IB, IB Exhibition, Inquiry-Based, Student Choice, Student-Led Conferences

Student-Led Conferences during IB Exhibition

For the past two years, I’ve had students present their IB portfolios during our Exhibition time. This year, I included a full student-led conference to the portfolio reviews.

 

The students worked hard selecting the items for their portfolios, although some things– their summative assessments from each unit — were mandatory. They included a table of contents with each unit listed, things we had learned within the unit, and a self reflection/evaluation. We also included some data tracking sheets, and our Fall to Spring MAP scores.  I created this editable Google Doc which includes:

Portfolio Checklist
Day-of Checklist
Teacher & Self Reflection
Parent Goals
Student Goals

 

Students start these portfolios in kindergarten and add to them each year. It is really neat to see all of their work from the last five years. Since 4th grade is the end of PYP at my school, after Exhibition, the students get to take their portfolios home. They will get new ones next year for MYP.

 

In class, I created a Smart Notebook lesson that matches the Student-Led Conference Checklist. The students will practice with a friend today, and then walk through their portfolios with their parents tomorrow. We will watch this YouTube video before we practice. There are many other helpful videos about student-led conferences on YouTube.

Now, more about Exhibition. Students have been working hard to research a man-made system. From there, the researched communities or organizations that existed within that system. Then, they looked into problem that existed in that organization. Finally they took action in some way to help with this problem. (Find my other blogs about Exhibition below.) 

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I know parents might not know what to expect or what types of questions to answer. I created a few questions that they can pull out of a cup during Conferences and Exhibition if they get stuck. I also created this Agenda/What to Expect form for the parents and sent it out a few days prior. This year, it will be held on a half-day and the students dismiss at 11:00 am. I will update this post after tomorrow’s conferences!

 

Exhibition I         Exhibition II        Exhibition III 

Digital Teaching Resources, Inquiry-Based, Simulations, Uncategorized

Turning Paper Simulations into Digital Content

Ask any former student what their favorite thing about my class is, and most will say, “Simulation.” Simulation is something another teacher showed me from Scholastic that comes in a PDF form or you can purchase the physical packet for about a dollar more.  I have purchased all the ones below and they are well worth the $8!

Explorer Simulation
Revolutionary War Simulation
Bill Becomes Law Simulation
Oregon Trail Simulation
Civil War Simulation

First, I divide the class into smaller groups. I like six groups, which makes about 4-5 students in a group. I use this electronic group generator that is a Smart Notebook file so there are no complaints about who is in which group (although you can shuffle it as many times as needed). I do this before showing the students their groups.

These simulations are very much like the Oregon Trail computer game we played as kids, or the choose-your-own-ending novels. I read a passage, the small groups make a joint decision, and they listen to the consequences. During the Explorer’s Simulation, for example, the small groups make a decision whether to take the deal offered by King Ferdinand or Isabella for a fleet, or try their luck with the King of Portugal, Manuel I. Other times, the students have to spin on spinner board (paper clip and pencil) to see what their consequences are.

For a few years, I was printing each student a “Simulation Packet” where the kids would keep track of their data and write their journal entries. Then I decided to create them on Google Docs and share on Google Classroom. The reading passages are posted in PDF form, and the students keep track of their journal electronically. While it takes a long time for us to sit and wait for entire groups to spin on the electronic spinner (also available on a Smart Notebook file), it actually builds excitement as the other groups root for, and cheer on, their classmates. As part of most simulations (not the Bill Becomes a Law one), students whose health dips below a five, actually ‘die’. I’ve had entire wagon companies in the Oregon Trail simulation perish before reaching Oregon.


These simulations are great for many reasons. One, they put the students into the shoes of an actual person of the time period. I can teach them about famous Revolutionary War heroes, but when they are making decisions as if they were a soldier, they are soaking in the history and making it relatable. Two, the simulations foster those 21st century skills like communication and collaboration. Three, the Oregon Trail simulation includes a lot of math– the students keep track of how much money they have with them and the pounds of food and supplies they can carry. Interdisciplinary lessons kill two birds with one stone.

I’ve learned that a lot of those old worksheets or printable packets teachers love to share can be converted quickly and easily into electronic files. I loved Simulation but always hated printing the huge packets (even front and they back they could be like 6-10 pages per kid). I’m saving trees and still using the content the kids love. I just started our first simulation (the Explorer’s one) and already had kids thanking me and telling me how much fun they were having. Learning doesn’t have to look like textbooks and worksheets, people!

Back-To-School, First Day, Flexible Seating, Inquiry-Based, Student Choice, Uncategorized

Reflections from Day 1, Year 8

I was very excited to start school this year. I have a new teaching partner, a new class theme, and 28 newly minted fourth graders. I wanted my first day of school to look different than previous years. I wanted to build excitement and focus on fostering individual relationships with the kids. While I have always greeted my students at the door every morning, I made an effort last year to have the biggest smile and greet each kid by name, and a positive comment. Even on my most exhausting mornings, by the time the ninth or tenth kid came in my room, I really was happier and that rubbed off on the kids (and me!). Fake it until you make it. 

While I have flexible seating, I chose to put name tags on the seats today. I have several students who are new to the school and I didn’t want them to feel isolated or left out. The first day in a new classroom is overwhelming as it is, so I wanted there to be as little distractions as possible.  It really does pain me for the first, maybe month, of school as students run down the hall to pick the “best” seat first or grab a table with only their besties. They just aren’t ready to handle that much freedom and choice after four years of assigned seating habits. I clinch my teeth, let them sort it out, intervene when necessary, and wait for it to pass. Around mid-September they start to realize they will get to sit in all their favorite places, and the novelty wears off.

I had a packet on each desk with some coloring pages, crossword puzzles, etc so there was something there to do when they finally settled on a seat. There were directions (dry erase markers on plastic picture frames…genius!) at each table and colored pencils available as well. The packet had one blue page with some personal questions about how they learn best and what they hope to get out of fourth grade. This was on colored paper and I collected it at the end of the day. (It also did double-duty as I modeled how I collect all my papers for the year…calling them in reverse alphabetical order).

I went over my expectations for flexible seating next. I described how I want the students to select a seat for the hour/day/subject and I have a student model how each seat would look when used appropriately  (and what it would look like when used inappropriately). Finally the students signed their “Flexible Seating Contract” and went to foreign language class. I like to follow my schedule as closely as possible even the first week of school. During my math period, we set up our math notebooks, during science, the same. It is my belief that students thrive with structure and routine. When they know what is expected of them (every morning after the bell rings, we do math…therefore they anticipate and have math notebooks ready) the easier it is for them and me.


In between setting up notebooks for each subject area, (this takes a while…gluing in an index page, writing our table of contents, numbering every page), I put some posters on each table. Each had a question or sentence starter. I got many of the ideas from the blog Making Good Humans which was posted on the Making the PYP Happen Facebook page. Even if you don’t teach at an IB school, this page is worth the “follow”. My questions were as follows, and students responded with markers:

What stops you from learning?
What helps you learn best?
What does it mean to be an inquirer?
What was the most fun day you had all summer?
Last year I….
This year I’m going to…
The answer is “Mrs. Biggs”. What could the question be?

The students rotated from table to table, adding their response until they had visited all six tables. This also was important because it showed the students we move around a lot in my class and it gave each student a chance to try each seat, even if just for a minute. Some of the responses were silly (Last year I… was in 3rd grade) but we discussed those and modeled new ones, which were much better (Last year I struggled in math; Last year I loved science because we did hands-on experiments), etc.


Some of my other first day go-to activities involve index cards. On one, I have the students write 3-5 questions down that they may have. It could be a question about my personal life, our classroom, or the year as a whole. Throughout the day, I read a few and answer them during transitions or if we have a few minutes to spare. This is a safe way to let students anonymously ask me anything. I obviously only read and answer the appropriate ones. On the second index cards, we play “Two Truths and a Lie”. I ask the students to write down two true things about themselves and one lie. I always read mine first and see if the kids can spot the lie. I also pull a few index cards throughout the day and have the class guess. By the end of the day, they are begging to me read a few more. I know this game gets old in the upper grades, but fourth graders have always loved it.
This has been a longer-than-expected post, but I had such a wonderful first day. I’m really looking forward to this year. What are some of your favorite first-day activities?