Every spring, our class orders Painted Lady caterpillars and watches them grow into beautiful butterflies. It’s an amazing provocation to get students wondering about caterpillars and butterflies! This curation of resources is designed to accompany a grade 2 butterfly inquiry unit.
For this curation, has I have gone through two selection processes: one for the individual resources and one for the curation as a unit.
Individual resources have been selected according to the ALA and BC ERAC recommendations. To make the suitability of each resource clear and succinct, I’ve taken these guidelines and created a three-star rating scale. The resources listed in the following pages also includes the rating for each of these categories:
The resource is not relevant to the curriculum goals for this inquiry.
The resource is only relevant to part of the curriculum goals for this inquiry.
The resource is mostly relevant to the curriculum goals for this inquiry.
The resource is fully relevant to the curriculum goals (content, skills, and/or big ideas) for this inquiry.
The resource does not encourage students to pose open-ended questions, think critically, develop unique interpretations, and connect to real life.
The resource somewhat encourages students to pose open-ended questions, think critically, develop unique interpretations, and/or connect to real life.
The resource encourages students to pose open-ended questions, think critically, develop unique interpretations, and/or connect to real life.
The resource fully encourages students to pose open-ended questions, think critically, develop unique interpretations, and connect to real life.
The resource content is not current, has inaccuracies and is not from a reliable source.
The resource content is not current, has minor inaccuracies and/or is not from a source known to be reliable.
The resource content is current, accurate and from a reliable source.
The resource content is current, accurate and from a reliable source. Content is Canadian or relevant to a Canadian context.
The resource is not accessible for diverse abilities and needs.
The resource is accessible for some diversity of abilities and needs.
The resource is accessible for diverse abilities and needs.
The resource is very accessible for diverse abilities and needs.
The resource contains inappropriate representations, perspectives, and/or stereotypes.
The resource only contains one representation or perspective.
The resource contains a representation or perspective different from the other resources in the collection.
The resources presents multiple representations and perspectives.
The visual design is not at all engaging and/or the physical design is not appropriate for the students.
The visual design could be more engaging or the physical design may be difficult for the students.
The visual design is interesting and engaging. The physical design is appropriate for the students.
The visual design is very interesting and engaging. The physical design is fully appropriate for the students.
Table 1: Selection Criteria for Individual Resources
Note: The idea for a rating scale comes from my classmate’s “Evaluation Criteria based on BC’s Proficiency Scales” (Chu). This is an adaptation of Chu’s evaluation rubric and contains some direct wording from her rubric.
For the curation as a whole, I also took into consideration two additional criteria:
Viewpoints: As Donham explains, collections should “provide multiple perspectives on complex issues” (p .5) so students can “analyze examples and conclude how they fit together” (p. 5). For this topic and age group, it would be appropriate to have resources from scientific, social responsibility (especially environmental), First Nations, and multi-cultural points of view.
Variety: The ALA recommends that a curated collection “include a variety of resources in physical and virtual formats” (ALA). I have organized this curation by resource type to show the variety of resources in this collection.
“I am who I am because of the books I read… We learn about ourselves, and we learn about others, and we learn about the world, all through words.” (Leggo, p. 44)
The texts I have read through my life have greatly influenced my perspectives on literacy as well as who I am as a person, a reader, and a writer. They provided me with the language and tools to tackle my life experiences, and opened my eyes to the experiences of others.
This post is a personal reflection a special set of texts – those that I feel have had the greatest influence on my literacy development.
I chose to explore discrepant events because I was surprised, given my background in science, that I hadn’t heard that term before. In this blog post, I want to share with you my discovery of discrepant events and their use in inquiry.
A discrepant event is an unexpected or surprising result, particularly in a scientific experiment. As the Science World website explains:
“Discrepant events can be a fun way to either introduce a new concept in science or test your students’ understanding. They are also powerful tools to develop inquiry skills.” (Science World, 2016)
So how are discrepant events used in inquiry? First, I needed to try the experiment myself.
Question 1a: What did you do and what were your conclusions?
I chose the Bernoulli Candle Experiment from the Science World Resources page. In this experiment, air is blown through a straw along one side of a candle flame to demonstrate the effect of air pressure on the movement and shape of the flame.
The following video shows my first experimentation with the candle. The experiment description said to “blow really hard” (Science World) and I wondered if I would blow too hard and extinguish the flame. At the very least, I expected it to dance or smoke, like candle flames do when you play with them.
Before you watch the video, think about what you expect to happen. How will the flame move? Will it change shape? What else will happen?
I read the experiment description before trying this so I knew the flame would bend towards the straw, but it was still surprising to watch it happen in real life! What the experiment description didn’t explain is what would happen in other situations. So I had to try changing the variables.
The next video shows me trying the same experiment, first with different speeds of air, then with two straws, then a larger straw, then finally with two candles. I also wanted to try a different size or shape of flame, but I only own one set of candles.
Before you watch the video, what do you think will happen? What would you try that I didn’t?
Ok, so now that I had performed the experiment, it was time to think about why this discrepant event happened. Blowing air with the straw creates an area of lower pressure. The flame moves toward the straw because, like all fluids, it travels from an area of higher pressure to an area of lower pressure. While the flame bending wasn’t what I expected at the beginning, it is exactly what science would predict to happen!
Question 1b: How is the activity that you undertook inquiry-based learning, or, how was inquiry-based learning incorporated?
With the experiment done, I still didn’t feel satisfied – I wanted to know if the Bernoulli effect had anything to do with how airplanes and helicopters fly. So I did some research, meaning the experiment led me to participate in a brief inquiry. I know this is inquiry because I engaged in:
creating my own significant question,
organizing and synthesizing information from multiple sources,
making connections to previous knowledge, and
sharing my results publicly. (Fontichiaro p. 49 and 51, Stripling p. 50)
I won’t go into the details of what I learned about the Bernoulli effect and flight because it’s not relevant to this post, except to say that it there is a connection. It’s much more complicated than what happened with the flame though (and not about a difference in air speed as many people think). If you want to learn more about flight or try different experiments that demonstrate the Bernoulli Principle, check out these links:
What I will say is that I was just as surprised at where this experiment led me as I was at the experiment itself. What a quick and simple experiment to demonstrate the power of discrepant events to begin a personal inquiry!
Question 1c: Discuss your “Invitation to Inquiry” experience. How could the school library learning commons be inserted into this kind of activity?
I attended a Pro-D session earlier this year where I learned about the use of provocations to prompt writing and inquiry. Provocations like this experiment can be used to “grab attention and engage learners” (Science World, 2016). While this engagement is an excellent way to motivate students, it doesn’t in and of itself cause inquiry. The teacher needs to prompt students to think deeper about what they are observing.
If I had been asked to come up with an inquiry question before performing the experiment, I probably would have only thought of a few ways to play with the flame, or may have looked up some experiments to do with the Bernoulli Principle and developed a simple question based on what I read. It was through the time I took to experiment with the candle, then think about what has happening overnight, that I developed the deeper questions that led me to flight.
“Adults get up from their seats, get a drink of water, chat with colleagues, work on a different project, and mull things over at the gym.” (Fontichiaro, p. 51).
Fontichiaro reminds us that people make sense of new ideas when given thinking time, not sitting in a noisy classroom (p. 51). The use of the experiment and the time afterwards I took to reflect gave me that time to observe, think, and begin to make sense of what I had seen. Once I had time to make sense of the experiment, I watched the video again and came up with much deeper questions. In short, it made me wonder! This cycle of asking questions, finding answers, and then those answers leading to asking more questions is imperative to inquiry (Wiggins).
In the classroom or the school library learning commons, I can see how this type of experiment would be used as a provocation or invitation to inquiry. Rather than telling students they will be doing an inquiry on a particular subject, I can use a provocation to lead students to naturally wonder about the topic. Letting students watch a demonstration and/or play with the materials, write down any observations or questions, then have some thinking time will lead to deeper and more significant inquiry questions.
When people want to find answers to their own questions, they are more motivated and engaged in the learning process. Learning becomes an exploration rather than work, and that’s certainly what happened with me in this assignment!
Question 2: List and comment on three personal learning objectives that you have for this course.
Learning Objective #1: Concrete ideas for setting up an inquiry project.
I feel that I have a good understanding of what inquiry is and how it enhances student learning, engagement, and motivation; however, I don’t really know how to set up an inquiry project on my own. My first learning objective is to find concrete ideas and examples of inquiry projects so I feel ready to try this in my classroom. This experience gave me some ideas for how to provoke students into developing deeper questions.
Learning Objective #2: Differentiating projects and assessment.
I teach a wide variety of students from K-4 and with a range of reading levels, abilities, cultures, and other factors. If I can develop broader projects that multiple grades (or even all students) can participate in, I will have more time to focus on my students and their learning process. My second learning objective is to learn how to differentiate inquiry projects and assessment in effective ways.
Learning Objective #3: Curating resources.
Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the number of resources available, especially when I start looking for resources at differentiated level and for multiple grades. I want to provide my students with the variety of resources they need to learn without making them feel as overwhelmed as I do. My third learning objective is to learn how to select and curate resources in a more efficient manner.
Fontichiaro, K. “What’s inquiry? Well, I know it when I see it.” School Library Monthly, 2015, 31(4): 49-51.
I planned this project to increase the support I am able to provide my online students in their homes. My plan was to significantly improve my classroom website to include information about research-based practices in the areas of literacy, numeracy, and social emotional learning.
I started with a very basic classroom website. Two weeks ago, my website only contained the following pages:
Field trip calendar
General information about the K-4 curriculum
The Final Project: Success!
My class website now has 14 new pages – that’s one new page per day during the course of this project! I’ve added a new page for our classroom expected learning behaviours rubric, 8 new pages for literacy (particularly reading) and 5 new pages for social emotional learning.
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” (Chinese Proverb)
I started this project with a plan for a handful of pages that would introduce parents to some basic topics of literacy, numeracy, and social emotional learning. However, as the project went on, my list of pages grew exponentially. It became overwhelming because I wanted to do everything but just wouldn’t have time to. For a couple days, I felt a little lost.
Then I remembered why I chose this project: I wanted to reach out to my students and families with the ‘just in time’ help they needed. I ended up writing down a list of all my ideas so I had them ready when I had time to address them, then I could focus on just the pages I thought would be the most relevant now. Luckily it was report card time, so I was running meetings with every family. I listened to their concerns, wrote down their questions, and prioritized the pages on my list.
The resulting project reflects the needs of my students and their families more than my original vision, and I’m so happy with the result. I didn’t end up including any numeracy or writing-related pages yet, but they are still on my list for later. What I do have is an artifact that will be immediately used beyond the scope of this course!
I came across a couple of technology ‘speed bumps’ along the way. Some have been resolved and some I’m still working on.
First, the organization of the website took a lot of effort, and I went through a few changes. I wanted to keep the pages short enough for parents to want to read, but not so short that I had an overwhelming number of individual pages to read. Pages also needed to be grouped under logical headings, again not too many and not too few. I think I’ve hit the balance, but will wait until I get some feedback to finalize this. Luckily, the organization isn’t difficult to fix.
Second, the page design ended up taking longer than I planned. I put way too much time into finding the right header image and laying out the pages in a visually appealing way. It was another balancing act to have enough text to inform the reader, images, and links to more information. However, I think the result was worth it – I now have a template/pattern to use that I believe is appealing enough to attract people and tempt them to keep reading.
Third, it took a lot of planning to figure out how the course Moodle page would interact with the website. I knew I needed to use Moodle because it allows me to post resources that have paid licences, but I didn’t want all the information on the Moodle page because parents must log in to access it (and it is not available to the public). I ended up creating resources on the Moodle page that match the headings on the website, then adding “Visit the _ section of our class Moodle page to find related resources” type of message to the bottom of each page.
Finally, I found making videos for the website to be harder than I imagined. I share my classroom with 2 other teachers and the classroom next door is quite loud – it was difficult to find a quiet time to film. That being said, I used either the webcam software (for just video) or Screencastify extension (for screen recordings) and both worked well. They were easy to use and I quickly got used to jotting down what I wanted to say so I didn’t have to re-record as much. I would like to add more videos in the future, including an introductory tour.
The Future Plan
I’m still excited about this project and I think my motivation will only increase as my families start using it. I’ve already had parents comment that they are looking forward to what it will offer them! This is just the beginning of a website that will continue to evolve, improve, and be updated for years to come! I still have that list of about 15 more pages, and I do plan to add another couple next week.
I haven’t emailed my students’ families about the website yet because I’d like some feedback first. Please take a look and let me know what you think. Is there anything that needs changing? Adding? Removing? Anything that’s too wordy or confusing? Share your two wishes and a star in the comments.
All references used are cited on the website itself. Any references not cited on my website are:
From my notes taken during professional development sessions hosted by the SD #73 district coordinators (I haven’t named them here because I haven’t had time to ask for their permission first).
Since a large part of my students’ education happens at home, I plan to increase the support I am able to provide those students in their homes by adding a number of new information pages to my classroom website. These pages will cover literacy, numeracy, and social emotional learning topics.
This week, I take a look at the learner/user considerations of my website development project. For each type of potential user, I discuss their needs, potential use, anticipated challenges, and the method through which I will share this project.
Primary Users: Parents and Adult Family Members
The primary users of this website will be parents and/or other adult family members of my students. After almost a year in my current position, I’ve noticed that many parents ask for direction about how to set up an effective learning environment and teach their children at home (because teaching is much different from parenting). The same questions, particularly about literacy and social emotional learning, come up time and time again. A lack of information for parents new to DL schooling often leads them to feel overwhelmed. This website will provide information to educate parents about pedagogy and introduce parents to common teaching practices.
Additionally, some parents are also learning with their children. They may not know the material or techniques they are teaching their children, so look for instructional texts or videos before working with their children. This happens particularly in math (especially with manipulatives and mental math techniques) and reading/writing strategies.
The biggest challenge I anticipate is making the pages both informative and understandable. I need the content to be educational, but not dense in terminology. To help with this, I will target the language and content on my web pages to a beginning level and provide links to other pages for further reading. However, just like in the classroom, I can also encourage participation by making the material as relevant and engaging as possible. Some ideas are to make this magazine-like, with fewer words and shorter paragraphs, bullet points, more images or links, and the use of headings and white space (Dawn, Connell). Creating a video tour will introduce parents to the navigation and content of the website, and keeping it up-to-date will make the content relevant (Connell).
Another challenge I anticipate revolves around sharing this information with parents. How will I encourage parents to visit the website, and how will I know if they are using it? I plan to share the website through email and in person contact (phone calls and meetings), prompting parents to visit the pages most applicable to their child at that time. It has been recommended that using a “call-to-action” will give parents a reason to visit the website (Gonzalez). To do this, I am sending home the materials to make a retelling rope with their children, then directing them to a video on the website that will show them how to assemble it (I do also discuss the importance and application of retelling at the meeting and demonstrate with my retelling rope).
Finally, to address both challenges, I will also ask for regular feedback from parents at our regular meetings or possibly through a survey.
Secondary Users: Students and Siblings
Secondarily, I also anticipate that my students (or even their siblings) may use this website. Even though these students are working from home, it is still important for them to experience their teacher modelling new concepts, as part of the gradual release of responsibility. Parents and students can watch video tutorials together when learning new material.
For example, one of the literacy pages will contain a video about retelling ropes. I will introduce the concept and provide an example of using a retelling rope to get my students started with a concept new to our class.
The biggest challenge with this will be time. My top priority is filling the website with information for parents, then I will focus on student content. Therefore, there will not be a lot of content for students in the beginning; this is more of a long-range plan. However, I would eventually like to see more content for students as well as interaction between students to build a community feel. In essence, this may begin to feel a little like a flipped classroom, where students learn topics at home then participate in community activities to apply their learning (Bedrina).
Another challenge will be making this a safe place for students to explore information at their own developmental level. But how can I make one website appropriate for all 5 grades and a variety of learners? My focus on videos will help with this because most students are much more fluent in oral language than written so I don’t need to worry as much about struggling or pre-readers. I can also create a student specific page with kid-friendly icons.
Bonus Users: Colleagues and the General Public
Finally, this website is open to the public so I expect colleagues and other community members to eventually find this website. While I am not specifically planning for this user base, I would be happy if it helped people beyond the walls of our class.
In particular, I’m thinking about my other colleagues in the elementary division of my school. Since I am the longest service teacher, other teachers have been coming to me with questions too. Hopefully my website will help spread what I am learning through my professional development, inform colleagues about the particular needs of DL families, and provide them with resources they can share with their families too.
After a week to think about and begin the project, I now have answers to some of the questions and considerations from last week.
So far, I have created a page for each topic, organized under three main headings for ease of use: literacy, numeracy, and social emotional learning (though I expect the numeracy page to be left until later because it is outside the scope of this project). I have also created a standard template so there is consistency in the look and use of each page.
The social emotional pages are complete and I am waiting for a meeting with my LART on Monday to go over the content. At that point, they will be released live on my class website for parents to access right away. The literacy pages will follow this week (writing) and next week (reading).
Is there anything you would like to see on a website like this? Is there anything you feel, as a parent, would help you better support your child’s education? Are there any considerations I’ve forgotten? Let me know in the comments below!
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