Tuesday, April 7, 2015

"Did You Know?": An Engagement Strategy

In a Primary Years Programme (PYP), teachers are committed to structured, purposeful inquiry (construction of understanding) that engages students actively in their own learning (Making the PYP Happen, p. 29). Sometimes though, particularly at the onset of a unit of inquiry, we need to help learners build a lot of background knowledge on an unfamiliar topic in a little amount of time. In cases such as these, how do teachers disseminate a lot of facts in an engaging way?

Recently, at an IB PYP workshop, I learned an engaging way to do this, that gets all learners cognitively engaged by getting them to talk, think, and interact with materials. The strategy that Mary Kay Deese and Janet Stading taught me is called "Did You Know?" and I recently used it with our G5 students as a way to introduce them to the PYP Exhibition.

Start with a concept

I wanted students to understand that the PYP Exhibition represents a significant event in the life of a PYP school and student.

I wanted them to further understand that during Exhibition, students are required to engage in a collaborative, transdisciplinary inquiry process that involves them in identifying, investigating and offering solutions to real-life issues or problems," (p. 1, Exhibition Guidelines).

Create an opportunity for students to explore that big idea

To inform families about Exhibition, we use this G5 Intro to Exhibition packet. To help students explore what happens during Exhibition in class, I took all the facts from page 5 (Introduction to Exhibition) and made them into separate cards. Find the cards here: Did You Know? An Exhibition Kick Off
Some samples of the Did you know? cards

To begin the learning engagement, I told the students that by the end of the lesson, they would be able to answer the question, "What Happens During Exhibition?" I let them know that they needed to participate, be engaged, and think if they were going to be able to successfully answer that question.

Every student received a card and milled around the room, asking each other if they knew the particular fact that was on their card. For this first part of the engagement, they ignored the bolded question at the bottom of each card.

Once students had a chance to hear lots of different facts about what happens during Exhibition, they sat in teams and asked and answered the bolded questions on the bottom of each card. This Q&A session gave them the opportunity to hear more about Exhibition and to ask follow-up questions. It also gave us teachers a chance to clarify any confusion that students might have been experiencing.

Check for understanding

To see what the students understood about Exhibition at the end of the learning experience, I passed out a blank sheet of paper and had the students respond to the prompt, "What happens during Exhibition?" Below are some sample responses.



Reflect on their thinking and decide next steps

When students made their thinking visible, it was very easy to see what they understood correctly about Exhibition and the common misconceptions they had.

During the next class session, it will be important for the teacher to reinforce the following ideas that really hit the mark:

During Exhibition:
  • Kids get to learn about a problem and how to fix it!
  • You and your group will cooperate and do research together
  • Be successful!
  • You have to follow the learner profile.
  • You have to be principled and use technology respectively.
  • You will use many different resources.
There were some misconceptions. It will be important to address these with the students and explain how they missed the mark. If one learner mentioned it, I bet others are thinking it and I want to make sure that we're being clear about our expectations right from the onset. Their response is in italics and my response follows.
  • When you are doing exhibition you are supposed to research things on the internet. Not just the internet. You can use print resources (books, magazines, newspapers), interview people or even go visit a place that might help you better understand the issue or problem that you're researching.
  • You have to make a poster. You could do that, but there are a lot of other ways to communicate your research findings or take action. Most kids will make a Google Slides presentation to share their info with the rest of the school, but there are A LOT of ways to take action ... not just make a poster.
  • Everyone is researching their topic. Not a topic. You're going to learn more about an issue or a problem. The issue or problem should have a connection to your life (your school, your community), but should also be an issue or problem for children around the world too.
  • We will have to use the learner profile all the time in order to get a good grade. Nope. We live the learner profile not because we'll get a good grade, but because we intrinsically want to be that kind of global citizen.
After reading about how I used the engagement strategy "Did You Know?" to build background knowledge on the onset of this unit, how could you use it with your students?

1 comment:

  1. Many thanks for sharing. I will use this with my third graders this year.