Literature Circle: A fun and surprising journey

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“Hot Seat”

Our Literature Circle journey continuous to be fun and surprising.  It’s a slow but sure process for all of us.  It is definitely a fun and meaningful way to learn reading!

The Beginning

For our first try, we started with one book- Charlotte’s Web, as all of them have purchased the books already. My purpose really is to introduce them to the routine, which included making reading as a habit, sharing of ideas and applying strategies to help us read.  Of course, I expected the first month to be challenging, but I know it will be a meaningful learning process for everyone.

Our major challenges were:  a) managing schedule, b)   adjusting to the routine, c) motivating each other to read and accomplish our assigned tasks,  d) being open with each other in sharing our ideas.

What did not work:  a)  making the routine, literally just a routine (it’s good to give something fresh to the students, like a new engagement we can do as a class, and not just in groups),  b)  failing to follow up with the students on their discussions and over all experience, c) not asking feedback from the students.

What worked:  a) collaborating the schedule and making sure that there is balance (stand alone, integration with the unit, literature circle time), b) trying to do things consistently, following the agreed schedule and consistently encouraging each other, c) students agree on their group goals and tasks,  d)  consistent conference with each group with clear expectations.

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The Egg Sac

The Egg Sac is one of my favorite chapters in the book.  At the beginning of the story, Charlotte introduced the wonders and strengths of a spider, but in this chapter, she started to reveal all her worries, her fragile side, and how she still struggles to be strong.  I can’t help but feel emotional about it, simply because this is a feeling I am able to relate to and understand.  During a discussion with a group of 5 students, they shared that Charlotte reminded them of the pain of their mothers- how their mothers try their best to help them, do as much things as they can to support them with their needs.  But it didn’t end there. They shared more intimate stories about their families, which I didn’t really expect to hear from them.  They shared about their cousins and specific hardships their families went through, the times when some of their family members were hospitalized, their feelings for them.  I felt some of them were even surprised about how honest they were with each other.  But that moment really helped all of us to relate with the book, to understand how we are all connected.  We further talked about the worries of Charlotte and I asked them to make connections by sharing their own worries.  While I was expecting to hear worries about school tasks and not being able to get the toys they want, they did share that sometimes they worry about death and the unknown.  What would happen to them, how scary it must be not to know what will happen next, the uncertainties of life.  Wow!  I thought this was pretty deep for my kids.  I had one of the best conversations of my life.

This Lit Circle discussion was one of the best I had so far.  It took time for my students to open up and appreciate the story, but I saw how they developed to be young readers.  They are learning to understand the characters in a deeper sense, showing some sense of empathy because they themselves know how the characters feel.  It didn’t just help them become readers.  It also helped them become risk-takers, communicators, open-minded and empathic.

Their success is my success

Right now, I feel successful because I can see that most of my students are aware of the different reading strategies that work for them.  We also have our class favorites such as making connections, comparing characters, hot seat, readers’ theater and visualization as reading strategies and engagements.  I feel successful because I see my students feel good about reading, because they can share their thoughts about what they’re reading, because deep down inside they have a story to tell.

What I’ve learned from the experience is that we can’t force children to read.  What we can do is show them that reading is fun and meaningful by giving them the opportunity to read.  By helping them read and by helping them feel that they shouldn’t feel pressured if they don’t read the same way as the others.  That reading will give them a sense of belonging and they’re not just merely a book of words that we decode. That reading is not just a tool to make them smarter, but a way to help them understand ourselves, others and the world.

So, how are you like Charlotte?  And how are you helping your students realize this?

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The Wonderopolis Project

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Grade 4 Wonderopolis Project Chart

A few days back, I came across this amazing website called “Wonderopolis” (http://wonderopolis.org/), with the perfect tagline:  Where The Wonders of Learning Never Cease.  Now, who wouldn’t be fascinated?  I want a world exactly like that.  I like the idea of wondering (obviously), but I also love for the wondering to be heard in class.  To actually get inside the brains of my students and know what on earth are they thinking!  Whenever they stare in space.  During lunch time.  Whenever they see a peculiar object.  How they view people, how they see the world.  It’s funny how we teach things that we adults think are important to know, when our students ask the questions that reveal the things that are important to them.

I started the Wonderopolis Project, and immediately it had an impact on my students.  My purpose is simple: to make inquiry fun, personal and more consistent.  I asked them on a voluntary basis who wanted to join the project. The volunteers wrote one wondering on a post-it note. Each of them would have the opportunity to share, depending on which day they fall at. A lot of them asked if they can write more wonderings.

The wonderings are hilarious and interesting!  From “Do girls flush their toilets?” to “Why do Cheetahs run so fast?” to “Who made God?”  Things I’ve learned from my students:  1)  I don’t have all the answers and there are so many things that I don’t know;  2)  I discovered that they wanted to know more about their teachers; 3)  I learned about the things that matter to them.

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My students inquiring about my family tree.

Are they simple questions?  Maybe yes, maybe no.  But somehow I know they are valuable.  For instance, my students inquired about my family tree for her Wonderopolis project.  As we were working on it, she and some of her classmates were shocked about how big my family tree is.  This led to learning about the Filipino and Indian culture, the similarities and differences.  This led to the differences amongst generations, the life before and now.  This led to some of the current issues families are facing.  It wasn’t just about my family tree- it was about culture, history and issues.  I can’t wait to see where ‘do girls flush their toilets’ will bring us.

I’m looking forward to more exciting Wonderopolis Project sessions with my students.  I thanked one of my students for being so passionate about the project and shared to her how I enjoyed it.  Her answer:  even I.

If Teachers Design Their Own School Day 1

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It was very interesting to watch this video called “If Students Design Their Own Schools” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RElUmGI5gLc&sns=tw).  Watching it inspired me and made me wonder more.  Wonder about me as a learner.  About us as teachers. About my current school. If teachers, who support inquiry as a way of teaching and learning, will design their own schools, how would it be?  What will it look like?  What will it sound like?  How does it feel to be there?  We do spend a lot of time wondering what our students need, but how about us?  What do we really want in our schools?  Are we achieving them?

Quite frankly, I have a lot of things to say about my questions, but I also want other perspectives.

This prompted me to read and read and find out.  And starting tomorrow, I will talk to my coordinator and collaborate on this simple study:  If my co-teachers will design our school, what and how will it be?  I am very excited to hear their perspectives,  especially that my current school is in its journey toward the PYP authorization. Hopefully, this very simple research of mine can help us have the culture that will support each other’s needs and aspirations.  I am seeing the possibility that this can be a ranting session for them.  But just the same, they ought to be heard.

I think as a school community, it is important to look forward to the same direction, to be heard, to be valued and to be sincerely cared for, both on professional and personal levels.  So how should that look like in our school?

More insights on teachers designing their own schools:  Support teachers to develop their own school curriculum  (http://www.thersa.org/large-text/about-us/media/press-releases/support-teachers-to-develop-their-own-school-curriculum)

“87 percent of teachers agree that schools should be free to design substantial parts of their own school curriculum to meet the needs and interests of their children, according to a poll commissioned by the RSA and English Heritage.”

“The Department for Education should do more to ensure schools are making the most of their freedoms to design school curriculum, the report says. The national curriculum should be slimmed down, allowing schools to develop their own in partnership with local communities; local businesses, heritage and cultural organisations, voluntary groups, faith communities and parents.”

“Most debates about the curriculum start from the wrong place. Instead of asking ‘what should the curriculum include’, our starting question should always be ‘who should determine what the curriculum includes’? Such a question enables curriculum development to play a significant role in building and reshaping civil society.”

“Local knowledge needs local power. If this government t is serious about freeing all schools from central control, they will need to make sure that every school has the freedom, training and incentives to design their own curricula. This will need changes to accountability so that Ofsted inspect a school’s whole curriculum rather than the just the national curriculum; and so that schools have outward accountability to their communities rather than just upward accountability to Ofsted and government.”

“We should separate the school curriculum from the national curriculum. And we should work with our communities to build the school curriculum. It is, of course, not a replacement for the entitlement to useful knowledge captured by a national curriculum, but a vital complement to it. NAHT therefore welcome this timely, constructive and encouraging report.”

#PYPCHAT

pypchat

“Educators from around the world are invited to participate in the new #pypchat. Inspired by the success of other Twitter chats such as #elemchat, #pypchat was created to provide PYP teachers with an opportunity to come together and share thoughts, experiences and strategies ~ to learn from and with each other.”

As a PYP teacher, this site has been helping me A LOT. It is such a warm community of teachers and school staff, all trying to help everyone with their teaching and learning. I feel valued in this community even if I just joined recently. The members are very inspiring, too!

Encouraging ALL teachers and school staff: http://pypchat.wikispaces.com/

Visible Thinking

visible thinking

Visible Thinking is a flexible and systematic research-based approach to integrating the development of students’ thinking with content learning across subject matters. An extensive and adaptable collection of practices, Visible Thinking has a double goal: on the one hand, to cultivate students’ thinking skills and dispositions, and, on the other, to deepen content learning. By thinking dispositions, we mean curiosity, concern for truth and understanding, a creative mindset, not just being skilled but also alert to thinking and learning opportunities and eager to take them.

http://www.old-pz.gse.harvard.edu/vt/VisibleThinking_html_files/VisibleThinking1.html

It’s Time to Wonder

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I love traveling.  And whenever I travel by air, I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of me reaching another country, another continent, just by sitting.  And I’m actually more fascinated by how pilots get to find the airport from way above, through those puffy clouds.  Of course I know they’ve been trained for that and I’m sure they must recognize signs and symbols, this and that.

It’s just that from the top- north, south, east and west could just be…anywhere.  And yet the wind takes you knowing that there is such a thing called direction… or the lack of it.  Then before you know it, you are just where you’re supposed to be.  Amazing.

I think the best things in life are products of interesting and provocative questions.  Like how they asked before ‘how on earth can I reach another country just by sitting?’  Every question that my students ask inspires me to be a better teacher.  The fact that they wonder, the possibility of their questions to become a discovery, for those questions to be the solution, for the questions to just make them realize who they are and who they’re meant to be.

And just maybe, if I become a better teacher for them, they’d find out the answers for themselves.  And actually LEARN.

Here’s a Lesson.

From Paul Arden’s book “Whatever you Think, Think the Opposite”

It is better to live in ignorance than with knowledge.  Solving the problem is the exciting part, not knowing the answer.  Once a conjuring trick is explained, it loses its magic.  The excitement of a game of football is in not knowing who is going to be the winner.  Some people have success and rest on their laurels.  The lucky ones get to continue to live in ignorance.

Now, maybe you will agree or wont with what Paul Arden wrote.  But I agree to it in a way that ignorance is translated into the feeling of wondering.  To ask.  Then to be brave enough to look outside and find out.  To have the resilience for changes, knowing that things can be what you never expected them to be.  And then to ask again.

It’s time to wonder.  And it’s time that we allow our students to do so.  Cheers to inquiry.