Designing Learning

Designing Engaging and Rigorous Learning Experiences

Designing Engaging and Rigorous Learning Experiences

This guide-book from Toddle will walk you through the process of examining your learning experiences and provoke you with questions to redesign them with a goal to promote higher-order thinking. Discover frameworks and examples to understand how you can integrate technology, focus on higher-order thinking skills, and support student agency, to make your learning experiences truly come alive!

Use This Resource To:

  • Explore frameworks that will help you shift from surface learning to higher-order thinking

  • Unpack examples of learning experiences to get a glimpse of these frameworks in action

  • Create learning experiences that promote creativity and student agency

Designing Engaging and Rigorous Learning Experiences.pdf
Source: Toddle Website
Toddle is a collaboration platform for IB PYP and MYP teachers, designed by IB teachers.

What Learning Do We Value?

Click/Tap on Image to View/DownloadSource: Innovative Global Education

Learning and Young Children

Click/Tap on Image to View/DownloadSource: Innovative Global Education

Foundations of Understanding

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Foundations of Understanding by Design with Jay McTighe is a series of four workshops presented by Toddle. In these sessions, Jay elaborates on the various stages, key elements, and processes of the UbD framework, along with providing accessible tips and handy resources for educators to make the best of the planning process.
**Note: You may be asked to fill in a short form - For your school / organization you can use "Inspiring Inquiry".

Who Do We Plan For

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Source: Innovative Global Education
The article’s premiss is “schools and teachers should view planning as being responsive to student learning and interests. The planning process continues throughout the life of the unit and is developed according to the experiences and wonderings that occur during the learning process. There must be space for students to engage in meaningful conceptual inquiry and teachers need to create that space. Without space for student inquiry, wonderings and curiosity it would need to be questioned if the presence of authentic student inquiry existed within the unit.” The article advocates that effective conceptual planning is based on eight principles and understandings.

Planning a Unit of Work

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Source: Innovative Global education

Rules of Great Teaching

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Source: Sylivia Duckworth

Why Failure is Important

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Source: Sylivia Duckworth

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

  • Neal.fun: 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

Five Ways To Scaffold Classroom Dialogue; Check for Understanding; Build Student Confidence; Sustain Student Attention; Do Daily Review

The Five Ways To series are informative one-page summaries produced by the David Goodwin.

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Five Ways to Build Student Ownership in the First Month of School

The first month of school sets the tone for the entire year. Master teachers set up their students for the rest of the year. They actively scaffold student ownership, build classroom community, and cultivate a learning environment where the students were not only engaged, but also empowered. Here are FIVE ways anyone can build student ownership in the first month of school written by A J Juliani.

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“Pedagogy has to embrace a sense of what kind of culture are we creating.”

Guy Claxton, 2021

Reminder: Children Still Love Learning

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WRITTEN BY A.J. JULIANI

Something I've been reminded of over and over again the last few weeks as I talk with my own children, and educators around the country working in K-12 classrooms: Children still love learning. They don't always like school, and therein lies the paradox, as school is supposed to be a place where we learn.

As I was wrestling with these two thoughts, Tim Smyth posted this on his @historycomics Instagram page:

What's so fascinating about this sentiment is that we all KNOW this intrinsically. I wonder what would happen if we stopped asking the question at school: Will this activity/lesson/assessment/content PREPARE children for ________?

And, if instead, we asked the question: Will this activity/lesson/assessment/content keep children loving learning?

We Know a Few Things to be True:

  1. Standardized assessments do NOT predict student success.

  2. Many decisions around curriculum and what/how we are teaching are tied to success on those assessments (ex: Common Core standards correlation to state tests, AP curriculum connected to AP assessments, etc)

  3. Student engagement drops steadily (and their view of having fun and doing interesting things in school) each year they are at school.

  4. Many teachers are forced into a tough spot between doing what they know works in learning (giving choice, inquiry, designing for creativity, project-based learning) and doing what they believe they have to do in order to "cover" the curriculum, meet standards, and prepare kids for tests.

In short, most of what we are doing in an "assessment-centric" education system is not working, has been proven to have no correlation to student success, leads to disengaged students, and teacher burnout.

But, our system remains unchanged in many places. And, the burden falls on school administrators, teachers, and support staff to try and make learning meaningful and relevant under these circumstances.

Here's the real kicker: In the midst of it all, children are still here in our schools every single day. They are with us in school for over 14,000 hours between Kindergarten and 12th Grade.

And, they still love learning, when the learning is meaningful.

There are too many people that want school to stay the same, even as many of us educators are shouting from the rooftops that things have to change.

Not for us (although that would be nice), but really for the children. Isn't that why we are doing this work in the first place?!?

There is so much we don't have control of or influence over. But, if you get the chance to make a decision for the children in your school or classroom, I hope we can ask the question: Will this activity/lesson/assessment/content keep children loving learning? And design based on that answer.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework developed by CAST. UDL guides the design of learning experiences to proactively meet the needs of all learners. When you use UDL, you assume that barriers to learning are in the design of the environment, not in the student. UDL is based on brain science and evidence-based educational practices. It also leverages the power of digital technology.

UDL describes human variability based on parts of the brain that manage the “why” (affective network), the “what” (recognition network), and the “how” (strategic network) of learning.

CAST developed UDL guidelines that are based on three main principles that align with these learning networks. The three UDL principles are engagement, representation, and action and expression.

The chart below includes the three UDL principles adapted from CAST. It also gives you some questions to consider and lists some examples of the principles in action.


Source: Understood Website

UDL Podcast Featuring Katie Novak

If you've ever wanted to learn more about UDL, this episode is for you! And if you ever had a feeling that one size fits all learning doesn't work, here's how to fix it with real examples.

UDL Now! Author Katie Novak dives deep into the best practices with Universal Design For Learning, and how we can start removing barriers for all learners (kids and adults).

Check out her book: UDL Now!

UDL Guidelines

UDL Graphic Organizer v2-2.pdf
Source: CAST Website

Getting Started with UDL

Getting Started With Universal Design for Learning.pdf

Better World Project - Unit

Run Time: 6:54 - June 25, 2018
This video features an inspiring Better World Project accomplished by the Interdistrict School for Arts and Communication (ISAAC) in New London, CT, an EL Education school. It was one of 18 winning Better World Projects selected by a committee of EL Education students, teachers, and leaders, from submissions across the country.
EL Schools are not IB schools, but this project is an example of what an IB UOI could look like - truly transdisciplinary, inquiry & concept based with student voice and choice and connect to being internationally minded - what is means to be human.
** View More EL Better World Projects

Designing Learning Articles/Videos

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  • Making Self-Paced Learning Work for Younger Kids | Video | Edutopia | Nov 18, 2021 | This differentiation approach frees teachers up to meet students’ needs. The result? Students only tackle material they’re ready for, and all students achieve mastery.

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