Archive for the ‘creative thinking’ Category

world tessellation day 2019

Posted on: July 4th, 2019 by jnovakowski

World Tessellation Day is celebrated on June 17 in honour of M.C. Escher’s birthday and was created by author Emily Grosvenor of Oregon. More information can be found HERE. Emily Grosvenor wrote a book about a little girl named Tessa who saw shapes, patterns and designs in the world around here. The book Tessalation was launched on Kickstarter and I was happy to support it. In celebration of the book launch, the author asked some of the supporters to do blog posts about the book and be part of a blog tour. The blog post I did can be found HERE.

World Tessellation Day was promoted in our district with connections made to our BC mathematics curriculum and it was great to watch social media posts appear highlighting tessellations! You can find some of these posts by following the hashtag #WorldTessellationDay – I have shared some posts from Richmond teachers below.

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This year, the Thursday before World Tessellation Day, I invited students to explore tessellations through materials in The Studio at Grauer after we looked at some of the pages of the book Tessalation. The investigation prompt was What can you find out about tessellations? Noticing the materials I put out, I need to remember to use some non-regular polygons as well.

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On June 17, our district’s Math Play Space featured materials that tessellate and we set up tables at the Brighouse Public Library during after school hours. Many children and families visited to investigate with the materials.

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I’m looking forward to making World Tessellation an annual public event not just in our schools but also in other places in our community!

~Janice

 

outdoor classroom day: November 1 2018 and May 23 2019

Posted on: July 3rd, 2019 by jnovakowski

Outdoor Classroom Day is an international initiative to promote the importance of children experiencing the outdoors. The event began in London, England in 2012, grew internationally in 2015 and became a global project in 2016 with the support of educators, environmentalists, play experts, NGOs, Project Dirt and Unilever. The organization supports and shares research around the benefits of playing and learning outdoors. More information can be found on the website HERE.

We participated in our first Outdoor Classroom Day on November 1 with three classes at Grauer. Each class began with some time in The Studio where we shared ideas about where and how we might see and experience mathematics outdoors. I shared a different book of images with each class to inspire their mathematical thinking.

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It was pouring rain most of the day, but being the day after Hallowe’en it was actually a good day to be outside and moving.

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Each class took on different tasks with the grades 1&2 classes looking for and thinking about estimating, counting, size (measuring) and shape.

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The grades 3&4 class worked in small groups with a task card prompting them to search for things outside involving mathematical ideas such as symmetry, fractions and measurement.IMG_4370 IMG_4377

As we were coming inside, one of the grade 2 students said, “This was the best math day ever!”

The next Outdoor Classroom Day for this school year was May 23. The grades 3 and older classes at Grauer were at the district track meet, so the three K-2 classes spent the day outside together. We took our new Outdoor Studio Wagon with us outside and it was filled with materials, tools and resources to support and inspire our mathematical thinking.

IMG_2784 We began our morning by finding out own counting collections outdoors and then recorded our counts in different ways. Some students gathered leaves, twigs or pieces of park to group and count while others found multiples in plants such as buttercups (counting the flowers by 1s and the petals by 5s) and clover (counting the leaves by groups of 3s).

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After recess, we considered different types of branding and growing patterns that we noticed in the growth of trees, plants, leaves, flowers and roots and captured these patterns with clay prints and plant prints using rubber mallets.

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Here are the contents in the Outdoor Studio Wagon:

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The next Outdoor Classroom Day is November 7 2019. You can sign up HERE.

~Janice

 

 

 

 

February thinking together: develop, use and apply multiple strategies to solve problems

Posted on: February 28th, 2019 by jnovakowski

This month’s curricular competency focus is using multiple strategies to solve problems. There is a development in how strategies are used from K-12 and for what types of problems.

In K-5 the curricular competency language is “develop and use multiple strategies to engage in problem solving” with elaborations including examples of strategies involving visual, oral and symbolic forms and through play and experimentation.

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In K-5, we support students in developing a repertoire of strategies to draw upon and we encourage the practice of choosing and using these strategies in different problem solving experiences ranging  from structured word/story problems, open problems or questions or problem-based or numeracy tasks. During the development of strategies, students will notice similar strategies being shared by their classmates and these strategies might be named such as “looking for a pattern” or “acting it out” or “represent with materials”. Naming strategies such as these helps to enhance mathematical communication, discourse and community in the classroom when discussing mathematical problems.

As with many of the curricular competencies in math, there are slight variations between grade bands, showing the developing application and demonstration of these competencies.

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In grades 6-9 the curricular competency language is “apply multiple strategies to solve problems in both abstract and contextualized situations” with elaborations including examples of strategies focusing on those that are familiar, personal or from other cultures. Students in this grade range are refining and reflecting on their own use of problem solving strategies and we encourage students to listen and learn from their peers in order to consider new ways to think about a mathematics problem.

 

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In grade 10 the curricular competency language is “apply flexible and strategic approaches to solve problems” with elaborations such as deciding what tools to use to solve a problem as choosing from a list of known strategies such as guess and check, solve a simpler problem, model, use a chart, role-play or use diagrams. The numeracy processes for engaging in numeracy tasks are related to this competency at the secondary level - interpret, apply, solve, analyze and communicate.

 

Although specific strategies such as “guess and check” or “solve a simpler problem” are not named specifically in the elaborations from K-9, it is these more formally named strategies that are developed with understanding, meaning and purpose over time. Alternative or personally derived or preferred strategies may also be developed by students and shared with their solutions, supported with their reasoning and explanations to demonstrate their understanding of the problem and the mathematics involved.

Many math educators and researchers have found over decades of research and classroom experiences that students who have multiple strategies or approaches to problems are more fluent and flexible in their thinking. An important aspect of using multiple strategies is knowing when a particularly strategy is helpful or efficient. Not all strategies are suitable for all problems and this an important part of the progression of developing this competency in mathematics  One particularly effective instructional strategy is engaging students in comparing the strategies they used to solve a problem. Researchers have recently examined the cognitive process of comparison and how it supports learning in mathematics. The sharing and comparison of multiple student strategies for a problem was found to be particularly effective for developing procedural flexibility across students and to support conceptual and procedural knowledge for students with some background knowledge around one of the strategies compared. (Durkin et al, 2017 – referenced below). Based on their findings, the researchers share some significant instructional moves that will support student learning:

1) regular and frequent comparison of  alternative strategies

2) judicious selection of strategies and problems to compare

3) carefully designed visual presentation of the multiple strategies

4) small group and whole class discussions around comparison of strategies with a focus on similarities, differences, affordances and constraints

 

Examples of what the use of multiple strategies might look like in the classroom include:

Primary: The teacher reads the story The Frog in the Bog and asks the grade 1 students to figure out how many critters are in the frog’s tummy. The teacher invites the students to think about how they might solve this problem and what they will need. The students work on their own or with a partner to solve the problem through building with materials, acting it out, drawing or recording with tally marks and numbers. Some students accompany their solutions with an equation and one student records his ideas orally using iPad technology. As the students are working, the teacher pauses the students and asks them to walk around the room and see what their classmates are doing and see if they can find a new idea for their own work. After solving the problem, the students prepare to share their solutions and strategies with the class and the teacher gathers the students on the carpet and chooses some students who used different strategies to share. The teacher records the strategies on the chart and then asks the students if they have a new idea for a strategy for the next time they do a problem like this.

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Intermediate: In a grades 6&7 class, the teacher projects the first three figures of a visual pattern on the class whiteboard (examples on visual patterns.org). The teacher asks the students what they notice about the figures and records some of the students’ responses and then asks them to consider what comes next. Students are asked to consider what strategies or approaches might help them think about this. After some thinking time, the teacher asks the students to turn and talk with one or two other students and compare each others’ strategies and consider new ways of thinking about the problem. The teacher then invites the students to apply more than one strategy to solve what figure 43 will look like. The students share their solutions and strategies with the teacher recording the different strategies through different representations such as a drawing, a narrative, an expression, a table or a graph. The teacher then facilitates a discussion comparing the representations and how they are connected and support the understanding of the problem.

(with thanks to Fawn Nguyen and Marc Garneau for the inspiration)

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Secondary: Students in a grade 10 class are assigned to be in random groups of three and work on a numeracy task on a whiteboard or window around the classroom. The class has been learning about prime factorization and the teacher shares the following problem orally:

Prime numbers have exactly two factors – 1 and itself. Which numbers have exactly 3 factors? Exactly 4 factors? And so on. Given any positive integer, n, how can you tell exactly how many factors it has?

Each group of students begins talking and sharing their ideas. Students begin to record their thinking, using diagrams, charts, numbers, etc. and build on and challenge each others’ thinking about the problem and approaches to solving it. Students move around the room and watch or engage with other groups. The teacher facilitates students’ sharing of solutions and approaches to the problem and then provides a set of related problems for students to continue practicing with, either in their groups or independently.

Numeracy tasks such as this one can be found HERE and HERE and HERE.

(with thanks to Mike Pruner and Dr. Peter Liljedahl for the thinking classroom inspiration)

 

Some questions to consider as you plan for learning opportunities to develop the competency of using multiple strategies and approaches to solve problems:

What strategies and approaches do you notice your students using? Are some students “stuck” using the same strategy? How could you nudge students to try different strategies and approaches?

What different types and structures of math problems are being provided to your students? Are students flexible with their strategy choice or approach, making decisions based on the problem they are working on?

How might you and your students record their strategies and approaches to make this thinking visible?

What opportunities are we creating for students to watch and listen to others think through, choose and apply strategies and solve problems? How might this support their learning?

What tools, materials and resources do students have access to to support choice and application of different strategies and approaches when solving math problems?

~Janice

References

Elementary and Middle School Mathematics: Teaching Developmentally by John van de Walle et al

Teaching Mathematics through Problem-Solving (NCTM) edited by Frank Lester and Randall Charles

Why Is Teaching With Problem Solving Important to Student Learning (NCTM Research Brief)

Durkin, K., Star, Jon. R. & Rittle-Johnson, B. (2017) Using Comparison of Multiple Strategies in the Mathematics Classroom: Lessons Learned and Next Steps, ZDM: The International Journal on Matheamtics Education 49(4), 585-597.

 

creating spaces for playful inquiry: encounters with charcoal

Posted on: December 14th, 2018 by jnovakowski

To launch the 2018-19 season of our ongoing professional learning series, Creating Spaces for Playful Inquiry, we created opportunities for educators to have encounters with charcoal and make connections to teaching and learning across the BC curriculum. Inspired by our learning from Opal School in Portland to use different materials to explore ideas and emotions through an aesthetic dimension, we chose charcoal specifically as we believed it was a material that educators might need some support with, in understanding the material in new ways.

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We shared a blog post from the Opal School Blog: Thinking with Charcoal

and shared the Canadian books The Art of Land-Based Early Learning (volumes 1 and 2) that can be found HERE.

I actually experimented with making my own charcoal. I trimmed some willow branches from my backyard, tightly wrapped them in cheesecloth and then aluminum foil (to eliminate any oxygen inside) and put them in our fire pit. I didn’t have enough wood to maintain a high enough heat for long enough (researched needing about an hour) so I “finished” the packages the barbecue. They worked out quite well but next time, I will strip the bark off the twigs first.

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We curated a collection of charcoal and related materials from DeSerres and Phoenix Art Studio

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and invited educators to engage with materials, ideas and concepts.

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Our resource document about charcoal, including the questions provided to provoke educators’ thinking can be found here:

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Some educators commented that it was their very first time using charcoal themselves and they reflected on what it meant to explore a material for the first time, how that made them feel both curious and vulnerable and also sparked many connections and ideas for using charcoal with their students.

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Two of our playful inquiry mentors, Sharon and Christy, shared experiences and stories from their classrooms

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and then after dinner together, we broke off into mentor group to share ideas and think together about ways to engage with playful inquiry this school year.

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We have been growing our playful inquiry community in our district for several years now with both our own initiatives and projects as well as continuing to nurture our relationship with Opal School and it is exciting to continue to welcome teachers into our conversations. Our next district event will be an open studio at the district conference on February 15 and a playful inquiry symposium on the afternoon of the district pro-d day on May 17.

 

~Janice, on behalf of the playful inquiry mentors

 

 

September thinking together: mathematics curricular competencies

Posted on: September 28th, 2018 by jnovakowski

For the 2018-19 school year, the “thinking together” series of blog posts will focus on the curricular competencies in the mathematics curriculum.  The “thinking together” series is meant to support professional learning and provoke discussion and thinking. This month will provide an overview of the curricular competenecies and then each month we will zoom in and focus on one curricular competency and examine connections to K-12 curricular content, possible learning experiences and assessment.

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The curricular competencies are the “do” part of the know-do-understand (KDU) model of learning from BC’s redesigned curriculum.

The curricular competencies are intended to reflect the discipline of mathematics and highlight the practices, processes and competencies of mathematicians such as justifying, estimating, visualizing and explaining

The curricular competencies are connected the the Core Competencies of Communication, Thinking  and Personal & Social. More information about the Core Competencies can be found HERE.

 

Screen Shot 2018-09-28 at 9.45.26 PMThe curricular competencies along with the curricular content comprise the legally mandated part of the curriculum, now called learning standards. This means these competencies are required to be taught, assessed and learning achievement for these competencies is communicated to students and parents.

Something unique about the mathematics curricular competencies is that they are essentially the same from K-12. K-5 competencies are exactly the same with some slight additions in grades 6-9 and then building on what was created in K-9 for the grades 10-12 courses. Because they are the same at each grade level, to be assessed at “grade level” they need to be connected to curricular content. For example, one of the curricular competencies is “estimate reasonably” – for Kindergarten that will mean with quantities to 10, for grade 4 that could mean for quantities to 10 000 or for the measurement of perimeter using standard units and for grade 8 estimating reasonably could be practiced when operating with fractions or considering best buys when learning about financial literacy.

The new classroom assessment framework developed by BC teachers and the Ministry of Education focuses on assessing curricular competencies and can be found HERE.  A document outlining criteria categories, criteria and sample applications specific to K-9 Mathematics can be found HERE. The new four-point proficiency scale provides language to support teachers and students as they engage in classroom assessment.

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As we are begin a new school year and are thinking about year plans and overviews we might consider the following questions:

  • What opportunities do students have to learn about what it means to be a mathematician and what mathematicians do?
  • What opportunities can be created over the school year for students to name, be aware of, practice, develop and reflect on the core and curricular competencies in mathematics?
  • How can we make the core competencies and curricular competencies in mathematics visible in our classrooms and schools?
  • As we are planning for instruction and assessment, how are we being intentional about weaving together both curricular competencies and content? What curricular content areas complement and are linking to specific curricular competencies?

~Janice

April thinking together: How do the core competencies connect with mathematics?

Posted on: June 7th, 2018 by jnovakowski

The Core Competencies are at the centre of BC’s redesigned curriculum and underpin the curricular competencies in each discipline, such as math. An overview video about the Core Competencies can be viewed HERE. Drawing from global education research and through provincial consultation with stakeholder groups, three Core Competencies were identified – Thinking (creative and critical), Communication and Personal & Social (positive personal and cultural identity, personal awareness and responsibility, and social responsibility).

As we develop awareness about the Core Competencies during the school year, we consider the ideas of “notice, name and nurture” – looking for evidence of core competency development or application in our classrooms and schools.

In our district, we have created Core Competency posters in both English and French, overviewing all the core competencies as well as posters specific to one core competency (all available through the district portal). These posters are up in classrooms and schools to create awareness and develop common language around the core competencies.

In The Studio at Grauer, much of the work we do in mathematics has elements of the core competencies involved. In the mathematics curriculum, each of the curricular competencies is linked to one or more of the core competencies. The COMMUNICATION chart in the photograph below is an example of how I make this focus clear to myself, teachers and the students when we work together in The Studio. I often identify a specific curricular competency in our initial gathering meeting, that we are going to focus on together as we work with a mathematical idea. For example, I might say to the students,
“Today as you are thinking about comparing and ordering fractions with materials, practice explaining and justifying your decisions to a partner – that will be our focus when we come back as a whole group at the end of our time together today.” 

Other times, I will ask the students to reflect on their last experience in The Studio and consider what they need to work on around communication, either personally or as a class.

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The following are documents that show the links between the Core Competencies and the Curricular Competencies in Mathematics:

SD38 K-5 Math Connections between Core and Curricular Competencies

SD38 6-9 Math Connections between Core and Curricular Competencies

SD38 K-5 Math Communication

We have woven self-assessment and reflection about the core competencies into our projects and learning together throughout the year. During the last school year, there was a requirement for students to do a “formal” self-assessment to be included in the June report card. For students to authentically self-assess and reflect, they need to be familiar with the language of the core competencies and be able to connect to learning experiences they have had throughout the school year. During the third term last year, the grades 3&4 class from Grauer visiting The Studio weekly to engage in a mathematics project around the work of Coast Salish artist Susan Point. At the end of each session together, we had the students share their learning – what did you learn? how did it go/what did you do? what’s next for your learning/what are you wondering about? Sometimes students turned and talked to someone near them, other times, students shared their learning and thinking to the whole class.

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Every few weeks, we had the students do a written/drawn self-assessment and reflection. We have found that using question prompts to support reflection and considering evidence of learning has been the most authentic and personalized way to have students think about and connect to the core competencies. We developed some recording formats to capture students’ thinking, with the clear intent that students are not expected to “answer” all the questions – that they are they to prompt and provoke reflection and self-assessment. A team of Grauer educators were working together on an Innovation Grant project around creative thinking and growth mindset and we wove these ideas in to some of the self-assessments.

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Here is one example of a recording form:

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As we are coming to the end of another school year and are thinking about the student self-assessment of the core competencies component for year-end communication of student learning, we might consider the following questions:

  • What opportunities have students had to experience and develop the core competencies in their mathematics learning?
  • What opportunities over the school year have students had to name and reflect on the core and curricular competencies in mathematics?
  • How have we made the core competencies and curricular competencies in mathematics visible in our classrooms and schools?
  • How have the core and curricular competencies language and ideas been embedded in the mathematical community and discourse in our classrooms and schools?
  • What different ways have students been able to share, reflect on and self-assess their mathematical thinking and learning?

~Janice

Story Workshop series – 2018

Posted on: May 24th, 2018 by jnovakowski

A group of district teacher consultants and school-based teachers came together this spring to facilitate a three-part Story Workshop after school series. This was in response to many requests and questions  from teachers in our district about Story Workshop. The facilitators of the series were: Sharon Baatz, Louesa Byrne, Michelle Hikida, Carrie Bourne, Lisa Schwartz, Marie Thom and myself.

A goal of this series was to honour the work of Opal School educators who developed the structures and practices of Story Workshop as a way to connect the arts and literacy. Opal School educators draw upon social-constructivist learning theory and have been informed by the early childhood educators in Reggio Emilia, Italy as well as American educators such as those working with Harvard’s Project Zero initiatives. Opal School has a deep commitment to equity and access for all students and to develop student agency.

They are many other ways we might engage our students in storytelling experiences – oral, digital, writers workshop etc but the focus of this series was to create awareness and understanding of Story Workshop as developed by Opal educators. The Opal educators have developed five structures or stages of Story Workshop. Some stages are more for the educator to consider and some take more time than other stages. Some of the structures such as negotiation or congress might involve small groups of students and an educator instead of the whole class. Over the series, we hope to develop a deeper understanding of the process of Story Workshop and what it offers the students in our classrooms and what it offers us as educators.

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In our first session on April 9, we focused on the stages of Preparation and Provocation. We watched and discussed the Opal videos and Michelle, Louesa and Sharon shared examples of these stages of Story Workshop from their Richmond classrooms.

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We watched and discussed the first two videos of the series and used the following questions to frame our small group discussions:

What do you notice about the materials the teachers are using?
When you look around your own setting, what unexpected materials might you use in new ways?
What do I want the children to learn?  How can I support this learning?

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Story Preparation begins with our image of children. Preparation is about preparing the environment; setting up the space, creating an environment that supports children to tell their stories. Opal educators strive for environments that are playful, engaging, naturally motivating, with multiple opportunities for all children to enter into the work.

At Opal, educators convert social-constructivist theory and inquiry into practice by offering provocations. A Story Provocation is a question that is introduced to children to engage and support their interests and curiosity.

The Opal videos can be found here:

Story Workshop – Story Preparation

Story Workshop  - Story Provocation 

IMG_6207Educators attending the series were each provided with the book Equity and Access Through Story Workshop.

The videos and supporting text are available at no cost to Opal School Online Sustaining Members and at a small cost to non-members: You’ll find both here.

Educators were asked to make a commitment to something they would try, inspired by the first session, and to be prepared to share a reflection, documentation or an artifact at our next session.

 

IMG_7269At the second session on April 30, we began by having teachers share what they had tried around Story Workshop with their students. Lisa shared how Story Workshop can be part of a balanced literacy program. Marie talked about different ways to approach Story Workshop with different ages of students and that the process needs time and patience, not rushing towards recording/writing the stories.

We also shared copies of this blog post from Opal for educators to read and reflect upon their own practice and how Story Workshop might be enacted in their classrooms and schools.

We focused on the next two stages of Story Workshop – invitation & negotiation and story creation.

At Opal, the invitation and negotiation time focuses on students being metacognitive about their plans for each day. It is often just a few minutes with opportunities for educators to have a one-on-one check in with students.

At Opal, educators invite children to explore the classroom and materials in search of their stories and this time can last about 45 minutes. Story Creation is a time of looking for and finding stories from the child’s real or imaginary life. Children play with materials, talk to each other, and tell and write their stories.

Sharon and Louesa shared examples from their classrooms:

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The Opal videos can be found here:

Story Workshop – Story Negotiation

Story Workshop – Story Creation

Again, teachers were asked to try something around story negotiation or creation and to consider an area of Story Workshop that they would like to go deeper with.

At our final session on May 14, we invited teachers into The Nest and to think about how different materials might inspire different types of stories.

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Each educator was given the book I Am A Story by Dan Yaccarino (it comes in both English and French) as a provocation for adults and children to think about different ways that stories can be shared.

We focused on the importance of Story Congress as a way for educators and peers to give feedback on students’ stories. Sharon, Louesa and Michelle shared some of the structures they use in their classrooms for this stage of Story Workshop.

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The Opal video can be found here:

Story Workshop – Story Congress

Opal School has online courses available to extend and deepen understanding of playful literacy and Story Workshop. More information can be found HERE.

This was a very well attended series with a waiting list and we hope to be able to offer it again next year. Many teachers asked if we could provide opportunities to visit Richmond classrooms to see Story Workshop in action and we will put something in place for this for next year.

Some of the feedback from series participants include:

“I appreciate how professional the mentor presented so many awesome ideas, so well laid out. This series has profoundly affected my thinking and practice.”

“This series helped me think about Story Workshop, storytelling, oral storytelling, loose parts and how they are different yet integrated.”

“It has helped me breathe. Hearing how others navigate and problem-solve the same challenges I have encountered  has given me comfort and loads of inspiration.”

“This series extended my thinking about Story Workshop by exposing me to more diverse ways to engage with stories – outdoor, leaves/herbs, spindle whorl, clay markings etc.”

~Janice

elementary math focus afternoon 2018

Posted on: May 11th, 2018 by jnovakowski

On the afternoon of January 26, staffs from twelve elementary schools gathered at Grauer Elementary for our annual Elementary Math Focus Afternoon.

The overview slides (photographs from classrooms not included to reduce file size) from the opening to the afternoon can be found here:

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Many school teams brought displays to share how they have been working with BC’s redesigned mathematics curriculum.

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Educators could choose from a variety of Richmond teacher-led sessions to learn about instructional routines and practices that are aligned with the BC redesigned curriculum.

FINAL_Elementary Math Focus Afternoon Jan 26 2018 program

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Handouts from Fred Harwood’s sessions can be downloaded here:

Elem Focus Day Jan 2018 Rich Investigations

2018 Elem Math Focus Visual patterns

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Thanks to Tracy Weeks of the Canadian Federation for Economic Education (CFEE) for coming and sharing information about financial literacy with Richmond educators.

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As educators gathered back in the gym for an end of afternoon prize draw of math resources, they were left with a reminder to consider the mathematical story that is being told in their classrooms and schools. What story do we want our students to tell about their mathematical experience here in our district?

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~Janice

creating spaces for playful inquiry: thinking about reflection – January 2018

Posted on: May 11th, 2018 by jnovakowski

On January 25, Richmond educators gathered at Grauer for our second dinner session of our Creating Spaces for Playful Inquiry professional learning series. This month our focus was on reflection and time. Educators shared their experiences engaging in playful inquiry with their students and considering the role of reflection in documentation and making both students’ and our professional learning visible.

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After dinner together, teachers participated in interest groups facilitated by our playful inquiry mentors.

A handout with curricular connections to the idea of reflection can be found here: Reflections_Provocations_Jan25_2018

~Janice

creating spaces for playful inquiry: thinking about relationships – September 2017

Posted on: October 5th, 2017 by jnovakowski 1 Comment

Inspired by our staff’s visits to the Opal School in Portland, we continue this year with our Creating Spaces for Playful Inquiry Series. Sixty Richmond educators registered for this three-part dinner series, with a growing waiting list of educators wanting to be part of this series. This continued interest in this work speaks to the ripple effect that our playful inquiry community is having in schools and in our district. Many new teachers have heard about playful inquiry and how it aligns with goals and aspects of BC’s redesigned curriculum. A goal for the series is for teachers to consider: How can we create new possibilities for joy, wonder and inspiration?

So what is playful inquiry? Playful inquiry is not a new term and much has been written about it as a pedagogical stance. In Richmond, we have drawn upon our experiences and relationship with the Opal School in Portland and made connections to our BC context and curriculum. At our last study tour to Portland in March, the following explanation of playful inquiry was provided:

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In this explanation of playful inquiry words such as community, collaboration, citizen and uncertainty pop out. The term “learning alive” resonates with the spirit of inquiry we are hopeful of nurturing in our classrooms. Why playful inquiry? The above definition suggests an approach that will support students in thinking through the uncertainty in the world around them and nurture student agency in seeing themselves as contributing citizens in their community. So we can work together towards the goals and vision of what playful inquiry can bring to our classrooms and schools.

So how do we enact playful inquiry in our classrooms? For planning purposes, we often use the framework of -

  • playing with materials
  • playing with language
  • playing with ideas

to help us consider different ways to engage our students and ourselves with playful inquiry.

Playful inquiry creates opportunities for deeper engagement with concepts and idea, choice in ways students may pursue uncovering the curriculum, personalization and meaning-making as well as providing openings for connection-making, seeking relationships – both with self, each other and with ideas.

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As teachers arrived at Grauer Elementary, they were provided with provocations created by our playful inquiry mentors. These provocations were either pedagogical – meant to experience through the lens of an educator and to reflect on practice or, were those that students engaged with in Richmond classrooms.

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After a welcome, introductions and an overview of the series, teachers shared and discussed questions such as:

What is a provocation? How is a provocation alike and different from an invitation or a rich open task? 

Some conditions for provocations were shared:

  • žresponsive
  • žprovokes thinking
  • žconnects to a big idea, concept or theme
  • žis ongoing, lingering, extends

We talked about the theme of relationships for this session and how relationships were an inherent part of teaching and learning – social and emotional relationships but also relationships with and between curricular ideas. Some of the provocations shared and how the concept of relationships is embedded throughout our BC curriculum were provided to participants here:

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Other big ideas and themes that we have engaged with as a playful inquiry community were shared:

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Three of our playful inquiry mentors shared stories from their classrooms. Michelle Hikida from Diefenbaker shared how her and grades 2-4 group planning team are focusing on the big idea of stories this year and how they collaborate together to plan provocations based on students’ interests an questions. Laurie David-Harel from Whiteside shared the movie trailer she created for her school’s parent evening to share how the Kindergarten students in her class engage in playful learning. Karen Choo from Blair shared how sharing circles and using clay as a metaphor supports relationship building in her grades 4&5 classroom.

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After dinner together, teachers met in interest groups with conversations and sharing facilitated by our playful inquiry mentors.

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Many of the interest-based inquiry groups will continue their conversations with schools visits, online collaboration or other forms of sharing before our next whole group session together in January.

Participants were asked to consider what “one thing” they will play with, try , take risks with…what might be your one thing?

Blog posts from previous years can be found HERE

More information about the Opal School can be found HERE

~Janice