Archive for the ‘activities’ Category

Inquiry: To What End?

In activities, inquiry, thinking on April 27, 2014 at 9:16 pm

This was originally supposed to be a simple reply to Aviva Dunsiger’s blog post. I soon realized it would have been too short and thus I could have been easily misunderstood.
It all started with my question: “How do these projects enable deeper thinking?”, question that I asked after seeing her students’ work. Briefly the sequence of activities was the following:
1. Students brainstormed questions to guide their research on natural phenomena.
2. In groups of 2-3 they would write a poem using onomatopoeia and personification in the context of their natural phenomenon.
3. Last, they would create artwork that showed the natural phenomenon they researched about.
At first glance, this is an interesting and engaging chain of activities. Yet, to me, the over-arching question was missing. To what end? What was the understanding the teacher wanted the students to have? How does each of the three activities help build a central powerful idea about natural phenomena?
I realized then that we adhere to different instruction theories: project-based vs. concept-driven learning. On the surface, many can mistake one for the other, especially since both use inquiry as a vehicle to construct understanding. Read the rest of this entry »

Patterns, Patterns Everywhere

In activities, inquiry, thinking on October 17, 2013 at 11:42 pm

This post was prompted by looking at  Aviva Dunsiger‘s Twitter stream – she is working on patterns with her students.  I would like to engage with her 6th grade class on Skype (my students are in 2nd grade) so we can do some Math together.

I am briefly outlining our inquiry into patterns last year so do not expect a “great” blog post.  It was written in half an hour!


I had 4 groups of students (red, blue etc.) and gave each group a set of 3 photos.


Question: What do these have in common?  Read the rest of this entry »

Dancing Through Math Class?

In activities, education, inquiry, math, thinking on September 1, 2013 at 4:10 pm

*This post is a reply to a thoughtful educator that I respect and with whom I disagree on certain education-related topics. The stir began with my tweet,


I replied to Shawn,

Dancing in a math lesson will not improve thinking. THINKING advances mathematical thinking.”

A cute “engaging” math song might energize the kids but it won’t make them better at math. Surely, “memory is the residue of thought” and it is actually the main key to thinking (see D.T. Willingham’s posts on cognition and learning), but to use dance in 2nd grade as a way to memorize subtraction facts is not the most effective way. Despite the general belief that testing is damaging, cognitive science demonstrated that testing has a far greater impact than additional study. So if you want kids to memorize their number facts (so as to give space to higher-order thinking in solving problems) instead of making them dance it is better to allow them to self-test or to test each other in pairs.

Read the rest of this entry »

Kid, I Am Listening

In activities, education, reflection on July 31, 2013 at 4:54 pm

I promised Paul Aniceto that I would blog about the Student-Led Conferences that my students held with their parents this school year and elaborate more on the process itself.

This is just one of the many opportunities parents get to know what their children do in school – we have a class blog they follow, I send weekly overviews of our activities in a PDF format via e-mail, we meet in October for a Target Setting conference and more. I will focus solely on this type of conference because I don’t think many schools outside the IB community use it and, well, you might find it interesting.


The students are the ones who lead the conference. The teacher is simply a host who documents the process (yes, I had a photo cam and a flipcam in each hand – multitasking, anyone?)

The portfolio is a selection of student work chosen by the students themselves. Each piece is accompanied by a written reflection by each student.

Read the rest of this entry »

Know, Do, Understand – 2

In activities, inquiry, planning on July 22, 2013 at 8:39 pm

As promised, I am illustrating the teaching-learning process through the lens of what students know, do and understand. The planning looks simple and linear but learning is not.



I explained the power of provocations here and also gave several examples. For this inquiry unit, Plant Power, my team and I decided for a setting provocation – we changed all classrooms to resemble different habitats (mine was a rain forest). pizap.com13680471415711

The entire classroom resembled a rain forest – vines hanging from the ceiling, leaves and flowers across the desk etc. I also placed books, magnifying glasses, plant-related experimental tools. As expected, it had an extraordinary effect on children – aside from the “Oh!” triggered by the dramatic change, it spurred curiosity about plants – which, you might agree, seems such a “known”, familiar topic as plants are everywhere. Read the rest of this entry »