Contemplating Changes … And Yes, Again! :)

Today, I read a blog post by Cristina Milos in response to my post from yesterday. Cristina amazes me with what she does with her Grade 2 students, and if I ever make it to Rome one day, I definitely hope to see her class in action.

When I blogged yesterday, I really believed that there was value in Friday’s Visual Arts/Science activity, and in many ways, I still do. I’m passionate about many things in education, but one of my biggest passions is differentiated instruction: providing choices to meet the needs of all learners. Often Visual Arts is a great instructional strategy that helps many of my neediest learners understand difficult concepts and meet with success. They are able to show what they know and see what others have learned because of the visuals that are shared. While creating their artistic pieces on Friday, I overheard and participated in numerous conversations about natural phenomena (connected to our Science unit) and elements of design (connected to our Visual Arts expectations). Thinking was evident in both what the students did and what they shared.

All of this being said though, Cristina’s post made me stop and think. As I plan ahead for our final Science unit on Conservation of Energy and Resources, I’d love to try some of her ideas to develop deeper student thinking. I’ve seen question stems in the past, and used them a bit, but never as much as I should. I decided to type out the ones that Cristina shared, and I’m going to use them along with the overall expectations to help drive student inquiry. I’ve also created an anticipation guide that links to many of the specific expectations that fall under the first overall one and many of the big ideas (for this new unit – page 107). My plan is to have students start by completing this anticipation guide (with the Yes/No question format, all students can definitely do this). Our initial research can link to the ideas in these questions, which will hopefully link to new wonderings and investigations, all while developing deeper thinking about energy conservation. Depending on how things go, I’d like to use a similar format for the two other overall expectations.

This has been a year of many changes, and thanks to Cristina’s post, I’ll definitely be making a couple more before the year is through. I’m currently still planning a link between Science and Visual Arts/Media, but this plan may change depending on where students go with their questions and where we go as a class with our thinking. And maybe this is truly the incredible thing about sharing online: we get to see the amazing teaching and learning that is happening around the world, and we get to improve our own teaching practices as a result. The big winners here: the kids!

What changes have you made to your practices (be it teaching or administrative) based on blog posts that you’ve read? What impact have these changes had on students? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


2 thoughts on “Contemplating Changes … And Yes, Again! :)

  1. Dear Aviva,

    Thank you for the ongoing conversation. It is through dialogue, sharing of resources and questions that we learn.

    I do, however, have some comments about the anticipation list.

    – avoid leading statements (i.e. Turning off faucets while brushing teeth helps conserve water.) This statement includes the answer, thus it does not produce cognitive conflict. The same goes for other statements in your list (i.e. 5).

    – try to add “explanations” that would enable you to spot misconceptions through implicit causal thinking. For instance, instead of simply writing “Natural gas is a renewable resource” (2) add a very plausible (yet incorrect) explanation:”…because its original source is plants and we can grow them continually.”

    – avoid vague statements (8): “Some appliances are better for the
    environment than others.” That is a truism for any person reading it – once you inserted “some” all people will agree because it allows for variety of options.

    Try to modify some of these sentences and you will see the difference.
    Also, some of them (i.e. the faucet idea) can actually be turned into an experiment. Have students estimate how much water is used during a 3-minute teeth brushing. Record answers (even graph them) and then have a student demonstrate – use a bucket, toothbrush and all. The students will be amazed and this practical form of learning will deepen their understanding of water waste.

    Some of your best statements are for instance 3, 7 and 9.
    – 3). There are no drawbacks to solar energy. —-> It appears realistic because students know that the Sun’s energy is, technically, inexhaustible.
    – 7). Cars with an aerodynamic design use less energy. —–> Again, very plausible because they have some prior knowledge about air friction that slows down vehicles in motion.
    – 9) Wind energy is very reliable. —-> Again, wind is a good energy source and students might not think of the characteristics of wind (speed, direction etc.) and of other elements (where the wind turbines are placed, the geography of the place, the costs etc.)

    It is too much to discuss the sequence of learning activities and I am a bit tired (1 a.m. here!). As far as the curriculum objectives are concerned, try to simplify – either as big ideas or as questions you/your students can ask. If you start with big questions naturally these will trigger more focused ones in order to build understanding. And then again…the little pieces make the bigger picture. A dynamic process.

    So stop worrying! 🙂

    • Cristina, I honestly cannot thank you enough! I’ve never created an anticipation guide before, so I just went with the few examples that I saw on your photograph as a reference. This makes so much more sense. I’m going to modify these statements now based on your feedback. I’m so glad that I shared them here.

      Thank you too for the experiment idea! I love it! This will provide such a great hands-on learning opportunity for the students, and will really help them understand some of the key ideas from this unit.

      I totally agree with the idea of big questions. There are big ideas as part of this Science unit, and I do try to pose questions based on these big ideas to help guide the learning. The overall expectations are usually turned into our Learning Goals, which also helps to guide the thinking and learning.

      Thanks again for such a great discussion! I’ve learned so much from you (both this weekend and over the time that I’ve connected with you on Twitter and through your blog). I only wish that I could Skype you into one of our grade team planning meetings! 🙂


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