MORE Note-taking with Early Learners

Have you tried visual note-taking with your students yet?

We've been using visual notes to record our research for our current unit. This post is a follow-up to share how things are going; if you didn't read part 1, you can click HERE.

Guiding grade 1 students to take visual notes, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

To review, I shared that I planned the following steps to use in teaching visual note-taking with my students:
  1. Shared reading with strategy instruction
  2. Modeled visual note-taking
  3. Guided/collaborative reading and guided visual note-taking
  4. Independent reading and visual note-taking
In this post, I'll share step 3.

Guiding grade 1 students to take visual notes, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

At first, I envisioned working on visual notes with a small guided reading group, but I changed my plans due to time constraints. (I still want to try this. All year, students have been taking visual notes, but it's always been during whole group/discussion-based lessons.)

Instead, I read aloud to the students, which made for a really interesting process because they didn't have their own copy of the text! This was good for two reasons:
  1. they had to concentrate on listening and understanding the information
  2. they couldn't just copy what the author had written, they had to synthesize it!
I chose to read Nature's Patterns, Food Chains, written by Anita Ganeri, which is a book in a series from Heinemann; I really like them as nonfiction texts for Grade 1.

I started off by activating students' schema for food chains and/or food webs. Only a handful of students thought they might have an idea of what they could be... but then really struggled to explain it.

Guiding grade 1 students to take visual notes, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

I asked those students to draw a picture of what they guessed it meant, and the other studenst to draw a picture of "food" and a "chain" to get them going (and hopefully ready to make connections).

Guiding grade 1 students to take visual notes, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

Before I began to read, I explained that we would use our nonfiction check for understanding strategy, stopping to ask ourselves, "What topic am I reading about? What facts am I learning?"

I prompted my students to
1) listen
2) think
3) check for understanding by discussing
4) draw and note our thinking

Guiding grade 1 students to take visual notes, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

I partnered them up with a turn and talk buddy, but they didn't really discuss much with one another. They would either pause and listen or just start drawing, which is fine, of course. I think that this just shows that I don't give them enough opportunities to use turn and talk- I need to work on that because I believe that the partner talk may give them a chance to process information and deepen their understandings, so I want to give that another try at some point.

So, I read a page and then stopped and checked for understanding by discussing with students, who we spread out around the room sitting where they felt comfortable. I walk around the room and looked at their notes and asked them to share their thinking with me.

I love this student's page! Look at his thinking! WOW! He's drawing conclusions and asking questions. Great stuff!
Guiding grade 1 students to take visual notes, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

Guiding grade 1 students to take visual notes, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

After reading just a couple of pages (a bit of a slow process), I stopped to for a mid-point check in. I wanted to encourage my struggling spellers as well as summarize the main ideas we had read about, mostly dealing with the vocabulary related to an animal's diet.

Guiding grade 1 students to take visual notes, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

Guiding grade 1 students to take visual notes, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

We continued on for about 5-10 minutes. Students had been taking notes for about 20- 30 minutes so it was time to wrap it up! We read about 5 to 6 pages of the book, so if we needed to do more research I could plan for more note-taking sessions using the same text.

To close, we circled up and I invited students to share their notes if they wanted to; about half of them did. We talked about the similarities and differences in the notes they took. Here is a short video of all my friends who shared.

As you can see, I wanted to honor their thinking, promote a growth mindset and encourage open-mindedness. I try to reinforce with my students that their thinking is valuable simply because its theirs. I also want them to respect others' ideas.

I plan to keep scaffolding my students as they learn to take visual notes that help them to explore new ideas and information. My goal is to help them take more ownership of the process and get a better sense of works for them as individuals, so next steps involve taking visual notes independently. Stay tuned...

What do you think of visual note-taking?

Revealing the Central Idea

Do you post the central idea at the beginning of your Unit of Inquiry?

I used to do that. (No teacher shaming here!) It went right up on the wall with all the other PYP jargon: concepts, lines of inquiry, teacher questions, learner profile attributes and attitudes....

I guess I thought KG and grade 1 students needed that information upfront. I questioned their ability to think deeply and make connections. Were they developmentally ready to discover these conceptual ideas on their own?

Was it the administration, or my PYP coordinator, who wanted these things plastered on the wall?  It's common, but unspoken knowledge that your classroom should "look like an inquiry classroom" (and what does that look like, exactly???) if you are teaching at a PYP school. For teachers who are new to PYP and/or inquiry, this can be a source of anxiety. Of course, you want to measure up, but you probably just don't know how to do so as you are still learning yourself!

Or maybe it was me who needed it. Maybe I needed those PYP "training wheels" out in the open where I could see them to make sure I was "doing it right."

 As I continue to reflect on my teaching, I change practices that I feel will better serve my students, and so, I've come to realize that it's a much richer experience for young students to draw their own conclusions before I share the intended unit outcomes with them. Pretty obvious, but still, I had to get there on my own and in my own time. #learningisajourney

Regardless, I have developed the practice of revealing the central idea after students have had the chance to tune in and begin finding out. (This is nothing new, as many teachers already do this.) Logically, they then have a chance to develop their own ideas of what the unit is about and how it ties to the transdisciplinary theme.

We start off by asking students to share what they think the "big idea" of the unit is, the most important idea that we want them to remember when the unit is over. (We have discussed the concept of a "big idea" a lot over the course of the year, within each unit of inquiry, so students understand what I really mean).
Students predict the central idea of a unit of inquiry. Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

You can see our central idea, just waiting to be revealed!

I list their ideas on the white board and we have a discussion so that students can deepen their thinking. Many students may not be ready to access some of the concepts, but they definitely benefit from the rich discussion of their peers. I always prompt them to give me a little more explanation, "What makes you say that?"

Prior to this, I write the central idea on a large piece of chart paper in preparation for visual notetaking, and then I tie a bow around it to add a little dramatic flare! We are unwrapping a secret of sorts! Of course, the kids love this!

Here is a video of our latest reveal, complete with a drumroll!

Next, we "unpack" the central idea with visual notes (of course!) We discuss, draw and label what we think the central idea means both literally and conceptually. This has been very helpful for my EAL students for obvious reasons. While the central idea is generally written mostly in kid-friendly language, it is also certainly not "dumbed down", and therefore needs some discussion in order to expand students' vocabulary.

Students predict the central idea of a unit of inquiry. Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

This beginner EAL student is showing her understanding that deforestation is a major cause of animal endangerment.

Students predict the central idea of a unit of inquiry. Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

At my current school, students' portfolios are 3-ring binders. We divide them into sections according to the units of inquiry, so students create their visual notes on a divider page that I premake for them, already with the central idea writtten on it.

Students predict the central idea of a unit of inquiry. Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

Students predict the central idea of a unit of inquiry. Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

In waiting to post the central idea of our units, I feel that students are able to connect more deeply, personally and in a more meangingful and lasting way than if I share the central idea up front. I still post PYP components, which I admit, are mostly for my own benefit, to keep me focused in our pursuits.... and that's ok.

Students predict the central idea of a unit of inquiry. Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

I like to add labels about word structure (action, natural) to my anchor charts so students see spelling explained in context

In the end, you need to figure out what works best for your students and then for your own practice. That's the only way to know you are truly "doing it right".

Teaching Note-taking with Early Learners

Do you struggle with teaching your students how to take notes?  I have struggled with it for years. To be honest, I have had a love/hate relationship with research for a long time, but I've been trying new things... In this and future posts, I aim to record and reflect on what we're doing in our grade 1 class in hopes of helping students to develop their note-taking skills a meaningful way.

Why do students copy when they KNOW they shouldn't? Of course, they know. We TELL them. But they still copy.

I believe that students copy because they don't understand. Either they don't understand the material, or the don't understand the process, the WHY. They may also copy for fear of "doing it wrong" or making mistakes, especially in spelling.

So... I was thinking if I could better scaffold the process, a sort of "guided note-taking", then it would be fair to assume that they would improve their skills and grow into independent note-takers, right? 

I've also been thinking about how to simplify things. Am I making the process too hard? Am I forcing things, or complicating it?

Moving Forward

Let me back up a bit........ During our tuning in lesson for our Sharing the Planet unit, we created this chart to document the lesson. 

We discussed our observations. Students made and recorded theirs in their journals. I encouraged them to draw what they saw, and to add labels.

I have become a HUGE fan of visual note-taking (or sketchnoting.) Check out this excellent, brief video by Math Giraffe that explains the theory behind visual note taking. While she is a secondary teacher, the theory certainly still applies to learners of all ages.


So with Dual Coding Theory and visual note-taking on my mind, here's the process I've thought out in my head, and plan to try out in my classroom:
  1. Shared reading with strategy instruction
  2. Modeled visual note-taking
  3. Guided/collaborative reading and guided visual note-taking
  4. Independent reading and visual note-taking
(I've only gone through the first 2 steps so far.)

 Shared Reading with Strategy Instruction

For the past few weeks, we have been exploring nonfiction in both reading and writing workshop so students have been becoming familiar with text features.

We have a great series by Heineman in our school library. I used Animal Life Cycles (Nature's Patterns) by Anita Ganeri for shared reading.

For the strategy lesson, I introduced Check for Understanding for nonfiction text. I adapted the Two Sisters' strategy for fiction in the following way:

Here's a snapshot of my lesson for this strategy:

Check for Understanding (NONFICTION)
Students should be familiar with the differences between fiction and nonfiction. They are probably not reading much nonfiction independently yet, but they will encounter it in science/social studies. Content blocks are a great time to reinforce this reading strategy. I use the same hand cues to help students remember this strategy, but obviously the questions are different. Throughout the year, I alternate modeling this strategy with both fiction and nonfiction texts.
“You have learned that strong readers stop every now and then to think and check that they’re understanding the story they’re reading; that’s called “Check for Understanding”. You can also use this strategy when you read nonfiction. Here’s what I do: I still use my hands to remember the 2 questions I need to ask myself, but the questions are different: What TOPIC am I reading about? (Make a W by holding up 3 fingers with one hand) and What FACTS am I learning? (Make a W with your other hand). These questions help me focus on what the author is trying to communicate to me through this nonfiction book.” Model “Check for Understanding” with a read aloud, stopping every couple of pages to think aloud. After a few times, ask students to answer the “”topic” and “facts”. They will notice the topic doesn’t really change much, but the facts do- this sets the foundation for main idea and details.

Here is the link to my Reading Strategy Cards for the CAFE model of Reader's Workshop if you are interested in finding out more about how I teach other reading strategies.

Modeled Visual Note-Taking

As we read and checked for understanding, I modeled by drawing my visual notes. I explained which shapes I was drawing to enable the "I can't draw" students. I thought aloud and explained the labels I was writing. Many students copied a lot of what I drew. I expected that and feel that it's totally ok- they are learning and I'm intentionally providing a lot of support right now.

Notice the author's name (and portrait!) in the upper left. I like to refer to the author by name when I talk about the text because it personalizes the experience and helps students relate to the author who's a REAL person.

So, the NEXT day we practiced (guided instruction) again. This time we watched the Animal Classification video on BrainPOP Jr. It was great- I paused the video often to ask, "What topic/idea are we reading about?" and "What facts are we learning?"

Students began to record their own drawings and labels. I still modeled, but I could see that students were beginning to draw more of what resonated with them, than what I was putting on the white board.

Next Steps

Now I'd like to try to have students pair up as we continue our research and record their visual notes together while I confer with pairs. I'm really excited to see if what they are "finding out" through their research really stays with them!

Have you tried visual note-taking in your classroom? 

Tuning In to Sharing the Planet

Looking for provocation for your next unit of inquiry? Try using a "mystery box". Read on to see how we just started our Sharing the Planet unit!

Tuning In to Sharing the Planet, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

Ok, so I spoiled the surprise! Yes, there was a turtle, a real LIVE turtle, in our mystery box! Let me back up a bit....

The central idea of our unit is:
People's actions  produce change in the natural environment.  (I've higlighted concepts that we plan to unpack trhoughout the unit, starting with "natural environment").

Our lines of inquiry:
Change- The positive and negative impact on the environment as a result of human actions  
Causation- The reasons why some animals are endangered 
Responsibility- The responsibilities humans have for the environment

So, what makes up the natural environment? Living things. At the first grade level, we are considering humans, plants and animals. What is more fun and interesting to kids than animals? It was easy to incorporate that idea into our hyrbid Provocation/Tuning In experience. (Luckily, our grade 1 assistant keep a turtle tank in her office!)

This lesson was co-taught with my amazing friend and colleague, Connie. I was taking photos, so you'll see Connie in some of the pictures.

FIRST, we started with a simple game of questions. For our purposes, we called it "Guess My Animal."
  1. Students gather in a circle.
  2. One student thinks of an animal and sits in the center of the circle. (you will want them to whisper it in your ear first before starting the game!)
  3. Other students ask YES/NO questions to try to figure out which animal it is.
  4. Whoever guesses correctly then becomes the child sitting in the center.
Tuning In to Sharing the Planet, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom
Simple, right?  Yes, but it also scaffolds students' thinking from lower to higher levels. In the beginning, students struggle to ask YES/NO questions and they have to learn how to think their question through so that they are phrased correctly.

They also transition from asking simple to more complex question as they learn to consider an animal's various characteristics. From, "Is it big?" to "Can it breathe underwater?"

We played 4 rounds and the questions asked during each one was more thoughtful than the one before. Yes! We love that! At the end, we reflected as a group, and discussed how students' thinking changed. Connie and I were able to introduce the word, characteristic, in a meaningful way.

SECOND, we brought out the "mystery box"! Now that students were warmed up and thinking about animal characteristics, they were ready to quess what was in the box.

Tuning In to Sharing the Planet, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

  1. Connie presented the mystery box, explaining that there was something inside. Immediately, the students thought that it couldn't be real. "It's a plastic animal!"
  2. We had showed slides with guiding clues and asked students to make predictions. They recorded their predictions (pictures and words) on the chart paper.
  3. Finally, Connie revealed what was inside- the turtle, which they had correctly guessed!
Tuning In to Sharing the Planet, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom
What followed was simply aweome! Every child was totally entralled by that turtle! We explained that we could do what all inquirers and scientist do, OBSERVE. Mr. Wu Gui (oo gway; Mr. Turtle) crawled right across our chart!

Tuning In to Sharing the Planet, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

Students then recorded their observations in their (blank) unit journals and held the turtle if they wanted. 
They noticed how his neck would expand, his skin stretching... 
"Why is that happening?"
"Because he's breathing."
"How could you record that in your notes?"
Tuning In to Sharing the Planet, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom
This is one of many fabulous renderings of Mr. Turtle. The squiggly line is actually the basking rock from his tank!

We also had the opportunity to talk about treating caring for Mr. Wu Gui, and treating him with respect. We will also look to foster a sense of appreciation for the natural environment in students. (Learner profile attributes and attitudes. We will explore this more deeply throuout the unit.)

Tuning In to Sharing the Planet, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

Do you have ideas for using the "mystery box" in your classroom? Or possibly the questioning game? I would love to read your thoughts in the comments below!

How to Make Your UOI Planning Easier!

Do you ever feel frustrated when planning for a unit of inquiry? Sometimes it can feel a bit overwhelming- there's just so much to consider. Today I'm sharing something that worked really well for my team. I hope you find it helpful!

Planning Conceptual Understandings, Unit of Inquiry, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom
My PYP co-ordinator shared the book, Taking the Complexity Out of Concepts, with me last spring during a concept-based teaching workshop. It is an excellent resource and I highly recommend it!

Written by authors from the Innovative Global Education (IGE), the book shares loads of practical information for teachers trying to implement a conceptual curriculum.

The planning template (IGE Model for Formulating Conceptual Understandings) is SO HELPFUL as it guides your thinking through the planning process to ensure that you focus on the concepts that will drive the inquiry.

As you can see from the picture above, we used the template to plan our Who We Are unit. Referring to our Making the PYP Happen book and the PSPE scope and sequence along the way, we followed the steps from 1 to 5. Great discussion and professional collaboration. Everyone was engaged and contributing- a true planning session. Don't you just love it when a meeting is actually worth your time?! ;)

We later added causation as a key concept and developed the following central idea: A balanced lifestyle promotes growth and development. I'll be blogging soon about how our unit went, so stay tuned!

Here is a "cheat sheet" template if you'd like to use it. I hope it helps you in your planning!

Planning Conceptual Understandings, Unit of Inquiry, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom
What do you do to help organize and focus your planning efforts?

5 Simple Steps for Teaching Conflict Resolution to Early Learners

Do you have a problem with tattling in your classroom? How often do you find yourself stopping your teaching to address issues between students? Have you ever wondered how you could teach students to solve disagreements on their own?

The Peace Rug may be the answer.

Creating a Thoughtful Classroom, Conflict Resolution in 5 Easy Steps

I first learned about the Peace Rug from a school counselor. I didn't know at the time, but it is a Montessori practice - the idea if teaching children about peace lies at the heart of Montessori. I am not a trained Montessori teacher, so I'm sorry I can't go into this in depth, however, I am familiar with the positive aspects of this philosophy and think it's valuable to include in any classroom.

For PYP teachers, using the Peace Rug gives you an authentic context in which to discuss many concepts:
  • It is a way for students to "Take Action". When students recognize that they can apply real life skills to solve problems, that's a big deal! They realize they can DO something to affect change, even if it seems small.
  • It also reinforces the learner profile attributes, communicator, caring, reflective and thinker.
  • It promotes attitudes of empathy, cooperation, respect, independence tolerance and confidence.
  • You have real opportunities to teach students about perspective, reflection and responsibility, some of the key concepts.

The idea is really quite simple and you can start implementing the Peace Rug in your classroom in 5 basic steps.
  1. Plan a Peace Space
  2. Teach the Routine
  3. Model and Role Play the Routine
  4. Adjust as Needed
  5. Be Consistent and Commit

Plan a Peace Space

First of all, you need to dedicate an area of your classroom for peace so that students have a somewhat private area to discuss their issue. It can be a rug, a corner, a table, anything really. Many of you already do this; it may be called your "Take a Break" area where students go to calm down or get some alone time.

I purchased a small, inexpensive rug (you can see it in the photo below) because I'm limited on space in my classroom, and that worked just fine. I placed it near the sink, which is kind of in a corner, low-traffic area of my room. You don't have to spend a lot of money or go overboard with an extravagant plan to make this work. Simple is always just as effective.

Montessori philosophy values nature and the comfort of natural items- try to add something to enhance your peaceful corner- a plant, something made from natural material/organic objects, etc. I again decided to keep it simple, and instead of having a peace flower (as recommended by some blogs I read while reading up on peace corners) I used a peace rock. Just one I found outside.

If you think about it, kids love rocks, I think because of how they feel in their hands, the texture, the shape. I embellished the rock just a bit to make it special for our class by painting the word <PEACE> on it. The new peace rock has a role in the conflict resolution routine, so keep reading :)

Creating a Thoughtful Classroom, Conflict Resolution


Teach the Routine

Ok, so now you're ready to actually teach your students what to do. Set aside some time (about 20-30 minutes) to gather your students into a circle to discuss recent issues related to friendship problems, tattling or other social problems that have led them to come to you for resolution. Pose the question, "Are there other ways to solve our problems BESIDES going to the teacher?" You get the point here- you want to inquire into the issue, but still guide them towards the idea of students discussing and resolving their own problems...How do people solve problems? What works best? Great conversation here!

You may get some stories about home (Mom or Dad yells....) and that's natural if your students are being honest and are really engaged in the conversation. No worries, just briefly address and dismiss it. It's actually a good way to reinforce the idea that problems are normal, everyone has them. Why pretend that life is perfect? "Yes, we all have our bad days and nobody's perfect. Everyone feels disappointed or frustrated sometimes, even teachers and parents. Let's talk about what we can do to help ourselves when we have a problem.... (Moving right along,) ....."

Explain that the class will have a new peace area/rug to go to where you can solve problems by talking them through. "I will show you how it works...." Now you will go over the script. This is something I wrote by adapting ideas I've come across. It's not anything "official".

For student 2, I purposely avoided the language: "I'm sorry." What if they're not? Saying "sorry" is usually an empty, tokenistic practice. It really doesn't matter whether they are sorry or not; they need to stop the inappropriate behavior. I learned from a behavior modification teacher years ago that it's preferable for the child to take responsibility for the behavior by saying something like, "I was wrong to," or "I made a mistake when I,". Again, everyone makes mistakes. Everyone. (#growthmindset) :)

Here's a simple example below...

Student 1:

This student speaks first and holds the peace rock, which is like a microphone in a way. The other student should listen until the rock is passed to them. 

I don't like it when ...(students names offensive behavior).
"I don't like it when you tap/keep tapping me on the shoulder in line."
It makes me feel ...
"It makes me feel annoyed/bothered/angry."
Next time, please ... (student names a positive replacement behavior, i.e. what they want their peer to do instead.
"Next time, please keep your hands to yourself when we're in line." (NOT "Don't tap me on the shoulder." You want the student to name a replacement behavior, stated in a positive way so that the other students can repeat it back and hopefully get a better understanding of what to do better in the future. Making it explicitly clear will help avoid future issues.)

Student 1 passes the peace rock to student 2 so that they may reply. This signals that they are done talking.

Student 2:

I made a mistake when .....
"I made a mistake when I kept tapping you on the shoulder in line."
Next time, I will .......
"Next time, I will keep my hands to myself when we walk in line."

****Make sure you read on to step 4 because this script changes!
        Oh, what suspense! :)

Creating a Thoughtful Classroom, Conflict Resolution in 5 Easy Steps

The purpose of the script is to equip children with the language they need to express their feelings in a positive, helpful way. The structure helps them internalize what needs to happen- they need to express what's bothering them and offer a solution. Ultimately, students can and will just say what's on their minds and not repeat verbatim- that's great! Without this scaffold, they often don't know what to say, OR how to respond.

Finally, in the spirit of forgiveness and starting over, students need to pick a way to celebrate their new beginning on a positive note. They may choose to shake hands, high five or hug. You can fist bump, do a secret handshake, a little jig, whatever floats your boat- it really doesn't matter as long as it lightens the mood and brings closure to the chat.

Model and Role Play the Routine

I suggest you have another adult (co-teacher or assistant, even ask your counselor or principal!) to help you model what needs to be said at the peace rug. If that's not possible, ask one of your more mature, confident, verbal (you know who I mean) kids to help you and discuss what you will pretend to do before pulling your class together. Even kindergarten classes usually have a child that loves to pretend and role play, so you should be able to find a willing participant in your class.

Now, pick a scenario to model with your partner in front of the class, fishbowl style. Ideas include:
  • name calling
  • annoyances, making noises or touching
  • taking something/supplies without asking
  • refusing to allow someone to play
I'm sure you can think of a few more!

Role play comes in where you invite two students to act out what they would say at the peace rug. I had a really confident class this year, and some of my friends were ready to jump right in! If they couldn't think of a situation, I gave them one and they had a go. I would suggest coaching them through 2 or 3 role plays a day for the first week or so, so that students become familiar and comfortable with the routine. This can take place during morning meeting time, at the end of the day if you have a closing circle/reflection time, or whenever it's convenient to your schedule.

I explained that the "Peaceful Communicator" poster would be put up next to the peace rug to help them through their discussions. And so, the peace rug was born!

Adjust as Needed

The students were really interested in using the peace rug and did so immediately. In the beginning, I needed to help them along, still coaching them, but managed to do this quickly (usually right after a recess) and effectively, not taking more than say 5 minutes. After a couple weeks, students really began to use it on their own, "Can so-and-so and I go to the peace rug?" I was really pleased at how they learned the routine and didn't over-use it.

Then one day, two of my boys had a problem that they just couldn't solve. LONG story short, it boiled down to miscommunication; what they thought they heard, or how they perceived it, misinterpreted it, you get the idea. After talking with them, I called a class meeting and we discussed the concept of miscommunication and how sometimes what you hear is not actually what was really said. After bringing up examples of conversations with parents and friends, my students easily related to idea that people often misunderstand one another and it's unintentional.

So, we decided to adjust the routine and revise the Peaceful Communicator poster to include an additional note.... "I think this is a misunderstanding." Now, students can recognize that miscommunications occur and they can acknowledge them and move on. They can explain their intentions by saying, "I was tring to ...." or just move on to resolution.

You can expect to have conversations about acceptance- sometimes student 1 may not want to recognize student 2's intentions, but they must in order to, as I say to my kids, "move on with our lives." Again, this is wonderful, authentic real-life stuff! Remind student 1, will stewing about this misunderstanding erase it from happening in the first place? Will feeling upset and holding on to what happened help you? No, it won't. So what's the solution? Move on. And they do, once they understand. Kids may actually be better at this than adults!

Now, these kinds of misunderstandings are not that frequent, let's be honest. :) I suggest introducing the routine with the "simple" poster first, and then present the "misunderstanding" version once this has actually happened in your class. You may download both versions below by clicking on the image. I hope it helps you in your classroom or inspires you to design your own peace poster with your students!

This is the revised version, made with student input:

This is the simpler version:

Be Consistent and Commit

Once students are comfortable with the peace rug, commit to having discussions about it every once in a while to keep it fresh in their minds, and be consistent about requiring students to use it with independence. Unless it warrants an office referral, always refer students to the peace rug when they come to you with a tattle... "Sounds like you need to go to the peace rug!" Don't be tempted to direct the conversation; if need be, sit down with them and listen and only intervene if necessary. We want to empower these kids, not solve their problems for them.

What strategies have your tried to help students manage conflict?
How do you teach peace in your classroom?

Blogger Burnout


If you're a teacher, you probably know what I'm talking about! Mental exhaustion. Physical fatigue. Just being all kinds of tired... Can you relate?

Yup, that's why I haven't posted in over a year. My blogger brain was burned out and my inspiration as a teacher was drying up. Not that I didn't still LOVE teaching, but I was just.... stuck!

Why? Now that I look back, lots of reasons.

Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

>>> Losing my focus and comparing myself to other bloggers (never a good idea). Trying to blog about what I thought readers wanted instead of what I thought was important.

>>> Struggling with health issues that just literally made me feel bad, so I just didn't want to do a lot of things, including blogging.

>>> My inspirations were running low. I had been at the same (international) school for a while and I didn't realize I needed fresh eyes.

>>> Living outside the U.S. in a developing country started to take its toll on me.

If you're burned out, you probably need a break. Or a change. 

It's okay to take a step back. 

Or keep going and be patient with yourself until you realize exactly what you need.

Well, a lot has changed since I last posted. I moved to China for one thing!  And that obviously means I'm teaching at a new school. It's been an adventure, for sure, and there's been some bumps in the road, but as I look back, I realize it was just what I needed.

I've got a different perspective and some new interests, so I'm ready to start blogging again! I think there is a blog-face-lift on its way!

Creating a Thoughtful Classroom
As a blogger, you often wonder who actually reads what you write. You wonder if people are interested in what you're passionate about....

Well, I hope others can benefit from what I have to share, as well as contribute to a conversation about:

+ inquiry
+ the PYP (Primary Years Programme)
+ concept-based teaching
+ literacy (reading and writing workshop)
+ structured word inquiry (spelling in a meaningful way!)
+ mindfulness
+ and math, of course! I haven't forgotten about math!

What topics in teaching in learning interest you?

I'd love to read your comments!

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