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Thursday, March 29, 2012

IB Thursday - What Inquiry cycle do you use?

I've been slacking a little with my IB Thursday posts but am happy to find myself back on track tonight.  I've had some opportunities in the past few weeks to really think about the process of inquiry in the classroom.  I know that for those of you who teach in a standards based curriculum the thought of inquiry might seem a bit ridiculous, especially if you have to stick to a scripted program.  I say that because that's how I felt teaching from subscribed programs like Treasures and Everyday Math.
What I didn't know then is that inquiry is the foundation upon which learning is based.  If we don't access our student's interests, if we don't prompt their curiosity then the learning which does happen is superficial.

This is exactly what John Dewey's child-centered learning was about.  His model started with concrete experience.  This is the interaction between the student and his or her environment, subject or teacher.
The cycle moves on to reflective observation.  This is where the action is considered through observation or discussion. The next step according to Dewey is the abstract conceptualization. Basically this is when the student derives some meaning or knowing from the experience. The last step in this cycle is the active experimentation. This is where the student takes his or her new knowledge and applies it to new experiences.

Dewey believed that reflection is an integral part of the learning that takes place from experience. He believed that reflective thought started when students had an experience that created some form of conflict or dilemma within them. Dewey felt that this conflict stirred the learner into asking further questions and asking what is really going on.  From there the learner experiments with possible solutions either literally or in thought, and lastly he or she will determine if the solution was effective.  This entire process, according to Dewey is how all concrete learning happens.

There have been many inquiry cycles developed since Dewey's time.  Here are some of my favorites and lastly I'll show you the one I use in my class.

This model based on Dewey is commonly used in classrooms today.  

This model by Kathy Short really helped me to better understand the inquiry cycle.  She starts with Invitation.  It is this invitation that starts the learner on the journey to something new.  It is on this path that the tension or the conflict is discovered.  From there the students goes on to investigate, demonstrate, re-vise, represent and take action.

A standard inquiry model for the IB PYP is this:

This is the model that I use in my class.  While it is a wheel and connects from one phase to the next I like to think of it as fluid.  No matter what part of the cycle you are in you can always go back, start over or skip ahead.  

I can tell you from personal experience that the process of inquiry works.  It works because it is based on connecting a child's experiences to his or her knowledge.  When working at my school last year we often said that we were working with our hands tied behind our backs.  We thought this because our student population came with so little experience to build on that they were ill prepared to understand texts and topics in our state mandated texts.  

What I realize now, that I didn't then is that Tuning In and creating Tension happen because we present our students with that opportunity.  The first week or even two should be spent immersing the students in experiences.  Hands on learning and exploration are key. The difference between last year and this year is not that my students come with more experience, all be it they do, but that we (my students and I) take the time to discover and investigate new concepts before we ever learn about the facts.  This is what makes the learning personal. This is what makes it stick!!

So...which model of inquiry do you use when designing your lessons?  I'd love to know and have you share with me.  Please leave me a comment and tell me what you think about inquiry and Dewey.

Miss Pam

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Wordle anyone?

Thanks to my amazing friend and colleague Flick Trimming for introducing me to Wordle.  Have you heard of it?
Wordle is a website where you can enter text or a website address and randomize the words from the text you selected.  What’s great is that the more a word is used the bigger it appears.

Here is the wordle that I created by entering the address for this blog. 
 Wordle allows you to customize the color scheme, layout, font and even language. 
Flick used this with her class of first graders to create wordles about their current unit of light. Their results were amazing.  

Today in class I had my third graders write a short essay about Technology.  After they wrote it in word I showed them and off they went. 
Here are some of their amazing results. 

What I love most about these Wordles is that my kids can see their ideas expressed in a non-traditional format. I think they turned out fabulous and gives me a real indication of what they have pieced together through this unit.

Give it a try...You'll love it too! =

Happy Teaching!

Miss Pam

Great idea from: Pammy Loves...: A Little Encouragement

Last year I taught at a Tittle 1 school in New Mexico. It was just about this time of year when my 2nd graders were asked to prepare a little encouragement for their 3rd grade buddies taking the "big" state test.  This is what we made.  Although I don't teach in a school that does standardized testing I wanted to share this with you anyway. Maybe this someone can use this idea to cheer up some nervous test takers.  Please share if you have a great activity that you use. 
Happy Teaching!  
Miss Pam

Click the link below to see the complete post!

Pammy Loves...: A Little Encouragement: It's that time of year where the atmosphere at most schools changes drastically.  The students and their teachers are on edge and under a tr...

Sunday, March 25, 2012

SchoggiLand - Chocolate Land

Last Thursday we went on an adventure (that’s what we call field trips) to Schoggiland in Flawil, Switzerland. Schoggiland is at the Maestrani Chocolate Factory.  We have been studying Technology and how it has changed the world. This trip was to give the kids an inside look at how technology changed the process of chocolate manufacturing and distribution.  It was a huge success and the best part of all (besides all that the kids learned of course) was the free chocolate samples.  Oh the chocolaty goodness!!!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Parent Teacher Conferences and FREEBIE FRIDAY!

Good Morning!  I'm rushing out the door and I wanted to post this freebie friday PTC Report Form.

I love this and it has really helped me stay on top of preparing for my conferences.  I use it before the conference, during and after.  I also send home a photocopy with parents so they have a reference for what we discussed and goals that we set together.

You can find this free download at my TPT store here! (just leave me some feedback or follow my store)
I'm off to my conferences for the day!

Have a great weekend everybody!

Miss Pam

Monday, March 19, 2012

And the Winner is...

My first giveaway is done and I'm so excited that I got a response.  It wasn't the biggest but I learned a lot.  Thanks to all of you who entered!

The winner is: Brittney over at TeachPrayLove!  
I'm looking forward to sending you your special prize.  Please let me know which of the two books you would prefer. 

I used the random number generator at to find the winner.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Exploring the Metre/Meter (whichever way you like to spell it)!

In Maths this week (oh, I should explain that we call it Maths because it's short for Mathematics) we are working on distance and capacity.  Because my fabulous kids can memorize and apply they are able to convert from mm to m to km no problem.  But when it came to making estimations or conceptualizing the distance of a metre they were very confused. So what better way to clear up the mystery than art and candy.  
The first activity we did was our Metre Art project. The first step was to measure out a metre of yarn with our tape measures (which I got from IKEA and are PERFECT!) Next the kids used their imagination to create a picture, using their yarn, on an A5 piece of card stock. The only rules were that the picture had to fit on the paper and they could not cut the metre.  Here is what they created:

Lisa hard at work.

Jan wanted to write out his name.

Lope made a heart with googley eyes.

Lisa made a cute snail.

Michela ended up designing an umbrella.

This was Maleeha's letter A.

And Aadi's car with googley eye wheels.
The second activity was a huge hit.  To get the kids to work on making estimates I gave each child a plate with two different pieces of coiled or bunched up candy string.  I asked them to estimate each string without touching it. We talked about strategies such as looking at one part and multiplying by how many rows were visible.  I asked them to write their estimate in mm and cm.  Once they made their predictions they could then unroll the string and measure it.  Before they could eat the candy they had to do some addition and subtraction. I wanted to know how accurate their estimates had been and by how many mm and cm they had been wrong.  
This activity really worked great and they enjoyed it very much.  In fact, I was given a point up on the board. Don't kids give me brownie points when they like a lesson. So silly!!

Here are the pictures of this activity!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Unpacking Text

I have been working with my students to really digest and comprehend text that they read, especially, non-fiction informative text. As we continue to work on our current unit in technology I had the kids split into partner groups and work with highlighters to extract important information from texts.  I was impressed with what they thought was important and even more surprised by their ability to share out with the rest of the class when they were finished. 

I gave each one of the partners a different color highlighter so I could see who marked what passages. I then wondered around the room and listened carefully to their conversations. What I can tell you is this.  The moment my kids had those highlighters in their hands the name of the game changed. They suddenly had a different hat on. They were truly “unpacking” the text. I just wish I could have them highlight everything they read! 

I encourage you to try it. See if it turns your kiddos into critical readers as well.  

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I'm just itching to send you this gift!!!

Don't you just want to sink your teeth into some delicious Swiss Chocolate while you read your kids an amazing book?  Well enter my giveaway and you might just get the chance!!1

Just click here!!!!! 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Freebie Friday!

It's Friday and it's time for a Freebie!  I haven't been creating any products because my computer crashed. But I'm up and running with my new one and I plan to have lots of great new freebies for you all.

In the meantime...I've just changed this form to a freebie on TPT. It's the response form I use with my kids for the read to self portion of our centers.  It's a half page and really cute!

Click over to my TPT store here to download your free copy.  While you are there, PLEASE follow my store so you'll get updates when I start posting all this great new stuff!!

That's it for today.  Happy Teaching and have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Woo Hoo - Giveaway! (With Chocolate)

I am so excited for my first Giveaway! I have been torn for the last week between doing a digital “gift” and an actual one.  I don’t know about you but I LOVE getting a letter or a package in the mail.  I thought there might be others out there that feel the same excitement at the thought of an unexpected gift arriving in the mailbox.

Once I decided on a real giveaway I had to find the perfect thing.  Since I live in Switzerland I wanted to give away something from here.  I also wanted it to be something a teacher would love.

Here it is.  (There is a choice of two books depending on the grade level you would prefer)
The two books are both classics from my childhood.
The first is A Bell For Ursli by Selina Chonz and Alois Carigiet.  It is a picture book from the Engadine region of Switzerland (the Alps). 
It has been translated into English and I still have the original version in German from my childhood.  I love this story!!!

The second book is a chapter book by Otfried Preussler. He was born in Czechoslovakia and the book has also been translated into English.  This is a GREAT book for ESL/ELL kids because it helps with English language acquisition. It has certain words bolded and includes definitions at the end of the chapter.   The story is lovely and I remember it fondly to this day.  

Both books are amazing!! They are brand new (new car smell) and ready for a home in your awesome class library.

Last, but certainly not least, the chocolate. I'm sending along a variety of swiss chocs including the two in the picture.  Just thought they were cute because they are wrapped like swiss army knives. = do you enter (WIN) this fabulous giveaway??

It's simple just pick an item below, each item is one entry to win. Please remember to post once per entry. My fabulous friend Maya, who is coming all the way to Switzerland to pick your name out of a hat, will select the winner on Monday March 19th. Ok, she's coming to visit me and we will use the random generator, but she may be your lucky charm.

1. Follow my blog
2. Follow my store
3. Post about this giveaway
4. Add me to your blogroll
5. Grab my button and place it on your blog

Once I've picked a winner I'll contact you to find out which of the two books you'd like. All you have to do after that is wait for your fabulous gift to arrive!


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Finally back Online!

It's been a long two weeks since my laptop crashed.  Tonight I am back online with my amazing new iMac.  So happy that I back up my work on a removable hard drive and was able to transfer all of that information to my new computer.  

It's already almost 10pm and I still have a few things to get ready for tomorrow. So...I'll be back to posting tomorrow.  It's IB Thursday and I am going to be talking about Inquiry Cycles.  Stay tuned...

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Currently and One HOT Bag

Good Morning Blog Land!!

I'm trying out something new today. I'm scheduling my first post. I'm really hoping that it works out. If any of you know how to change the time zone on my blog I would love to know. =

I'm liking up to do the March Currently!

The last 3 words are adjectives that start with the first letter of your last name.  They are also in a special order. So my students would call me Outrageous(ly fun!). My friends might call me Organized and my family would definitely describe me as Original.

Now it's your turn...

Head over to

to get the details on this linky event. Just remember the last blank is changed
every month so this month the rules for the last blank are....
ONE- every word has to start with the FIRST letter of your LAST name
so all of mine start with F
TWO- you can only have 3 words... that is it THREE words
THREE- you have to think of it as what would they say... so if your
students, friends, and family (in that order) could say ONLY ONE WORD about you
and it had to start with the FIRST letter of your LAST name what would the 3 words be..?
keep them in that order so everyone knows... STUDENTS, FRIENDS, FAMILY!!!

Hello my love!

Do you love Longchamp?  Do you know about Longchamp? I didn't before I moved to Europe.  I do now and I'm in love!  I just had to get my hands on this amazing Orange bag. Yesterday after my crap day (not with the kids but with politics), I went to Glatt (the mall across the street from the school. Literally across the street) and engaged in some retail therapy.  

Don't you just love?

Off to another great day of teaching and learning!

Until next time!

Miss Pam

Monday, March 5, 2012

It really is Award Season!

I had a pretty tough Monday and came home after a long day to find that Andrea McEvoy at One Teacher's Take has awarded me with my second award in just one week. I feel so special and am incredibly appreciative to her for the recognition.  

Here are the rules for the Lovely Blog Award:

  1. Link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
  2. Pass the award on to 15 followers.
  3. Follow the person who sent it to you.
Here are the lovely ladies I am passing this award on to.  Check out their awesomely amazing blogs.


Beg, Borrow, Steal


Teaching Resource Resort

The Convenient Teacher

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