Tag Archives: pyp

Advice for Virtual Learning- Part 3

I’m back for another installment of advice for virtual learning. If you haven’t read Part 1 or Part 2, you might want to start there. Part 1 gives tips for Student Wellbeing and Part 2 delves into Staff Wellbeing.

Virtual Learning Tools

Before I launch into my recommendations for virtual learning tools, let me let you in on a little secret. I’m no expert in technology. There are probably definitely a million more blogs for you to get great ideas from, but in an effort to get you started, here are the tools I’ve been using the past 2 weeks with my students that I’ve found to be the most helpful.

Seesaw

An invaluable tool for our school during this period has been Seesaw. Seesaw is an app that students already use in the classroom to document learning, which serves as an online portfolio with photos, videos, and work samples. Students can also complete tasks set by the teacher in the ‘Activities’ tab. Parents are connected to their child’s account, and just like Instagram, they get a notification whenever a new item is posted so they can like and comment.

Since this is a tool we have been using for a couple of years at my school, it made it very easy to transition to this platform when we started online learning. Students’ and parents’ familiarity with the app helped ease the anxiety of learning online (a little bit, anyway). Check out the quick tour of Seesaw below.

FlipGrid

If you haven’t tried FlipGrid yet, try it now! No, seriously, I’ll wait. I was fortunate that I had already introduced FlipGrid in the classroom as part of tuning in to our Exhibition, so my students were familiar with how to access it and create videos, but if you haven’t tried it, I’m confident that your students can pick it up quickly, as it’s rather intuitive (and let’s face it, they are way better at technology than us anyway). Students are highly engaged when creating videos and certainly enjoy sharing their learning this way!

FlipGrid is basically an app or website that allows students to create videos of various lengths (you set the time limit, with a maximum of 5 minutes) about any topic you set. You can create different ‘grids’ for different topics. So far I’ve created grids for International Day, where students made cultural videos to share with the class after we missed out on the event due to the school closure, and a few grids connected to our Exhibition (Action ideas, weekly reflections, UN Sustainable Development Goals). What I love about it is that students can customize the videos with stickers, text, photos, inserting clips of other videos, etc. They can also pause the video as many times as they want while filming, which is different than when recording traditional videos on the iPad or on PhotoBooth.

Once the students post a video on the grid, everyone in the class can view the videos and create video responses. All videos are secure on FlipGrid’s site and students have to enter a ‘Flip Code’ and an ID number to access the videos, which makes me feel relieved that not just anybody can access them. You, as the teacher, have control to delete, hide, or download videos. Teachers can also give feedback to the student using a rubric and/or written comments, in addition to video feedback, which I use often.

Here’s an example of an introduction video for FlipGrid, where you let the students know what the video they will create should be about.

I don’t want to share a video with my students’ faces, but here’s a FlipGrid one of my students made when reflecting on last week’s virtual school experience.

FlipGrid has shared tips for Remote Learning on their website.

ZOOM

ZOOM is a video conferencing tool that allows up to 100 participants at a time, so you can have all of your students online at the same time. I’m fairly new to this tool, as I only held my first class ZOOM meeting today, but it’s fairly easy to figure out. I suggest you first try it out with some colleagues, as I did with my staff last Friday. We played around for half an hour and left feeling confident to try it with our classes today. The students were so excited to see everyone again and enjoyed chatting all at once. The ‘Mute All’ feature came in handy for that! 😉 I’m going to try this out tomorrow to hold a class discussion about our collaborative performance for Exhibition and later this week for a live read aloud. We created essential agreements for how we will use it. I suggest you do, too. The video below is a tutorial for how to set it up.

Padlet

Padlet is a virtual way to collaborate and share ideas. Padlet is one of those tools that has been introduced at many professional development workshops I’ve attended, and I’ve always thought it was cool, but I never seem to find time to try it when I go back to school. Last week I used it for the first time in virtual school. I wanted students to share their ideas for their math component for Exhibition, but thought that having them post their ideas for everyone to see would work best since those students who were less confident could see some other ideas before having to decide on their own. I then gave them feedback in the form of questions to help them strengthen and improve their ideas. The downside is that students can’t sign in without email addresses, so all posts come up with ‘Anonymous.’ Just try to remind them to include their name in their post.

Microsoft Teams

A tool that we already make use of at our school is Microsoft Teams, which is a messaging, video conferencing, and file sharing system. While I much prefer to use the Google Suite, I’m getting used to using Teams. I had not yet used it with my students prior to the school closure, but when we closed, I quickly got them set up on it so that we could have one-on-one meetings and chat easily, two features that Seesaw doesn’t offer. We ran into difficulties setting it up remotely, so if you are still at school, I recommend setting up all technology tools with students prior to the closure (if you can). As with anything new, we are having some teething issues, such as students messaging too much in the group chat or annoying one another with incessant chatting in the private messages, but they are learning. Again, create essential agreements from the outset. I had to backtrack and create them, as I didn’t think of that at first!

BrainPOP

Many of us are familiar with BrainPOP, a popular source of informative videos presented in bite-sized chunks. During our school closure, I’ve used it as a tool to reteach concepts I’d already taught in class that students still need practice with, such as citing sources, researching, and note-taking skills. With my students in the middle of their PYP Exhibition, they are all researching their topics at the moment.

My school doesn’t have a subscription to BrainPOP, but BrainPOP has generously offered free access to all schools that are closed due to COVID-19. I suggest you sign up for a free account. I signed up for one account for my school, and we are all using the same username and password. Click on the screenshot below to sign up.

Kahoot!

Kahoot! is another tool I’m sure you are familiar with, as most of us have created fun quizzes to use in the classroom as a review for a test. I am going to use Kahoot! for my math lesson tomorrow to have them practice mean, median, mode, and range. I’ve never tried it individually (there’s no time limit and you can see how they performed later), but I think they will enjoy it. Kahoot! is another company who has offered their service free to schools who are closed due to COVID-19. For a free account, head to the homepage and click “Learn More” in the yellow banner at the top. It’s a great resource, loaded with tons of teacher-created content!

Weebly

Weebly is a free website-creation site and app. I love using Weebly because it’s easy for students. You simply drag and drop the items that you want (headings, text, images, videos, etc.) and rearrange them however you want. Weebly is a tool we had already been using in class since each student is responsible for creating a website to document their Exhibition process. If you are looking for an ongoing project, would like students to learn how to create a website, or perhaps you are looking for a way to share lessons with students during virtual school, I think you should check out Weebly.

Here are a couple of my students’ Exhibition websites if you want to take a look:
https://izzieexhibition.weebly.com/
https://koreenaexhibition.weebly.com/

Loom and Screencastify

Two great programmes for creating tutorials, teaching using slides, or reading aloud from books online are Loom and Screencastify. They both work similarly, giving you the option to record your screen, with the option to include a video of you in the corner of the screen, however, I prefer Loom because it has more free options. With Screencastify you are limited to creating 5-minute videos on the free version, but with Loom, you can create much longer videos (at least 20 minutes, I’ve found), adjust the size of the webcam video, and move the video anywhere you want on the screen. Both are easy to install, as they are simple Chrome extensions.

Here’s a Loom video tutorial I made for my teachers to show them how to schedule a meeting on ZOOM.

Free Online Books

Many of us already use EPIC in our classrooms, and while the app is free at school, but not at home, what I’ve discovered is that it’s free at school due to it being free during school hours, which means students can access EPIC books at home, Monday-Friday 8.00am-3.00pm. So get those kids reading!

Another website for books is Open Library, a website with thousands upon thousands of free books. If you want to read a book aloud but you don’t have a physical copy, use Loom to record your screen and read a book from Open Library!

Suggested Further Reading/Additional Resources

15 Strategies for Online Learning When School is Closed

Online Learning

I didn’t get time to give advice about creating a daily schedule/organizing your day and parent wellbeing and support, so I’ll have to do that next time! If there’s anything else you’d like me to share, or if you have an idea that works for you, please comment below. Thanks for reading!

Day 2 of Virtual School was a bit easier

My title is somewhat misleading. While Day 2 of our Virtual School was easier, the fact is that it’s 6 minutes to 11:00pm and I just finished my work for today. My to do list is still quite long, but I finished the work that I absolutely had to do to be ready for tomorrow morning. I’ve still got to film my Morning Message video in the morning before “school” starts at 8:00, but I look a bit worse for wear at the moment, so I thought it better to wait until I at least had a shower and put on some makeup.

My second day wasn’t as frantic. People were starting to get the hang of things, and while I had a steady flow of messages, texts, calls, and emails to attend to, I wasn’t completely bombarded like yesterday. Based on feedback from the students and parents yesterday, I scaled back the workload today. It’s difficult to gauge how long something will take students to do online and at home. In the classroom you just know, but online it’s so different. Something I think will take them a few minutes takes 30 and something the art teacher set to do over two days they did in an hour. We are all still finding our way.

I really enjoyed my 1-on-1 video conferences with my students, where I was able to chat with them individually about what they’ve been working on, what they needed support with, and what their next steps were. I was able to connect with 12 of my students today and I’ll be speaking with the remaining ones tomorrow. They seemed less nervous and awkward on our video chats today.

Something I hadn’t expected when this all began 3 days ago was that I’d end up being IT Support. I’m tech savvy enough, but I wouldn’t call myself a specialist or anything. However, this unique situation of being thrown into virtual schooling with no prior warning given to parents and students and very little preparation of staff presents some challenges. Students trying to figure out the ins and outs of the various platforms we are using while not physically being with me means I then need to troubleshoot issues remotely with a 10 year old. Of course, there were also some issues with loading resources and videos onto Seesaw. With everyone on all at the same time, some videos wouldn’t upload or wouldn’t play after being uploaded. We are learning patience and work arounds for the issues we come across, such as loading videos at night, when it’s calm, and saving them as drafts to be released in the morning.

On a more personal note, I didn’t take the breaks I’d intended to take today, although I wasn’t as worked up since it was quieter today. I managed to snack a bit during the day, but didn’t manage to eat lunch until 4:30. No wonder my stomach is hungry now…the late lunch/early dinner didn’t tide me over that long. Based on a suggestion from a fellow slicer yesterday, I managed to get a car over to school to pick up my standing desk, which was a definite win for today. After being at work for 12 hours, I had only managed to get in a measly 1,258 steps. I took a break and went for a half hour walk to get in a bit of exercise. I think that starting Monday I’m going to figure out how to get in a walk in the morning and the evening. With 11 more days of self-quarantine to go and at least that many days of virtual school, I’ve got to figure out a way to move more (and not go crazy!).

For those of you interested in what it’s like, here’s a sample of the things we’re doing with the students online.

I made my first YouTube video today of me reading a chapter from our read aloud for their library lesson tomorrow, where they will listen to the read aloud, comment their prediction underneath the video in Seesaw, and then do some independent reading.

Here’s a sample of our daily learning overview for tomorrow. My situation is unique in that we are in our PYP Exhibition, so rather than have lots of lessons, they have more time for researching and working through their Exhibition checklist, tasks, and blog.

Lastly, here are a few pictures of things that some of our other teachers have been doing in the virtual classrooms. I spent some time this evening going through and looking at their videos and work they’d loaded so I could give some feedback to them in our group chat.

Early Childhood Maths Activity
Year 1 (Kindergarten) Science/Unit of Inquiry Activity
Year 2 (Grade 1) Math Lesson
Art Lesson
Year 5 (Grade 4) Unit of Inquiry/Language Lesson

Looking forward to Day 3 tomorrow…and the weekend where I can rest and get ahead with videos for next week’s learning!

Life-long Learner #sol18

For the past couple of days, I’ve been attending the IB Global Conference in Singapore. Different than a workshop, where you are focused on one topic the entire time, the conference allows you to dip your toes into many different topics throughout the conference. At the moment, I’m trying to process all that I’ve learned. My thinking has been challenged, and I realize that I need some time to reflect on the new information I’ve gleaned, synthesize it, and decide whether it’s valuable and applicable to my school context.

So far, what’s excited me most is this whole idea of student agency and how we can empower students to take charge of their own learning. I’ve listened to teachers and leaders present their experiences with an entire grade level who co-teaches in an open, student-centered space where students make their own schedule for the day, share their experiments with letting students choose what, how, and when to learn, and heard about how the shifts in the PYP will put student agency at the forefront.

Another idea I’ve been drawn to this weekend and been thinking a lot about is how to differentiate professional learning for teachers. Attending a few sessions centered around PD has given me much to think about. One thing I’ve come to realize is that I need to change my teachers’ perspectives on what PD is. I am energized to unpack the ideas I’ve gathered, pair it with the research I’ve read and my own ideas to come up with a bigger understanding.

Since this week is my Spring Break, I’m looking forward to having some time to really reflect on everything, rather than jump back into school like I usually have to do. I hope to post more of my thinking in the coming days and weeks.

PYP Exhibition was a Huge Success!

Earlier this week I blogged a bit about Exhibition. While it was a ton of work for everyone involved, I couldn’t be prouder of the students and teachers who made it all possible! Yesterday, the Grade 5 students presented their Exhibition three times, once to the PYP students, one to the MYP students, and once to their parents. While we were all beat at the end of the night, we had a blast!

We began with an introduction by the Grade 5 teachers, school Director, Head of Secondary School, and me. Then the student groups took turns presenting the main points of their project, including their technology and art components, and their action as a result of the Exhibition. Following the group presentations, the audience was invited to view the display boards to learn more about the students’ research and ask questions. Lastly, visitors left a positive comment about something they loved about the presentations.

Click here to watch a short video of our Exhibition!

Today the students reflected A TON on the whole Exhibition process. They assessed themselves, wrote about challenges they encountered and how they overcame them, and celebrated their successes. Tomorrow we’ve invited all of the mentors and experts to have a pizza party to celebrate the end of the Exhibition! They definitely deserve a party…they’ve worked hard! 🙂

IMG_9269

I just loved reading all the positive things people had to say about the students! They loved reading them, too. The notes helped boost their confidence and made them feel proud! 🙂

Surrounded by PYP…and Loving It!

Holding dual roles at school means that sometimes I wear one hat more than the other. Lately my PYP Coordinator hat has been on more often, as our Exhibition has been fast-approaching (it’s TOMORROW!). Last week and this week, I have been surrounded by PYP– literally. I can’t seem to get away from it, but I sorta love it!

As I mentioned, our Exhibition presentations are tomorrow. Our Grade 5 students, teachers, and mentors have been working their little tails off getting ready for this momentous occasion for the past 6 weeks. Their collaborative, in-depth inquiry has lead them to some really interesting learning experiences and to take action in their local community. Here’s a video of their journey thus far. Today, I attended a field trip to our sister school, ACD, to attend their Exhibition, and then worked with the students on perfecting their presentations and display boards. I think know we are ready!


In addition to the Exhibition, we held a PYP training for all staff this past Saturday and Sunday. Unfortunately I was sick and could not attend all of the training, but the teachers did some amazing thinking and reflection while I was gone!

A documentary made about our school, and how we teach, was just released online today. It shows what it’s like attending and teaching at an international school in Albania, but also what it means to have an IB education. We are a candidate school for all 3 programmes of the IB- PYP, MYP, and DP!

Lastly, today during recess, I was drawn to a group of girls who were playing in the field. I watched them a short while and noticed they were gathering items and piling them up. I decided to investigate. After approaching the group (one in preschool, one in Grade 1, and two in Grade 2), I asked them what they were doing. They explained they were building a nest for the birds. When I questioned them further, they explained that people are cutting down trees, so birds no longer have homes, therefore they built a nest for the birds. They included leaves, flowers, dried twigs, berries, and a long stick. The berries were for food, of course, and the stick was so the bird could locate the nest and have something to sit on. The interesting thing is that they are all learning about Sharing the Planet at this time, although their Central Ideas vary. This group of girls decided, on their own during their free time, to take action to help animals who are losing their homes. If that’s not PYP, I don’t know what is!

It’s moments like this that remind me of why I do what I do and why I believe in it so much!

My Personal Inquiry

Lately I’ve been inquiring into how to lead our annual Programme of Inquiry (POI) review, where we take a look at our units of inquiry, and the POI as a whole, to evaluate their effectiveness and make improvements for next year. At my previous school, I’ve taken part in leading our POI review for the last 3 years, and it’s gone well, but I’ve been wondering about how I can structure it for my current teachers, who are new to PYP. I want it to be meaningful and engaging, rather than something they feel like they have to do because the IB says we have to do it.

In the past week, I’ve been in the tuning in stage of inquiry, actively thinking about how to do it, asking myself questions, and gathering resources. Today, I ended up working late on some other stuff for work. Despite being at work for 12 hours, I was motivated to delve more into my personal inquiry into the POI review. I printed off a few of the articles I had found earlier on the topic (I like reading hard copies when researching), and headed over to The Montrose for some dinner and a change of scenery. I set up shop at my usual table in the back, where I can be alone, spread out, and get work done. Diving right in, I began the process of finding out and sorting out, as I took copious notes from my readings, as well as jotted down things I knew I wanted to include in this year’s review.

Anyone who knows anything about inquiry knows that it leads to motivation. I continued to work for hours, without stopping. Usually when I’m working on something, I get off topic, take breaks, get distracted, etc., but not tonight. I was so energized by the planning and work I was doing, that I couldn’t stop.

After I gathered notes on the POI review, my mind drifted to teacher orientation planning. This is another topic that’s been floating around in my head lately. Like the POI review, I want it to be engaging and purposeful for my teachers. I want them to walk away feeling prepared for the year ahead, motivated to learn more about PYP and inquiry teaching, and equipped with a toolkit of teaching strategies that they can implement in their classrooms. To this end, I began making more and more lists, gathering strategies for orientation and the big ideas I wanted to be sure and include in this year’s orientation. Before I knew it, it was 11:00pm, and even though it was late, I didn’t want to stop working! Obviously I did, because I’d be a zombie tomorrow if I didn’t. I feel good about the work I did today, and am motivated to continue this process in the coming days. After I finish sorting out, I’ll go further and begin planning how I’d like to approach both the POI review and the teacher orientation. Can’t wait to see it all put together, and then in action with the teachers!

A New Adventure

Moving abroad was the single best decision I have ever made. Five years ago, in 2010, I made the decision to live and teach in Shanghai, China, packing up my life and moving literally halfway across the world. It definitely hasn’t always been easy, and I’m not without my scars, but the benefits of this expat life far outweigh any setback I’ve encountered. I have met some amazing people who will forever be in my life. I’ve experienced life in another culture, challenging my beliefs and giving me a broader perspective on life. And I’ve had the opportunity to travel to incredible places I never would have otherwise. I am a different person, a better person, because of my experiences in China, and I will forever hold this place close to my heart. But my time in China is quickly coming to an end. After five years, and three positions at my school, I have decided to try something different.

This fall, I’m off on a new adventure! Beginning in August 2015, I will move to Tirana, Albania! I am really jazzed by this move, as it provides me with opportunities to challenge myself in many ways. As part of the leadership team, I’ll be opening a new school, Albanian College, which will open its doors to students for the first time on September 1st of this year. I’m the Deputy Head of School/PYP Coordinator, a dual position that will split once enrollment increases. In addition to the excitement of opening a brand-new school, I’m looking forward to the challenge of taking the school through the PYP authorization process.

So, you might be asking yourself….where exactly is Albania? I know I did! 🙂 Albania is in Eastern Europe, near Greece and Italy. It’s not officially part of the EU yet, although they are a candidate. Albania is a small country, roughly the size of Maryland, USA.

Albania-map

 

I’ve been doing a lot of research to find out as much as I can about my new country. Here are a few facts I’ve learned. I’m looking forward to learning lots more once I arrive!

  • Size= 28,000 sq. km. or 11,000 sq. miles
  • Total population of Albania is about 3,000,000.
  • Tirana, where I will be, is the capital. Tirana’s population is about 1,000,000. Shanghai is roughly 24,000,000, so it’s going to feel so tiny in comparison! There are about 1 million people living in my neighborhood here! :O
  • Albanian is the official language, and while it’s probably easier to learn than Chinese, it’s a pretty difficult language. English is not widely spoken, so I’ll be taking lessons! I’ve already picked up a few words and phrases.
  • The official currency is Lek. $1 USD= 123 Lek
  • The cost of living is extremely low since Albania is a very poor country.
  • There is only one American chain in the entire country, and it’s not McDonald’s or Starbucks. It’s….Cinnabon! I kinda love this! 🙂
  • Food is a mix of Greek, Turkish, and Italian. Yumm!!
  • The climate is a typical Mediterranean climate. They have heavy annual rainfall. This isn’t my favorite thing, but you can’t win ’em all, right?
  • Apparently they don’t drive well there, but they don’t in China either, so I think I’m ready.
  • They shake their head for yes (‘po’) and nod their head for no (‘jo’). My brain is seriously going to have a hard time with this one. Try it- say “no” while nodding your head. It’s freaking hard!

In addition to finding out random facts about Albania, I’ve been researching pictures…and I must say, Albania is a gorgeous country I cannot wait to explore! Check it out for yourself…

albanian coast

albania bridge

albania-685x317

albania 1

albania 2

tirana albania

 

I’m soooo excited!! 🙂 I suspect I’ll have quite a few visitors in the three years I’ll be living there.

Here’s a video of Tirana, where I will live. Check it out!