Sunday, December 18, 2016

Valuing Peer Insight

There seemed to be a common thread weaving through all of our work in 4L this week and that was the value of peer insight.

It started during writing time when we went back to revise our writing process to add Peer Conferences. These conferences allowed students to share their writing work and get authentic and meaningful feedback in a timely manner from their classmates. We took notes from a couple of videos we watched where different children’s authors explained how they revise.

Notes from the authors Mo Willems and Daniel Kirk
We sat together reading our writing aloud, and our peers listened for any places where the writing ‘didn’t work’. In some cases that meant offering suggestions for how the composition could be improved; in others, it was simply letting our partner know there was a need for revision in certain spots.

Aleksandras edits his final draft, Steven applies peer feedback in the form of revision, and Eva and Migle work through a peer conference
As I tuned into conversations between the children, I realized that the feedback was extremely valuable because: 1) it was given by someone who was currently going through the same process 2) the exchange between peers allowed for more honest feedback because there was no assumption that there was a 'right' or 'wrong' answer to a question (as they often feel is the case with an adult).

Elena, Rojus, Migle and Benas work on typing out their second drafts with revision, while Steven edits, and Yelyzaveta and Sofija work through their first draft in writing

In fact, several students found the conferences so helpful that after revising their work based on feedback they had received, they sought out a second peer for further insight.

We also had the special privilege of having Ms.Jurga join us as we worked on Friday Letters. The students found this task a bit more challenging in Lithuanian language, but kept a wonderful growth mindset as they discussed the value of being able to express themselves accurately in both languages they use at school. Thank you, Ms.Jurga, for your support!

Ms.Jurga offers feedback to Sofia and Nora as they compose their Friday Letters in Lithuanian this week

In mathematics, we came to understand the value of peer insight during a number talk when I was struggling to clarify a solution we were investigating. As more children joined the conversation, it became apparent to me that there is great value in the simplicity with which they are able to communicate such complex thinking sometimes!

It was at this time that I pitched them the idea of peer teaching. Those who were feeling confident with the new concept of open sentences were encouraged to reach out to someone who needed more support. They rose to the occasion and did a fantastic job! This method was beneficial for both parties because: 1) the students doing the teaching reinforced their own understanding, 2) it allowed for individualised learning, 3) students 'speak the same language’ making it easier to understand new concepts 4) students were generally more comfortable taking risks and making mistakes in pairs, 5) it promoted trust between students to strengthen relationships.

4L works in pairs as peer teachers and students

Krista talks through her strategy on a whiteboard, while Veronika demonstrates her thinking for Eva

Elena and Migle find the value of challenging one another's solutions

 We concluded after trying this method that we all gained learning from this interaction. Those who were ‘teachers’ learned how to see problems and solutions from new perspectives, and to appreciate that being able to do something does not always make one able to easily teach someone else! Those who were ‘students’ practiced expressing where the problem solving was breaking down to get instant feedback, and gained new strategies for solving open sentences. Together the pairs found mathematical patterns in their problem solving and achieved much greater success as they invited new ways of thinking.

In unit, we looked back on Unit of Inquiry 2, Sharing the Planet, and used a Visible Thinking routine called ‘Generate-Sort-Connect-Elaborate’ to identify our enduring understandings. We began by brainstorming a list of all of the activities we had completed during the unit. 

Each student was then given a sticky note and was asked to write one big conceptual understanding they thought they gained over the past six weeks.

Shourya shares his conceptual understanding from Unit 2

Rojus, Nora and Krista reflect on their conceptual understanding

Next, we came together as a whole group where we had our central idea and lines of inquiry on the board. As each student presented their conceptual understanding, they posted it next to one or more of the lines of inquiry or central idea, and justified the connection they made. 

Krista shares her conceptual understanding as Veronika, Sofia, Gerda, Benas and Liza look at our central idea and lines of inquiry to see where they believe this idea connects
As a collaborative effort, we elaborated through short discussions to make further connections between our thinking or to give examples that supported our thinking.

The green sticky notes represent each child's conceptual understanding connected to our central ideas and lines of inquiry. The orange writing elaborates the thinking we shared.

Finally, we went back to find any recurring themes among the ideas we shared. Our final list of enduring understandings was as follows:
  • Habitat changes are connected to species adaptations
  • It takes a long time for a species to change and the changes are very small
  • Some species don’t change (living fossils? We’re still not sure how we feel about this idea!)
  • Animals can have physical and/or behavioral adaptations to survive

Here is our full flow of thinking through the 'Generate-Sort-Connect-Elaborate' routine with Enduring Understandings

We had the pleasure of spending our snowy Wednesday morning at the park with 4A again. This week the students went all out and brought old-fashioned sledges as well as a giant inner tube! This encouraged new playtime inquiry as the students investigated approaches to make the fastest run, explored new parts of the hill with various inclines, and found the most effective way to ride the different sleds. It was remarkable to witness how the students built understanding of velocity, speed, friction, and other complex scientific principles related to force and motion as they experimented through unstructured play! Moments like these are good reminders that we should never underestimate the value of real-world experience. This is how children make true sense of the world around them!

Finally, we ended our week with Genius Hour working on our Passion Projects. We are in various stages of completion. While some of us spent time making video compilations of our process and basked in the glory of finished products, others realised our undertakings might have been overzealous and continued to troubleshoot through research.

Elena creates a new sketch of a creature for her game
Benas creates a new door element in his game
Aleksandras creates a stop motion animation movie using characters from drama class
Migle puts together a video of the process she used to investigate flight

Shourya finishes up his song lyrics 
We agreed that next week we would share our progress thus far, regardless of what stage of our project we’re in because it’s the process that counts. It has been amazing to see how supportive and encouraging the students have been towards one another throughout this journey, and to see what some of them have accomplished with all their hard work! 

Nora presents her completed project- a house, complete with scratching post, for her cat, Urfin! 

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