Annual Learning Plan 2016-2017

My posts about previous Annual Learning Plans (2013-2014, 2014-2015), seem to be fairly well read so I feel compelled to write about my Annual Learning Plan this year, because it has taken a new direction.

This year, all of the teachers at my school were introduced to Folio Collaborative, an online platform that provides a venue for developing ongoing conversations about teaching and learning. It is a great tool for building professional relationships and a tool that I think has a lot of potential for helping foster a dynamic learning environment for professional learning. As a part of the introduction, teachers were asked to develop professional goals but we were asked by our Dean of Teaching and Learning, to write them in the form of a question based on the work of Warren Berger in A More Beautiful Question.

Each member of faculty was provided with giant sticky note chart paper and was asked to develop 3-5 ‘Beautiful Questions’ that would form the basis of their Annual Learning Plan for this year. After the questions were written down, each member of faculty posted there chart in around our large gathering space and an adjoining hallway to share with others. We then participated in a gallery walk, where we could provide comments, suggestions or feedback related to other people’s questions. In the end, the members of my department displayed their chart papers in our staff room as a continual display of our focus for the year.

My questions that I am investigating this year are:

  1. How can I help to support students in viewing math with a growth mindset and apply the principles of positive psychology to math instruction?
  2. How can I help other teachers utilize technology to support strong pedagogy to enhance student learning?
  3. How can I better support the PYP team in strengthening their understanding of the PYP to enhance students’ learning?
  4. How can I further develop students thinking skills to enhance there ability to think critically and creatively?
  5. How can I design my units and lessons to encourage and support deeper conceptual thinking and understanding?

For each goal, there are specific related action items and I can keep track of my progress within Folio Collaborative.



Debating: An inquiry-based activity for fueling ‘Thinking Empowered Learning’

This past week, the students in my classroom have been engaged in preparing for and completing a debate connected to our current unit of inquiry on scientific innovation, specifically aviation technology. As I reflect on the past week, I cannot help but think of how debating is a wonderful inquiry based activity that helps engage students in ‘Thinking Empowered Learning’.

In trying to define, inquiry based learning I came across the following article from The Ontario Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat, Capacity Building Series on Inquiry-based learning.


Debating as an instructional activity, naturally places students’ in an atmosphere where they must develop questions, ideas and observations about the resolution being discussed. It also is a respectful way to challenge, test, and redefine ideas about difficult concepts that our students’ may be wondering about. In some cases, students may also be put in a position of defending a position other than their own, causing them to think deeply about the other side of the argument  and another point of view or perspective. By supporting students throughout this process, teachers help to engage students in real-world based thinking and provide them with the tools to using thinking to empower their learning in other situations.

As an inquiry based activity, students must research and construct arguments to support their side of their resolution. They also must listen carefully to the opposing perspective and think of ways to form a rebuttal. Through this process, students are challenged to think deeply about the issue being discussed and form their own understanding.

After my class had completed our debate activity, I had each student complete a reflection form where they identified what attributed of the IB Learner Profile and attitudes they had displayed or developed while preparing, debating, or observing. It was interesting to read their responses and the variety of attributed that they mentioned. I would have also liked to include the Approaches to Learning as I think that many of them used a wide number of these skills as well.

Below are some of the descriptions of the attributes my students felt that they displayed our developed through participating in an debate.

Preparation Phase
– Communicator – “I worked together with my partner to research and write down facts and decide who was going to say what.”~H
– Risk Taker – “I never debated before so I took a risk in trying something new.”~R
– Inquirer – “I had a lot of questions and I wanted to learn more about my topic.”~A
– Cooperative – “I had and idea and wanted to share it, I waited for the person talking to stop.”~S

– Knowledgeable – “I knew all of the ‘cons’ of aviation and I got to share it with others.” ~H- Enthusiasm – “You had to be excited about the topic and show you were happy to be there and happy to learn.”~R
– Open-Minded – “I had to listed to the oppositions notes in case I had to rebuttal and say something that I did not agree with.”~A
– Communicator – “I was talking to my audience and I thought about how to get their full attention and when I was presenting I gave them the full package.”~R
– Confidence – “I didn’t back down and I felt very confident in front of the class.”~B

Observing Other Debates
– Curious – “I wanted to know what the others’ side opinion was.”~H
– Thinker – “You have to be thinking, how could you make my debate better next time.”~R – Reflective “You have to reflect on the other debates and think how could I make my debate better.”~A

I would like to continue to explore the use of debate in the inquiry based classroom and develop some age appropriate resources for the students in the PYP. I believe that it is a wonderful activity to engage students in ‘Thinking Empowered Learning’.

The first week … No math, no reading, no writing … just building relationships and community

No math, no reading, no writing … just building relationships and community. Yes, that was my first week back and it felt great. Lots of smiling faces, kids playing, building, making, creating, and enjoying each others company.

Schools and classrooms are built on strong relationships so we need to give ourselves permission to allow those to develop before instruction can begin. In my class, I have a number of students who are brand new to the school. On Wednesday, you could see there nervous faces but by the end of today, it looked like they had all been at my school since Kindergarten.

We have started to build a trusting and caring community that will support our learning for the rest of the year. There is lots of time to do math, reading, and writing this year. I don’t regret spending this week creating our learning environment and building relationships. I know it is going to be beneficial over the course of the school year.

Evaluating using the WWWDOT Framework

Yesterday I came across this Edutopia article on the WWWDOT framework. I find that teaching students to be critical consumers of the information they read on the internet is a large task in Grade 6 so I am always looking for different strategies to help them with this process.

I decided to turn the 6 questions or steps into an infographic that I can display in my classroom or provide to students. I used a new to me tool, It was pretty easy to pick up fairly quickly and the library of images and templates was excellent considering it is a free website.

Here is my finished product:

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Source: Zhang, S., Duke, N. K. and Jiménez, L. M. (2011), The WWWDOT Approach to Improving Students’ Critical Evaluation of Websites. Read Teach, 65: 150–158.

Lessons Learned from PYP Exhibition

This year was my first time being the lead teacher on the PYP Exhibition at my school. In the past two years I have served as a mentor, but this year was my opportunity to step up and take on the leadership of the PYP Exhibition.

I was fortunate to be supported by my school to attend ‘The Exhibition (Category 2)’ training the face-to-face format. I found that attending the training was beneficial to fully understanding the purpose of exhibition both in my role as a homeroom teacher but also as the PYP Coordinator. ‘

Lesson #1The Exhibition is the responsibility of all teachers within the programme.
The Exhibition is the culmination of the PYP, and as a result, it is a reflection of everything that the students have developed as learners throughout the programme, not only in the final year. Often, the teacher who is responsible for leading the group of students through the exhibition feels an added level of pressure as they are directly responsible for the group of students. Taking time to establish essential agreements and understandings around the purpose of exhibition and the scope of exhibition will help to lay the ground work for meaningful conversation regarding student’s exhibition experience.

Lesson #2 Invest in developing a detailed timeline in advance, but remain flexible!
There is no prescribed way to deliver the PYP Exhibition; however, there are many requirements as describe in the Exhibition Guidelines document. As a result, it is important to carefully consider what components of the exhibition process are required and allocated appropriate time and resources for them. Providing time for students to take community visits, have guest speakers, contact primary resources are all important elements to student led inquiry and all benefit from having a timeline. That being said, it is important to remain flexible and consider individual situations with professional judgement as learning is not a linear process.

Lesson #3 Build in time and provide tools for reflection throughout the process.
In order to help keep the focus of the exhibition on the process of learning, instead of completely on the final product, make sure to build in non-negotiable time for reflection. Some of the ways that it did this included:

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Daily Tracking Sheet

Daily tracking sheets – Students take a few minutes at the beginning and end of every day to set priorities, acknowledge progress, and identify next steps.
Weekly recap sheets – Each Friday, students had time to reflect on their week by answer open-ended questions and identifying the Learner Profile attribute, attitudes, and Approaches to Learning that they displayed, utilized, or applied that week.

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Open Ended Questions

Video Journals – At the completion of various stages of the inquiry process, students were provided with the same set of questions to answer. This was done multiple times and then students were able to look at how their answers were impacted by their research. By using the video format, it provided another modality for students to express themselves and talk about themselves as learners.


Lesson #4Communication is essential.
As the exhibition unit is a slightly different format from the rest of the programme of inquiry, it is essential to develop strong communication with the involved students, families, and wider school community to maintain a positive climate. It is important to acknowledge that exhibition will challenge the students involved, and there will be difficult situation to work through but at the core the process will be empowering and enjoyable for the students involved.

Lesson #5 – Document, document, document!
Take lots of pictures, shoot video, capture the learning in action. The exhibition process can be exhausting, overwhelming, and is over before you know it. Make sure to use technology to assist in the documentation process to help you remember all of the wonderful moments that happened throughout. Your documentation will be valuable to help with the assessment process, but also provides a vehicle for celebration.

Here is a video produced with some of my students talking about PYP Exhibition.

If you have other lessons that you have learned about PYP Exhibition, please comment below! We are better together, when we share and learn from each other.