WestCAST 2019 – Calgary

By the time you read this edition, WestCAST will be in our rear view mirror.  I hope you attended and took with you a couple of gems to add to your classroom.  So many of the presentations are timely and current to developing a compelling, interesting, engaging classroom at all levels from K-12.

From virtual reality to microbits and storytelling to experiential learning, there was something for everyone.  It was a great opportunity to get together, meet and network and learn a few new strategies to apply to your practice.  I was so fortunate to present in one workshop and one presentation.

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I participated in “Learning through Making: How do we design and assess the learning?” Following from many successful “making” workshops, this one added the assessment piece to the making experience.  How do teachers assess what is happening in the makerspace with students?  What are the components that make a rich task and that empower students take the reins of their learning and see it through.  Once our participants could experience our Survivor style task and reflect on the skills and knowledge needed to complete the exercise, they could also surmise some of the key assessment elements.  Looking in depth at one specific element helped our participants visualize what assessment of students taking part in “maker” tasks might look like.

During “Let’s see what happens: The importance of being earnestly curious,” we looked at specific resources that piqued our curiosity and made for great workshop or classroom teaching.  We challenged participants to get curious by setting a goal to subscribe or visit a website that would prompt them to be curious about a variety of things.  Curiosity is a habit of mind that can be cultivated so easily with the internet at our fingertips but also can be sparked without any digital media by simply observing, albeit, a little more closely, our busy lives.  Participants who came to this session, hopefully, left a little more curious than when they came in.

If you didn’t have a chance to participate in WestCAST this year, please mark your calendars for next year because it was a great experience and challenged all of us to try a new strategy or two and to include some new ideas in our teaching and our learning.  Next year’s conference will be at University of British Columbia – stay tuned.

 

Picture Books that Promote Curiosity, Imagination and General Wondering

In a departure from the usual technology analysis, I will spend today looking at some new picture books that can be resources and browsers in a K-4 classroom to get kids wondering about the world around them.  These picks are from some recent arrivals in the library and are chosen for high interest and engagement.

What Do You Do With an Idea? and What Do You Do With a Problem? Both by Kobi Yamada and illustrated by Mae Besom.  Interesting juxtaposition of two great concepts – things you need to wonder about. An idea looks like an egg with a crown.  A problem looks like a big swirly, dark cloud.  Is an idea good? Does a problem present an opportunity?

Ideas Are All Around? by Philip C. Stead. How do you begin to write something? Taking a walk with your dog gives you many experiences. Are they worth writing about? What do you notice? Stop War – now there is a good idea.

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The Knowing Book by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, illustrated by Matthew Cordell.  “Know this: there is magic around but it hides.” “Be open to it.” Hone your powers of observation, around you, above you, near you.  Allow your feet to determine where you may journey and notice all there is to explore.

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City Shapes by Diana Murray, illustrated by Bryan Collier.  Notice all that is around you and tie it to some of your knowledge.  Recognize shapes in your environment as a beginning understanding of your world. This book would be a great provocation for a grade 1 photography project.  A way for students to study their community through the lens of a camera or an iPad.

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Secret Agent Man Goes Shopping for Shoes by Tim Wynne-Jones, illustrated by Brian Won.  S.A.M. (get it?) has a unique view of the world and all the adventures that are to be had.  Discover a unique perspective on shoe shopping by one imaginative boy.

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Use Your Imagination (but be careful what you wish for!) by Nicola O’Bryne.  A typical fairy tale re-telling becomes a whole new story with a little imagination.  Can you change other stories? What would be a more unexpected twist or turn in the stories you are reading?

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Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell and illustrated by Rafael Lopez.  True to life, people in a grey neighbourhood re-imagine it with colourful murals and paintings.  The entire neighbourhood joins in and life is forever changed.  Art changes people.  One person can change a neighbourhood or their school or city or country or the world.

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These are a few picks to invigorate your current classroom library and to engage students in a deeper thinking process.  Igniting curiosity is a game changer.