition in the context of wealth and poverty and further explore the Global Goals.
  • We would connect this to the biodiversity of our planet and examine the impact – the cause and effects of loss and gain. Students would see the chain reaction of how a honey bee can impact the lives of humans, food and climate change, and the impact this has for Ontario Farmers, Trade relations and cost of food. This article would provide a context: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/food-and-our-planet/food-and-climate-change/
  • We would connect this to rising prices of fruits and vegetables due to lower yields of farmer crops, to the grocery store and finally to the consumer.  We would discuss Trade. This link would provide a context: http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/loonie-grocery-costs-1.3399841
  • Students would discover that this loss would perpetuate poverty and would lead to a health crisis since our most valuable resources (as they’ve discover) are only accessible to people who can afford the high costs.

Minds-on & Hands-On

DSC_0226_2Together:  Students begin the day, together in a large circle (this process helps students understand the impact of being connected and interconnected). Students are encouraged to be mindful of the fact that they all share in the moment, the day.  One by one, students pass a ball of yarn while celebrating and sharing one connection (a team, a family, a friend, a book…). They form a web of direct and indirect connections and would learn that they can be impacted indirectly when the yarn is yanked or dropped by anyone in the circle, even those that aren’t directly linked.

  • compare this to our connections to our planet, to other living organism,  to the foods we eat, to others – near and far.
  • bring this realization of interconnectedness back to the Big Idea (Is interconnectedness essential for our survival?)

Individual: Students are given time to explore hands-on activities provided throughout the classroom – all that demonstrate concepts of interconnectedness. This can be done at the start of class (when they arrive, or throughout the class as time allows.

  • puzzles
  • knitting, crocheting (co-creating a quilt)
  • sewing
  • Circuits and Programming activities
  • 3D printing
  • Creating Smoothies

(Assessment Opportunity – Teacher/Student time)


Inquiry – Student Driven:

As a class, students create a COLLABORATIVE book that identifies a variety of topics/issues involving the plight of the honey bees and the interconnectedness of the environment and humans. Together, students create a list of issues involving the disappearing bees ( focus on trade, farmers crops, use of pesticides, GMO’s, cause and effect on environment…). Upon completion, each of the Inquiries will be posted.

List of topics will focus on specific learning curriculum expectations

*connections between natural environment, employment, jobs and consumer (relating to bees)

*Jobs, land and organizations dependent on survival of bees

*Impact and connection of environment effects and land use (cause and effect)

*Environmental issues at an international scale and its impact on Canada

In partners or individually, students  are given a full period (or more) to research and discuss the topic of their choice, but always relating it back to the inquiry topic of the Honey Bee and its interconnected value to the world.


 

Staying engaged… feeding the body and soul…

*Note – Throughout “Worktime”, students will have an opportunity to make SMOOTHIES based on their recipes and ingredients (from earlier activity). During this small group time, students will be asked to share how the ingredients and the nutrients are directly connected to their inquiry topic. AT this time, we will make connections back to the land and its impact on farming and then back to the consumer.

(Assessment Opportunity – Teacher/Student time)


Product (Culminating) – What are students working to create/produce?

Copy of DSC_0228_2*Podcast – Students learn to use Audacity and begin exploring podcasting techniques. As part of Interconnectivity, students use SKYPE to discuss Podcasting techniques with an expet in podcasting -Rodd Lucier.. Students are given examples and podcasting techniques -how to express voice, to conduct an interview, to use voice to convey a message, etc. Students will create a podcast interview, informational podcast or a skit.

 

*Blog Students upload their podcast to their blog along with a blog describing the topic and inquiry question.Students have a prior knowledge of blogging. They will be reminded to use more than one medium in their blog and to end their blog with an inquiry question.

*Collaborative Book – Students will contribute to a Collaborative book using OneNote or Google Drive

Copy of IMG_ldwr7qStudents will add their information to the WHOLE class creation using Google Drive or OneNote, thus demonstrating and participating in a connected activity

*MinecraftEDU – Students will design their solution or their information topic in a collaborative world. Here students will design a collaborative museum, where they will add their information through design and interactivity.


Assessment

Learning criteria will be established with the students. As a group we will discuss some of these expectations:

  • Research and Information produced must contain local and international data that explains a topic.
  • Students address connections to themselves as well as looking at connections at a large scale (consumer, poverty, land use)
  • Students will ask relevant and critical questions as part of their research
  • Students recognize the impact that the topic has at a larger scale and discuss reasons for this
  • Students use appropriate vocabulary
  • Students recommend solutions

Specific Expectations

*describe some major connections between features of the natural environment and the type of employment that is available in a region, with reference to two or more municipal regions in Ontario

* “Why are some jobs dependent on the seasons?” “What are some of the jobs that are connected to forests, lakes, and rivers? What sorts of jobs are connected to agricultural land use?”

*gather and organize a variety of data and information on the environmental effects of different land and/or resource use and measures taken to reduce the negative impact of that use

*evaluate evidence and draw conclusions about issues related to the impact of natural resource extraction/harvesting and/or use around the world

*communicate the results of their inquiries using appropriate vocabulary (e.g., non-renewable, renewable, flow resources; extraction; sustainability; deforestation; fossil fuels; aquifer) and formats appropriate for specific audiences

*explain why some environmental issues are of international importance and require the participation of other regions of the world, along with that of Canada, if they are to be effectively addressed

Gifted and Learning Disabled – The dichotomy in learning

DSC_0086 (2)I have students attend my After School Program (STEM focused Makerspace)  every Wednesday who struggle in their regular school. Many of these students struggle academically and socially. Yet, these same students, at the Makerspace,  perform skills and engage in social and academic activities that demonstrate knowledge of math, science, engineering and ARTs  with a proficiency beyond their age and grade level and with a strong level of motivation and confidence. It is often confusing for them for their parents. It got me thinking about the amount of Learning Disabled and Gifted students we see on a regular basis. Students that struggle to find and demonstrate ways that show what they know.

I had a conversation with two students this week,  both from different areas of the city, different grades and from different school districts and yet both had the same story to tell.  I highlight these conversations here to demonstrate the dichotomy with how students are performing in regular classes and how they are performing in self-driven Makerspaces  outside class time.

Note: A Makerspace is defined as a learning environment that is designed around the concept of making, creating, designing and innovation. These spaces bring in the ART with Math, Engineering, Science and Technology and allow for a good degree of autonomous, self-paced and passion passed learning.

I write this post in hopes that parents and teachers read it and begin  take a second look at the child/learner in front of them. What if the student is LD (Learning Disabled) but is also highly intelligent, highly gifted, highly creative? What if WHAT the student needs is to be surrounded by other students and learners how are engaged in hands-on learning activities? What if the student’s IEP (Individual Education Plan) could be based on STRENGTHS instead of WEAKNESSES?  Regardless of the test result (CCAT, Report Card, EQAO) could the child be Gifted?


 

ART“My teachers thought I was dumb”.  “I thought I was dumb” – Grade 10 Student.

Interestingly,  in their middle school years, the students I spoke with, were tested as “highly Gifted” and both were deemed as “Dual Exceptional”.  This means, that they were both Gifted as well as Learning Disabled.  You can compare the LD (Learning Disabled) to wearing glasses. Without the glasses, many people would be debilitated, wouldn’t perform, would be unable to complete tasks.

 

The idea of dual exceptional students is confusing for teachers or parents since LD (Learning Disability) is often affiliated with intelligence (even though this is incorrect).  If a student is not completing their work, cannot make decisions, struggles with problem solving or self-regulation, is impulsive or behaviour,  is slow in grasping a concept and has high anxiety, how could they possibly be Gifted? Shouldn’t they know better?

To complicate matters, the GIFTED student with LD may need specific accommodations but the content, the grouping, how the content is delivered, the level of content might need additional modifications. Are we accommodation for the Learning Disability as well as the Giftedness?  Many times, these LD gifted students require opportunity to work with other Gifted Students.  But many times, because of there LD, the teacher may be focusing on assisting the student with these deficits rather than enriching the curriculum, instruction and learning. Thus, the student is working with their LD counterparts rather then there Gifted counterparts. 

This article gives some great insight about Gifted and LD students: “What teachers need to know”

http://ldatschool.ca/assessment/gifted-students-with-lds-what-teachers-need-to-know/

 

This article shares research about the value of homogenous classes and how these congregated classes server the needs of Gifted students, differently than other types of homogeneous special needs classrooms.

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02783190209554146

 Intellectually gifted individuals with specific learning disabilities are the most misjudged, misunderstood, and neglected segment of the student population and the community. Teachers, school counselors, and others often overlook the signs of intellectual giftedness and focus attention on such deficits as poor spelling, reading, and writing. (Whitmore & Maker, 1985, p. 204)


 

One student shared his story with me. In elementary school, his teachers were so concerned about his ability to learn as well as his lack of motivation that  they recommended he be put in a self-contained/congregated class for Learning Disabled and ‘Developmentally Disabled’ students. According to his teachers, his reading and writing were far behind the other students. He didn’t read until after his first grade  and was seen as being far behind his peers in Math. The problem wasn’t his understanding of the concepts, but instead HOW he learned them. He couldn’t retain information (working memory) and he processed information with difficulty and very slowly but he could spend hours focused on learning one specific task. So, he was described as being “Slow” and of course this was reflected on his report card and also reflected how the teacher treated him as well as programmed for him.   He tells me that even from an early age, he was drawn to creative, hands-on activities – especially those that focused on building (lego, for instance) but these tools and choices were only provided when his other work was complete (which was rare).  The psycho-educational assessment eventually identified him as being Gifted with a Learning Disability. The student laughed aloud when he shared this with me. He thought it was a joke. He was always seen as the ‘dumb one’. He looked around the room and noted that he wasn’t the only one with this story.  Today, this student is a lead programmer and builder for an award winning Robotics team. Many would argue, that while he continues to struggle in some areas of academia, the expert computer science , engineering, and programming skills are those that are needed more than ever in our society.

Still, what I notice over in over in my job as a teacher for gifted is a dichotomy between the assessment and evaluation (and consequently programming) of the student and what the student actually knows and is capable of, his/her level of thinking. The evaluation is sometimes focused on the learning disability rather than what the student knows about the material (the how versus the what).

I wonder how many VERY INTELLIGENT, CREATIVE and OUTSIDE THE BOX THINKING  students are misrepresented because they are seen as behavioural or slow?

It is important to understand that Gifted isn’t just about being smart.  While there is no universally accepted definition of Gifted, the National Association of Gifted states, “Gifted individuals are those who demonstrate outstanding levels of aptitude (defined as an exceptional ability to reason and learn) or competence (documented performance or achievement in top 10% or rarer) in one or more domains. Domains include any structured area of activity with its own symbol system (e.g., mathematics, music, language) and/or set of sensorimotor skills (e.g., painting, dance, sports).” Read NAGC’s position paper, Redefining Giftedness for a New Century: Shifting the Paradigm. – See more at: https://www.nagc.org/resources-publications/resources/definitions-giftedness#sthash.fYgGWaDk.dpuf

Another student (she was a visiting alumni currently in her first year of college) made the point that many of the students here (she was referring to the Robotics Team)  the very students that are designing, programming and competing in world-wide robotics competitions struggle academically. She was the media representative and wrote speeches, articles and created media presentations to access funding. Her grade in English was mid-60’s. She would often be writing a speech for her team while also having to write an essay. Her speech would receive an award grant her team funding, while her essay would get an low average mark.

IMG_0442I asked the students I was working with that day (Grade Eight Gifted Students, Grade 9 – 12 Secondary Students)  if the same  level of engagement, trust, autonomy and safety that they felt in their Robotics Makerspace also existed or connected back into their regular classrooms.

One of them explained – when grades and assessment are dictated by the teacher or school, rather than through their own errors (like in robotics, programming) it changes the mindset of the activity and the authenticity fades. They don’t do it because someone is grading them, but instead because it is important to them personally. Students’ self-accommodate and modify as needed by using the people, tools and devices around them to help them. The students explained that there was very little connection to what they were doing with their Robotics Team and academics, and yet, many academic professionals come visit and observe to try to learn from them. They identified this dichotomy quite well.

For these dual exceptional students, teachers and parents need to be willing to think outside the box when it comes to programming and assessment. We need to be understanding with these students doing things differently and be willing to find a variety of ways for these students to show what they know, even if it means taking unplanned opportunities for assessment or evaluation.

A little Kindergarten and A little Starbucks – Universal Classroom Design

We designed our learning space with a little Kindergarden and a little Starbucks  – Here is how it happened:

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In June 2014, we were informed that we would be moving to an empty/unused classroom at Holbrook School (HWDSB). We were also informed that our proposal for new technology was granted which included 1:1 computers, projector, interactive whiteboard, doc camera (microscope), tablets, 3D printer, and NXT Robotics. Regardless of the fact that we were at the mercy of the physical space and size, including windows, electricity and lighting, we were absolutely pumped to design our “dream” classroom space that was Universal  for all learners.


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maker space

 

From the onset, we wanted a space that not only engaged students to be active participants in their own learning, but also a place where all learners could feel comfortable, safe and part of a community.

 

 

 

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We would create an environment that felt completely different from a “traditional” classroom and yet was full of big ideas, information, tools and learning, and of course, with full guidance from a variety of educators.  There would be a mix of exploration, hands-on learning and inquiry, but with a ‘bistro’ or ‘coffee shop’ feeling. We would end each day with a cup of tea and a group circle to ensure that every single student would be seen, heard and valued. Community would be vital to making this work.

 

This space would be where students or adults could sit around and table talk, listen and create ideas together – to be active learners and leaders.  In this space, students wouldn’t be judged and wouldn’t place judgement on others, but instead, would welcome differences and offer support, skills and talent whenever needed. This space, in some way, would speak to every single student and would welcome all abilities.

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SCIENCEIMG_5233We would respect the quiet learners but would also encourage team and cooperative learning in variety of ways, including game-based learning, through the ARTs and infused with technology and design.

 localbig questionAbove all, we would centre our program around Social Justice and local/global issues. This  learning environment would match our beliefs and values about how students learn best and would reflect the changing nature of learning (and teaching).

 

 

In the room, there would be strong emphasis on Critical Literacy. Inquiry questions and Big Ideas would provide focus for exploration of Millenium Goals (United Nations) and for both guided and self-directed learning. A writing and podcast centre would  provide resources such as Livescribe Pens, Journals (for co-written topics) and a variety of choices for students to write, draw and share at their level and interest.

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The room design would  recognizes the need for quiet and individuality when learning, and so, we would design a small and separate space for “chilling” – one that resembles a most cozy living room (lamp, curtains, carpet, couch and books).  It would be a goal to ensure that even the most “anxious” learner could find a place where he/she felt comfortable to engage in inquiry.

 

 

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Our space would speak to our strong belief, that Health and Fitness are what “Matters Most”. We would plant a small herb garden, healing plants, and provide literature dedicated to healthy living, including fitness, balance, and mental health. We would practise and model an environmentalist approach to living through recycling and composting. Maintaining a worm composting system teaches students how to create fertile soil and to learn what it means to be self-sustaining.

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The entrance of the room would demonstrate that the ARTS would define our space, not technology. We would use the giant wall space to create a Green Screen for video productions and storytelling  and we would reserve a large section of the space for Visual Arts. We would ensure that music was available for listening or playing. We envisioned students gathering around a shared space to compose, play and create.

 

We would reserve one side of the room for group laptops, ipads and an apple TV for sharing. Close by would be the 3D Makerbot printer along with tablets and computers allocated specifically for design and engineering.  We would use creative programs like Minecraft, Tinkercad, Lego NXT Sketchpad, Spore and Portal2 (to name a few) to engage students in design concepts as well as provide opportunity for them to co-create.

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It would be incredible to create a space for our students to tinker, take things apart and build. If space allowed, we would dedicate an area for lego and whatever building materials we could get our hands on. We hope to teach “maker skills” like cooking, and knitting.

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We would combine our Science and Math spaces which allowed for personalized exploration. We would set up manipulatives, both physical and virtual to help engage students in real world problems, including city planning. The interactive Smartboard would be used solely for student led activities and would always have Google Earth and current news sites up in the background. We would infuse other technology with the interactive smartboard including a Ladybug Document Camera so our students could examine the world around them – in detail.

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We would recognize the need for clarity in voice and listening and would use a classroom amplification system. Students and teachers could share, speak and be heard – effortlessly.

 

 

 

Our physical space would be blended with an online space. Students would have access to online learning (E-Learning). We could post information, offer feedback and provide opportunity for rich discussions, even when students were not present. We could use collaborative tools like Office 365, Google Documents, Mindomo and Voice Thread (to name a few)  to share work and allow for natural and engaging extensions.  We would further use or connectivity to reach out to leaders, learners and experts around the world, to network, share and make connections.


 

We were truly given the opportunity of a lifetime – to create a universally designed learning space that modeled changing teaching and learning practices.

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We would honour this goal: to open our space for all learners – of all ages and abilities, to respect difference and to recognize that learning and teaching are in a constant state of flux. Here, we will create a classroom environment that would be used as a demonstration for others  that are also seeking ways to enrich their own program through inquiry and project based learning spaces.

 

The Strength Based IEP – let it work for the Gifted Learner

The IEP for the Gifted Learner

IMG_8531As a teacher for Gifted and Enriched students, I have spent many hours working with teachers, parents and learners on developing Individual Education Plans (IEP) for Gifted and Enriched learners. The IEP has a clear purpose and its process for development is not a difficult one to grasp. Regardless of school, district, or even country,  the IEP has similar characteristics: To identify the learner’s strengths and weaknesses,  to set measurable goals and objectives, to identify the tools and resources (including people) needed, to identify the strategies needed to achieve the goals and finally, as a team, to commit. Yes, there are subtle differences in language from district to district (modification, accommodation), but the overall purpose and gist of the IEP remains the same: To set our students up for success by ensuring they are getting a fair chance at learning.

It should be easy then. However, with Gifted learners, there is much debate and discussion about the IEP.  In my school district, we use both group testing (all students in Grade Four are given the CCAT test) followed by Individual testing (WISC-IV) and students usually score within the 95th to 99th percentile on these tests in a variety of areas, including overall IQ. Only a very very small portion of children or adults would score in this range (1-2% of the population). This alone, should sound the alarm bells. These students are not in the norm and SHOULD NOT be receiving the same programing as the rest. We would say no different for students who are scoring at the other end of the scale and require significant modifications in their learning. Further, just like within the general population of learners, these students are just as likely to present with a Disability.  Sometimes, the gap between two areas is quite wide…sometimes debilitatingly so.

Strength Based Goals:

Many students who are Gifted may not display obvious areas of “Need”. There is no use in searching for areas of weakness simply so you can put it on the form.  CREATE the goal from there overall strength.  On the other hand, many students who are identified Gifted in one area, may struggle greatly in another area or may have significant learning disabilities.  It is important that the student’s IEP sets goals that are also non-academic, such as social skills, organizational skills and personal and intrapersonal skills, which are often a struggle for Gifted learners.

Student Driven IEP and the PORTFOLIO:

IMG_8446In another post, I shared some strategies on how to involve the students in the IEP process, Here, I emphasis the following and share examples from my own class:

1) Ask for Student Input when developing the IEP. Of course, this would depend on the age group and how you structure the questions and interviews. Around the second week of school, I handed out the IEP’s to the students and had them go through and add, edit, and comment on each of the sections.  Most of them had neither seen or heard of the “IEP” before so it took a bit of time to explain the terms (accommodations, modification, strategies, methods).

2) Meet with the students individually and go through the IEP’s with them explaining how and why this document came to be.  Help them understand their own identification and what they need to best succeed.

During the first month of school students did research on their own exceptionality. Many of the students wrote blogs about what it means to be “Gifted” or as they often see it, “Labelled”. Set aside time for students to continually develop and alter their own programs. Don’t let this be a “one off” lesson. Build this into a weekly plan. Build it around their Learning Skills.

We did this every week with tea.  We tried to discuss one area of need or learning skill. What does it mean to be responsible? How much independence should students have at what age? What is fair and equal when it comes to learning? How do we advocate and ask for feedback?

4) Provide an organized system for students to view and edit their IEP’s as needed.  Of course, since some parts of this document may be highly confidential, the template would need to be altered.

5) When updating the IEP’s each term, send home the “working copy” along with the formal copy to allow the parents and families to see how much student input is valued

This IEP development strategy takes a lot of trust and relationship building to work. Students need to feel safe and free to express their honest feelings and advocate for themselves. One students said to me after reading his IEP (prior to his input), said, “Wow, I sound like an anti-social nerd that has no friends”.

Here are a few  case examples created by Beth Carey and Zoe Branigan-Pipe (although there are many many many more, since the IEP should reflect each individual child). These examples are only meant to provide a starting point to help when creating a “Gifted” IEP.


Student Profile/Achievement: Student has strong academics in all area’s (All 95% or above); in the 99th percentile of  testing. Motivated to learn and always seeking out opportunities, rarely feeling challenged by school. Proficient in reading (more than 3 grades above) and proficient at Math and Science. Strong abilities in Music and Languages.

Annual Goal: Student will use higher order thinking skills to enrich the depth and breadth of grade level learning expectations.

Learning expectation:Student will use divergent thinking skills during classroom learning activities, independent activities and home learning; Student will use convergent thinking skills (bringing together a range of ideas and resources to support a central topic or idea); Student will use critical thinking and questioning skills to enhance depth of thinking

Teaching strategy: Provide opportunities for student to learn what it means to think divergently (research/inquiry project, TedX videos..); Provide a schedule/contract for student (allow, encourage accountability, growth); Support student’s ability to ask questions to/with peers and teachers that encourage others to think deeper about a topic,especially one that focuses on current, local and global issues; Encourage home learning opportunities (use of Khan academy for skill mastery, use of blog, community activism – writing and co-created blogs); Encourage and demonstrate use of mind mapping

Assessment: Student will demonstrate a variety ways to express a skill, concept or idea that is presented to the whole class and will add 2 items in the portfolio each month (self-evaluation); During formal assessments, student  will provide more than one answer, with justification – even when there is a question with a specific answer; Teacher will provide a comment/feedback to student during scheduled teacher conference;  Student will bring home portfolio for parent feedback; Allow students to share the answer orally


Student Profile/Achievement: 

Student consistently exceeds grade expectations in literacy based subjects and has demonstrates strong verbal abilities and expression (99%tile in oral language abilities and verbal comprehension)

Annual GoalStudents will further develop higher-level oral communication skills.

Learning Expectation: Student will use real world topics (shared through portfolio and monitored with teacher) and current events to apply verbal/oral language tools as a way to share and demonstrate learning; Student will investigate, listen  and analyze podcasts of interest (one per month); Student will will use oral language to demonstrate learning, discuss ideas and brainstorm using inquiry based strategies


Student Profile/Achievement: 

Student excels at reading, both fiction (in particular Fantasy Genre)  and non-fiction. Tests indicate strong perceptual reasoning, processing speed and working memory.  Student will read as often as possible and enjoys discussing or debating the content.  Student demonstrates strong comprehension skills and can recall information and facts with ease.

Annual Goal: Students will develop analytical skills in reading using more challenging literature; Student will apply reading strengths to increasing writing (finding new vocabulary and structures)

Learning Expectation: Student will analyze texts by identifying many elements that give the text depth or meaning and will maintain a blog or journal of these elements;  Student will be able to draw conclusion about the author’s work through in-depth analysis, ongoing discussions and comparisons and will maintain a blog or journal of these elements


Student Profile/Achievement: 

Student writes descriptively and uses figurative language expertly as well as above grade level vocabulary and grammar. Report card grades reflect exceptional written assessment. Gifted Assessment report indicates student is in the very superior range in all cognitive areas.

Annual Learning Goal: Student will write in a variety of genres using a blog format and will submit at least 4 publications throughout the year to a pre-approved magazine or blog (provide a real world opportunity); Student will pick 10 new vocabulary words per week and keep a journal of new words.

Learning Expectations: Student  will use poetry and prose to write essays, narratives, and poems and will include figurative language; Student will keep apoetry journal updated weekly; Students will communicate to a wider audience and use reflective and communication skills to respond to others in writing


Student Profile/Achievement: 

Student demonstrates strong abilities in mathematical reasoning, computation and problem solving. Student has strong processing and working memory skills. Gifted Testing and Report Card grades are consistent in demonstrating that student exceeds above grade level in all mathematical subjects which require modification in the depth and breadth of the content.

Annual Learning Goal: Student will complete several projects related to Math (timelines and content determined in a co-created portfolio); Student will complete a self-monitored Math course (using MOOC, or COURSERA); Student will create a Math Blog that highlights interesting Math problems and discoveries that impact the world around him/her

Learning Expectations: Student will blog weekly about math related content; Student will be self-directed in his/her math learning by seeking out problems and investigations that related to a specific area (as determined by student and teacher)


 Student Profile/Achievement: 

Student is disorganized at school and home and frequently does not turn in homework and classroom assignments. Student is easily distracted and has trouble staying on task for more than 10 minutes. Student is easily disengaged at school and often complains of being bored. Student has low processing skills and working memory and needs specific accommodations.

Annual Learning Goals Student will complete class assignments on a timeline co-created with teacher and parent; Student will maintain an organized desk, binder (could be an online shared binder) and “to-do” list, to be checked weekly by teacher

Learning Expectations: Student will use technology tools to aid with scheduling (online calendar, online portfolio such as Onenote, Evernote, Google Drive (and can share with teacher and parent); Students self-organize and  will use to do lists each day; Student will “check-in” with teacher each day to guide on-task work and self-monitor how much he/she has completed; Student will keep a portfolio that includes timelines, lists and checklists and will have this monitored by teacher; Student will use his/her device to take pictures of assignment outlines, homework board, etc


 Student Profile/Achievement: 

Student demonstrates strong leadership skills through on-going involvement in student leadership, clubs, and extracurricular activities. Student demonstrates a strong stance toward social justice including a desire to work in the political arena.

Annual Learning Goals: Student will lead at least TWO events, club or organizations throughout the school year (school based, online or community based); Student will maintain at a leadership blog (choice of topic)

Learning Expectations: Student will read a book about leadership development and will share the overall learning, thought and reflections of the book on his or her blog; Student will register the School as a “We Act School” and be the communication link for the school and will complete the on-line follow up focusing on local and global initiatives.


 Student Profile/Achievement: 

Student has a superb memory for facts and detailed information and has an intense focus on area of interest.  Whatever the class is working on is of no interest to the student.  He/She seems disengaged from school and does not follow classroom routines. Student is unaware of social conventions and lacks social insight.  Can be disruptive in class.  Testing demonstrates student is proficient in all areas of WISC IV.  Student does not see the need to demonstrate this.

Annual Learning Goals: Student will demonstrate knowledge in all areas of curriculum through a variety of self chosen ways; Student will share knowledge of his/her interest with class and engage in conversations about his/her topic; Student will develop  a working knowledge of social conventions and social insights.

Learning Expectations: Student will conference with the teacher to decide on ways to demonstrate knowledge of topics covered in class; Student will develop a organization and communication tool to share with teacher and parent; Student will share topic of interest with class or school through oral or visual presentations, blogs, small group lessons etc.: Student will learn a good variety of of social norms and how to understand specific social situations and feel comfortable in those situations


 Student Profile/Achievement: 

IPRC – Statement of Strengths and Needs indicate that areas of need include: Peer interaction, leadership, additional opportunities to negotiate her own learning outcomes; more stimulation and motivation from peers with similar abilities and interests.

Annual Goal: Student will become more self-aware of her needs as a gifted learner

Learning Expectation/Objective: Student will strengthen social-emotional skills within a variety of context and with a variety of people: Student will participate actively in opportunities to work in groups with like-minded peers;Student will participate in explicit relationship building opportunities using whole group circles and class meeting: Student will use blended learning tools, blogs, e-portfolio and ongoing communication with each other and with  parents.

 

 

Design Thinking ~ Make Urban ReDevelopment a Reality in Minecraft

The purpose of this lesson is to inspire and engage students to use creative and critical thinking skills to make decisions and designs that impact an urban area. This cross-curricular approach to Design Thinking, allows students the freedom to use and connect  their inquires to real examples. The activity is intended for group or collaborative learning and uses a combination of whole class and small group facilitation with access to a variety of tools. The final product is a Design and proposal of a chosen Urban Landscape in their own community. Minecraft (and lego) are ideal platforms for students to use resources and tools collaborative to display their concepts.  The example lesson (below)  was facilitated with a group of 7th and 8th Graders in the Gifted Program at HWDSB.

Design Thinking – How are Urban Landscapes changing to meet the needs of people and communities of the present and future?

Throughout their schooling, our students learn why cities are built along waterways. Most Social Studies  (History, Geography) curriculums emphasize the impact of Early Settlements and Explorers at the turn of the 19th Century. Students learn about industrialization and as they move along in grades and age, they begin to make connections between the age of industrialization, globalization, communities, Social Justice and Environment.  Our learners have and will make strong connections about how the age of industrialization has impacted them and the world around them. Eventually, they will use this knowledge to move forward and apply 21st Century technologies to make change and adaptations to the world around them.

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The picture here is Hamilton, Ontario, situated on the Western part of Lake Ontario (across from Toronto, South of Niagara Falls). The area at the bottom of the picture display the industries and factories that gave Hamilton it’s nick name – Steel Town.  Over the last few years, many of these factories have downsized, been bought out, or have shut down.

This is a REAL  example that IMPACTS my students. It is their community, their city, their economy. They need to feel compelled and INSPIRED to care, to understand why this single example connects to people and events around the world.

Ask the Learners to think Big: How can  old technologies and industries be transformed to meet the needs of today..and the future? WHY does it matter?

In most big cities, there are areas just like Hamilton where the industries that occupy the space are changing in scale and nature. Many are approaching the end of their time. This is an excellent opportunity to have students explore, investigate and make real world connections. Who knows, maybe one of their ideas and concepts will become a reality.

Ask them  to think BIGGER.

What makes a good city? Why?

What is the difference between demolishing and restoring?

How are cities changing or how should they change to meet the needs of a growing population?

Invite students to make GLOBAL Connections – In this short and compelling talk Kent Larson gives many examples of how cities and industries are changing to meet the needs of the future.

Kent Larson: Brilliant designs to fit more people in every city gives some examples that apply to the now and the future….

Bring it back to a local example and invite students to share potential ideas, concerns and insights from those shared by Larson. Are the innovations realistic? Doable? Possible? How do the ideas and theories from other communities impact our community?

Return to Barton and Tiffany (Hamilton’s Industry Land)

http://www.raisethehammer.org/article/2029/return_to_barton-tiffany “The Carr/Curran “vision” was presented to planning committee councillors in the late summer of 2012 and was greeted politely if not enthusiastically.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Invite students to explore examples from other local areas. Examples that are real and possible. Here is one from Hamilton’s Neighbour – Toronto.The Cherry Beach area, along the Toronto Waterfront that seems to only be used by locals. Paths, and parks boarder along industries and along the waterfront.

 

 

 

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Invite students to share the many examples of how land and space can be restored to attract people and improve communities. This picture is an example of bike and pedestrian paths that were added behind roads, beside roads, on the side of factories and even along old rail lines, eventually leading to the Beaches area of Toronto.

 

 

 

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The TASK:

1) In pairs or groups, continue to investigate the history and examples of urban redevelopment both locally and globally.

2)Draw, Sketch and Discuss alternatives to the land.

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3) Co-create and build the land in the Minecraft and/or LEGO Environment – Flat Land (collaborative server).

 

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4) Using a shared Document, presentation style, ADD a captured screen shot of the proposed concept/design.

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1bMz0s5L1sdf6CHRAVBraqnURGGw3jW03S4GSGCVZga4/edit#slide=id.g2a828f7ba_00

Design Thinking, Teaching and Learning with Minecraft and Lego

Our Class Picture

This lesson was facilitated with Grade Five Gifted Students. This is an example of how to combine a variety of collaborative tools (Collaborative thinking/planning, Blog, Web2.0 Doc, Minecraft) with a hands-on approach to building and designing prototypes that focus on world problems. Minecraftedu, large amount of assorted lego, a class full of engaged students and a teacher/facilitator provided the necessary resources. 

It was incredible to witness the dialogue, creativity and critical thinking as the students explored and designed their ideas into something concrete. 

Inventions

Big Idea: How do past and present inventions impact our world of today?

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This is a sample lesson that can be used at a variety of ages and grades. Because this lesson is based on the concepts around Design Thinking, it is easily adapted to a variety of curriculum and standards (Writing, Oral, Research, Presentation, Media, Social Studies, Digital Citizenship).Students will engage in a workshop involving a problem solving and design process. They will connect their knowledge of inventions as well as the literature/history they are studying (in this case, DaVinci) and will plan, design and co-create inventions that focus around a real-world problems.

 

Students will use a variety of collaborative (face-to-face and online) tools and will be challenged to think creatively. Is this a new invention? What was the inspiration? How will this invention impact the world? Why is it needed? What are the important details that need consideration?

What is the role of collaboration and sharing when designing and creating a concept? How does creativity change when we change the mediums (talking to writing, to drawing, to designing, to building….etc.)

 1) Introduction and Group Discussion (Breaking the ice)

In Circle, have students share and discuss a favourite invention and why. Ask them to think of the problem that the invention solved. Encourage strong open ended questions and descriptive vocabulary. Introduce the “Big Idea” …and discuss.

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Connect the topic “Inventions” to the overall theme of “DaVinci” (relevant in our situation). How did DaVinci get inspired? What triggered his ideas? Were they realistic? Which inventions were meant to solve a problem and why?

2) Mini-Lesson and Task Overview

IMG_0570*Discuss the terms “Concept”; “Concrete”; “Idea” and “Abstract”

*Connecting back to the DaVinci theme, show students TedX video – Robot that flies like a bird http://www.ted.com/talks/a_robot_that_flies_like_a_bird.html

  • How does this invention impact the world?
  • How does this invention impact a single human being?
  • What problem can be solved by this invention and why?

 Share and discuss (whole group, pairs…) the following information: Canadian Inventions http://www.mediatrainingtoronto.com/blog/2013/6/29/50-great-inventions-canada-gave-the-world

IMG_0450Ask students, in partners, to once again think of the above questions as it relates to each invention and then  create “Criteria” that makes a good invention (and post)

  • impact on environment
  • safety
  • medicine and healing
  • social justice
  • realistic, creative
  • positive impact on world

 3) Task, Process, and Sharing →


IMG_0565Students will collaboratively design and build their own invention using inspiration from real-world problems.

Screen Shot 2014-01-23 at 6.47.37 PMThey will (depending on age, post these steps for reference during work time)

 

  1.  in teams, first think of a concept/idea that relates to criteria
  2. draw, discuss and describe their invention
  3. use Minecraftedu – flat world to co-create a model of their invention/idea
  4. return to their drawing and description and edit, change and add as needed
  5. using their plans and model, students will build their invention using lego
  6. Access the collaborative document (in our case this was posted on blog) and add description, picture and screen
  7. Whole class sharing -* In pairs/groups students can give ‘virtual’ tours of their inventions using a shared Minecraft Server

(At some point, demonstrate how to take and retrieve screen shots from Minecraft and insert into Shared Google Presentation)

Congrats to the students who shared in the excitement of writing this collaborative book: 

Extension:

* Persuasive Writing Activity

* Dragon’s Den Type presentation

* Advertisement/Media Literacy

* Science Fiction Story

* Trade Inventions…write and describe about each

* Add on to each other’s inventions

* Descriptive Writing

* Poetry

 

On the Tip of Their Tongue – Use audio for Assessment and Evaluation

IMG_8004 2“________ has not handed in the assignment. Neither has ____________or ____________or ______________. Please have them come to my class and finish their work during lunch hour. ”

“_______  failed the test…..can you give him/her time during class for a rewrite?”

 

“________needs extra time in my class to do his/her work.”

These types of concerns were shared with me (their homeroom teacher), almost daily by other teachers. Let me be clear. I don’t blame those teachers.  When put into a timeframe or constraint (part of their schedule), many of  identified (exceptionality) Gifted students would shut down, move on, or just not finish. Why bother? And so, they would either be graded accordingly, or be given another chance to prove themselves, over and over. But, what I was seeing in the homeroom was often very different from what other teachers were seeing. Why? Were the students being honest in sharing what they really know? Was the assessment designed in a way that allowed them to demonstrate the higher order skills that they are truly capable of? Was the results of the assessment truly accurate of the students ability?

As a teacher in a self-contained gifted classroom, my students would spend the majority of the day in my class. I was responsible for teaching and assessing the core subjects, which included Language, Math, History and Geography.  The other subjects (Music, Drama, Art, Phys-ed/Health, Science) were taught by teachers in a rotary timetable, each for only a small section of the day or week.  There are certainly many pros and cons to this type of schedule for which I will leave for another post. I had more time (then the rotary teachers) to build relationships with my students, which afforded me the opportunity to not only know them well, but to also learn and explore creative ways to assess and evaluate them.

Providing differentiated opportunities to demonstrate their understanding, communication, thinking and application not only made my assessments more authentic, but it gave me more confidence and certainty when providing evaluation or using the assessment to steer or customize my teaching. For many of them (my Gifted students), their thoughts and ideas raced so fast that many tended struggled to translate anything into print of any kind (pencil/pen/computer). The eloquent and creative words and phrases that they wanted to share, examples they wanted to give, ideas they just discovered were there, right there….on the tip of their tongue. That’s it… literally, on the tip of their tongue.

Screen Shot 2013-09-08 at 9.00.44 PMLet me share a couple of strategies that I would swear by. The information that I would get was from night to day when allowing students to use AUDIO and talk it out. And it is so simple.

1)   My Number #1 assessment strategy was to allow students to share their work in audio format using the Livescribe Pen. (LivewithLivescribe gives many applications: http://livewithlivescribe.edublogs.org/)  Students were all given a small pad of Livescribe Sticky pads and would use the pens available in the classroom to speak their answers instead of focusing on their writing. They were all allowed to provide an audio response in every test (a Universal Designed approach). Students that really needed to use this strategy were more comfortable when all students were given the chance. Funny – they seemed all want to do this, even if they all didn’t really need to.  Audio just made it more clear, more detailed, more personal.  While there are MANY other ways to use this pen to accommodate or differentiate student learning, using this tool to collect assessment data and information might be my favourite.

The beauty of this strategy, is that when used with EVERNOTE, the sticky notes, tests, or assignments were EASILY be added to their portfolio for an audio anecdotal and then shared with the student and parent. Seamless.

It would be inappropriate of me not to mention that I would also carry a sticky pad in my pocket (or on my desk) which I would use for ongoing meetings with students, in audio.  One demonstration question (like an exit card) student can explain, in audio and we both have a copy (the sticky that I give to them and the digital file that I have after plugging in the pen).

IMG_8018 2)   EDUCREATIONS  – ipad app. Hands down, this is one of the best.  demonstration apps. Students could take pictures of their work and then use the app to explain. Students would use the app similarly as the Livescribe pen. Simply add a word or number and speak their mind. Students used this tool to share their math, create presentations, and for creative designs.

 

I look forward to continuing my work with the Gifted Program at the HWDSB as a Gifted Itinerant Teacher. I look forward to learning from others and exploring and sharing the innovative teaching and learning strategies that are happening in so many classrooms. 

 

 

 

 

Are students Accountable for their I.E.P’s?

Each student in my class has an I.E.P…..

 It varies how long the students have had a formal identification and it varies what type of identification, although all of them are identified as “Gifted”.  During the first week of school, I began reviewing their files and updating their IEP’s, however, I struggled with this daunting task, since I barely knew the students.

In fact, most of their IEP’s looked closely to the same – the same modification (s) , the same accommodation (s), the same test results, the same strength and weaknesses. I

How could this be that they were all the same?  These documents, created on templates, with drop down menus were not telling of who these children are.

How I INVOLVE them (and make the entire process a bit more authentic)

1) Ask for Student Input when developing the IEP. Of course, this would depend on the age group and how you structure the questions and interviews.

Around the second week of school, I handed out the IEP’s to the students and had them go through and add, edit, and comment on each of the sections.  Most of them had neither see or heard of the “IEP” before so it took a bit of time to explain the terms (accomodations, modification, strategies, methods).

2) Meet with the students individually and go through the IEP’s with them explaining how and why this document came to be.  Help them understand their own identification and what they need to best succeed.

During the first month of school students did research on their own exceptionality. Many of the students wrote blogs about what it means to be “Gifted” or as they often see it, “Labelled”. One student (Nicola) writes,

“Those who are deemed gifted still need support; they need to feel like they are not the only ones with this label. Remember, never judge a book by its cover. Anyone can change the world, whether they passed a test or not. Everyone is equal, and that’s what’s most important to know. Like I said, to be gifted can mean a bunch of things. What does it mean to you?

3)  Set aside time for students to continually develop and alter their own programs. Don’t let this be a “one off” lesson. Build this into a weekly plan. Build it around their Learning Skills.

We do this every week with tea.  We try to discuss one area of need or learning skill. What does it mean to be responsible? How much independence should students have at what age? What is fair and equal when it comes to learning? How to advocate and ask for feedback.

4) Provide a organized system for students to view and edit their IEP’s as needed.  Of course, since some parts of this document may be highly confidential, the template would need to be altered.

 

 

5) When updating the IEP’s each term, send home the “working copy” along with the formal copy to allow the parents and families to see how much student input is valued

 This IEP development strategy takes a lot of trust and relationship building to work. Students need to feel safe and free to express their honest feelings and advocate for themselves. One students said to me after reading his IEP, “Wow, I sound like an anti-social nerd that has no friends”.

 

After implementing this student centered strategy with the students in a self-contained gifted classroom, I wonder if a similar strategy would work with NON identified students. Since we know that all students work better when they have input and when they are engaged in their own learning goals, then couldn’t we implement this in a regular classroom as well? I also wonder, at what ages this would work best? Students are very self-aware at the Middle School level  which certainly makes sense to have them identify their own strengths and weaknesses. How could their other teachers be involved in this process? Will they have input as they travel into other grades? I wonder.