Friday, 24 February 2017

Litspiration 2: The Scorpion Project - Setting & Harkness Tables


UP NEXT: Litspiration: The Scorpion Project & Characterization

Litspiration Challenge 1: Setting
On Wednesday, all teams posted their completed first litspiration challenge on their team blogs. Students were asked to explore the setting in the first 100 pages of the novel, working to understand how the choices made by the author help to drive the narrative. Click here for details on the setting challenge, and go to the main site to check out the team blogs (links on the right hand side of the website) and explore some of the challenges. All teams are looking for some readers, so please leave a supportive comment for them on any of their 3 posts so far!

Harkness Discussions

The other two posts on the team blogs are of their team discussions on the first 2 sections of the novel. Harkness 2 and Harkness 3 were general discussions on the students' thoughts so far on the novel and with this novel, there is rarely nothing to talk about! Two teams join together and then are assigned a space to meet up and discuss the topic presented to them. This discussion is recorded, and teams are responsible for posting their discussions via Soundcloud or Youtube or Vimeo to their team blogs, along with their discussion map and their answers to some reflection questions.

During the discussion, students need to fill certain roles:

  • The moderator will ensure that the discussion stays focused, and can use the discussion questions he/she created.
  • The cartographer will map the discussion using the provided form. This map should be posted along with the discussion (take a picture!)
  • The recorder will use his/her computer (or an appropriate device of his/her choice) to record the discussion for the group. The  recorder is also responsible for uploading the discussion to Soundcloud AND posting on the blog.
This modified version of the Harkness Table gives some structure to the discussions, and responsibilities to the students. The general topics and dates of these discussions are known to the students as they are posted on the timeline. More details are included in specific posts on the project blog.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Litspiration 2: The Scorpion Project - Let's begin...


UP NEXT: Litspiration: The Scorpion Project

We are working with three different editions of this novel, and this provides a great opportunity to talk about author's choices, and the business side of books. 

A whole-grade novel study in the age of student choice
Student choice is, for many teachers and schools, becoming a cornerstone of literature study in schools. Student choice and voice are essential components to our curriculum at Connect, and it is something I value very highly. There are articles galore extolling the virtues of involving students by giving them a level of choice/voice in their studies, and from my experience, the positive outcomes of this approach are many and powerful. For example, almost every single student in 8.1 and 8.2 stated that having "free choice" for their project format and guiding question for the final Renaissance project was their favourite aspect of the inquiry. Choice, unsurprisingly, often leads to a higher level of engagement. So that begs the question: why have I chosen to have every student read the same book for this literature inquiry?

In short, using the same book gives us common ground on which to build and solidify students' literary analysis skills. This novel has a lot to explore and is accessible to all grade 8 readers; it introduces some interesting ideas that really allow students to consider the author's choices and intentions. The House of the Scorpion has proven to be an engaging read that leads to some interesting discussions about science and technology, social issues, and even current events.

This week, students recorded their first team Harkness discussion and started on their first team litspiration challenge, an exploration of the setting in the novel so far.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Final Update - Stories of Worldview Case Study: Intercultural Contact Between the Spanish and Aztec Empires of the 16th Century


UP NEXT: Litspiration: The Scorpion Project

Step 4: Peer Feedback & Revision
On Monday, all groups were expected to come to class with a completed project in order to participate in the peer feedback opportunity. As a large group, we talked about the difference between feedback and judgement, ensuring we all focused our efforts on providing specific, action-oriented ideas to our peers, as well as support. I encouraged students to approach this in conversation form: instead of abandoning your own work in order to view someone else's, two groups were instructed to sit together and discuss each others' projects. We used this small, two-sided form to help us and to record our big ideas:

I took a page out of the elementary handbook with the "stars" and "wishes" approach. 
Talking about "stars" and "wishes" for each group's project.

The peer feedback process took almost an entire double period (80 minutes) as I encouraged students to seek feedback from at least two other groups. Some got up to 3, and all ended up with some clear advice which they then used to improve their final product to have it ready for Wednesday's gallery walk.

The process of peer feedback is also a way for me to assess how students enhance and support our learning community. As you can see from the supportive, specific feedback, that is going pretty well in our classes!

Step 5: Reflection
On Wednesday afternoon, students set up their projects in the Collaboratorium so that both classes could see each others' work. They then chose their top 2 projects, and told me why. This tells me a lot about what they value in projects such as this, and how they understand the learning outcomes. This also allows students to reflect on the project in full, considering how others have taken up the learning outcomes differently than they did.

Students received feedback from me on their final product as well (already! I know - I really committed to getting this done quickly!), and have completed individual reflections in their journals which I will look at asap.

The Scorpion Project
Friday morning we started on our second litspiration inquiry of the year, a full grade novel study! This novel study will allow students to dig into the process of literary analysis, as well as solidify their skills of reading closely, Talking to the Text, effective discussion, and writing well (i.e., engagingly, concisely, precisely, and clearly).

There is a reading schedule that students must follow closely; the request has been made for students NOT to read ahead! We will be moving quickly through this inquiry in order to complete as much as possible before Spring Break. Of course, we are often met with challenges in the form of schedule changes (field trips, assemblies, etc.) that we cannot always control, but it is my hope that we can stick to this timeline as closely as possible.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Stories of Worldview Case Study: Intercultural Contact Between the Spanish and Aztec Empires of the 16th Century


UP NEXT: Reflection and Litspiration 2: The Scorpion Project

Step 2: Proposal
At the beginning of this week, all groups had to put together a proposal for me to approve. They needed to include some very specific details:
Some found this process quick and easy, while others were asked to re-think some details. It is always amazing how willing students are to think more deeply when given some advice, and the chance to do so.

Step along the way: Assessment
I liked this image as a visual metaphor for assessment; essentially, the components are the same for each student and each project, but the small details can, and should, vary. When searching for an image, I first Googled "messy" then "complicated" and finally found this when I searched "multi-faceted."

Interspersed amongst the steps is assessment. By creating multiple opportunities for students and teachers to assess the work, assessment becomes a conversation, and moves away from something that is done TO students, and towards an activity that allows the assessment itself to be part of the learning. ("eduspeak" catchphrase: assessment for, of, by, as learning...)  This can take many forms, some of which might include:

  • Intra-group check-ins - Groups work together to accumulate and record evidence of how they are meeting expectations for specific assessment categories; students used their own copies of the assessment tool to do this.
  • Group - Teacher check-ins - Feedback loops are built into the work as students are required to have conversations with the teacher at various points along the way (e.g., the proposal approval process). I like to record specific notes from these check-ins in a Google doc for future reference.
  • Collaboration check-ins - Each student individually completes a quick overview of their understanding of how the collaborative process is going up to that point in the project using a pie chart and/or percentages. After many years of learning HOW to collaborate, and reinforcement of those skills in grade 8, students can be very astute in understanding the nuances of effective, or ineffective, collaboration.
  • Peer feedback - Students are asked to view other projects, often with a specific task to complete. The focus in my class is to ensure students are providing feedback, not judging/ranking/summatively assessing. As with my check-ins, the goal is to provide action-oriented advice, a skill we continue to work on.

Step 3: Create
Once a group's proposal was approved, they were in the homestretch...really! The creation of the actual artifact of learning is like icing on the cake in some ways - the ingredients were purchased, the cake was mixed, baked, and cooled, and now for the finishing touches. In other words, a lot of the work was already completed in terms of inquiry and knowledge/skill development. Often, in our assessment scheme, communication is a very important aspect that is demonstrated through the final artifact as students carry out their planned intentional choices to engage their audience in their thinking and convey their knowledge.

Projects are due in full by this Wednesday, with an opportunity for peer feedback tomorrow, and revisions on Tuesday. All students will then get a chance to view each others' work in a "gallery walk" event Wednesday afternoon.