Learners sharing experiences and knowledge

With his Zine finally published, B has secured the places where he wants to display his product. It sits proudly in the reception areas of our school, so that it may be seen by visitors. It is his snap shot of what learning looks like at our school.

The action, however, came in a form that neither of us had considered. Our Year 6 students are currently working on their PYP Expedition, towards their PYP Exhibition. Part of our role, as teacher mentors is to talk to the children. To get them to pose and answer questions and keep considering the journey they are on. The focus is the expedition, not the exhibition.

In this capacity, I sit with a girl (L) who feels passionately about educating people about the great work  of a charity organisation – one in which she is involved. She has been there, she has cooked, packed and delivered food to needy people and she knows all the benefits. She wants to tell other people why they should be involved too. She has decided to make a brochure, which the organisation wants to see, but she is unsure how to do this. She is folding paper and deciding on lay-out.

She feels unsure and something is not right for her. So I ask her, “Do you know what a zine is?”
“No!” We watch a quick YouTube clip and she looks at me and says,”This might be good for me!” So we head off to the office and I show her B’s zine.

“HOW DID HE DO THAT?” she beams.

“Why don’t you ask him?” I suggest. And we are off.

An informal, light-hearted mentoring session takes place, with a promise to be of assistance as and when he is required in the future.


L feels invigorated. She has direction and a real mentor – an expert who has done this before!

B feels important! He is able to share his knowledge and experience and help another (older) child.

How do we empower children to share their experiences and knowledge?

Do we know what our learners know so that we can pair them up authentically (with no barriers of age and stage)?


Posted in Jina, Learning, learning support, ownership, PYP | 1 Comment

Reflective honesty

A and two friends (Year 6 learners)  join me to think about themselves as learners. Their goal is to write report reflections for their final primary school reports. We look at the learner profile  and consider what they have achieved and improved on and what they still need to improve. Each of the children approach the task in their own way.

  • J (who is a creative thinker) immediately starts to think about what she does, how she does it and who she is as a learner.
  • N gets lost in her thoughts and needs time to think.
  • A wants to talk. She wants to bounce ideas around.


During the week, I interact with other children who are writing their reflections. I notice:

  • Some like to plan first; others like to dive in.
  • Some like to write about what they are thinking; others like to think about what they are writing.
  • Some require sentence starters to assist them; others have plenty to say.
  • Some want to chat about their thinking ; some want to think in silence.
  • Some want to talk and have someone scribe (type) ; others want to type as they think.

It seems like everything that we do is differentiated to some degree and that given choices, learners experiment and find out what works best for them. The comments are testimony to the reflective practice that the learners are exposed to and I love the honesty and insight that they display.

Here are some examples of what they say :

N: “I know that I need to show more commitment to my learning as I tend to get distracted and lose focus. My learning environment is important. I need to have a place to map out my thoughts and all my ideas so that I can refer back to them as I need them.”

A :”I am willing to share my knowledge and I know that I need to ask questions more often and be willing to take risks as I know that when I make a mistake, I learn new things. I do know that I need to contribute more to class discussions and get more involved as sometimes I am not willing to share my thoughts as I am unsure of what other people will think of them. I need time to think and a safe place to share.”

(K has started thinking alone, but wants to chat to generate more ideas. He is so honest in what he says, that as I read this sentence, I hear his voice.)

K: “When I am determined to learn something no one can stop me but when I don’t really want to learn something I am closed-minded.”

Taking time to model reflection and build it into all we do certainly pays off.

What do your learners think about?

How do they reflect on and for their learning?

Posted in Jina, Learning, learning support, PYP | Leave a comment

Engaging all learners …

Observing the world, reading and viewing gives one  great opportunites to ask questions; reflect on one’s own practice and try to make meaningful, practical suggestions.

   How do we get all learners to be engaged, feel involved and show them that their voice matters?

 How do we involve all children in discussion, learning and collaboration?

 Is whole class discussion the way to start lessons, to pull everyone in?

I’ve been watching some video clips that our literacy co-ordinator shared with me. My first observation is that the children look like they are half asleep. The same two children raise their hands and are called on constantly.  The teacher talks and talks …

What strategies might we use to draw all of our learners in?

  • Stop asking for raised hands. Instead, ask everyone to think and place their thumb next to their chest when they feel they have a thought. Hands in the air hinder the thinking of the children who take time to think. They know that the “hand up child” will be called on , so there is no need to think.


  • Access prior knowledge – use thinking routines (in parts and with purpose) eg I used to think and now I think (know)
  • Use Google Slides / Docs so that every child has a place to share their ideas and link to those of others.
  • Allow every child a point of entry by using big questions and deep provocations.
  • Less teacher talk – allow children to ask the questions and then find out what they are interested in and what they see the need to find out about.
  • Using thinking routines like Connect-Extend-Challenge, Think, Pair Share , Compass Points , See, Think, Wonder
  • Share ideas in small groups rather than whole class discussions all the time. Get group to come up with a headline / big idea / question / insight to share.
  • Use place mat thinking routines to come up with a definition.

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  • Use a chalk walk to collect thinking and extend ideas.vtr3

At the end of the lesson, check in  with children. Ask them to share a puzzle/ insight / something they learnt/ how they are feeling.  Is it possible to engage all learners, all of the time?

Posted in Inquiry, Jina, Learning, learning support, Thinking | Leave a comment

Teaching or learning?



Image taken from All Things Learning

Here’s the question for today … What do we value more? Teaching or learning? 

This question could be debated from many perspectives, with a huge amount of evidence to justify view points.

So often, we consider “the lesson; the concept; the message”. Is there anything wrong with this? I don’t think so. How often do we consider these things:

  • What is the learner’s prior knowledge?
  • What  is the learner’s ‘care factor’ about this topic?
  • How is the learner going to use this beyond the classroom?
  • How does each learner learn best?
  • What will motivate the learner to extend their thinking?

Do we expect children to do things that we would hate to do? 

When we plan for learning, is the focus on teaching (how and what) or learning (why)?     In Making the PYP Happen, this question is  raised : “How should the teaching and learning process be modified as a result of the assessment?”

How are we using assessment to inform our teaching and  learning?                                     Is assessment for a grade? To monitor progress? To see how a school / teacher / child is traveling?                                                                            

What else helps us inform teaching and learning? 

What do we value more? Teaching or learning? 

Posted in Learning, Thinking | 4 Comments

Mean girls’ behaviour

As  parents, what do we do when our child is excluded, is on the receiving end of “mean girls’ behaviour“?  Perhaps they even feel that what they are receiving is bullying.

A colleague (a mother of three children) shared this post with the staff a few weeks ago. I read it, feeling rather sad. Why do children (people) do this to one another? How often does it happen in our school?

Then, today, a mum of a young girl called me, at an absolute loss. Her daughter has been excluded – not once, in very covert way over the weekend, but twice. Texts are sent, calls are made and fingers are pointed. Yes .. it is happening in our school!

Where are the parents?” you might ask. I do too. But it seems that some of them are there. With their heads either facing each other, or hidden in the sand.

What would happen if this treatment was directed at their child?

What do they do to advise their children …how does one teach  empathy and compassion rather than cruelty, rejection and shaming? How much do children model their behaviour on their parents’?

What happens to the victim of “‘mean girls’ behaviour” ? Do they retreat? React? Mimic?  Lash out? Hide?

How do schools effectively deal with this behaviour?

How do parents effectively deal with this behaviour?

How do friends effectively deal with this behaviour?

Is there a way to find resolution?


Posted in Thinking | 2 Comments

Creating and consuming …

Recently, I wrote and shared a post about wanting to join with other educators to bounce around and grow ideas. I started my blog two years ago, after my mentor and friend gave me a few (not so gentle) nudges to share what was happening in my classroom and my head.


I had been working with a couple of people who felt that blogging and Tweeting were a way of people “blowing their own horn” and I was really reluctant to be viewed in this way. So I began a little journey – following people on Twitter, reading blog posts and talking a great deal about what I was learning from doing this.

“What are we consuming; what are creating online?”my mentor and friend asked in one of her workshops. “What if we only consume?”

My questions stemmed from there …

  1. What if I create something that people don’t agree with?
  2. What if I say something that upsets someone?
  3. What if people have different opinions?
  4. What if no one really cares about what I have to say?
  5. What if I have nothing to say?

I am struck by how many other people share my thoughts, especially numbers 4 and 5.

I put the questions aside, thinking “SO WHAT?”. I decided to start blogging because it was a way of documenting things; a way of recording ideas; asking questions; generating conversation and most of all, for me, reflecting.

I am fortunate that I have made connections with many new people. I learn  from and consume what they say. I am on this journey now with creators from different parts of the world. People with differing ideas, different jobs and differnt styles. How much there is to consume – and to be inspired by to create more of our own! There is so much to gain by sharing what we are doing and thinking – and someone (or many) will connect to, question and learn from our journey.

Here are some of the blogs I am following and being inspired by:

Step-Up in the World of Tech
Honors Grad U


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Who’s listening? Who’s talking?

The much discussed concept of learners identifying problems – not only solutions is at the forefront of mind today. There is much talk around teachers who talk too much. We know this is real. We know we all do it. So why is it that teachers feel they should reword, finish sentences, provide their perspective  and step in so often? It puzzles me.

Today I sit with a Year 6 child who is on her PYP Expedition. Her teacher feels that she might be a bit lost. She starts off by reading “her questions” to me. They seem rather abstract and I dig a bit deeper. She tells me how someone helped her “make them up”. We chat a bit more. It seems like in forcing her to ask questions, rather than view her area of interest and analyse the parts (the thing routine Parts, Purposes and Complexities, shared by Project Zero’s  Agency by Design would have extended this thinking), has hindered her from exploring what she really wants to find out about.


I listen while she talks and I create a mind map of her thoughts and suggestions. When she is finished talking, I ask her to think about the lenses that she will be using in her exploration and she immediately identifies the concepts that will scaffold her thinking.



When our time is up she says,”This feels more like what I want to be doing”.

I am left pondering some of my own “big questions” …

Who’s  doing the listening when children are talking?

Who’s  doing the talking?

What message do children get when their voices are shut down?

What buy in is there from learners if there questions are forced; paraphrased and contained?

Do we all have an idea of why it’s important to know ,”Who’s listening and who’s talking”?



Posted in Inquiry, Jina, Learning, learning support, PYP | 6 Comments