One of the things I have focused on the most since the start of the year has been to connect with classroom teachers more regularly. This is especially true for some of the classes that I have that are more challenging to manage. In the PYP (Primary Years Program), we often talk about the importance of single subject teachers integrating with the units of inquiry happening in the classroom.
As the PYP promotes a holistic approach to education, focusing on the development of the whole child is a top priority. Therefore, integration allows students to make connections between different subject areas, fostering a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of concepts and ideas.
Although this is predominantly the case, I see that integration also allows single subject teachers to connect with classroom teachers on a 'needs basis', not just to integrate with the concepts and actual units of inquiry.
What I mean by this is that if a particular class is having difficulty managing themselves when attending their single subject classes, there is a perfect opportunity for a different kind of integration. In this blog post, I will share two different examples of what this can look like and the impact that this type of integration can have on student learning.
From the start of the year, I noticed that one of my grade 1 classes was having a lot of difficulty managing themselves in my PE lessons. As they are quite young, it is understandable that they are not used to routines and structures outside of their own homeroom class yet. Rather than enforce my own routines and structures, I leaned on the classroom teacher for support. These are the steps I followed to make that happen.
A) I attended morning meetings to observe how the classroom teacher was helping his students to understand beginning of the year expectations. This gave me specific insight into how he was trying to foster a sense of responsibility and respect within their classroom environment. What came up was that, as a community of learners, they were going to focus on the concept of ‘respect’. Added to this, was that he had already created a classroom visual to represent the word respect which you can see below.
B) As a followup to attending his morning meetings, I decided to print off the visual the classroom teacher was using, so that I could also use it in my PE lessons. I felt that I had the perfect opportunity to unpack what the word ‘respect’ means to give the students more of an understanding of what ‘respect’ looks like in action.
For a succession of lessons, we slowly unpacked the word respect focusing on one or two ideas each lesson. I used sticky notes to record their ideas. At the end of every lesson, as an exit assessment strategy, I had the class let me know how well they felt they showed respect. I used a green or yellow sticky dot and put it on the poster (green = well done, yellow= respect shown by improvements needed).
This small poster is always sent back to the homeroom class at the end of the PE lesson so that the teacher can see how well his students had done.
C) After a few weeks, the grade 1 students came up with 6 different ways that they can demonstrate respect. I then created a new visual using clip art images of the 6 ideas the students came up with. For the next few weeks, I will assess the class based on how they most showed respect (green dot) and one of the areas, as a class, they need to keep focusing on.
The classroom teacher has already unpacked this new visual with his students in morning meeting, so they will be ready to bring this visual to PE with them next lesson.
D) This will lead to students self-assessing themselves in a few weeks time. My plan is to give each student a ‘respect’ poster of their own with the aim being to self-assess themselves in regards to what they feel they are doing really well and what they might need to improve on (using their own green and yellow sticky dots. My goal is the help these young learners become more 'assessment capable'.
My findings so far:
I have found that this assessment strategy in general has had a very positive impact on classroom behavior. The students are taking ownership of their behavior and the support of the classroom teacher has been awesome. I think that the classroom teacher has also benefitted quite a bit from our integration as well as he also refers to the respect poster when problems arise in class.
From the start of the year, I found that one of the grade 5 classes was also having a lot of difficult managing themselves in PE. Using the same process that I did with grade 1, I attended a few morning meetings to see the types of conversation that were happening around respect and responsibility.
The grade 5 classroom teacher and I led a few discussions about student behavior in the single subjects in general, but more so in PE. The students acknowledged that they were not demonstrating very good behavior in PE and agreed to start off by making individual commitments that would help them be more focused and on task in PE. For example, 'I commit to better listening in class' or 'I commit to following the rules in games', etc.
I created a poster of their commitments and for the following 2-3 classes, I assessed each of them based on the commitment they had made using the number 1, 2 or 3 (1= not very good, 2= OK, 3= Very much on track with their commitment).
This seemed to work reasonably well, but the class, as a group, started to fall back on some negative behaviors which caused far too many distractions in the lesson.
After attending another morning meeting, I explained to the class that we needed to do a better job. Rather than me demand they show respect and focus in class, I leaned on the group, as a whole, to come up with their own behavior management plan. They had a discussion in small groups and shared with me their ideas which you can see in the poster below. I made a poster based on their ideas and shared this poster with the classroom teacher and the assistant principal who is in charge of behavior/well-being.
As you can see from the poster below, there are 4 steps in place before being sent to the assistant principal’s office. As the students are the ones who came up with this plan, I feel they will take more ownership of their behavior. The classroom teacher and I have communicated consistently during this time and are supporting each other and the students to the best of our ability. This is another example of a unique integration that falls outside of the unit of inquiry, but is very much focused on social and emotional learning.
My findings so far:
It is still early days using this poster, but giving students ownership and a strong voice in their own behavior management plan was a very effective step in putting them in charge. I hope it leads to more positive behaviors in class and also helps the classroom teacher have important discussion related to behavior as well.
I hope this blog post gives you some good ideas to use in your own teaching or within your school. Thanks for reading.
Finding out What Students Expect of their teachers
Often times at the beginning of the year, teachers want to be sure that all students know and understand the rules, routines and expectations that they want followed in class. This is completely understandable and absolutely necessary in order to create the order and organization needed to start the year off with a positive tone.
Even though it's important that teachers are clear and explicit about the rules, expectations and routines in their program, I feel it is also very important to allow students the same voice in communicating what it is they expect from their teachers.
Activated student voice in ways that encourage them to share what it is they most need from their teachers is a good way to build trust. It helps to provide a glimpse into what it is they need to feel a sense of belonging, trust and to know that they matter. I wrote a post this week about the process that I'm going through to find out what it is my students need from me, so I can best support them and their learning. You can access that post here if you want to read more about it.
In the blog post, I shared that I had the students use sticky notes at the end of their first class to answer the following question:
What is it you need from me to help you be better focused on your learning and feel more supported this year?
After collecting their sticky notes and going through them, the next step in this process was to make a visual that highlights the 6 expectations that my students have for me and share this poster with them to let them know I have listened. I am committing myself to trying my best to demonstrate these expectations as much as possible during the school year.
Below, you can see the poster I created that summarizes the expectations they have from me.
In a few months time, I will have a colleague from the school come in to randomly interview a number of students from across the grade levels. My colleague will show the randomly selected students the poster and ask them:
To what extent does Mr Andy make sure that there is fairness in PE?
(1= Not at all, 5= Always makes sure there is fairness)
To what extent do you feel Mr Andy cares about you and respects you?
(1= Not at all, 5= Demonstrates a lot of care and respect for me)
To what extent does Mr Andy clearly explain the rules and expectations in PE?
(1= Not clear at all, 5= Extremely clear)
How often does Mr Andy shout in an angry way in PE?
(1=Never, 5= Always)
To what extent does Mr Andy give you choices in your learning in PE?
To what extent does Mr Andy allow you to take breaks as needed?
These interviews will give me insight into how the students actually feel in my class based on what their expectations are of me. It's easy for me to assume that I'm being an impactful teacher who demonstrates care, respect, fairness and voice/choice in my lessons, but how will I really know? I see far too many teachers assume that their lessons are great rather than actually taking the time to know for certain the extent to which this is true.
Therefore, taking the time to understand what it is my students expect from me, making these things explicit to them through a visual and collecting student voice through feedback interviews will give me the data to show just how impactful my teaching is. Should any obvious areas come up during this process that I need to address, I'll be able to see what it is specifically I might be doing too much of or too little of during my lessons and address it accordingly. Doing so will show the students I care and that I've listened to their voices and the feedback offered.
How do you seek feedback with students about your teaching? How do you know what it is you are doing well and might need to do more of or less of to be more impactful? Would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks for reading.
How utilizing student voice leads to authentic assessment in PE
For the last decade or more, I have worked very hard to help students develop themselves into being 'assessment capable' learners who can take ownership of their learning in ways that are relevant to them. In all of the workshops, teacher training and coaching that I deliver, I focus heavily on sharing strategies that promote student voice as part of the process of assessment design.
Involving students in the process of co-constructing assessments promotes self-regulation and helps students to set realistic goals, monitor their own progress and to better understand where it is they need to focus their attention. Not only can they identify what they are doing well, but also prioritize what it is they may need to pay more attention to as they journey through each week of the units being taught.
There is a very specific process that I take students through when involving them in co-constructing success criteria related to important concepts and themes being taught in class. In this blog post, I will share what that process looks like in my own teaching and in the workshops I lead and coaching that I do with teachers.
Let's use the concept of 'responsibility' as a practical, hands-on example of what this process actually looks like. Each teacher has their own way of doing things of course which I deeply respect. However, what I am sharing in this blog post is what has worked for me in my own teaching space, but in addition to this, I've also seen it work very well in the programs of many of the teachers that I coach around the world.
Step #1: Always Begin with a Driving Question
As a unit begins, I like to focus on the most important concept being prioritized based on pre-unit teacher planning. This prioritized concept is called the conceptual lens of the unit. Most of the teaching and learning in the unit is viewed and unpacked through the lens of this concept.
Using the conceptual lens of "Responsibility' as an example, the unit begins with a driving question. I will usually ensure that I have written the driving question on a white board or piece of poster paper to front load this concept. I have my students think about this concept, what it means, and how it applies to them and their learning.
In this case the driving question was:
In what ways did I show responsibility as a member of my group today?
Once this question is introduced, the students are then engaged in physical activity the rest of the lesson. They are given reminders during the lesson to remember that they are focused on ways that they are showing responsibility while working with others and to be prepared to share their thoughts at the end of class.
THE EXIT TICKET STRATEGY
With 5 minutes to go in the lesson, I provide each student with a sticky note and have them chat to an 'elbow buddy' (a person beside them) to share their thoughts. I then have them write down, on the sticky note, their ideas about how they showed responsibility during that lesson. Once finished this, they simply place the sticky note on the whiteboard as they leave class.
The next lesson, the driving question stays the same, but the physical activities change in the lesson. As an exit ticket, they once again write down more ways they showed responsibility in the lesson. The white board fills up with ideas during the week.
The photo below shows week #1 of the process:
Step #2- Categorize Main ideas
At the end of week one, I look at all of the student responses on the white board and begin to create similar categories. I then find clip art images to represent these main categories of themes to support the English language learners in my class.
In the case of the driving question from step #1, the students came up with 8 different themes/ideas by the end of week 1. Going into week 2, I wrote the 8 themes on the whiteboard and included the clip art images. Week 2 of the unit was devoted to brainstorming even more ways they could show responsibility. Following the same process, at the end of each lesson that week, we had them, in small groups, have a quick chat about other ways they were showing responsibility (they were encouraged to share new ideas, not repeat any ideas similar to the 8 ways from the week before).
The students ultimately came up with 4 more ways they were showing responsibility. We now had a list of 12 ways that they were demonstrating responsibility as a member of their group. The photo below shows what the white board looked like in week 2. This process is completely owned and created by the students which, to me, makes it very authentic and meaningful.
Step #3: Creating a Class Visual
Once we had identified 12 different ways they were demonstrating responsibility as a member of their group, I created a class visual that I intended to use every lesson for the rest of the unit. In week three of the unit, I printed off a number of these posters and placed them on the walls of the gym. To start each lesson, I had my students do a walk and talk, sharing with their partner ways that they intended to show responsibility in PE that lesson.
We then got on with the lesson and at the end, they teamed back up with a partner to share how they had demonstrated responsibility in that class.
Added to this, I also shared the 'Responsibility' poster with their classroom teachers. Together with their students, the classroom teacher had their class vote on the top 3 ways, as a class, they wanted demonstrate responsibility in future lessons and in their own classroom.
The teacher reported back to me the results of the vote. I then created class specific posters for each class. The plan was to then have the students self-assess ways that they were showing responsibility using their own class poster. Although the poster showing 12 ways they can demonstrate responsibility was still up on the wall with each of the ways still being important, each class focused on the 3 that they had voted on which reinforced even more ownership individually but also as a collective group.
We used sticky dots for this end of class assessment. For the following 4 lessons, we had the students write their name on a sticky dot and place it on the one way they felt they most showed 'responsibility'.
However, the one key thing was that each lesson I used a different colored sticky dot, so I could observe longitudinally over 4 lessons, how they were self-assessing themselves. I took photos of these self-assessments and shared them back with the classroom teachers so they could also know how their students were doing with demonstrating responsibility in PE.
ONE KEY CONSIDERATION
If any student tried to place a sticky dot on a way that they felt they had shown responsibility, but in fact, based on my observations, they did not demonstrate responsibility in that way, I didn't allow them to put the dot on the poster. That was my timely feedback for them. In a positive, supportive tone, I let them know I felt they needed to better focus on showing responsibility the next lesson and then I would allow them to put the sticky on the assessment poster in the following lesson. In 90% of the cases, the students behavior improved the next lesson and they were able to put their sticky on the poster as a sign that they had in fact demonstrated responsibility.
See below what this process actually looked like in action:
In closing, I want to emphasize that I feel the most important part of assessment is to involve students as much as possible in the process of creating it. Of course, this is not always possible, but when it is, allow students lots of voice. It shows they matter and involves them not only in the unpacking of important concepts, but also gives them to autonomy to build their capacity to become more assessment capable. It allows them to point out what they feel they are doing well, set goals to improve certain areas, and promotes important dialogue with their peers about their learning and growth in class.
It also provides important data/evidence for the teacher to use when reporting which is the added bonus to developing a student-friendly, student-center assessment process.
Have questions or want to share your own process? Please comment in the space below. Thanks. Happy teaching.
Teaching is a tough job even on the best of days. Managing our classrooms and ensuring all students are engaged in meaningful learning can be mentally and emotionally taxing. As educators, we hear all the time how important building trust is and the positive impact that creating a safe environment has on our students and their well-being.
The vast majority of administrators and teachers know that building a positive learning environment deeply depends on the degree to which trust is prioritized as being a fundamental part of the classroom culture. When students know they are safe, they feel a sense of belonging and inclusion. When they feel they are valued and appreciated for the contributions they make, they are more than likely to better engage in their learning and stay intrinsically motived to do their best.
Knowing all of this, one of the main ways that I like to focus on building trust with students is to genuinely check in with them as much as possible. I accomplish this through the consistent use of the exit ticket strategy which helps to accomplish several things:
To start the year off, just like many educators out there, one of my main objectives is to truly get to know my students and how they feel about their learning. In the first week of school, one of the most important questions I can ask is:
What is it you need from me to help you be better focused on your learning and feel more supported this year?
Asking this exit ticket question was well worth the last 3-5 minutes of the first class of the year as it activated student voice immediately. I will categorize their results and let them know what my commitment will be to address what it was they shared with me.
See the photo below of student responses to the above question.
Here is a list of other types of exit ticket questions I use throughout the year:
How difficult was your learning today on a scale of 1-10? (10 being impossible, 1 being super easy)
If you were the teacher, what is one thing you would do differently next lesson?
What is one thing you want Mr Andy to do more of or less of to make your learning more fun and engaging?
Which emotion did you most experience today? What is one reason why you felt this way?
How much did you enjoy the lesson today on a scale of 1-10? (10 being absolutely loved it, 1 being it was the worst!)
Write down 2-3 things you learned in today’s class.
What is a question you have or questions you have about today’s learning?
How much support do you feel Mr Andy gave you today in your learning? (1= none, 10= I feel tremendously supported).
If you are a curriculum coordinator, instructional coach or a principal reading this post, how can you best support your teachers in developing a wider range of check in/assessment tools for students.
If you are a teacher, in what ways are you adding to your tool kit in regard to checking in with students socially/emotionally and expanding on the ways you assess their learning?
Thanks for reading. Please share this post with anyone who you feel will benefit from reading it.
A bit of background into my story here. Back in 2011, I started my PYP PE with Andy teaching and learning blog. At the time, I wanted to share some of the things that I was working on in the delivery of my IB Primary Years Physical Education Program.
At the time, I did not imagine the success that I would have with this blog and the amazing connections from around the world I would make as a result of sharing my work. My blog was voted #1 on social media in 2013 and in 2014 I was voted as being the #1 contributor worldwide in physical education. I devoted the next several years to building up this blog with the main aim being to share strategies related to assessment design, differentiation, unit and lesson planning and developing social and emotional learning.
I was extremely grateful for the support I received. This would end up sparking my career as an educational consultant. This journey led me to present my work in more than 50 countries around the world both face-to-face and virtually over the next 12 years. I presently still consult with several schools around the world, train and coach teachers and leaders, and present several different types of workshops.
Unfortunately, my domain PYPwithAndy.com was highjacked a few years ago. Not wanting to have to pay a large amount of money to get that domain back, I was able to flip my content over to andyvasily.com. If you are an old-time reader of my blog, you can access all of my old blog entries by checking out this link. You will see that many of the blogs over the past year have a focus on leadership, productivity, motivation and goal-setting, but if you go back a couple of years, all of my old content related to teaching and learning is still there.
I feel very passionate about the work I have done in the field of education over the past 8 years. This path initially led me out of teaching and into the role of a pedagogical coordinator/instructional coach. As well, this journey also led me to coaching leaders in the field of education and beyond. Although I still do this work, I'm back to a full-time teaching role in physical education which has been great. As workshop leader, teacher trainer and instructional coach, getting the opportunity to teach again was very important to keep me in the trenches of daily teaching and to understand the current complexities and challenges that teachers face. Through this lens, I have been able to develop new skills, ideas, and strategies that I am challenging myself to put into action and it is my intention to share these things on this new blog.
As of today, I will be posting all future teaching and learning entries specifically on this new page. I am hoping to connect again with as many of my past readers as possible and attract new readers to this educational blog. Please share this blog with anyone who you feel will benefit from reading it. Thank you very much.
Yours in education,