How to ask better questions

“Most questions are safe, that is they surface what is already seen or understood, they lead to regurgitated ideas and opinions. In other words, most questions people ask really surface what is already known. Top performers however, they ask questions that go deep. They ask questions that move us from automatic, reactionary thinking to deep thinking, they ask questions that inspire creativity, fuel passion and lead to profound ideas. Most importantly they ask questions that spur people into action.” Mike Vaughan, 2015

The success of a good answer relies on the words we choose. For example, when confronted with a challenge consider two ways you might look at the problem, 1. What should we do? (narrowing possibilities) or 2. What could we do? (widening possibilities). Mike Vaughan, 2015

Do the majority of questions we ask in the classroom fall into the safe category? That is, questions we know the answer to, with a high chance that some or all students will also know the answer. It isn’t that we shouldn’t ask safe questions, they are important and provide us with an insight into the level of knowledge students have. However, if these are the only types of questions we ask are we doing a disservice to our students?

  • How will they learn to apply their knowledge to complex problems?
  • How will they use their knowledge to critically evaluate?
  • How will they use their knowledge to create?
  • How will they know it is ok to ask a question, which they do not know the answer to?

Smartphones out when school is in?

When there’s a discussion about smartphones in schools people generally fall into one of two groups. One, you think the benefits outweigh the negatives and you are happy for students to use phones at school and access them when required for learning, or two, you think they get in the way of learning and distract students constantly throughout the day.

Read how one school has banned their use and how the Speaker of the Upper House and former teacher Shelley Hancock is proposing a national ban in schools for smartphone devices.

“Since late 2016 Willoughby Girls has imposed restrictions on smartphone use. From the time students walk in the gate they are expected to switch off their phones and put them in their pockets, where they must be left until they walk out the gates at the end of classes.” Sydney Morning Herald, 17 March, 2018

To read the full article click on the link below.

Smartphones out when school is in

The wheels are falling off technology in schools: Microsoft

This article is written by Microsoft who supply laptops to schools so I will take it with a grain of salt that they don’t see the value of mobile phones in the classroom but I will say it does reflect my experience. I see little use in my HPE classroom for student mobile phones when we have access to school iPads and 1:1 laptops. My general experience is that across the school day phones distract considerably more than they influence learning.

Mental Health, Screen Time, Social Media & Parent Concerns

We seem to blame screen time for everything – is there some truth in the following article or are we making tentative connections at best? As the article states “the research isn’t completely definitive”.

Formative Assessment and Feedback

Quality formative assessment allows us to give quality feedback.

Thank you to Emily King (Northern Yorke Partnerships SLLIP coordinator) for speaking with us about feedback in week 4. It was a timely reminder that feedback, when done well, can have a significant impact on students learning. The majority of teachers at PBAS are familiar with Dylan Wiliam’s work attending his workshop in Port Pirie February 2014. At the time I wrote a post summarising his presentation. Click here to have a read. It was at this time we decided to focus on Formative Assessment as a focus for two years (2014/2015).

I remember how enthused teachers were after Dylan Wiliam’s workshop. This was evident in the 45 PBAS teacher comments attached to the post form February 2014. Click here to read through the comments or if you prefer read the following snippets:

Justin Brook (2014) – “Dylan William is an inspiration. We can’t ignore this I believe in the next 2 years we need to be addressing and implementing change and developing practice in all 5 areas.”

Valmai Skelton (2014)“I like the way he clarified that it’s best to do one at a time so that it naturally becomes a part of your pedagogy. I have marked my notes so that I know which ones fit my class. I have also put a little sticky note in my programme to remind me to clearly let the children know the learning intention.

Aaron Ward (2014) – “…would make a profound change to student outcomes if as a whole site we embedded it and made it part of a culture change.

Jackie McLoughlin (2014) – “It was great day, one where I left feeling motivated and eager to make some changes and I have started already.

Angela Ingram (2014) – “Having previously attended sessions run by Guy Claxton I found this to be a great follow up to our previous work. Learning some new techniques to use in the classroom that can be used with any age level was excellent. I found Dylan to be an enthralling speaker and the way he modelled his techniques throughout the day was brilliant.

Paul Townsend (2014) – “My first goal was to use the “no hands up” concept at the start of ALL discussions. This instantly dragged in each student into the discussions. Not accepting a “don’t know” or stunned silence and then moving on was hard not to do but reaped results. I heard from students in my class that up until Thursday had been “silent” learners. I do still allow “hands up” to satisfy the desperate to share students in my class but after the discussion has gone on a bit. My next target is to make a class set of A,B,C,D (and E) cards to use for instant feedback for some whiteboard exercises.”

Tanya Hacket (2014) – “It is unlikely that I will go to another training and development conference this year which would be as motivating and inspiring. I am going to try the paddle pop sticks to encourage everyone to listen and participate and will also not accept a “I don’t know” – how to respond to that statement was one of the best parts for me – so logical, but I wouldn’t have thought of it – I have said, ‘Alright I will come back to you”, but never “Okay which response do you think is appropriate”.

Tanya Hacket (2014) – “Wow, it is amazing how that one day has inspired so many to endeavour to embed formative assessment into their daily routines. I have loved reading about what everyone has tried and the reaction of students.

Kelly Heading (2014) – “I was a little skeptical of Dylan’s suggestion to write a statement on the board rather than a question but was absolutely astounded at the reaction in my class. I ended up sitting back for a few minutes listening to them all chatter away about what I had written on the board. I asked them to prove me right or wrong and had an almost evenly divided class. They either believed I was wrong and confidently backed up why (I had deliberately written a false statement) or believed I was right “because Miss Heading wrote it”. We have a few things to work on here!

Allan Cadd (2014) – “…the aspect I have tried was the pass out card. At the end of a science lesson I asked to students to write the answer to a question relating to what I had been going through on the board during the lesson. The answer took about a minute and the students then handed in the piece of paper with their name on it to me as they left. In less than 2 minutes I had sorted out into two piles those that had the correct answer and those that had it wrong. I then binned the responses, which was strange, but kind of satisfying as they had served their purpose.” …there was only one student in the class that was able to answer the question correctly, suggesting that my explanation was not thorough enough and that the students were not at a stage to work on these questions independently.”

Allan Cadd (2014) – “I am sitting here on sunday night after spending 5 minutes going through my first attempt of using exit tickets with my year 9/10 maths class. Quite frankly I would have to say that this is a revelation. The students who I knew would struggle as they often ask for help in the class due to having difficulties did struggle, but the other students with the exception of NONE also struggled, many who have said that they are doing well, generally answer questions in class discussions and are quite advanced through the set work.

Roger Nottage (2014) – “It’s been great to read and reflect on the comments you have all made. I enjoyed the big picture messages gleaned from the day as well as the in classroom techniques. Personally I have a Year 8 Maths class in 2014. Loving it! I trialled an exit card on Thursday 6/2 and then used the data to form 3 groups, two explicit teaching moments (different concepts targeted) and one extension group. Yesterday I used thumbs up & down to get small groups to indicate their opinion about the accuracy of some problems a student had done on the whiteboard.

It would be an interesting reflection process to see if what was developed during these two years is actually still being used in our day to day practice. How many of us have applied and maintained techniques like no hands up, exit tickets, mini whiteboards, corners, think pair share, two stars and a wish, carousel brainstorming, jigsaw, ABCD cards and basketball discussions? It is these formative assessment strategies that if implemented effectively give us the important information to provide quality feedback to our students about how they are going and where they can go next to improve.

Those that were not part of the Dylan Wiliam training can click here to access a range of resources on formative assessment.

Comments welcome.

STEM Project – Make your own speakers

Exploring sound in science with your students?

  • How does sound travel?
  • How do different materials absorb sound?
  • How can we amplify sound?

After teaching students about sound and how it works set students the challenge of amplifying your phone. Have students work in groups with each group presenting their ‘speaker’ to the class using your phone as the audio source.

  • What materials worked best?
  • What shapes worked best?
  • What size works best?
  • What other things need to be considered to improve amplification?

 

Click here to access a lesson and resources on sound vibrations.

What is an authentic STEM project? Would creating a phone speaker satisfy the following criteria?

Green Screen Project

Jackie and Madeline have been working with the Year 3/4 class to create green screen videos using the Do Ink app. This is a simple and easy way to add interest and enhance a student’s presentation.

An extension of this activity could be the following as shared by @bhopteacher on Twitter. The student in the video has created their own African jungle diorama which has become the background for a presentation about owls.

 

Who is Rube Goldberg?

Rube Goldberg was born in 1883. In 1904 he graduated Berkley College as an engineer which eventually gave way to him becoming a sports cartoonist for the San Francisco Chronicle. He continued as an editorial cartoonist for the New York Sun and his fame came from a fictional character he created, Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts. Through this character he would illustrate complex inventions later to become known as Rube Goldberg machines.

A “Rube Goldberg Machine” is an extremely complicated device that executes a very simple task in a complex, indirect way. rube-goldberg.com

 

Rube Goldberg in your classroom

How could you use the concept of a Rube Goldberg machine to create a STEM project if a STEM project is defined as the following?

Diagram provided by STEM 500 Primary Educators 

Examples of Rube Goldberg Machines

Click here for an example STEM lesson building a Rube Goldberg machine (NSW Education Standards Authority).

Like to see more Rube Goldberg machines? Just click here!

Green Screen by Do Ink

Green Screen by Do Ink makes it easy to create incredible green screen videos and photos. Classroom-tested by kids and teachers, this app emphasizes ease-of-use and simplicity while still enabling fantastic results. With Green Screen by Do Ink, you can tell a story, explain an idea, and express yourself in truly creative and unique ways. DK Pictures, Inc

“Use Green Screen as part of a project based learning unit…highly recommended..” – Teachers With Apps

“Green Screening and creativity go hand-in-hand.. with the amazing DoInk Green Screen app for the iPad.” – UKedChat

“Recording in it is easy as pie and can be used in elementary, middle or high school.” – Examiner.com

“Do Ink’s excellent Green Screen app is a fantastic addition to the amateur film maker’s armory.” – iPad Insight

“Single best green screen app ever produced…” – iPadEducators

This app is on all of our classroom iPads and combined with the green screen and lighting kit in the STEM centre provides an opportunity for students to create some great videos.

Introduction to Green Screen by Do Ink

 How to use Green Screen by Do Ink

3D Printing @ PBAS

In term one the Year 3/4 class studied the book and film Mr Popper’s Penguins. Students then created a board game that required the use of events that occurred in the book.

As part of their board game design students had to use Makers Empire to design two playing pieces based on Mr. Popper and a penguin. These pieces were then 3D printed for use with the game.

This is the first whole class use of our new 3D printers and Jackie and her class have done a great job.