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
Foundations of Understanding
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
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.
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.Click/Tap to View
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.
Creating A Culture of CuriosityClick/Tap to View
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.
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.
Sign up to receive the weekly emails. These are wonderful provocations and could be used to start off the day.
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:
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…
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.Click/Tap to Access the Summaties
Five Ways to Build Student Ownership in the First Month of SchoolClick/Tap to read more
Reminder: Children Still Love LearningClick/Tap to Read Article
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:
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)
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)
More UDL Resources
- UDL Now!: A Teacher's Guide to Applying Universal Design for Learning 3rd ed. Edition - Book by Katie Novak
- Katie Novak's Blog
- Lesson planning with Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
- Universal Design for Learning: What Educators Need to Know | Waterford.org | August 6, 2021
- What is Universal Design for Learning (UDL)? | Understood Website
- What is Universal Design for Learning (UDL)? |YouTube video | Nov 2, 2017
- Universal Design for Learning: Principles | Prodigy Website | Mar 31, 2020
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
Designing Learning Articles/VideosClick/Tap to View
Using Rubrics as a Metacognitive Strategy | Article |Edutopia | Teachers in grades K to 2 can use rubrics to guide students to plan, monitor, and evaluate their learning.
Designing Learning Experiences and Inquiry – Strategies and Tools | Article |Toddle | This article takes you through a variety of examples to see the power of what if, the importance of a scaffold and the art in the design of inquiry learning engagements.
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.
5 Ways to Stop Thinking for Your Students
Too often math students lean on teachers to think for them, but there are some simple ways to guide them to think for themselves.
5 Ways to Get Your Students Thinking
- Answer questions with a refocus on the students’ point of view
- Don’t carry a pencil or marker
- We instead of I
- Stall your answer
- Set boundaries
Better World Project - Unit EL Education
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