Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Google docs project

Go to the link: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1EGxlLh-_mOOZqaXWaaog_hvBDsOJVB-nnKsBQoJU6bE/edit

Discuss the different factors that influence the design and construction of a building and write your thoughts under your group's name.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The power of differentiation

"Everyone is different” is a well-known proverb. This applies to the young minds in classrooms too. Teaching and learning in the classroom is most effective when there is differentiated instruction. Differentiation basically means providing a learning environment to each student that is best suitable to him/her. This sinks very well with the student centric pedagogy of the PYP. The teacher designs the lessons in such a way that every student's needs are met (Differentiating process). Even the level of teaching differs based on the level of understanding and competence (Differentiating content). Differentiation could also means having different expectations from different students (Differentiating product). 

Here is a simple example: A couple of days back, I asked my students to read an article based on their unit. I gave articles to each student based on their level of understanding of (building) concepts and reading competence. The next day, the students who got the same article sat together and brainstormed the main ideas - simple, yet effective.

When the students were conferring their ideas, I went around making observations. The most interesting part for me was the way the ESL students worked together. There are two of them in my class - each being at a different level. In fact, one of them can barely understand or speak any English. In the video, you can see how the student who has better understanding of the content is trying to explain the same to his companion. It made the partners feel very comfortable with each other. All of a sudden, I could see a flow of confidence in them! As a result, the one who is always too shy to work with others in the class was seen contributing to the mind-map. It was truly a humbling experience for me as a teacher.



'Jigsaw Gallery Walk'

'Jigsaw gallery walk' - I write this in inverted commas because I'm not sure if a strategy like this really exists. If it does, I don't know what it's really called. Anyways, I used this strategy in the class today and felt the need to blog about it.

The students of 5K have been involved in a research project throughout this week. They were divided into groups and each group inquired into a different form of building/structure: Dams, Bridges, Sky scrapers, Tunnels and Canals. They used books and internet to gather information and then created models and posters. They also maintained a reflective journal to record their thought process. This was their formative assessment for the first line of inquiry. 

The groups were asked to share their expertise with rest of the class today. A clich├ęd way of doing this would have been to ask all the groups to sequentially share their work with everyone. To make the process more effective and engaging, I modified it a little bit. 

Every student in each group was given a number. The groups were regrouped in such a way that all the new groups have at least one person from the old groups (All the 1's together, 2's together and so on). All the work done by the students was displayed in the classroom and the groups were asked to go around for a gallery walk. At each station, the student who was originally involved in the project explained the facts and concepts. 

This way, each student got an opportunity to communicate their knowledge and ideas. It also made the other students comfortable about asking questions. All the students were thoroughly engaged and excited. Saving time was another big advantage! They will now update their journals and give them in for assessment. 

A copy of the assessment sheet: 


Monday, October 22, 2012

JAM in the classroom

JAM, short for Just-a-minute, is something I was introduced to in my college days. It was one of the most fun-filled element of inter - collegiate fests. The instructions were very simple - speak about a randomly drawn topic for exactly one minute. 

Following my co-teacher’s suggestion, we thought of using this game in the classroom to improve the speaking and oratory skills of the students. We have been doing it once every week and three weeks have passed since we started. As of now, the students are given some time to prepare notes prior to the actual speech. We will gradually try to make this more challenging by asking them to speak impromptu.

Inspite of being discouraged by the PYP, using grades turns out to be a very useful tool in this kind of engagement. Each student is assessed on a scale of ten. There are ten pre-decided criterion -
  • Precision of time
  • Confidence
  • Voice clarity
  • Fluency of the language
  • Language usage (Grammar)
  • Articulation
  • Relevance of the content
  • Interest level of the audience
  • Eye - contact
  • Hand gestures
Every time a student finishes the speech, the rest of the students in the class give 'marks' to the speaker based on each criterion. There is a 'Time-keeper' who checks the speaker for the duration and a 'Scorer' who adds all the ten scores together. These roles are taken over in rotation. (Decimals are touched upon too as each score is in the range of 0 to 1). The assessment is followed by the speakers noting down the score in there journals. They also write two criterions they scored well in and one aspect they need to improve in.

It is highly evident that repeated exposure to this exercise is helping to students to articulate themselves better. Looking at the big picture, the students are getting opportunities to reflect on their language skills on the whole. What’s more, they enjoy it thoroughly too!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Useful websites for research on buildings and structures

http://www.sciencekids.co.nz/sciencefacts/engineering/buildings.html (You will find sub-categories on the bottom right hand side of the page)
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/buildingbig/index.html (Excellent website for sky scrapers, bridges, dams, tunnels and canals)
http://home.howstuffworks.com/home-improvement/repair/house.htm (Video included)
http://natgeotv.com/in/megastructures/videos (Watch as many videos as possible - select from the option 'videos' or 'shows')

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Build it!

Things are going great guns for Grade 5's! Apologies for not updating the blog for long.. I was really tied up with things...

The current unit for the Grade 5 is on buildings and structures. It falls under the theme 'How the world works' and the central idea is 'The designs of buildings and structures are dependent on the environmental factors and human ingenuity'. We are currently looking at the first line of inquiry: Forms of buildings and structures.

We started the unit by taking the students for a city tour. We selected the Hi - Tech area as it has many unconventionally designed buildings. The purpose of the trip was to tune then into the unit. The students also came up with many inquiry questions which were later sorted into the key concepts: Form, Function and Causation. The words of the central idea were given to them in a jumbled fashion and the students were asked to frame a meaningful sentence.
Few pictures from the trip:

After this the students conducted research about many famous buildings and structures around the world and prepared presentations for the rest of the class. We looked at the design of the building/structure, the reasons behind it's construcion and some other basic facts. The students also watched videos on the Burj Khalifa and the Akashi bridge to learn more about their construction. We learnt about the physical forces involved in constructing a building: gravity, compression and tension by watching a video and playing a quiz.

The students are doing a case study on the school campus too. For this, they were taken for a tour around the campus. They learnt about the different materials used while construction and also looked at the blueprint. They got a feel of the whole campus through the tour. Their discovery of the school campus will continue when Mr. Nuruddin (Architect) will come to the class tomorrow to answer their questions.

The students have been writing a descriptive essay on the school campus in English. They have used the data collected from the trip in the essay. Apart from this, they also have inquired into the vocabulary related to buildings and structures. They have been reading a lot of books which are conceptually or contextually connected to the unit.

There is a lot of math integration happening in the unit. The students have been learning about different geometrical shapes: points, lines, angles, 2D shapes and 3D shapes. They have learnt the classification of each of these shapes and have also done some constructions. They have been solving problems based on angles this week: complementary, supplementary, vertically opposite, corresponding and alternating angles. They have created a 'shape booklet' in which they have written examples of the different shapes in the school campus. An interesting project they are working on is the blueprint of the JA building. They have already taken the measurements. They will scale down these measurements and will come up with a detailed blueprint later this week.

In UOI, the students are soon going to form expert groups based on the different forms of buildings and structures: sky scrapers, bridges, dams and tunnels. The groups will be conducting research and experinements based on their topic and will present the same to the rest of the groups. This will also be their formative assessment.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Make a Calendar

Instructions for Calendar making: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1YnmLR6caudCoPNx1cueH_pAUz1SlCO91jrF8sOlqGl0/edit