Make space for readers in your classroom library

Classroom libraries, spaces to captivate readers

Classroom libraries, some classes have them, some teachers want them, and for a few learning environments, are either not fully utilised or are lower on the list of things to sort out.

For a new teacher arriving into a new class, a well stocked library is exciting, but can also be an overwhelming jumble of books to get to know, or even decide how you want to incorporate them into your teaching and learning environment, especially when you are becoming familiar with curriculum, systems, team dynamics and children.

Classroom libraries offer a multitude of ways to engage and captivate readers in your class, they give teachers and opportunity to communicate through characters and story, add a flair of personal reading interests, nudge readers into new genres and help those new to the habit to begin growing and seeing themselves as readers. We see the power a teacher has when they share a beloved read-aloud, now, multiply that passion you share through an armful of stories each year with a lovingly maintained classroom library.

Simply surrounding learners with 1000s of books should be enough to get them to love to read, however, less is is more and selecting and displaying books that respond to your readers interests helps to create excitement and enable readers to browse armed with selection strategies, choose their next read easier from your classroom library.

So, how do you quickly and easily begin making space for readers in your classroom library?

First of all, “weeding” is a term used widely in libraries to describe the process of evaluating and discarding titles from your collection using a set criteria that responds to the needs of your school and readers. The word “weeding” is similar to that of gardening, the aim is to remove books that may no longer grow readers and continue to motivating them to read or become life-long and self-directed readers.

Common weeding methods

MUSTY

Weeding the School Library – School Libraries (CA Dept of Education)

Misleading: Look at the copyright dates

  • Dated popular fiction
  • Obsolete information
  • Books containing racial, cultural or sexual stereotyping

Ugly: Refers to the physical condition of the book

  • Antiquated appearance ƒ
  • Worn-out, frayed, dirty ƒ
  • Unable to mend

Superseded: There may be newer copies available.

  • Duplicate copies ƒ
  • Almanacs, yearbooks, encyclopedias superseded by newer editions

Trivial: Look for appropriateness for the collection.

  • Check for poor writing, inaccurate information, an inappropriate interest or reading level for students.

Your collection: has no use for the book.

  • It is irrelevant to your curriculum.

An additional way to evaluate your collection is to ask:

“Is my collection FRESH?”

What I love about the FRESH approach is that is elevates the need for diversity and representation of characters and stories.

Why does clearing out (weeding) makes sense?

Once you have a collection you are proud of, show it off! Where possible showing the covers of the books allow readers to be drawn in and browse the collection, whilst we don’t want to judge a book by its cover, we are inherently visual people. popular subscription channels have tiles for us to scroll through and the same should be done with our classroom libraries, highlight, celebrate, rotate, and bring out those themes you are currently teaching about. Displays don’t have to be fancy, a simple poster made in Canva, a basket to flick through, or a few bookstands make all the difference.

Examples of great book displays in classrooms

Get students involved

Consider having your class or group of students involved in this process,

  • Can they help to identify old or damaged books?
  • Can they help sort genres?
  • Can they create signs?
  • Can they research for titles they want to add?

What should I do with books I have weeded?

  • Recycle any books that are damaged or misleading
  • Ask your colleagues if they would like any of the books that might still be relevant and appealing to other readers
  • Send appropriate books to your ES Librarian, we will find a home for them
  • Donations. if the book doesn’t belong in your collection, is it good enough to be donated? We want to make sure that when books are donated they they are appealing and relevant to any reader, so pause to think before making this decision.

Ask an expert

Talk to your Librarian to support you through this process.

Making Thinking Visible

Diving into Thinking Routines

You might have heard about Thinking Routines, Making Thinking Visible, or Project Zero – but might be wondering what they all are, how they’re connected, or how to incorporate the ideas into your own context. Project Zero is an educational research group through Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, and there is a vast array of projects that they focus on, just one of which is Visible Thinking, often referred to as Thinking Routines. (To learn more about Project Zero, check out the resources at the bottom.)

A common worry about incorporating Thinking Routines is “But I have too much on my plate as it is, I can’t add anything else!” and yes, at first it can seem like you’re adding something new. But with time and a bit of practice for both you and your students, you might start to see that thinking routines are a powerful tool to develop thinking and become a way of being in your classroom, not just an activity that ticks a box.

[A quick note: I’m using ‘classroom’ and ‘students’ in the descriptions below, but any of these could be used with adults in team meetings, or other contexts that don’t necessarily involve students.]

Many ISB staff have participated in Project Zero workshops and courses and will have fantastic ideas about how to add Thinking Routines to your repertoire if you’re interested. An open invitation to anyone who would like to dive further into learning about thinking routines or Project Zero: contact me! I’m always happy to be a thinking partner and help determine which routines might be a great resource when you’re designing upcoming learning engagements, regardless of your context.

 

Questions to Consider When Choosing the Best Routine to Use 

The first, and arguably most important, question to consider is, “What thinking are you hoping to bring out from your students?” The answer to that question will help determine which type of routine might fit best. For a terrific resource with loads of different routines listed out by category/type, check out Harvard Project Zero’s Thinking Routine Toolbox (here’s a screenshot of the menu)

A second question to consider is, “Are you hoping to bring out thinking from your students that involves independent thinking, partner or group thinking, whole class generating ideas or discussion, or a combination of those?” Routines can vary quite a lot and can be adapted to fit just about any context or need. Some routines are certainly more naturally geared toward capturing independent thinking and some are best with a small group, and some move from independent thinking to shared thinking and back again to independent consolidation or new ideas.

Another important consideration is, “Where are you in your unit/lesson?” Perhaps you need a routine that would be helpful for generating new ideas at the beginning of your learning; possibly you are looking for something to use as a check-in in the middle of your unit, or you might need something that will help consolidate or clarify thinking toward the end of your unit.

 

A Few Routines – Give Some a Try!

Here are just three of the many excellent routines to possibly spark an idea for how to implement deeper thinking in your classroom:

  • 3-2-1-Bridge

This routine can be a powerful tool for preassessment, as well as having students reflect after a lesson or unit about how much they’ve learned by the end.

The basic premise:

  1. Students complete a structured 3-2-1 response with prompts before they’ve done the learning. (All of the prompts can be adapted for what you need; here’s an example of how you might structure it)
  2. After the learning engagement, they complete the same 3-2-1 response prompts and see what they know now.
  3. Students reflect on how those before and after responses changed, or what they did to move their learning forward. This is the Bridge part of the 3-2-1 Bridge.

Implementation ideas:

Have  students complete the first half (left side of the example) before a movie, text, or before the start of a new unit. It’s a great way to preassess and capture what students know about your topic now, and later will serve as a powerful visual both for you and for them how their thinking has changed or deepened as a result of the movie, text, lesson, unit, etc. (For younger students I often adapt the Metaphor/Simile prompt and have the students write down a vocabulary word or an image related to the topic instead.)

 

  • ESP+I

This routine has become a new favorite go-to, not only because of its simplicity but also the potential for digging deeper into an idea.

The basic premise:

  1. See an example visual here; students reflect on three of the boxes – Experience, Struggles & Puzzles – independently. Adapt or change the language for each to match what your students need as a prompt for their thinking.
  2. Share (in partners, small groups, whole group, etc.)
  3. In the Insight box, add new thoughts or questions they have now, as a result of sharing and hearing others’ ideas. (This is the +I part of the routine.)

Implementation Ideas:

This is a great routine for when you’ve done something that might have stretched students’ thinking, such as a learning engagement or activity or experience that is new.

 

  • Name Describe Act

This routine is useful for enhancing descriptive language, and for helping students understand the power and importance in noticing details and looking closely at something.

The basic premise:

  1. Choose an image that will provoke discussion or something that might require some close examination.
  2. Students look at the image for a minute, then the teacher removes the image from sight.
  3. Working from memory, students make a list. (I’ve used a 3-column format for this that has worked well in the past – see visual and student example below)
    1. Name – make a list of all the parts or features that you can remember
    2. Describe – describe each item in the list
    3. Act – for each item, tell how they act
  4. Put the image back up. Students write out questions they now have, or new observations they’ve made.

Implementation Ideas:

This has worked as a provocation to start off a unit or new topic, and as a way to generate some deep thinking, quite quickly. The second time the image is put back up for display, it’s amazing how intensely students look at the image again, and the new details that emerge for them.

 

Common Pitfalls

Making Thinking Visible co-creator Ron Ritchhart recently posted some common pitfalls that you might be on the lookout for when using routines: Using Thinking Routines: 10 Ways You Could Die. A quick blurb is here:

“Although thinking routines are relatively accessible (admittedly, some more than others), they aren’t silver bullets, magic potions, games, activities, or tricks.  Some teachers may be expecting routines to do all the heavy lifting in the classroom, and thus not experience much success. So, with much appreciation to my two colleagues, I offer my own list of ways you can die—or struggle, or flounder—focused on using thinking routines.”

 

Helpful Resources to Check Out

 

Need Support?

Need ideas of how to use these or other Thinking Routines? Not sure where to start? Have some ideas but would like to see an example or talk through the logistics of how to use a routine? Let me know – I’m happy to help!

 

March 2022 TTTs

Several times a year, we turn professional learning over to our faculty & staff during Teachers Teaching Teachers (TTTs) sessions. TTTs focus on improving our collective professional practice, allowing us to engage with our colleagues. On Wednesday, March 9, we had our second TTTs of the school year. For these TTTs, we challenged faculty to focus their sessions through our Learning At Its Best framework for their 45-minute sessions. (Re-visit our first TTTs of the year.)

 


5 Types of Non-Fiction
Principle: Captivate, Approach: Inquiry Pathway
Come check out the ES Library brand new collection of narrative non-fiction books: an engaging sub-genre of non-fiction writing that will spark joy for readers of all persuasions!

Basic PowerPoint animations
Principle: Captivate, Approach: Design Process
Learn how to add basic animations to your PowerPoint presentation

 

Level Up Student Projects with the Studio
Principle: Challenge, Approach: Personalized Learning
Recording techniques for audio projects. Explore ISB’s recording facilities and familiarise yourself with our studio equipment. Go through the recording process from tracking to print. Then, take your learning to student projects!

 

How To Use WTW Data to Target Your Instruction
Principle: Challenge, Approach: Personalized Learning
Now you have your middle of year data, so what? This session you will learn how to break down your current Words Their Way data to see exactly where the students need direct support and instruction. Come learn how to support and challenge all of the learners in your class!

 

Supporting LGBTQIA+ students in your classroom
Principle: Care, Approach: Social Emotional Learning
Powerpoint
It’s Pride Week at ISB, but what does that mean for you? If you know you want to make LGBTQIA+ students feel safe and included in your classroom, but you’re not sure where to start, this session is for you. Topics will include: addressing homophobic comments, using inclusive language, and more.

 

Cooperative Learning Structures
Principle: Clarify
Raising the number of Opportunities To Respond will increase the learning in your classroom. How can you get every student to engage with every question you ask as a teacher, rather than just one student who raises their hand. We will look at a number of Kagan Cooperative Learning Structures. Hopefully you will walk away with some new ways to engage your learners.

 

Clarify with COLOCOs
Principle: Clarify, Approach: C6 Bilteracy & Bicultural
This session is intended for those who are currently attending the C6 training (or those who need a refresher) and would like to revisit the work on COLOCOs (and complete their homework in the process!).

 

Using Visuals to Support Organization and Independence in the Classroom
Principle: Classroom Management
I will share two strategies using visuals I learned at a PD session in 2019 and have since used with co-teachers in the classroom. We’ll also share ideas about how to use and adapt these visuals to our classrooms.

 

The Working Genius Model and YOU
Principle: Collaborate
Resources, Podcast
Improve your collaboration skills by exploring Patrick Lencioni’s Working Genius model, a simple and powerful 6 step model for all work. You will reflect on your personal Working Genius type and learn language to apply personally and in teams. This session will include chunked learning, reflecting and application individually and in small groups. This model is useful for anyone who works or is on a team.

 

Round Table: Sharing ideas on unpacking the Teachers College reading units
Principle: Collaborate, Approach: Inquiry Pathway
Let’s come together to share our processes around how we go from the planned lesson in the TC units to teaching our individual classes. Bring an example to share or a topic to discuss!

 

Making Thinking Visible
Principle: Confer/Challenge, Approach: Personalized Learning
Resources
This session will seek to share the ideas from the Making Thinking Visible training and book in a condensed and applicable way, including the core concept, and sets of teaching moves/strategies that can be used for all learners. Making Thinking Visible is a philosophy that seeks to promote engagement for all learners, intellectual curiosity and exploration, and to shift the focus in teaching towards ‘thinking’ above all.

 

Excel Basics
Principle: Confer, Approach: Personalized Learning
Looking for ways to organize and analyze student data? This session will explore some basic tips and tricks for using Excel. Bring your laptop and any questions you have about using spreadsheets.

 

What works to improve student literacy in Chinese class?
Principle: Confer, Approach: Personalized Learning
In this session, we will share what we have studied and learned about the Balanced Literacy components that have been used to effectively teach Chinese in some international schools.

 

Rubrics and Feedback in DX
Principle: Confer, Approach: Personalized Learning
Resources
Learn how you can use assignment rubrics and other feedback tools (including the new iPad annotation feature) in DX.

 

Diversity and Inclusion Conversations in Chinese
Principle: Confer, Approach: C6 Bilteracy & Bicultural
The purpose of this TTT is to create a space where educators can have conversations around Diversity and Inclusion in Chinese to explore it through the lenses of non-western perspectives. This session provides an opportunity for equalizing access to conversations around Diversity and Inclusion and building a foundation for contextualizing Bias and Racism to our global international school environment.

 

Spotting the Signs–Structure and Function in the Head, Neck, and Mouth
Principle: Consolidate, Approach: Personalized Learning
Spotting the Signs is geared for teachers and TAs of younger students. We will focus on spotting students who may need an SLT referral in the areas of articulation and feeding/swallowing–whether you teach in English or Mandarin! Normal and atypical anatomy of the head/neck/mouth and developmental milestones for articulation and feeding/swallowing will be taught so that you can spot students who may not be meeting these expectations.

 

Save the Rainforest! Digital Planning and Journaling with iPad
Principle: Consolidate
Tired of losing sticky notes with your to do list? Want to reduce your reliance on paper and taking notebooks everywhere? Move your planning and / or journaling to the digital realm to save your sanity. This session will be most beneficial if you bring an iPad, Apple Pencil, and have access to either the Good Notes or OneNote app.

 

People, Systems, Power, Participation
Principle: Consolidate, Approach: Service Learning
In this session we will explore the People, Systems, Power, Participation Thinking Routine. We will use this routine to examine Gender, Migration, and Racism, then talk about how it can lead to service learning.

 

Literacy is Learning
Principle: Consolidate, Approach: C6 Bilteracy & Bicultural
Various literacy activities across subject areas that can enable students to acquire depth of understanding and consolidate their learnings.

Welcome to Learning @ ISB!

Welcome to the learning at ISB blog! We’ve been pretty quiet the last 2 years, but we’re back and excited to continue sharing learning at its best at ISB.

At least twice per month, we’ll be publishing posts written by ISB educators sharing their thoughts & reflections on learning. Have an idea for a guest post? Let us know! Want to get inspiration delivered to your inbox? Enter your email on the right to subscribe! [Make sure to keep an eye on your ‘Other’ inbox tab for the emails!]

Have thoughts about something you read on this blog? We love comments! Feel free to leave your thoughts here or come chat with us in person.

As we relaunch this blog, we wanted to introduce Learning at its Best and our principles & approaches of learning. You probably have one of these posters up in your classroom or have seen them around the school. All of our blog posts will be written through these lenses. Want to dive deeper into one area? Check out the categories on the right to begin exploring!

Learning at its Best

ISB’s principles of learning provide a research-based foundation for how students learn best and insight into what makes our learning environments most effective. ISB’s Learning Principles are based on Tripod’s 7C framework of effective teaching: Care, Challenge, Confer, Clarify, Captivate, Consolidate, Collaborate, Classroom Management.

The approaches of learning are integral to how we design learning experiences at ISB, guiding our instructional practices.

Social-Emotional Learning – Research shows that explicitly teaching social and emotional skills increases student well-being, enhances positive behavior, reduces crises, and enhances academic achievement. A focus on social-emotional learning also creates a safe, positive school culture. At ISB, we prioritize building relationships and want every student to feel cared for every day. Our Social-Emotional Framework supports students in developing self-awareness, self-management, social and cultural competence, nurturing relationships, and taking purposeful action.

Personalized Learning – At ISB, we believe in a progressively learner-driven model of personalized learning to facilitate student ownership of the learning process and provide student voice and choice in their learning. We empower students to build strong relationships, leverage their interests, and assess their strengths and areas for growth to engage in deep, relevant learning.

Service Learning – Service Learning is infused into the curriculum and across the co-curricular program at ISB. It is a relevant learning journey that integrates meaningful action with instruction and reflection. We believe that Service Learning develops compassion and empathy, strengthens communities, and nurtures a global mindset.

C6 Biliteracy Instructional Framework – The community at ISB is culturally & linguistically diverse, and we aim to serve our emergent bilingual and multilingual students so that they are able to access grade-level standards regardless of language proficiency. The C6 Biliteracy Instructional Framework supports faculty in creating culturally responsive lessons that celebrate the diversity of our students.

Inquiry Pathway – At ISB, we empower students to ask questions, think critically, and reflect. Based on provocations and real-world phenomenon, students see & think, wonder & question, investigate & explore, make meaning & find patterns, and explain & construct arguments.

Design Process – Solutions to the problems of the world do not exist in silos and neither should learning. Students at ISB are given the opportunity to use design-thinking to create connections between traditional curricular areas and build empathy while solving real-world, authentic problems.


We hope you’re as excited as we are for this blog to be active again! Next week, keep your eyes open for a post from Angie (MS/HS Math Instructional Coach) with a focus on Challenge. Even better, get her post delivered to your email as soon as it’s published by subscribing on the right! After you subscribe, look in your email to confirm your subscription.

September 2021 TTTs

Several times a year, we turn professional learning over to our faculty & staff during Teachers Teaching Teachers (TTTs) sessions. TTTs focus on improving our collective professional practice, allowing us to engage with our colleagues. On Wednesday, September 22, we were excited to have our first TTTs of the school year.

90-minute Sessions
Coding Fun! Spiced up narrative writing
We will tell stories with animations using Scratch (examples). With voiceovers or speech bubbles, students can re-tell, summarize, or create stories with animations. We will also look at the scratch community and why it is a great world for students to get into.

 

Graffiti: Write your name in style
Take a chance to explore and play on the ISB Graffiti wall as we learn basic techniques and introductory methods in the skills of spray paint art. Limited to 14 people.

 

Jewelry Design
I’ll teach you how to use some software, and you’ll use it to design some jewelry. You’ll walk away with some new skills and some new bling!

I’m C6ed… Now What?
This follow-up session from C6 will dive deeper into Content, Language, and Cultural Objectives. Why do we write them? How do we write them? And most importantly how do we make these meaningful for students.

 

The Mindful Use of Power in the Classroom: How Authority Distorts Respect, Honesty, and Trust—and What You Can Do About It
Presentation of research on the distorting effects of power and authority on people’s perceptions and perspectives, followed by strategies and techniques to facilitate greater respect, honesty, and trust in school settings (and examples/case studies to discuss).

 

Ceramics – Learn to Play
Join us for some stress-relief ceramics fun, and to create something that you can take home and brag about it! 🙂

45-minute Sessions
Sip and Read
Love the smell of a new book? Come discover the delightful new books the ES library has purchased to support our SEL focus! ABAR, inclusivity, equity, LBGTQIA+, friendship, emotions, and more! Hey MS/HS folk, picture books aren’t just for little kids! These big concepts are often best deconstructed using accessible stories so come browse! Staff Resources

Exploring Backstage
Take an all-access tour of the ISB theatre venues to see what goes on backstage. If you are curious about all the theatre ‘hidden spaces’ or how the magic happens, then now is your chance. There will be stairs involved as we visit the highest and lowest spots in the theatre.

 

Singing for Mind and Body
In this session, we will learn a couple of easy songs to sing in a group and discuss how singing can positively affect your mental and physical health.

 

Wellness with Basketball
We will host a wellness option of a friendly basketball game! Co-ed and any skill level welcome, you can play in long pants and shirt or whatever!

 

Hill’s School of Hot Sauce 
Want to learn to make your own hot sauce? This is the wellness activity you’ve been looking for! This will be the first of two sessions. You’ll need to be able to come back on the morning of Sat Sept 25 or at 4:30 on Monday Sept 27.

 

ABAR Conversations 1
For those who want to know more about ABAR, ask some questions, and begin engaging in this work.

 

Deconstructing DX: Learning how to create beautiful lessons
In this session, we will learn how to create units, lesson pages, quizzes, and assignments in DX. This is a great way to make lessons accessible for all!

 

Having Fun With Glyths!
What are glyphs? Glyphs are a pictorial form of data collection. Glyphs can be used as a fun SEL activity or as a summative assessment. Come and learn about a fun way to assess students using paper and glue.

 

Excel 101
Learn some simple Excel tips and tricks. In this session, we will focus on the basics of how to work with Excel. Bring your laptop and any burning questions you have and we’ll explore together.

 

 

Ideas for in-depth reading in Chinese classes
Wondering how to teach students to read? Want to know more about strategies for in-depth reading? Join this session to enhance our collective knowledge and skills on effective reading. Staff Resources

 

Making excellent graphics
Want to improve your graphic design skills when making resources for your classes? Join us as we look at some simple rules and techniques for improving your visual communication skills. Staff Resources

 

Integrating creative data collection and visualization with a Dear Data project
A Dear Data project gives students an authentic way to collect data about their own lives and present their findings with a creative visualization. Topics can include any content area, including SEL topics. Students keep a process journal throughout, integrating literacy and notebooking skills.

 

Executive Functioning Skills 101
This session will go into detail about what Executive Functioning Skills are, why they are important, how we can build on them at school, and tips on how parents can reinforce them at home.

 

Simplify Your Life with Power Automate and Mail Merge
How do you empower students and personalize communication quickly? Come see examples using two tools and brainstorm how you might leverage them in your classroom! Resources: Slides, Mail Merge Survey, TTT Automation Mail Merge Sample.xlsx, Student Interest Survey Template.docx, Power Automate Survey, Power Automate Home Page

 

Classroom management for TAs
Work with kids but not trained as a teacher? Come learn basics of managing a classroom and feel more confident while support students’ learning.

 

Practical Practice for Reading in DL
This workshop bases on Chinese reading and learning in DL program, but is applicable to other language reading. It focuses on using reading assessment data to plan and arrange reading activities; planning stations with word study, character learning, self-reading, and guided reading to students across a big range of language proficiency; sharing station examples.

 

ABAR Conversations 2
For those who are ready to have some deeper conversations, lean into some discomfort, and continue to engage in this work.

 

Fall 2021 Cohort 1 C6 Homework
Need some time and support to catch up on your C6 homework before our next session Saturday? Keen to collaborate with colleagues in the cohort? This session is for you!

Screen Time from Head to Toe 

Authors: Caleb Hill and Randen Morisako 

In our high speed, high tech and highly global word, we may find ourselves doing more of what you are doing right this second – looking at screen. Like me, you are probably longing for the offline world to resume what is so important for developing children. An analog world of using your hands to create art with a paint brush, gain insight from a newly opened book or give a task-affirming high five just cannot be recreated through eLearning 
Teachers, parents and students alike need to manage this carefully in order to avoid overuse, stress and yes, injury.  

EYES 

If we aren’t mindful of screen time many of us are at risk to develop what ophthalmologists call “digital eyestrainFor children and adults this can lead to dry eye, eye strain, headaches, and blurry vision. While some symptoms may be temporary; they can persist if breaks are not taken. These symptoms do not mean special glasses are required or that an eye condition if forming; instead it could mean they aren’t taking enough breaks.   
Most doctors recommend what’s called the “20-20-20 rule” – Every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break and look at something that is 20 feet away (about 6 meters).  

source: https://www.carillonvisioncare.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/digital-eye-strain.jpg

If you find you oyour child’s eyes are drying out quickly you may need to place a humidifier close to your eLearning space, use eye drops, and drink more water. The level of lighting in a room when using a computer or iPad should be roughly half as bright as other activities such as writing on paper. Decrease the brightness on your screens and try to position computers so that light from uncovered windows, lamps and overhead light fixtures aren’t shining directly on them.  
If you find dry eyes persist it could also be an issue as simple as not blinking enough. Blink! 

MIND-BODY CONNECTION

Adults and children need to be moving. School has changed over the years and rarely at ISB will you find a group of students all sitting at desks for long periods at a time (exam time excluded). Students are missing that up and down interaction with their classmates and teachers and it adds a lot of extra pressure on parents. That’s why its so important to TAKE BREAKS. 
There are zero negative side effects to taking a physical activity break when you are working. It will help you work smarter and more efficiently after getting your heart rate up. As mentioned by Lissa in Strategies to Survive Working at Home its important to move your body. Students should take AT LEAST ten-minute break once every hour to rest their eyes and move their bodies. Set a timer to limit yourself and take breaks.  

source: https://www.pngfind.com/pngs/m/468-4680505_the-benefits-of-working-out-extend-beyond-just.png

PE teachers are providing workout videos or activity suggestions multiple times a week and encouraging students to get at least 60 minutes of activity every day with 30 minutes of vigorous activity. This means that they are raising their HR and potentially getting hot and sweaty too.  
If you can safely do it, getting outside and taking a walk is more than enough to get your blood pumping. Get out for a morning walk before you start your eLearning, breathe some fresh air and look out the window to give your eyes a break. 

NECK AND SPINE 

Do you find yourself bending your head down to look at your screen? This is called “text neck.” For every 15 degrees of downward gaze your spine experiences an additional increase in stressYou can limit the risk of text neck by monitoring the amount of time, you spend staring down at your phone.   
Another strategy is to ensure that your laptop or computer monitor is set up at the right height. Your monitor should be set up so that the top of your monitor is perpendicular with your gaze. This ensures that you should be able to see the bottom of the screen with no more than 15-degree downward gaze. 

source: https://notsitting.com/proper-height/

WRISTS 
When using a keyboard and mouse we are at extended risk of carpal tunnel syndrome. This is an overdevelopment of the wrist/forearm muscles and causes irritation the nerves in the lower arm causing pain, numbness, and even tingling. Making sure that your hands and wrist are in the right position while working may prevent carpal tunnel syndrome. Periodically massaging or stretching your forearm muscles may also prevent muscle tightness in the forearm.  
 

source: https://inside.ewu.edu/ehs/occupational-health-safety/ergonomics/

 
A simple forearm stretch is to straighten one arm out in front of you with your palm facing out and fingers pointed to the sky. Using your other hand, apply light backward pressure to the tips of your straightened hands finger. You can repeat this stretch with your fingers pointed down for a different muscle group. 

LOWER BACK 

Long bouts of sitting may cause back pain especially in the lower back. Be sure to sit properly with a straight spine. Using a lumbar support chair or small pillow on your lower back may support muscles there and keep your back from slouching.  

Source: http://www.chairsadvisor.com/maintain-good-posture-when-sitting-at-a-desk-all-day/

During this time, one technique may be to try using a standing table. If you decide to do so make sure that the desk is high enough so that you don’t have to look down at your monitor and develop text neck. 
Sciatica is characterized by pain, numbness, or tingling that runs through the lower back, through the buttocks, and sometimes down the lower leg.  
By using a well cushioned chair and making sure that each buttock is evenly on your chair are some strategies to prevent sciatica. Other strategies include taking periodic breaks and including stretching or foam rolling of the glute muscles to make sure they do not get overdeveloped from prolonged sitting. 
Staying physically active during this time is extremely important. With a regular dose of physical activity, we can help limit the effects of prolonged sitting and screen time. Your eyes, brain and body will all thank you. Now… take a break! 
 

An unexpected and contradictory intersection between reading and empathy

This timing of this post arrives when two areas of thinking I’ve informally explored over the past few years are intersecting in unexpected and contradictory ways.

Part of the intersection occurred in October, when I attended a session by Dr. John Feland at The Nueva School’s 2019 Innovative Learning Conference titled, “Stumbling Toward Empathy; Lessons Learned in Building Cognitive Empathy in the Unmyelinated Teenage Frontal Cortex”. The research Dr. Feland shared revealed that teenagers are actually unable to empathize, as this requires a fully developed frontal cortex, which we now know does not occur until one’s early 20s. In fact, Feland further explained, when we expose teenagers to media intended to evoke an empathic response, the opposite can occur – these kinds of experiences can trigger distress in teenagers (Feland, 2019).

I made an immediate connection to the loud, collective voice from within the reading community of which I consider myself a participating member. We often speak of the power of reading, specifically that done by the pre-teen and teenagers I work with every day, to evoke empathy. I’ve come across this incantation, and uttered it myself many times. Most recently, I read it in Maryanne Wolf’s (2018) Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World. Wolf’s primary concern is that readers today are developing a reading circuitry in the brain which differs from the one developed in the past, pre-digital era; a question she poses in the first chapter reads, “will the combination of reading on digital formats and daily immersion in a variety of digital experiences–from social media to virtual games–impede the formation of the slower cognitive processes such as critical thinking, personal reflection, imagination, and empathy that are all part of deep reading” (p.8)? 

Herein lies the contradiction.

If you are not familiar with Wolf’s work, it is important to know that she is at the forefront of neuroscience when it comes to mapping what the brain does when it reads. If Maryanne Wolf says deep reading is connected to the formation of the process of empathy, she likely has some brain imaging to support this claim. This leaves me in a bit of a dilemma: Is the claim that reading can support the development of empathy, specifically in teenagers, a false claim, or is a more nuanced claim out there that can show a connection, albeit one that occurs over time?

I also wonder, what exactly are we seeing in our teenagers when they do read something that clearly has an impact, if it is not empathy? I recently asked a counselor colleague about this, and she shared her understanding of the teenage brain and its capacity and desire to help others in need (K. Haines, personal communication, November 24). This line of thinking supported an earlier conversation with yet another colleague over the need to implement empathic habits in our teenagers, even if the act of true empathy evades our learners (J. Binns, personal communication, November 21). And there is a larger issue for me, as a Teacher-Librarian specifically: I need to be very careful with my rhetoric about reading and empathy. This lifelong learning requires constant adjustment of my beliefs.

This is what I am currently grappling with on a meta, behind-the-scenes level. If you would like to discuss this further and perhaps even provide some next reads for me, I welcome your interest.

References

Feland, J. (2019, October). Stumbling toward empathy; lessons learned in building cognitive empathy in the unmyelinated teenage frontal cortex. Presented at the Nueva Innovative Learning Conference, San Francisco, CA.
Wolf, M. (2018). Reader, come home: The reading brain in a digital world. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

Beginning of the School Year Dreams: Teaching Leaders of the Future

Image Credit: Creative Commons from Pixabay

As teachers, we always look out on those first promising days thinking “we are teaching the leaders of the world”.
For some of us, it’s a promise, it’s a responsibility, it’s hope, or inspiration that gets us excited to start a new year, and sometimes it just gets us through a tough day, class or year. But it’s true. We are lucky. We can have that impact. We do influence future leaders, followers and everything in between.
Frequently, our students will inherit a family business or walk into leadership roles with little to no work experience.  They already have money, power, and influence regardless of their education.
But do they have the skills and experience to be a positive influence in their business, community and to their co-workers? How can we help guide our students to be more responsible, kind, strong leaders of businesses, industries, and even countries?
Most international teachers I’ve worked with have come from a middle-class upbringing which is very different from what our students and even our own children are experiencing.  Some of us started earning our own money and had to be independent and made our own decisions at a young age.  Most of us learned so much at our first or tenth job, and most of our students never will have these experiences and environments to learn, fail and grow. Often times, standard curriculums don’t provide this knowledge or skills sets to collaborate, lead, learn and be responsible citizens of the future.
So what are we doing to provide these students with leadership skills and opportunities to fail and grow? How are we fostering responsible consumers and producers?
While we don’t have all the answers, I think ISB is moving in the right direction to help our students be more prepared for being compassionate, responsible citizens or leaders in any field.  We are putting a stronger focus on social and emotional learning while providing more interdisciplinary experiences to engage in deep, relevant learning.  We are fostering cross-curricular skills by giving our students authentic tasks to demonstrate their knowledge and skills.  We are reviewing our experiential learning programs and we provide dynamic robust professional learning for our community. It is definitely work that has started, it’s not happening everywhere, we are growing as educators and these hopefully more deep, relevant hands-on learning experiences at school will become more prevalent over the next few years.

Image Credit: Creative Commons via PixaBay

We are very lucky to have bright, engaged students who do well in school, but what traditional schools have done for the past hundred years aren’t preparing our students for their future jobs or to be responsible, compassionate transformational leaders.

What I wonder is what happens when the qualified teachers, coaches & tutors are gone.  How do our students continue to learn and grow? I think then we will truly know how prepared our students are for their futures.

The Joy of Standards

After a long day of sun on a Thai beach recently, my family came back to our hotel room happily exhausted, looking forward to watching our favorite Netflix shows on our laptops.
But it was not to be.
Our laptops, drained to nearly no battery life, couldn’t charge because their cords only had the Chinese three-pronged plug, and our hotel room only had the Thai two-pronged outlet.  
Yes, I know, talk about “first world problems.” Hardly a crisis.
But the disappointment of not being able to watch our shows got me thinking about an article I read recently called The Joy of Standards by Russel and Vinsel. If only the plugs were standardized internationally, none of us would have this problem. It’s astonishing just how much of our daily life depends on the products we use conforming to technical standards that we usually never give a thought to. 
There’s an interesting analogy herebetween technical standards and educational standards.
I spend much of my workday talking about the various sets of standards that we have aligned to as a school, from the Next Generation Science Standards, to the Common Core, to the National Core Arts Standards. As an independent school, we have the freedom to choose our standards here at ISB. Then we prioritize them, sequence them, unpack them into rubrics, assess them, and report on them—they form the backbone of our curriculum, helping us answer that all-important question: “What DO we want students to learn?” 
Unfortunately, as Russel and Vinsel put it, Standards have always struggled with an image problem. Critics worry that a standardized world is dull and mediocre, a nightmare of conformity and Kafkaesque bureaucracy.”
I can definitely relate. I can’t count the number of conversations I’ve had with teachers who feel that aligning to standards is just bureaucratic hoop-jumping, something to get through as fast as possible to get to the good parts of teaching.
None of us like unnecessary hoops. All of us want the freedom to use our own creative spark in the classroom.  
However, think back to the electrical outlets. Various countries don’t want to collaborate on technical standards, so we who travel between them have to figure out how to make our electronics work. The lack of standardization creates unnecessary friction that slows us down, just a little.  
Similarly, our students move year by year from one classroom to the next. Of course, they should expect to encounter differences in style from one teacher to the next. However, our school-wide alignment to standards ensures that 3rd grade prepares them for 4th grade, that 8th grade prepares them for 9th grade, and so on.
Standards help us ensure that there is a purposeful increase in rigor from year to year.  
Now standards are not enough—they can form the backbone of your curriculum, but they need you and your team to build out from a statement on a paper to a dynamic lesson plan.  The art and craft of teaching is so much more than just choosing standards. Your work is to decide just the right questions to pique your students’ interest; to plan the learning engagements to help them construct their understanding; to make dozens of moment-by-moment decisions on how to connect with your students.  
So, next time you open your rubric or your unit planner, see your list of standards, and feel a little exasperated, think back to the last time you didn’t have the right shape electrical outlet, and how frustrating that was.
Yes, standards might feel mundane sometimes, and they may be the least interesting part of what you do. But your choice to align to standards reduces frustration for students as they progress on their learning journey. 

Source: rawpixel on pexels.com

Sustainable Design in Schools


When I first started working as a Design teacher, I was so excited by all the projects and opportunities I was going to have making with my students. I started to thinking about SUSTAINABILITY without even really thinking about the term in two ways:

  1. How will we manage materials and waste responsibly?
  2. How can I give students’ opportunities for open-ended client based projects when I only saw them for a year or a semester, but manage the sustainability of good projects?

 
And even after ten years, still don’t have answers, but it still something I continue to think about and work on as an educator and facilitator. No matter what school you are at, this is usually an issue, but it’s not something that is frequently discussed or solved easily.

First, let’s think about the question with the clearest answer:
How can we manage materials and waste responsibly?
Originally, I thought maybe I could use primarily recycled or upcycled materials.  I think this can be done with balance.  It is hard to create high quality products with old cardboard boxes and old food containers. School communities are great at collecting materials, but then Design/Maker labs quickly turned into a trash heap on one side. We also created more trash with the trash in some instances.  Some of the products would definitely not be used.
As international teachers, we move around frequently, and often do not have the language acquisition for procuring materials.  Or the budgets nor time to be really picky.  I would love to know the source of all my materials and be able to use high quality, sustainable, ethically and realistic for my budget.
As many of us have realized… there is no answer.  It is a balance of upcycling/recycling, and ordering ethical and sustainable materials.  We have started recycling our own plastics at ISB, using the Precious Plastic model, which has been a great asset to our design program. I do wonder how I can find out more about the origins of my products and educate our community more on local sustainable products.
Now, on to the second part of sustainability in school projects:
How can we give students’ opportunities for open-ended, authentic, client based projects and manage the sustainability of those projects and products?
This is more difficult to answer.  I am constantly trying to figure out this one.  Frequently, students come up with great ideas for projects that could truly solve an authentic problem in our community, but once that student leaves the class or the school, that project is often dropped.  Sometimes I’ll try to suggest to the student that he/she should create a “sustainability plan” for example: create a club to continue the work that’s needed…
Sometimes a younger student will pick up the project…
And sometimes, I’ve just got to let it go, no matter how great it is.
In Design, a high quality product is desirable and we want kids to achieve that, but the reality is the process and the learning that goes into design thinking is most important.  Maybe those students continue the work at a new school, new community, or even at university.  I will never know, but there’s hope.  If nothing else, I hope that our students continue to use design thinking to address issues, identify problems and seek opportunities in all areas of their lives.
In many design thinking frameworks and processes, there is a part of the reflection piece where students need to consider the impact of the project/product on themselves, others, the environment and be reflective on their social, emotional and economic impact of their project, especially for them to imagine their product going to mass market.  This is essential in our teaching and our Design classrooms, no matter the project.
As international teachers, our students are the future leaders, businessmen/businesswomen, and parents of the next generation.  I hope they always consider their impact as they design and create new businesses, products and solutions to problems that may not even exist yet.
So is this something we need to put more at the forefront of our teaching as Design Teachers?  If we are not teaching it, who is, especially in such a hands-on way?
Should we always be looking at the sustainability and impact of the project, even as young as elementary school?
I think, yes.
 

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