Photo by Max van den Oetelaar on Unsplash

So life has thrown me a bit of a curveball in the past month, so while I am hoping to be able to complete Course 5, I might need to wait and see what the next few weeks bring. I’ve given some thought to possibilities for Course 5, and this is what I’ve come up with. 

Throughout my descriptions you will notice that often I use “we” to describe what I would like to do. This is because I work very closely with a team of teachers. What I decide to take on for my final project will need to be agreed upon by the collaborative team that I work with. (You can read more about how we work together here, here, and here.) 

Idea 1: PYP Exhibition

The first idea that came to my mind was our PYP Exhibition (PYPx). The PYP Exhibition is the culminating experience for students in their final year of the International Baccalaureate’s Primary Years Programme. According to the IB, “the exhibition is an authentic process for students to explore, document and share their understanding of an issue or opportunity of personal significance. All exhibitions are student-initiated, designed and collaborative.”

This year will be my fourth year teaching Grade 5 at my current school. Over this time, we have structured the exhibition a few different ways. Last year, our central idea was “We can use our passion for a purpose.” Students were incredibly engaged, as they had full ownership over their learning. Upon reflection, there were a few things however that we felt could be improved. 

One area we felt we needed improvement on was helping students to connect with others to support their learning. We would like students to be able to reach out to experts not just within our community, but in the wider world. I believe that thanks to COETAIL, some of the tools I have been exposed to and my growing PLN will be able to support this. 

Another area in which we are always looking to improve is ensuring students are respecting intellectual property rights. Since exploring this in Course 2, this is an ongoing discussion within my team, however, we never seem to make it a priority. This unit would be a great opportunity to do so. 

Lastly, for deep learning to occur, it is important that we engage with students in the learning process. We would like to provide students more opportunities to collect feedback from their peers and the greater community throughout their exhibition. We also want students to be able to share their expertise with other students, and take on the role of teacher in some ways. For example, when using different technologies, there may be students who can run workshops to share these skills with other students. 

Based on the proposed additions above, these are the ISTE Standards to focus on in this unit:

2 – Digital Citizen – Students recognize the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of living, learning and working in an interconnected digital world, and they act and model in ways that are safe, legal and ethical.

  • 2c – Students demonstrate an understanding of and respect for the rights and obligations of using and sharing intellectual property.

7 – Global Collaborator – Students use digital tools to broaden their perspectives and enrich their learning by collaborating with others and working effectively in teams locally and globally.

  • 7a – Students use digital tools to connect with learners from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, engaging with them in ways that broaden mutual understanding and learning.
  • 7b – Students use collaborative technologies to work with others, including peers, experts or community members, to examine issues and problems from multiple viewpoints.
  • 7c – Students contribute constructively to project teams, assuming various roles and responsibilities to work effectively toward a common goal.
  • 7d – Students explore local and global issues and use collaborative technologies to work with others to investigate solutions.

Students will also need to use and further develop these Approaches to Learning:

  • Self-Management Skills
  • Research Skills
  • Communication Skills

While this would be a great unit to consider redesigning, it is a huge beast to tackle. From start to finish, the entire exhibition runs for 8 weeks (10 if you include the two week holiday in there). While that seems like a lot of time to work with, it always flies by. It is also a unit that really requires the whole team to be on the same page and on board with all the changes to ensure it runs smoothly. I am worried that this might be a lot to ask before the start of this unit at the beginning of March. 

Also, this unit is typically very student driven. We may provide workshops throughout based on the needs of the group, but in the past this has been very responsive. To ensure all these changes, we will need to be a bit more deliberate with some of the teaching we do. 

Idea 2: End of Year Math Unit

Photo by Dawid Małecki on Unsplash

I feel like this is probably an issue everywhere, but for the past few years, we get to the end of the year, and realize that we haven’t covered a lot of the math concepts and skills we were hoping to get to. Unfortunately it always seems to be the measurement and geometry units that get left out. After mapping out math for the rest of the year, it is clear that this is going to happen again. 

Because of this, we have tried (unsuccessfully) in the past to create some self-directed units for students to work through for the last few weeks of school. They choose the topic they would like to focus on, and then use a variety of resources (print and online) to support their learning and complete a set task at the end to demonstrate their understanding. While in theory this sounds like a good idea, in practice it has never worked out as imagined. 

So, my second idea is to redesign this math unit for the end of the year. While none of my ideas are set in stone yet, my thought would be to completely rethink how we set up the learning for this time. 

These are the units that we never get to along with the big understandings for each:

Volume:

  • Understand the definition of volume of a solid. 
  • Compare the sizes of solids using volume.
  • Identify the features of a cube. 
  • Understand how to find the surface area of a 3D shape. 
  • Express and compare the  volumes of solids using cubic units. 

Angles:

  • Use a protractor and compass accurately. 
  • The sum of angles on a straight line is 180 degrees.
  • The sum of angles at a point is 360 degrees. 
  • Vertically opposite angles are equal. 
  • Identify and describe angle properties and use them to find unknown angles.   
  • The sum of the angles in a triangle is 180 degrees. 

Quadrilaterals:

  • Understand what the difference between a parallelogram and a trapezium are.
  • Recognise and describe the properties of quadrilaterals: sides, angles, etc. 
  • Use properties of quadrilaterals, triangles, and straight lines to find unknown angles in figures.
  • Draw four-sided figures using a ruler, protractor, and set square. 

I would like to work with my team to create larger design projects for students to engage in that would cover some of these big ideas. The hope for these would be that students engage in a design thinking process (utilize some of the resources that were shared during Course 4) and gain some specific understanding of these mathematical concepts in real world situations. 

Based on the above proposals, these are the ISTE Standards to focus on in this unit:

3 – Knowledge Constructor – Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.

  • 3a – Students plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources for their intellectual or creative pursuits.
  • 3c – Students curate information from digital resources using a variety of tools and methods to create collections of artifacts that demonstrate meaningful connections or conclusions.
  • 3d – Students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions.

4 – Innovative Designer – Students use a variety of technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems by creating new, useful or imaginative solutions.

  • 4a – Students know and use a deliberate design process for generating ideas, testing theories, creating innovative artifacts or solving authentic problems.
  • 4b – Students select and use digital tools to plan and manage a design process that considers design constraints and calculated risks.
  • 4c – Students develop, test and refine prototypes as part of a cyclical design process.
  • 4d – Students exhibit a tolerance for ambiguity, perseverance and the capacity to work with open-ended problems.

Students will also need to use and further develop these Approaches to Learning:

  • Self-Management Skills
  • Research Skills
  • Thinking Skills

Redesigning this unit, in order to create a valuable experience for students, will take a lot of work! I will need the help of my team to develop some authentic and engaging design tasks for students to engage in. 

I am also concerned because this is a unit that always occurs at the end of the year. There is so much going on to finish up the year that it is likely for this unit to get pushed to the back burner. We will need to be very deliberate in our planning to ensure that students have enough time to work through the task and find success.