Community of Learners

We Are All Learners

Community of Learners: Summary

The learning community recognizes that education is a social endeavour benefiting all its members individually and collectively

A strong learning community “sets the ambience for life-giving and uplifting experiences necessary to advance an individual and [all its members]."

Common relational characteristics of learning communities are (1) sense of belonging, (2) interdependence or reliance among the members, (3) trust among members, and (4) faith or trust in the shared purpose of the community (Lenning and Ebbers 1999).

An inclusive learning community:

    • lives peacefully together by engaging with different ways of knowing and being

    • prioritizes people and their relationships

    • assumes shared responsibility for learning, health and well-being.

Everyone in the learning community has agency, see themselves as contributors to its strength and success, and take action to affect change

Source: | Springer Link

Articles That Support Building A Community of Learners

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Teaching and Modeling Gratitude in Elementary School | Edutopia | May 12, 2022 | Lessons in gratitude help students develop social awareness, a key component of social and emotional learning.

How to Ask Questions That Engage Young Students | Edutopia | Dec 6, 2021 | Learn about three questioning techniques that prompt all students to come up with a response that can raise their spirits and make learning more joyful.

6 Powerful Strategies for Deeper Learning in Your Classroom | Teachthought | Deeper Learning is a set of student outcomes that includes mastery of essential academic content; thinking critically and solving complex problems; working collaboratively and communicating effectively; having an academic mindset and being empowered through self-directed learning.

Getting Students on the Road to Self-Advocacy | Edutopia | 1 July, 2021 | With some simple supports, students in grades 3 to 8 can take the wheel and assume some responsibility for their learning journey.

Building a Culture that Respects Teachers and Reduces Stress |Edutopia | February 5, 2021 | When teachers are given time to work closely with other teachers and have achievable goals—school culture thrives. The article discusses the connection between teacher collaboration, time to ‘reflect, make meaning and connect’, and wellbeing. Collaborative meetings are essential to the inquiry approach and need to happen within the week not simply tacked on to the end of a day or the occasional staff meeting. So, if you are still trying to champion the importance of time to plan and reflect with colleagues, this article provides may provide some powerful support. Recommended by Kath Murdoch.

12 Strategies to Build Relationships with Students |Teachthought| Mar 18, 2021 | Here are 12 ways to help you build better relationships with your students. A well-organized classroom with engaged students who trust and feel valued by the teacher is a classroom that’s setup for progress everywhere else.

The Learning Community

Click/Tap image to view/download documentSource: Sheeza Ali Facebook

Modelling For Learning

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People to Surround Yourself With

Click/Tap image to view/download documentSource: Sylvia Duckworth

Evolving as a Lifelong Learner

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Engaging in a process of learning, unlearning, and relearning puts educators on a path to continuous improvement.

Visible Learning Guide

Click/Tap image to view/download 11-page documentSource: Corwin

Why Visible Learning?

Making learning visible isn’t something that just happens. It requires a few key mindset shifts. The first is getting into the habit of constantly thinking about your impact and your dual role of educator and learner. The second is the measurement and evaluation of that impact.

The power behind Visible Learning lies in these mindset shifts—and the five key strands that provide the backbone for evaluation and learning. The Visible Learning guide, will outline:

  • The five key strands behind the Visible Learning research

  • How the strands can be interpreted

  • Questions to ask yourself to start using these strands as a lens through which to view your impact

Also see: Visible Thinking Routines

Provocations to Spark Your Students to Think, Wonder and Question

The following websites offer a wide spectrum of provocations for students to pique their curiosity and get them thinking, wondering and speaking about topics that intertest them. These are wonderful conversation starters that can lead to the development of critical thinking, listening and oracy skills that can support your units of inquiry.

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  • Five Jamboard Bellringers to Start the School Day: Jamboard is such a good tool for creating quick, interactive activities to warm up students’ brains at the beginning of class. A great time to jump into a Jamboard is when the morning school bell chimes. Here are five bellringers that you can copy and run with!

  • Daily Puzzlements: Each week, Ian Byrd who managers the Byrdseed website, sends out a list of five free links to fascinating images and intriguing videos to share with your class. (for instructions see "Creating A Culture of Curiosity").

  • The Kid Should See This: The TKSST website is chalk-full for amazing videos that will start conversations, spark questions, and invite inquiry.

  • What's Going on in This Picture?: Published by the New Your Times (NYT) is a wonderful resource using a range of powerful images designed to develop critical and creative thinking skills. Also see their collection of 40 intriguing photographs.

      • If you’re not sure how to get started, the NYT have created a recorded webinar that walks teachers through the process and describes the power of this simple activity. In addition, they have lesson plans and resources to help teachers use a wide variety of Times images to get students writing, thinking, speaking and listening.

      • Try Using With The Following Visible Thinking Routines: Zoom; Think, Puzzle, Explore; See, Think, Wonder; Chalk Talk; Circle of Viewpoints; Claim, Support, Question

  • This site is a network of 24 interactive projects some of which could be integrated in subjects (10 Years Ago or Who Was Alive - History; Absurd Trolly Problems - philosophy; Draw Logos from Memory - Art; Speed - Math, and much more. Great provocations and lots of interesting information.

  • Deep Talk: A year’s worth of daily questions generated by a machine: 365 questions were generated using GPT-J-6B, an autoregressive language model trained on 800 GB of internet text. The prompts used for the generation were randomly shuffled samples of human-written questions

  • CNN10: International and USA News explained in 10 minutes that is easy to understand by children. Even though, US biased, the content will spark student interest and inquiry.

  • Future Crunch: This site reports on only "Good News" which is refreshing. You'll be surprised at how much good news is actually happening around the world.

Creating A Culture of Curiosity

Byrdseed Website

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Many students don’t feel comfortable being curious at school. They’ve learned that asking a question might make them look foolish, slow down the class, or even upset the teacher. So if you want curious students, you have to retrain them to be curious again. You have to spend some time creating a culture of curiosity.

What Do I Do with This?

Take a few minutes once a week, show your favourite puzzlement or two, and simply let your students be curious.

Use these two prompts:

  1. What do you notice? - Psst. Most people rush (or skip) this step. Give kids lots of time to notice things. It's the pre-req to our next step…

  2. What do you wonder? - No pressure. No expectations. This is a chance for you to establish four key traits:

    • Routine. Students come to expect a time to be curious.

    • Safety. Students won't be curious if teachers make it unsafe to ask questions. I used to kill curiosity by saying things like: "that's off-topic", "we don't have time for questions," and worst of all, "I already answered that question!"

    • Novelty. The puzzlements are fresh, interesting, and unexpected.

    • Praise. When a student is curious (about anything!), explicitly praise that curiosity. Think about the difference between, “We don’t have time for that” versus "What an interesting question! Write it down in your book of curiosity!"

    • Modeling. Children need to see adults being curious. Share what you're wondering about. Model curiosity in front of them.

DO NOT: assign homework or create classwork out of these questions or you’ll quench the fire.

The great thing about these emails is that you're free to use them however you like. But here's how I'd get started:

    • Pick the video or image that most dramatically provokes your own curiosity (remember, you've got to model curiosity and that's a lot easier when you're authentically curious). Ian always sends out five links so there's bound to be at least one that really pops out. ⚠️ No reason to use them all each week!

    • Consider ahead of time: where should you pause the video or what parts of an image should you hide at first? Consider using the Zoom In Thinking Routine. This is key to building curiosity - temporarily denying some essential information. Done correctly, you'll drive your students into a delightful frenzy of curiosity!

    • As you pause the puzzlement, ask your students, "What did you notice?" This step is so easy to skip. But it's essential. Take longer than you think is necessary. Kids will keep finding new things. Silence is fine. It means they're thinking. Don't skip this!

    • Only then, begin asking, "What do you wonder?" Ahh, what a beautiful feeling! To wonder. You'll probably see that kids' "wonders" build on their "notices" - that's one reason to spend extra time letting them slowly notice.

    • ⚠️ Do not allow this to become a guessing game. Kids should be looking closely and pointing at interesting things, not randomly shouting out hypotheses in order to "be the first to get it."

Eventually, you can collect your kids' "wonders" and put them on your walls or your class website. Display them publicly. Add answers when/if they find them. Don't be surprised if kids come back in a month and say, "Oh, I figured out why that spider did that thing in that video!" And don't be scared to come back yourself and share an answer you found. Model curiosity! AND don't be afraid of leaving unanswered questions sitting there all year!

Source: Byrdseed Website

The Hungry Mind: The Origins of Curiosity

Run Time: 20:06 - Aug 18, 2011
This is very though-provoking video by Susan Engel. A striking quote from her research is: "many children are spending hours a day in school without asking even one question" ~ Children’s Need to Know: Curiosity in Schools. And, no, "can I go to the bathroom" doesn't count as a question in this context. She explains what teachers need to do to ensure curiosity is alive and well in the classroom.
You might want to check out Susan's book - The Hungry Mind: The Origins of Curiosity in Childhood - which offers educators practical ways to put curiosity at the centre of the classroom and encourage children’s natural eagerness to learn.

Questions for Children to Ponder & Wonder

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These 365 questions were generated using an autoregressive language model trained on 800 GB of internet text. Learn more here.
You might use the questions in conjunction with the daily Byrdseed puzzlements (see above 'Creating a Culture of Curiosity') to promote curiosity, critical thinking and discussion as your students enter each morning.

Mindfulness Over Matter: Ellen Langer

Run time: 22:20 - Nov 5, 2013
Ellen Langer brings to light ways the best inquiry teachers operate in their classrooms. She describes mindfulness as ‘intentionally noticing things’ and, in the act of this intentional noticing, we become more aware of nuance and comfortable with uncertainty. This would be an engaging video to share with your staff because there is so much to connect with teaching and learning! Recommended by Kath Murdoch.

Teaching Moves That Engage Students

Click/Tap image to view/download 20-page documentSource: Curriculum AssociatesThis document covers:
  • Three specific teacher talk moves that boost student engagement and mathematical thinking
  • Actionable tips for teachers, including how to phrase class instructions
  • Common pitfalls to avoid and how to make the most of class time

What Are the Kinds of Questions That Help Students See Themselves as Learners?

These 30 questions are more about the student than you, your classroom, or your education. What every student should know starts with themselves and moves outwards to your content area: self-knowledge–> content knowledge.

As an educator, your job is to lead students to understanding, but student self-awareness and self-knowledge should precede that. These questions hit at a range of topics, but all revolve around that idea of a learner’s identity. These questions would be very useful at the beginning of the school year. Essentially: Know Thy Student.

Here are some Strategies for Implementation.

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Source: Teach Thought Website

  1. Introduce morning meeting. You can create a sense of community by consistently holding a morning meeting. Have your students design a poster or anchor chart to display in the classroom. Dedicate the first 30 minutes of each day to this important social-emotional learning and building relationships.

  2. Establish rules together. At the beginning of the year, discuss and come to agreement on classroom rules and expectations. Students can and should be reminded of the classroom rules/procedures and practice them daily. Discuss how and why these rules help students stay safe, learn respect, and how the rules help them learn and care about others. You can provide positive affirmations when students follow the classroom rules.

  1. Greet each student as they enter the room, everyday. Some teachers stand at the door, some play music, while other write a daily quote on the board. Whatever you decide, do your best to get the day started of in a way that tells your students you care. These small gestures let each student feel acknowledged and starts the day out on a positive note.

  2. Focus on relationships from day one. From the very first day, provide students with opportunities to share their voice and experiences with one another. When we know our students, and our students know each other, we feel safe, supported and respected. The stronger our community, the fewer conflicts we have. When problems do arise, this strong foundation carries us through and helps find real solutions.

Source: Learner's Edge Website

The Power of Ummmmm... Kath Murdoch

  • "What if classrooms were laboratories where wonderr thrives?"

  • "What if it was more exciting in a classroom to not know something than it was to know something?"

  • What if classrooms were places where children know their questions would be heard?"

Run Time: 18:37 - Nov 10, 2014

Differentiation & Learning Environment

Developing a strong learning environment is critical for the incorporation of differentiation strategies that support student learning.

Learn more about Differentiating Instruction and Assessment.

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Index For Inclusion: Developing Learning and Participation in Schools

The Index is a resource to support the inclusive development of schools. It is a comprehensive document that can help everyone to find their own next steps in developing their setting. The materials are designed to build on the wealth of knowledge and experience that people have about their practice. They challenge and support the development of any school, however 'inclusive' it is thought to be currently.

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Inclusion is often associated with students who have impairments or students seen as 'having special educational needs'. However, in the Index, inclusion is about the education of all children and young people. Read the entire document here.

Source: Published by the Center for Studies on Inclusive Education (CSIE)

Progressive Alternatives to Traditional Methods in Education

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If you're looking for progressive alternatives to traditional methods in education, you’re not alone.

The Progressive Education online hub explores progressive approaches to education which are forward-thinking and aim to equip students with appropriate skills for the 21st century from a British perspective.

15 Ways to Reimagine Education

  1. Raise the school starting age. Read more…

  2. Prioritise play. Read more…

  3. Place students in mixed age groups with mixed abilities. Read more…Eradicate standardised tests which put pupils (and teachers) under unnecessary pressure. Read more…

  4. Value creativity and innovation. Read more…

  5. Prioritise mental health and wellbeing. Read more…

  6. Practice democracy and mutual respect between staff and pupils. Read more…

  7. Value self-directed education. Read more…

  8. Broaden the National Curriculum. Read more…

  9. Reduce the amount of time spent at school. Read more…

  10. Enhance teacher training to equip teachers for the job. Read more…

  11. Reduce class/school sizes. Read more…

  12. Facilitate parent/teacher collaboration. Read more…

  13. Equip students with the skills needed for adulthood and the workplace. Read more…

  14. The education system is outdated. Create a new model for the 21st century. Read more…

Source: Progressive Education website

Learning Styles Do NOT Improve Learning!?

Run Time: 14:26 - Jul 9, 2021
This video postulates that there is no creditable evidence that Learning Styles (ie. VARK - visual, auditory, reading/writing, kinesthetics) exist due to a lack of creditable evidence. Instead of focusing on individual leaning styles, the video states that it is best to use a multi-modal approach (ie. picture + word/descriptor). It seems the common belief that learning styles help to improve learning is a myth...who would have thought?

The Positive Encourager Way Website

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This website explores how we can encourage people during our time on the planet. It looks at how we can help people to build on their strengths and achieve their picture of success. Learn more HERE

Home Learning

AKA: Homework

K-5 Home Learning Policy & Parent Handout

Click/Tap image to view/download documentSource: Southpointe Academy, BC, Canada

Video - Homework: How Much is Too Much?

Run Time: 1:08 - Mar 9, 2018

(Focus: Play, self-directed learning)
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When Adults Step Back, Kids Step Up: At Let Grow, they believe today’s kids are smarter and stronger than our culture gives them credit for. Treating them as physically and emotionally fragile is bad for their future — and ours. Let Grow is making it easy, normal and legal to give kids the independence they need to grow into capable, confident, and happy adults. Co-founded by Peter Gray.

Let Grow Programs

Wonderful Ideas for replacing Traditional "Homework" with activities that promote independence, resilience and responsibility. (Also see Play)

These programs give students the freedom to do things on their own and they change forever. Let Grow’s school and community programs give young people a bracing dose of the rocket fuel known as independence. Let Grow’s school programs are designed to unlock young people’s brilliance and resilience. Read about the programs for K-8 students in this free download of the chapter for educators in the brand-new edition of Free-Range Kids!

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Home Learning (work) Research Articles

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Let's take the word "work" out of "homework" because homework should not be work but instead an opportunity to explore, wonder, inquire and learn. Therefore, I suggest replacing homework with HOME LEARNING.

Homework Research Articles

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