30 June 2012

It's the last post of the year!

Dear Students and Parents,

Where did the time go?! It's time to spend a moment looking back on the year. Some of my favourite moments have been when everything came together. For example our Force-o-rama, the Voice of the Poet performance and Zoo Exhibition. Seeing the students' confidence and skill at explaining their learning always made me immensely proud.

I enjoyed shaking hands in the morning, hearing about our weekends in our traditional Monday headline circle, just laughing, being wowed by David Attenborough's Life film, sharing the story of my Gran's ring, watching the concentration on students' faces as they created art works and finally having my class around me at the Strandbad to say goodbye.

Blogging has become a very important part of my teaching. It's where I've tried to explain many of the wonderful things that happen in the classroom and the reasoning behind it. I wanted to share the comments, insights and connections the students have made. For me professionally the blog has been a powerful reflection tool. I sit down and think about... so what did the students really learn today, what do their comments tell me, where should we go next, do I need to revisit something, what are the students really interested in? Teaching is complex and that's what keeps me passionate about what I do. So I have tried to share that complexity with you over the year (and for some the past two or three years) and to give you an insight into our day to day learning journey in the Middle Primary Class.

This summer will see me heading to work with an amazing lady called Lynn Erickson in Montana. I'll be learning more about Concept Driven Curriculum. Concepts are something you have probably noticed I've written about a lot as it's at the heart of PYP curriculum! Then relaxation with family and friends.

I would like to thank Kathy who has always been there in the background supporting me with her amazing ideas and technical support. Also a big thank you must go to Vasiliy who I have enjoyed working with through the year.

Thank you for the thoughtful gifts and card. You can be guaranteed the money will be well spent during my US adventures and the students' book treasured.

I wish you all a fabulous summer and safe travels to those going far. 

Judy Firkins-Jacobs

30th June 2012

26 June 2012

Sharing Our Family Stories

Today we shared our family stories. What a fabulous selection of world war stories, mysteriously appearing rabbits, 22 hour treks to the ferry, reunited families, adoptions, family Christmas traditions, family historians collecting 300 years of history, dog loving families......................We learned so much about each other today. We also reflected on what these stories actually told us about our family culture and about our personal identities.

This was followed by a reflection on the year which you will find in each student's portfolio. We reflected on the IB learner profile, the IB attitudes, our favourite units, achievements and memories of the Middle Primary class. What interesting reading and an opportunity for me to see what had really made an impact during the year. It's also delightful to see the growth and appreciation as to how far every student has progressed during the year.

Don't forget the opening of our model zoo tomorrow at 10.30 am. We've been getting ready!

25 June 2012

Save the Last Word: Artefacts Telling a Story

We started the day revisiting at our central idea and using the concepts and vocabulary we had defined last week to help us develop a better understanding of our unit.

Next we shared the artefacts students had  brought in from home. The class were spilt into groups of four. One at a time, students put their artefact in the centre of the group and in turn everyone suggested what the story could be behind the artefact. The 'last word' went to the artefact owner who then told the story behind the object. We realised how important it was to then ask further questions as this often prompted the story teller to reveal more and connect with some really great memories. Every object really was unique as you can tell from today's list of artefacts:

A pair of special wedding shoes worn by the usher, a Russian family book retelling the story of a family from 1917 onwards with family trees, a piece of Lebanese cedar made into a plaque inscribed in French (the language came as a genuine surprise to the student), a special bedtime story book enjoyed by the whole family, a china dog passed down from generation to generation, a car with special first school day and party memoires, a re-discovered remote controlled car followed by a toddler, a dog collar from five years ago recalling the 'puppy training days', an old photograph of a castle revealing a successful condensed milk industry, a soft toy from a mother's childhood passed through a family, the story of a lost and found sister and a great grandparent's watch.

Each student also made an observational drawing of the object with a recount of the accompanying story. I am really looking forward to hearing tomorrow's family stories too.

20 June 2012

Our New Central Idea

Yesterday we started off our new unit by looking at our new central idea to uncover what we are going to learn about:

Family histories provide an insight into cultural and personal identity.

Students brainstormed around the statement recording what they thought the words meant or any comments on what they thought the unit was about. Some interesting words began to emerge: relate, heritage, generation, as well as some questions: What is culture? Is personal private? What is an insight? 

Then I wrote the word history on the board and asked the students to tell me what came into their heads when they saw the word. Here are some of the responses:

I think of the Romans, as that's something I really like.
I remember history lessons in my last school and I enjoyed them a lot.
It can be about how people lived or the clothes they wore.
Things change over time. You have a smart board now, but in the past it was chalk board.
There's the word 'story' in there.
It's about stories or things that happened.
It can be 'small' like things that happen to you, or big things that happen to a country.
Generations pass down stories.
The French word 'histoire' means story.
A mother can tell her child a story who then tells their child and so on. That way the story carries on.
Things that happened in the past like the Titanic.
I can see 'his story' in the word. ( I asked can it be 'her' story too!)
I could be God's story above.
Stories can be things that happened to you and others.
We had an interesting question: Is history what has just happened or only a long time ago?

So to help the students get started I told a family story connected to the ring my Gran gave me to wear on my wedding day. This had been a gift from her husband originally to celebrate their ruby wedding anniversary. I wore this on my wedding day as she wasn't able to be there. We looked at how it was made, its value, its function and ideas for its purpose before I shared the story. I explained how this ring represented the celebrations that are important in my culture as well as saying something about my personal history. Our next task is to unpack the key words and concepts connected to our unit.

We are also reading a selection of family themed stories to accompany this unit. Here are the some pictures of the student 'caught' reading.

If you have any suggestions for great family themed books please let me know. As the students read I am asking them to think about:
  • What's the main story line?
  • What family connections are being written about in the story?
  • What connections do you make to the text? Are there any parts of the story which remind you of something that’s happened to you or your family?
Yesterday was a big organisation day with students selecting samples for their portfolios. Each student  chose two pieces and described what it showed they had learned and enjoyed in 'Sharing the Planet'. Mr. V and I have also selected pieces that show the process of learning. Next week the completed portfolios will come home for the summer for you to reflect on your child's progress together.

19 June 2012

Family Histories: Personal Connections 19.6.12

Today we're launching our final unit for the year. Where has the time gone!

Transdisciplinary theme: Where we are in time and place
Central idea: Family histories provide an insight into cultural and personal identity.

1. This week as a family share some family stories that you've heard or experienced. You can even speak to a grandparent, uncle etc. to hear some stories too. Then write a recount of one of these stories. Remember to use the writing framework for this particular writing purpose. Use the rubric we made to make sure you have included the important elements for a good recount as you write. I will email this to you all. Finally self assess the recount at the end of writing and fill in the rubric. This can be hand written or word processed.

2. Today I brought in a special object which tells the history of a family event that reflected my culture and personal identity. Bring in an object that reflects an event that is significant in your family life.

Be ready to share your stories next Monday.

Plus: Reading

12 June 2012

Connections Across the Curriculum

Our units of inquiry really drive our school's curriculum and that could be seen so clearly over the past couple of days. In this unit Sharing the Planet we have used our language curriculum to support our unit by learning how to research information, take notes and then use those notes to write descriptions in our own words. That's a lot of steps. Today students completed the final stages of their animal descriptions. As editor-in-chief I went through these descriptions to identify opportunities for sentence improvement and errors in grammar and spelling. The students then corrected their descriptions after reading my feedback. These will become the placards that accompany the zoo enclosure models we are building, just like you find in Zürich Zoo.

Yesterday the class spent time looking back on their learning. They showed their knowledge and understanding of the main concepts we have been exploring in this unit:
The students wrote about what these concepts meant in the context of our unit with supporting examples. It's a demanding task but the PYP is all about concept driven curriculum, so the concepts need to be taught explicitly and in an age appropriate way to students. I must say I was delighted with the clarity of writing and level of understanding! This piece will be in each student's portfolio. 

In addition to all this writing we've been constructing our model enclosures in art. Each model is a 3D representation of what each student has learned about creating an environment to match their researched animal's needs, strategies and behaviours. Our classroom looked like a tornado passed thorough with paper grass, clay, paper maché, glue, paint seemingly everywhere! However, the tidy up crew did a good job at the end of the day. Students demonstrated great creativity with some very clever ideas for making scenery. To be continued on Thursday.............

11 June 2012

Personal Connections

Summative Assessment Part 2

At the end of a unit we gather our thoughts together and reflect on what we have learned. Use the paper you came home with to respond to the following questions which require a lot of careful consideration:

1.       Define ‘living’.
2.       What is classification? Define and give examples.
3.       Choose an animal. Explain how it survives in its natural environment in detail. (Please do not use your first learning log example.)
4.       Why do zoos need to understand an animal’s needs, strategies and behaviours? Explain with examples.
5.       Do people have responsibilities towards animals? Explain your thoughts.
6.       What has been your ‘biggest learning moment/s’ in this unit? Explain.
7.       How do you think you might use this knowledge and understanding you have gained in the future?
Use words (and pictures if you wish).

This is due on Wednesday.  

Tracks (next week will be the last week before the holiday)
Reading 10 mins per day