Thursday, April 28, 2011

Think, Puzzle, Explore

Our Grade 5 students are currently in the middle of their PYP Exhibition.  This is the culmination of the IB PYP programme and the requirement for students is that they demonstrate the 5 essential elements of the PYP (knowledge, concepts, skills, attitudes and action).  Students work very independently and take a good deal of responsibility for their own learning.  It is a way of celebrating and reflecting on the entire Primary Years Programme and showing that they exhibit the attributes of the learner profile as the students move up into middle school and start on the MYP.

The exhibition is shared with the entire school community, many teachers and administrators volunteer to mentor the different groups, and in previous schools where I have worked parents take on a role too.  The exhibition takes the place of one of the units of inquiry - it can take place under any transdisciplinary theme (though in my experience the common ones tend to be Sharing the Planet and How We Organize Ourselves) as students work on collaborative transdisciplinary inquiries where they identify, investigate and offer solutions to real-life issues or problems.

This year our students have also been able to use Micromobs to collaborate and discuss issues with students in other international schools also working on the PYP Exhibition at this time.   We've found it simple to use for our students and we feel it allows students to demonstrate qualities of the learner profile such as being inquirers, communicators and open-minded as well as attitudes such as respect.  As teachers we have also used this tool to remind students to be good digital citizens and to be cautious about sharing personal information online.

Yesterday I was asked to help a friend in another school who is mentoring a PYP Exhibition group.  Her students are investigating the effects of technology and have come up with a central idea and ideas for their inquiries, but she wanted to know how to take them further.  As this year I'm working on my personal goal of trying to include more of the Visible Thinking core routines in my teaching, this has given me an opportunity to reflect on the Think, Puzzle, Explore core routine.  This routine is used at the start of an investigation to encourage students to develop their own questions.    This routine asks 3 questions:

What do you think you know about this topic?
What questions or puzzles do you have?
How can you explore this topic?

The Project Zero website suggests it's better to do the Think and Puzzle questions together first and then to do the Explore question after sharing ideas and puzzles.  I like the idea of puzzling as a way into exploring and investigating something in more depth.  Puzzling something out through inquiry involves moving from confusion to understanding and involves deep thinking about something that students find difficult and worthwhile of independent investigation.

Photo Credit:  Why by Tintin44 and Sylvain Masson

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