Saturday, April 11, 2015

Students Drive Learning!


Dr. Tony Wagner, Expert in Residence, Harvard Innovation Lab referred to that claim in his book, Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World.  

@DrTonyWagner wrote: If we agree on the need to develop the capabilities of many more youth to be innovators, and if we agree that many of the qualities of an innovator can be nurtured and learned, the question now becomes, what do we do? Where do we start as parents, teachers, mentors, and employers?


I whole heartedly agree.  The media specialist is situated perfectly to create a space, environment, and foster habits of mind that encourage play, passion, and purpose. When I accepted my current position as the media specialist at PES and walked into a very-dated space, I made a commitment to mindset.  The physical space certainly has limitations, however, a growth mindset could change everything.  As I referred to in my earlier posts, my motto this year was "Just Let Them Create."  When you release control, listen with intention to students, provide space and resources, collaborate, collaborate, and did I say collaborate---extraordinary things happen.  I will be honest, breaking the chains of time constraints by being available to students and teachers during lunch, recess, before and after school, virtually through Google Classroom, and having a flex schedule has made all the difference. 

Here is a sampling of the outcomes from the past month when growth mindset is embraced by the learning community and students are allowed to play with words, tools, ideas, etc.

The ability to recognize and produce rhyming words is an important phonological awareness skill. Research indicates there is a correlation between phonological awareness and reading ability. Working on rhyming skills is usually part of most programs of reading instruction for that reason. As part of our celebration of Dr. Seuss' birthday on March 2nd, kindergarten students created this fun project as they played with words Dr. Seuss style.

In preparation for an author visit with Paul Janeczko and in celebration of April's National Poetry Month, our first graders explored acrostic and list forms of poetry.  Using green screening effects provided the additional motivation to practice speaking skills.

First Grade

Take a look at this project in the Smore flyer below.  Use the scroll bar within the "Smore" to navigate this flyer.  I love this tool to showcase student work--thank you @smorepages for creating a great tool.

Also, second graders researched Dr. Seuss and created acrostic poems.  Check out this project on the video below.


As part of the social studies agricultural unit of study, I arranged for two Skype sessions with Farm Academy Live which were fantastic.  Interacting with @farmacademylive gave students the opportunity to interact with experts and to learn how to effectively engage in research with live presentations.  Using print, digital, and Skype conferences, students wondered, read, reflected, and created ebooks to share their knowledge of Agriculture. 

Using @bookcreator app, the students created ebooks which are stored on our iPads for all students to access for informational text.  I also converted their ebooks to movies through a new feature in the Book Creator app.  Take a look at one class through the Smore Flyer below.  Remember to use the scroll bar within the flyer to navigate through it.  If you would like to see all grade three projects, visit my website.

Last month, I shared that each 4th grade class chose a student driven project to work on over a 4-6 week, and I posted Mrs. Matthews' Nutmeg News project--which has received much exposure and recognition.  The project won the 2015 CASL Creativity Award (@ctcasl) and was featured in the Republic-American newspaper!

In this post, I am showcasing Mrs. Corbin's 4th grade class project: Exploring the Iditarod. This project was incorporated into the informational text reading unit--which was ideal. Learning strategies and skills to read and process informational text in a variety of print and digital structures was the main focus for reading instruction. The students were engaged, motivated, stretched, and then inspired to share their knowledge in a creative manner. Tech tools are naturally embedded into student work--not as an add-on-but as a means to an end--delivering a message/content in the most effective and powerful manner. In just two weeks, their "Thinglink" had over 1200 hovers and almost 300 clicks!  I love that @thinglink provides stats because it allows students to see if their work is being noticed and viewed.

Take a look at their collaborative project.

5th graders continue to work during an enrichment block on their TMAT News show. The third episode shows much progress and has spurred other students in various grades to initiate exploration of a segment they would like to create.  So, our next episode will feature a few new segments.  Seeing students take ownership and lead a project is so inspiring. The students themselves create their own "homework" to get the job done!  Isn't that what we hope for--students taking the initiative, deciding for themselves the work that needs to be done and assigning it to themselves, students determining what high-quality work looks like and revising and editing because they see the need versus us pointing it out!  

This mindset of trusting that with purposeful instructional strategies that focus on students driven learning will result in students developing a growth mindset is demonstrated in a grade 5 level activity we recently collaborated on for an argument reading/writing unit. Working with the entire grade level on the argument writing reading/writing unit has been wonderful. Using ICONN resources, I was able to select a number of articles to support the reading component.  The students began the inquiry through utilizing the QFT strategy (Question Formulation Technique from @RightQuestionInstitute), which I taught the students earlier in the year. Using QFT, the students observed a variety of compelling infographics. We broke the class into thirds and each group was assigned one of the three topics: School issues, Climate issues, or Sports Issues. At the end of this process, students had a gallery walk of the questions brainstormed by each of the three groups, and then could choose the topic that was most compelling to them based upon student created questions. This student selected broad topic would now become their focus during the reading unit.

View the following video for an insider's view.

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