My sixth graders and I recently began our student-driven inquiry and project-based learning on human rights. This is my second year to use project-based learning into my classroom, and I hope everything I learned from last year’s Dive Into PBL will merge with my growing expertise at making thinking visible to help my students better explore and understand the topic.
I have several drafts about our learning and the second iteration of this inquiry in my queue, but I’m not ready to share them yet. I need a few more days to reflect and write before publishing. Never fear though, friends, I have a goal of returning to reflect, write, and share on a regular schedule again soon. So…
A Little Background Information
This week my school with The Martin Institute for Teaching Excellence and CASIE is hosting Project Zero Perspectives: How & Where Does Learning Thrive? As part of the conference, we invited educators to visit PDS during our regular school day to see how we have integrated ideas from Project Zero into our school. My students and I are in the middle of our research and inquiry, but we were expecting visitors to stop by our class this morning.
Over the past few days we have used several thinking routines to help us design our learning and explore our chosen topics. Specifically, we’ve used question starts and question sorts to find our topics and write our driving questions. We used a modified version of think, puzzle, explore to decide on our knows and need to knows. Then, we began researching. We’re using Diigo to bookmark and annotate our resources, and we make our thinking visible about the resources by writing comments on them using the ladder of feedback. We also have specific roles for our annotating (PDF) thanks to my friend Bill Ferriter.
An Exciting Day
Today, my class spent time working on our personal understanding maps and sharing some of our previous thinking (wondering) on the class map. The boys then jumped into their research and annotating roles. We had a limited amount of time, but the boys worked hard and had a few minutes to share with the class and our visitors what they learned from their personal research today. The boys then went back to their individual maps to peel the fruit of their own understanding. They also shared new understandings on the class map. (See above.) During the few remaining minutes of the class we reflected on our learning with the compass points routine and shared those reflections. Near the end of our class time, Mrs. Susan Droke (my administrator) and Dr. Ron Ritchhart (PZ researcher and author of Making Thinking Visible) visited my class, and they were able to see a bit of what we are doing. I felt honored and humbled to have Ron in my room. I’m not sure I can fully explain how much his work has affected mine.
After class I raced across campus to enjoy lunch and conversation with our visitors (completely forgetting about my lunch-time duties). I also participated in a brief panel discussion with several of my PDS colleagues before racing back to my room just before my next class arrived. I had given up my prep time to interact with our guests, and I still had several things to do before the boys arrived. Fast on my heels, another of our administrators arrived to let me know that Dr. Ritchhart was on his way to spend the afternoon in my room. “Yikes! An unexpected class visitor!”
The afternoon was fine. The boys in the afternoon class did a good job, but our time allotment was different so I modified some elements on the fly. I also felt a little scrambled because I had not taken down the work from the morning class and I had to carve out time for a Valentine’s Day celebration. Nevertheless, it was an exciting and productive day of learning, and I really enjoyed the interaction I had with Ron about the thinking and learning in my room. I’m also a little starstruck. While Dr. Ritchhart may not be famous by Hollywood standards, in D218 at PDS he’d receive a star on our walk of fame. I was so excited about the visit that after texting my wife, I had to contact my friend and visible thinking/inquiry pal Edna Sackson just to share the news.
Seeing, Thinking, & Wondering About Today
- I saw Dr. Ritchhart observing everything happening in the room very closely.
- I saw him pull out his iPad and record my giving instructions and facilitating the learning.
- I observed Ron asking questions about Diigo and our annotating roles.
- I observed him taking notes, snapping pictures, and writing down observation as the class progressed.
- I noticed boys reading, researching, and tackling their selected roles.
- I saw boys needing redirection back to the assigned tasks.
- I watched two boys get frustrated with one another and my having to step in and referee.
- I saw boys making great progress in their understanding.
- I recognize some boys didn’t fully understand how to do their roles well.
- I think my room was more chaotic than it would have been had I had just a few minutes more notice.
- I think Ron is genuinely interested in our PBL and how I’m using PZ routines and protocols in designing of the learning.
- I’m gathering that PZ hasn’t focused much on technology integration.
- I think Ron showed interest in how and why I designed the learning space the way I did.
- I think he appreciates my efforts to have a student-centered class with student-driven learning.
- I think he appreciates my students’ thinking and questioning.
- I realize some of my students need better scaffolding or modeling.
- I wonder what he wrote in his notes and what he’d say if I asked him to do a ladder of feedback based on his visit.
- I wonder specifically what his suggestions would be.
- I’m curious if there will be opportunities for further interactions this week or in the future.
- I’m curious about his own experiences teaching with project-based learning and inquiry.
- I wonder if he noticed the freedom my students have to move.
- I wonder why he chose to re-visit my room of all the classrooms in my building.
- I wonder if he noticed how nervous I was. (I got over it.)
- I’m curious if he noticed how much I modified things on the fly.
- I wonder where this new connection could lead.
It was a full day. There is more to consider, but it’s late and I have several big days of learning ahead. Thank you, Edna, for the push to write about today. Hopefully, someone will find this post beneficial. I’ll do my best to get back on schedule soon. As always, I’d love to read your reaction and/or comments.