Monday, January 30, 2012

Teaching About Expectations - Learning About Them Too

Slice of Life Tuesday can be enjoyed at Two Writing Writers



      It’s an exciting time at my school right now, and teachers are using different methods to help students understand the attributes of satisfactory final products.  In written assignments, all of us give the expectations of an assignment, yet seeing examples of real products are important too.  The week of Valentine’s Day also happens to hold another important day at my school, an event we call Expo, where every child in the school creates a display of their unit of study learning so far this school year.

     As I’ve explained before, each student in my school, kindergarten through eighth grade, studies a specific unit topic of their choice around which the curriculum is built.  The nearest I can describe to you about Expo is that it’s similar to a science fair, except there are no prizes and no best of show.  Everyone creates a display of the work they have accomplished during the year, the learning they have achieved.  There are three-way boards filled with reports and illustrations, artistic 3-D depictions of things as diverse as the Globe Theater, the Golden Gate Bridge and life-sized dolphin.  Also, there might be dioramas of survival shelters, posters of advertisements that use stereotypes to sell, sketches of famous people that have been researched and so on, and so on.  In recent years, more computer screens are in use, showing Powerpoints and Prezis, videos and artistic slides.  Some students offer hands on activities that connect to their topics.  There are many displays to view during the day and evening of Expo.  In the evening, students sit and/or stand with their work to greet visitors and answer questions about the topic.


        During these weeks since the holidays, students have been organizing their already researched work, and at the same time, developing and finishing new products to add to the displays.  Since many students have experienced Expo, all but new students know what to expect on the day, but teachers still discuss the attributes of good final products as they have all year.
    One of the good practices that all teachers do during the year and up to the time of Expo is to take students to see other student work.  For example, if a student has decided to make a poster of the information he has discovered about the environmental issues of polar bears, he will need to understand the attributes of a good-to-see poster.  His teacher might take him to view posters already displayed in the halls to take notes in his journal about what he sees that he might incorporate into his own work.   Or if a student is planning a diorama of a working farm, it will be helpful to visit another student’s diorama to try to notice all the good things about it.  With the youngest students, they might just need to view a diorama in order to understand what it is first, then to examine all its parts.

     Even if it doesn’t work to have other classes to visit, it is good practice to show visuals of the product you are asking students to create.  Sometimes, I would make the product myself first, and have the class evaluate it.  What looks right?  What could be improved?  How would you change it to improve it?  It’s the same as writing with students.  If you can show even an approximation of the assignment’s expectation, it will show more than just giving the assignment orally or in writing.
    One additional good thing about viewing other work is that students see additional possibilities of how to communicate their learning.  They might be looking for good examples of posters, but also notice that someone has created a book instead, or a timeline, or ?  School displays of student work can be used as a marvelous catalog of information for other teachers to use with their students.  I hear students walking by often during these days, and hear the teachers too.  “What do you see that appeals?”  “How could you record that in your journal?”  “What stands out for you?”  “What is a favorite on this bulletin board?  Why?”  “What colors look good together?”  “What are the colors you might choose?”

           
            It is such a great time during this part of the year at school, and anticipating visitors and celebrations of the learning is also a fun part of it.  We all look forward to Expo!

27 comments:

  1. Wow, this sounds like an amazing event that happens at your school! I love the idea of all the students from the different grades sharing what they learned. I like how the other students can go and see the other work of the students.
    --Jee Young

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  2. I love this process and photos of amazing student work! I agree that helping students understand what it can look like is so helpful to their process.

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  3. Ok I'm testing posting a comment under wordpress...if you see this comment it worked. Hi!

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    1. Worked. It took me two tries thought. : )

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  4. Fabulous! I wish I was closer and could come and check this out! It's so important to give students good models of all kinds. I do this often in my classes. I ask students if I can have a copy of their work to show other classes. I've never been turned down. And each semester, I have students who work really hard, hoping I will ask to keep theirs. Each year, the projects get better.

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    1. Such fun to hear that you give such compliments to the students by asking for copies of their work. I love using those examples, & also, it proves to those so reluctant that it 'can' be done.

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  5. I've been having the same trouble signing in Linda. Let's see if this works.
    I LOVE the idea of your EXPO. That's a far cry from prepping for a high stakes test, no?
    BOnnie

    Please send pics for my new piece: This is What Learning Looks Like..
    BOnnie

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  6. I'm blown away by these student projects - although project sounds like such an old fashioned term in the face of EXPO, which looks so innovative. I wish you could post about this further, Linda - I'd love to know the process and try something like it at our school. Such great learning possibilities!!!

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    1. I'll try to write more about it Tara, but it is ongoing, accumulating all year until this particular day. The projects are multi-faceted often, depending on the child's learning needs, and projects they really are, not just assignments from the teacher. They are collaboratively chosen between the teacher & the student with most of it coming from the student.

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  7. That's the most outstanding color wheel I've ever seen!

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  8. This is amazing learning at work! I think it is so critically important that we show kids examples and have the discussion of what works, what doesn't. Too many teachers I work with think that if they show an example then the kids won't think for themselves and they will only copy. I think the power is in the talk. I want to come!

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    1. The poet Audre Lorde said "There are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt." I believe that the more experience people (students) have in their lives, the more they can use for creating, crafting, writing, etc. Thus, showing examples opens up new worlds for them.

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  9. I wish I could come and visit. I wonder how you archive these presentations. Do you have a school photo archive?
    Terje

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    1. There are many pictures taken, and kept by classroom, some admin take pictures for marketing purposes, and much of it stays to be displayed for a while before students take it all home. Students need photos for future portfolio use also. It's recorded for sure. The students pick an addition unit of study, or keep the same one, after Expo, and there is a smaller version of it late in the year, but by individual classrooms this time.

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    2. Thank you. Have you thought of public archiving (slideshows on wikis or webpages) or would be that against policies?

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    3. We post some, & certainly the individual teachers send pics to families. I always had pics of everyone in my class with their projects and then took pics of visitors too. We don't show students themselves without permission on the website. I'll check. I have loads more pictures, just chose a few to show differences.

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    4. Thank you again. I wondered this because we have a PYP exhibition in 5th grade. Parents and teachers take many many pictures, even videos, but when the teachers and students move(international school has people moving all the time), we suddenly realize that we have no record of that year's exhibition. So I was wondering what would be a best way to preserve these projects for a longer time. We are thinking of a wiki that would include the explanations, planning materials, criteria and many examples. We need written agreement from parents before we can publish pictures of students. It is certainly easier to keep the written work of students as exemplars than big projects.
      Terje

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  10. WOW, so inspiring! Another of your posts that makes me wish I worked at a school like yours. :-) I bet the excitement is practically tangible as the students prepare their displays!

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  11. I love this idea of a school-wide Expo and I agree with Stacey on the color wheel-stunning!

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  12. Your school must be a wonderful place to be. I know we can do this kind of right by our students in our mainstream public schools. I would love to hear more about your students' portfolios!

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  13. I love this idea. Our school does a PPL (Personal Passion for Learning) project in all grade levels. We teach research skills and children choose their topic to research and present. I'm going to use your pictures as models of quality work. These projects look amazing. Wish I was closer so I could write notes and take pictures for my notebook. Sounds like a school that truly fostered learning in all areas.

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  14. Wow. Can I come teach at your school?

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  15. I would love for my children to attend your school! One of the biggest problems I see with the students I interact with is that they have lost a sense of curiosity and wonder. Looks like curiosity and wonder are alive and well where you teach! Thanks for the inspiration.

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  16. Wow...thanks for sharing this with pictures and words. What a remarkable way to share learning.
    Ruth

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  17. You are right. Exemplars are so important. Not only does it clarify what you are looking for, but it so often raises the overall quality of work. How great to have so many options and still have exemplars of all of them. Thanks for the reminder to always be showing examples.

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  18. I love the idea of Expo. It reminded me of the book Drive by Daniel H Pink, the most successful companies in the world give "fed-ex" days where they MUST work on a project of their choice and not one assigned to them.

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