Reflections from The Curious Classroom

These are my reflections after reading The Curious Classroom by Havey “Smokey” Daniels.

Why

In full disclosure, I selected this book because Caitlin told me to! There are many other reasons this book was good for me. It is right up my alley. This book is all about embedding inquiry into your everyday classroom. Inquiry-based learning and instruction: “I will implement inquiry-based learning in my classroom through the use of a PBL unit at least once per quarter.” Included in my actions and resources were active research into Project Based Learning and professional development. I selected this book and brought it to the rest of my first-grade team as a possible book study for us all to read and discuss together. My first-grade team along with Caitlin and one other member began reading and learning about inquiry classrooms together.

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Major takeaways

The biggest overarching idea that impacted me while reading is that inquiry doesn’t need to be this giant thing every time. There are small things you can do regularly or routines you can implement that don’t take a lot of time or resources. Some of the small inquiry shifts that I have made are soft starts, collecting questions, modeling my curiosity, and allowing for mini-inquiries.

Beginning my day with soft starts has been the biggest shift I made this school year after reading this book. Chapter 4 is all about soft starts. I stopped giving morning work every day. My students now have the opportunity to make a choice for how they spend their morning. Some students are engaged in open-ended STREAM centers while others may just sit in a quiet spot to gather themselves. I made this decision because play is a very important learning experience for students. I also saw this as an opportunity to level the playing field for each of my students and allow them to begin their day in an equitable way. I noticed that students who come right before the tardy bell would stress about not completing their morning work. They were starting their day already behind. That is not a great way to enter into a busy day of learning.

Chapter 3 is about capturing kids inquiries. We have a wonder wall in our classroom on which students post questions on sticky notes. These questions might come from their fleeting thoughts, a book, or a lesson I’m teaching. Kids are allowed to post a question to the wall at any time during the day. Students use the wall to inspire their genius hour work and in mini inquiries. Next year we will keep a wonder notebook to collect questions too.

Because of chapter 1, Demonstrating Your Own Curiosity, I began sharing my interests and curiosities with my students. I modeled writing and posting questions to the wonder wall and my own research process through looking for answers to my questions. Showing them how I use different resources and synthesize the information into my own understanding and then creating something to share my learning has helped them use that process as well as become more critical of the information they are taking in. I have modeled for my students how to choose a question, looking for similar questions and grouping them into a topic.

One of my goals this year was to try and include inquiry into my curriculum. Chapter 8 was all about ways to do that through mini-inquiries. I have included a few mini-inquiry days into my units. Some have worked and some did not. I have tried mini-inquiries to launch a unit, within, a unit, and after a unit to allow students to find their interests within the curriculum. I found mini-inquiries to be most effective in science units.

Making it accessible for Littles

This book, like a lot of education books, was not written specifically for teachers of littles. Any teacher can pick up this book and use the elements in their classroom. That said, it can be tricky to make things accessible for littles and developmentally appropriate. This book being about curiosity is great for kids because they are so naturally curious. When littles post curiosities to a wonder wall, they can write a sentence, phrase, words, or draw a picture. Allowing a student to communicate in a way they feel successful can make this accessible to them. When modeling inquiries, model ways in which they can access the question and research. I have chosen to write my questions in pictures and labels so my students know this is available for them. We also use a lot of kid-friendly inquiry tools. Modeling through individual steps also makes inquiry learning accessible for littles. Seeing the process in action and then copying it allows students to access information and share their learning.

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The book study PLN

I read this book with my first-grade team, a second-grade teacher, and our instructional resource teacher.  It was so great to meet weekly and discuss each chapter. I loved seeing others’ perspectives as they read through the chapter and shared their major takeaways. We were able to make plans for how we will incorporate our new learning into our everyday classrooms. We had some amazing conversations to step up our inquiry-based learning.

If you’ve read the book, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

I Have a Fever. Flipgrid Fever!

My mom loves to tell this story from when I was a little girl. I was sleeping over at my Grandparent’s house. I woke up in the middle of the night. Walked down the steep farmhouse stairs and started running around the kitchen island repeating, “I have a fever. I have a fever. I have a fever.” Until everyone in the house was awake and knew I had a fever.

My name is Aubrey DiOrio and I have Flipgrid Fever. This is one fever I hope is contagious.

I use Flipgrid to hear every voice in my class. Realistically, it isn’t possible for me to hear every child’s response to every question I ask. With Flipgrid it is. I use Flipgrid when I want to hear from every student and I want them to hear from every single one of their friends. Fliprid is a student voice machine.

One reason I love Flipgrid is that it has a flow that makes sense. Whether you access through the web or the app, it automatically prompts you to put in a grid code. Once you have accessed the grid there is a HUGE GREEN PLUS SIGN. From there it leads you through a selfie video response and the posting process. There are few options making it intuitive for all students. Once students understand this flow, they need very little support.

Other things I love:

  • I can attach content of my choice to any topic.
  • The directions for the topic show up with the selfie video so you can focus your video as you take it.
  • All the topics I assign to my class are connected to 1 grid and they can get to any of them by backing out of the current one.
  • Emoji reactions. Enough said.
  • Grid/Topic sharing for a global connection
  • Video replies (paid version – makes it SOOOO worth it!)
  • Video length requires students to be concise.
  • Video length is adjustable.
  • The stickers are so fun!

I have used Flipgrid with my class to reflect on a lesson, share their writing, share ideas, as a quick assessment, connect with each other over snow days, discuss books, celebrate holidays, connect on curriculum with other classes across the district and country. My students are learning to communicate clearly through these videos. They are learning to speak so others can hear and understand and truly listen to one another through these videos. Flipgrid takes away any anxiety they may have for speaking in front of the class because they can practice and re-record.

 

I also use Flipgrid professionally. It has amazing potential to connect PLNs on a more personal level. I participate in a twice-monthly slow flip chat in the #InnovatingPlay and #GAfE4Littles communities. I’m also co-moderating a book study with Caitlin McCommons using Flipgrid as a flexible connection tool. The ability to see faces and hear voices allows you to make connections that feel deeper than a Twitter connection. I feel like I have a professional relationship with people who live far away because of the conversations we have on Flipgrid.

Have you caught the fever? Share your favorite ways to Flipgrid below. If you are ready to catch Flipgrid Fever, I’d love to help you get started!

The #IMMOOC experience

For me the #IMMOOC experience was a chance to read the book again, get into some consistent blogging, and connect with educators around the world who share a passion for student learning. I absolutely loved the Youtube live videos. It was amazing to see and hear people live while tweeting and commenting in the video chat. The twitter chats were so fast! I’m used to slower ones that I can read every tweet and I just had to let go of the fact that that was not going to happen. I enjoyed the sidebar conversations. And that they were actually allowed and encouraged! I embraced the opportunity for some personalized professional development!

I am going to try blogging weekly. I’m going to attempt to do that until the end of 2017. I’ve had my blog since November 2016 so I’m going to round out year 1 with 1 post a week and then revisit this goal in 2018. I’m also setting a goal to continue reading education books and blogs on a regular basis! I’m going to start with a book study on The Curious Classroom with my team, bestie Caitlin McCommons, and our IRT Jessica VonDerHeide. I’m really excited to dig into this book and work on growth for my PDP goal of including more inquiry based learning in my classroom.

After this process of connecting, learning, and growing through the #IMMOOC family, I’m left with a question. It has been on my mind the whole 6 weeks and I haven’t found a good time to bring it up. How does all of this innovation fit in to equity in education? Is innovation in education yet another way that sets communities apart from one another?

Why I choose to #Innovate4Littles #IMMOOC

I decided to join the #IMMOOC a massive open online course (MOOC) for educators focusing on the book Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros. I saw this hastag flying around twitter and had no idea what it was until recently. I decided to join because it seems to be a transformative PLN. I am super excited to join this community of inspirational and innovative educators.

In January 2017 I started thinking about my teaching and why I make the instructional choices I make. There is a lot of energy right now around being innovative. I worry that this will become a buzz word and lose it’s power. I also worry because there are many who believe young children cannot handle innovative instruction. They are just too little. I had the idea while talking to my bestie, Caitlin McCommons, about this because we believe that littles are capable and #innovate4littles was born! We believe that littles (K-2 students) can participate in the exciting, challenging, fun, innovative learning experiences that big kids get. We also know that these experiences need to be scaled to be developmentally appropriate for our littles. We created #innovate4littles as a way to share and curate innovative practices we use in our classrooms.

As part of the #IMMOOC we were tasked to answer the following question:

Why is innovation in education so crucial today?

I believe that as this world changes, children need to learn to be brave and flexible. There are problems that need to be solved and we need to grow learners who are creative problem solvers. We need to teach children to be brave in the face of a problem and flexible enough to try multiple solutions. We need children to be brave enough to collaborate with people near and far and flexible enough to listen to different perspectives. We need children to be brave enough to take on careers that don’t yet exist and flexible enough to change the careers of the future. In order to teach children to be brave and flexible, I need to be brave and flexible with them. That is why I choose to #Innovate4Littles.