Sunday, October 1, 2017

Are We Enabling Students to be Explorers of Deep Learning?

September ends with so much learning and discoveries. As we build our community focusing on trust, valuing voices, perspectives, compassion and ownership of learning.  The students are overcoming the emotion of judgments and gaining the emotion that their opinions matter and there is no right or wrong.  The focus has been in believing in each other and connecting together by trusting each other's learning.

In this post, I am reflecting on: How have we been shaping up the learning? How are students owning the process?  How are students focusing on a purpose for their learning? I will also be sharing a glimpse of some of the tasks that we have and continue to explore.

The video of the babies provoked compassion and collaboration discussions. The students developed the collaboration criteria and determined the importance of intrapersonal, interpersonal skills, attitudes, listening, communicating and valuing others' thinking.

The Grade 7 learners also began the creative design thinking process through different tasks. Some worked on designing a toy for children in refugee camps. The teams who are working on science began exploring the design thinking process by looking at an injured bird with a missing a leg.

After creating their own individual designs, the learners shared them. Each colleague then had to value a team member's design to come up with one inclusive team design based on all values. Throughout the process, students paused and reflected on their collaborative and communication skills. I am so proud of how they have progressed by taking risks and accepting the ideations and the iterations of their designs through collaboration, respect and team compassion. 

From designing to building knowledge and valuing everyone's thinking. The Gr 7 learners unpacked French writing skills as they co-constructed texts and analyzed the grammar. They collectively ideated the text, improved the grammar by taking risks and learning together. The learning was then consolidated with the whole class. 

A video sample from a team about their toy. The students are sharing the videos of their designs with elementary students for feedback about their toys. 

In science the students continue to explore the process of valuing thinking, sharing, knowledge building, risk-taking and the importance of ideation and iteration.

Students are agents of their learning when they take full ownership of the process and collaboratively explore and construct knowledge together. They question and connect to all background knowledge which lead to  acquiring skills such as; researching to confirm, the ability to analyze, synthesize and explain in order to collectively decide on their learning. 

On our walk to Beaver Pond, the students explored and assessed 3 ecosystems. They learned about the interdependence of the systems, both positive and negative human impacts. They tested the water, learned the history of imported plant species and the geography of the systems. They collaboratively documented about their trip and are still interpreting the data by using the Ladder of Inference (Rotman IThink). This week the learners will unpack their research through the Causal Model (Rotman IThink) of the living and non-living elements for a healthy ecosystem. 

Below is a copy of a student's documentation and consolidation with the team about what he has learned and confirmed. The richness is in the communication and thinking skills that the students explored during the collaboration of the documentation. I made a copy of the slides, unfortunately the feedback comments do not show. 

Documentation and analyzation were used to interpret the collected data that took many forms. Some on papers, some on whiteboards and some were able to communicate and type directly online.

The essence of the ownership of learning is reflecting. The students reflected about the process of collaboration and communication during learning tasks. They reflected about their actions on learning while determining anti-goals or unlearning in order to make room for more learning.  Students had very powerful reflections about the fear of communicating and collaborating.  The students need to believe in their voice, and have confidence in experiencing learning and owning it. They are learning that mistakes are important and not failure rather it is learning through risk taking. During collaboration and communication skills, it is important for the students to connect intrapersonal ( background knowledge) and interpersonal learning with others.

During Science discussions the students talk about the rewilding of the ecosystems in order to re-establish life back. I think the same needs to be introduced in the classroom, is to re-establish students ownership and love for learning.

  • Re-charging for learning and risk taking
  • Re-releasing students for thinking and confidence
  • Re-owning the process
  • Re-exploring by creating their learning than consuming
  • Re-connecting their background knowledge
  • Re-creating trust to innovate and learn through failure/mistakes

The students need to feel comfortable making mistakes together and rebuilding by collaborating and communicating with their peers without any fear and embarrassment.

As I continue this journey with my Grade 7 learners within the 50 minute blocks, I am learning the path by reflecting and learning from them. As I refocus by re-establishing thinking skills, ownership of learning, creativity, citizenship and character for learning. My ultimate purpose is to constantly change with my learners' needs. Focusing more on problem solving and interdisciplinary creativity.

How can we make the curriculum flexible? How can we make the learning from the curriculum deeper? How are students being creators and innovators than imitators? How are students learning by collaborating, communicating and creating? What learning tasks and opportunities am I creating for student to feel safe at making mistakes for learning?

How will students become agents of their own learning? Unpack the fixed mindset to start rebuilding and developing their confidence of risk-taking that their thinking matters and there is no judgment! Celebrating mistakes, allowing retakes and reflecting as the students and I believe that vulnerability is encouragement to be a class of risk takers.


  1. What an amazing start to the school year! I'm so impressed by how you are building community and trust among these young learners.

    We should all be asking questions like "What learning tasks and opportunities am I creating for student to feel safe at making mistakes for learning?"
    Wouldn't we be giving them such a great gift.

    1. Thanks Carol for your feedback. I still have so much more to discover with my learners. It is amazing to watch students confidence flourish and take risks during collaborative tasks.

  2. Always invigorating to read your posts focusing on the unlearning and re-learning of your students! I'm looking forward to following their journey this year! Bonne chance!

    1. Thanks Jennifer for your comment and reading the blog. I am looking forward to continue the journey learning with the students. I have lots of unlearning to do too!

  3. Very powerful: "Unpack the fixed mindset to start rebuilding and developing their confidence of risk-taking that their thinking matters and there is no judgment!" What all teachers should be focusing in Sept.

    1. Thanks Yolanta for reading and leaving a comment. It is exciting to witness students' mindset progressing on a daily basis.