All posts by Sonia Trakroo

Are you ever too old to learn something new?

Learn something new…try something different…convince yourself that you have no limits..and you shall never feel old.

I attribute my willingness to learn and try something new to my students. I spend so much time with these young ones – and truly believe that they are storehouses of positive energy – each and every one of them. I have imbibed this positive energy that keeps me going – challenging myself to keep trying something new. I receive my most valuable feedback from them too!!

I have recently launched my Youtube channel – MakingMathMagical.

Intro animation and music credit – Anushka Trakroo

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYHoLLFD_TzJ569LCV1p4sQ

My idea behind this Youtube channel was to be able to reach a wider community of students – what I share with my class of 20 – Youtube makes it possible to share with a class of infinity ….

The idea germinated a few months back – the heart of my math teaching is to simplify math, to take away the fear/phobia surrounding math for some students.

In my class, I use Vedic math strategies, mental math tips and tricks that makes calculation easy for students, some strategies help in comprehending math problems – (okay, just thinking – why are they called problems? Automatically makes you feel its something difficult or tricky, right? Can’t they be called situations or something else instead).

I used the summer vacation (one of the benefits of being a teacher 😉) to conceptualise and record some videos. It was honestly a painstaking and sometimes frustrating process. I browsed though a few Youtube tutorials (on Youtube ) and was encouraged to realise that I could start my journey with just my phone camera and my laptop to start with.

I invested in a mic and a ring light and got down to scripting and recording my intro. Took me 20 tries I think to get that right – and still it was not perfect. However, for me the content and the message I wanted to convey was more important and so I went ahead with it.

As a teacher the message I convey is that learning anything new is a process and one should be looking to make progress, however slow it may be. Why not treat myself with that same kindness? After all, I started this journey for myself – to learn something new, and to benefit a community of students – not to make money (in the short term at least 😎 )

I am truly humbled and filled with gratitude at the amazing response and feedback I have received since the launch of my channel 2 weeks back – mostly actually from adults. It’s never too late to learn a few tricks, right!!

I plan to upload one video every week or so – I am looking forward to beginning a new session this coming week with the students – I learn so much from them! The focus as of now is math strategies, let’s see where this journey takes me 💁‍♀️

If you like the strategies I am sharing in the videos, don’t forget to hit the thumbs up button and the bell icon to give a boost to an emerging Youtuber 😊. And if you’re feeling extra kind, leave me a little comment too! 🙌

In all my years, I never would have thought I would be called this – but can I admit that it’s such a thrill to be called a YouTuber. 🥰

Key concepts – the lens that helps make meaning of the world around us

As a grade 5 form tutor, the PYP exhibition is never far from my mind. Though the exhibition culminates their learning experience, I need to prepare students for a meaningful expression of all aspects of the PYP framework. To that extent, I start reinforcing these elements – transdiciplinary learning, skills and dispositions, learner agency, action (among others) almost from the very start of the academic year.
In this post, I am sharing how I reinforced the understanding of one of the essential elements of the PYP – key concepts

This is how the official site of the IB defines key concepts

Key concepts

The PYP identifies seven key concepts that facilitate planning for a conceptual approach to transdisciplinary and subject-specific learning. Together, these key concepts form the component that drives the teacher- and/or student-constructed inquiries that lie at the heart of the PYP curriculum.

www.ibo.org

Students keep encountering key concepts – mainly through their units of inquiry – however, these are almost always already decided by the teachers and then shared with students.

In the PYP exhibition, however, groups of students will have to choose the key concepts and then frame the lines of inquiry themselves. This is authentic concept-based inquiry – a powerful vehicle for learning that allows students to choose what they want to inquire in depth – thus promoting deeper understanding and engagement with significant ideas.

‘Students co-construct beliefs and mental models about how the world works based on their experiences and prior learning’

To ensure that students have a crystal clear understanding of the key concepts – they needed to be explicitly taught and then applied in a number of situations by students independently.

How we started

I started with showing a video to students (link below)– it explains the key concepts by connecting them with a popular and well known story ‘The 3 little pigs’

Once they watched this video, they applied their understanding by framing questions based on the key concepts for some common objects that they are familiar with – a water bottle, an apple, and a soft toy.

Sharing some samples below –

How we progressed

This basic understanding was extended when we started with our new unit of inquiry on diverse learning styles. I wanted the students to have some basic understanding of the brain and its functioning before moving on to the different ways in which people learn.

Rather than frontload them with facts about the brain, I asked them – ‘What do you want to know more about the brain’

‘What questions do you have?’

‘Why do you think it is important?’.

The importance of framing meaningful questions cannot be stressed enough for meaningful inquiry. I love the way key concepts allow us to frame questions and look at a concept through different lens. I could already see the evolving understanding reflected in the meaningful questions framed by groups of students (each group was allotted 2 key concepts). What was amazing to see was the questions covered almost any and everything we would have wanted to explore about the human brain.

https://padlet.com/sonia_trakroo/1g0eox4e5ahi1b7f

Made with Padlet

I could witness authentic guided inquiry happening in the class – students discussing and framing questions together.

The next step was answering these questions themselves. This was a guided process – I shared links for research and guided them in breakout rooms which I facilitated.

Through this process of creating a collated presentation – students gained the conceptual understanding and knowledge I intended for them – however, the process was such that they felt they answered their own questions – leading to an enduring understanding. Sharing some samples of the Google slide collated presentation where these questions were answered –

We don’t learn by doing, we learn by reflecting on what we have done

How we culminated

Not only is reflection important for developing metacognition – it is imperative that students identify what skills they developed along with gaining conceptual understanding.

We had a look at the ATL chart and mutually decided that during this activity research skills (gathering & recording and/or synthesizing and interpreting) and social skills (interpersonal) were in focus.

I encouraged students to use the vocabulary from the ATL chart (embedded in the Padlet for reference) and reflect meaningfully on the ATL developed.

Sharing some student reflections

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step – Lao Tsu

My students and I have embarked together on this learning journey – sharing our small steps with the learning community ….

I would love to hear about how you are strengthening the essential elements in your classrooms...do share in the comments 🙂

Kintsugi – why be broken when you can be gold?

New year, new beginnings – embracing ourselves

Before the winter break, all plans were in place to come back rejuvenated to the campus. The hope was to resume some semblance of normalcy. But man proposes and Corona disposes

I was looking for a welcome activity for students to start the second term of the year with and came across this golden philosophy – Kintsugi

Kintsugi (kin – gold, tsugi – repair or joining)

is the Japanese art of putting broken pottery pieces back together with gold — built on the idea that in embracing flaws and imperfections, you can create an even stronger, more beautiful piece of art. Every break is unique and instead of repairing an item like new, the 400-year-old technique actually highlights the “scars” as a part of the design.

Using this as a metaphor for healing ourselves teaches us an important lesson: Sometimes in the process of repairing things that have broken, we actually create something more unique, beautiful and resilient.

Source – How the Japanese art of Kintsugi can help you deal with stressful situations (nbcnews.com)

I wanted to share this philosophy with students as a mindfulness activity – not only recognizing, but embracing our flaws, what is seen as broken, and repairing it by not hiding the process, or covering the scars, rather highlighting them.

Kintsugi teaches us that the process of overcoming challenges is beautiful in itself – we do it with the help of mindfulness, friendships, family, community, faith…

And we do it not with paste, glue or duct tape.

But with gold.

Student reflections after watching the video explaining Kintsugi and having a discussion in class as to how it resonated with them –

As much as I wanted to share this with my students to facilitate their mindfulness journey, I learned so much from seeing this together with them and listening to their thoughts…for children it is so essential to understand that making mistakes is okay, it is the learning from them that is so important on our growth.

We are more beautiful for having been broken

This video so beautifully captures the essence and spirit of Kintsugi –

The bowl represents us

The hammer that breaks the bowl represents the challenges that life throws at us – to break us.

Once broken, we try to hide our broken selves. Here we are asked to stay with ourselves for some time and be mindful – not be in a hurry to ‘fix’ ourselves

The glue we then use to connect the broken parts (of ourselves) could be our faith, our friends and family, or even our inner resilience. The repaired bowl is now so much more beautiful than even the original, is it not?

Once again – in the process of trying to help my students I have helped myself! Discovered a new philosophy to live and love myself by…  

What about you? How has life hammered you? How have you overcome these challenges? Do share in the comments…

Embrace yourself, and appreciate the beauty and strength with which you got back up again….

Why be broken when you can be gold

Sarah Rees Brennan

Understanding the what, why and how of assessments in the PYP

Assessment – I think this word evokes as much fear and trepidation in teachers as it does in students today!!

The enhanced PYP has sought to make assessment a more authentic, student-centered process that encourages and involves student voice.

It stresses on including a variety of assessment strategies and tools to make the process meaningful and engaging.

As teachers, we are also transitioning to this new understanding – we must give ourselves the time and the space to do this.

I am attempting to lay out my understanding of the assessment process and how I have started integrating a variety in my classroom practices – in follow-up posts I will explore other aspects of assessments in more depth.

What is the purpose of assessment?

The purpose of assessment is to inform learning and teaching. It involves the gathering and analysis of information about student learning to inform teaching practice. It identifies what students know, understand, and can do at different stages in the learning process. A unique feature of assessments in the PYP is the focus on student knowledge, conceptual understanding, skills, and dispositions – the process and the product of student learning.

Characteristics of effective assessment (From ibo.org)

Highly effective assessment shares some key characteristics (Adapted from Clarke 2012).

  • Authentic: It supports making connections to the real world to promote student engagement.
  • Clear and specific: This includes desired learning goals; success criteria and the process students use to learn.
  • Varied: It uses a wider range of tools and strategies that are fit for purpose to build a well-rounded picture of student learning.
  • Developmental: It focuses on an individual student’s progress rather than their performance in relation to others.
  • Collaborative: It engages both teachers and students in the assessment development and evaluation process.
  • Interactive: Assessment encompasses ongoing and iterative dialogues about learning.
  • Feedback to feedforward: It provides feedback on current learning to inform what is needed to support future learning (Hattie, Timperley 2007) and raises students’ motivation.

What to assess?

In the PYP we assess students for the following –

  • Prior knowledge informs our teaching – gives us a start point for our teaching and helps in grouping students as per their understanding and thus differentiating instruction appropriately.
  • Formative assessmentsassessments for learning. These are conducted throughout the learning and teaching process. It is primarily for the teacher to assess if students are understanding as per the learning intentions which would mean she/he is on the right track. If there is a gap in understanding, there is time to modify teaching and learning strategies to ensure that learning objectives are met.

“Formative assessment is not a task. Formative assessment is an ongoing, embedded practice that allows teachers to constantly adjust their teaching based on what they’re observing. Feedback is a mindset.” Ron Ritchhart

  • Summative assessments are assessments of learning. In a very significant move, there is a shift away from the summative assessment in the enhanced PYP. The summative task was always the first thing planned by teachers (the traditional assessors) before the unit started – as we followed a backwards by design process. Now, assessment is built in throughout the planner. It involves evidencing the learning by the students themselves, as well as peers and teachers, and it is ongoing.  There is no longer any requirement to have a summative assessment at the end of every unit, as the process of gathering, analysing, reflecting and acting on evidence of learning is what is used to inform next steps in teaching.

Backwards by design v/s forward by design

  • The traditional backwards by design philosophy encourages teachers to design assessment by first identifying –
    • the desired knowledge,
    • conceptual understandings,
    • and skills,

followed by the design of the assessment, and finally planning learning activities to ensure acquisition of the desired outcomes listed above.

  • “Forward by design” takes into consideration what other learning may have occurred beyond what has been planned – the development of “soft” skills, that are not immediately measurable, and that can emerge through the learning process. 
  • This paradigm shift in thinking means that both students and teachers need to develop their assessment capability, to consider the learning goals and success criteria and to focus on assessing both the learning process as well as the learning outcomes.

How to assess?

The lingo explained – assessment tasks, assessment strategies and assessment tools

Assessment task – what do we want the students to express an understanding about. This would be based on the learning intentions e.g. –

  • To assess enduring understanding of the central idea
  • To assess language skills
  • To assess conceptual understanding in math

Assessment strategies – How students can express their understanding using a variety of strategies

Some examples –

  • Assess enduring understanding of a central idea
    • through a visible thinking routine like ‘I used to think …. Now I think’ eg. Sustainable practices improve quality of life. Students can express what they used to think about sustainable practices and how their thinking changed during the unit. Student agency through a choice of writing a paragraph or recording a Flipgrid video fir the same task.
    • through language integration
      • writing a story to express how ‘Resolving conflicts can lead to better quality of life’
      • writing a poem to express how ‘Exploration leads to newer understandings, discoveries and challenges’.  (Central idea for Where we are in place and time)
  • Assess language or math skills  
    • Integrated with the Unit of inquiry – eg. Write a formal letter to the Municipal officer to request safety crossings near schools (Government unit)
    • Create a presentation on divisibility rules using Powerpoint / Canva etc.
    • ICT enabled quizzes – Nearpod, Quizizz etc. There is quite a good selection of Math and English concepts available and reports are generated for individual students.

Assessment tools –

How will the students be assessed on their completed tasks? How will teachers give feedback? Will students be given opportunities to co-construct success criteria, rubrics, self-assess, or peer assess?

Examples of commonly used tools :

Rubrics

Checklists

Anecdotal notes/records

Continuums

I have attached below some samples of assessments I have used in my class

Summative assessment for a unit on conflict resolution

Summative assessment for a unit on exploration

Math formative and summative assessment samples

Links for additional reading –

Assessment Strategies for the IB PYP – PYP Teaching Tools

Tech Transformation: What’s New and Different: Assessment in the PYP (maggiehosmcgrane.com)t

PYP resources – Home – IB programme resources (ibo.org)

3 effective ways you can navigate Nearpod to create an engaging learning experience for students

Have you ever felt confused by the plethora of tech tools and apps available to teachers in this online teaching era we find ourselves in? I was always eager to try out any of the latest apps in the market with the genuine intention of improving the learning experience for my students.

However, I soon realized that the saying ‘Too many cooks spoil the broth’ holds good for a reason. While most of the apps available are excellent, the time taken to learn and navigate new apps myself and then get my students familiarized with it was time we just did not have 😦

I have consciously and mindfully decided to be faithful to the few apps that have served me and my students well over time for a variety of purposes – as tools of expression and collaboration.

2 reasons I decided to add Nearpod to my list of apps to use

  • The first and most important feature – it is completely free for educators!
  • Teachers can
    • use the available lessons as they are
    • customize the lessons and activities to suit their need and
    • create their own lessons from scratch if required.

In this post I will share some of the ways to effectively use Nearpod.

Nearpod is a free interactive resource that offers the following –

1. A library of ready to use resources

The Nearpod Library has an amazing collection of free to use resources – for any subject and grade. Just choose the one appropriate to your class, check the preview and customize if required and then add to your lessons

2. Lessons and activities that teachers can customise and combine for their own lessons

First, choose the option to create a new lesson

Then choose to add content – which could be information / facts / videos you want to share with your students

Following this you could include an activity for students to complete to check their understanding.

Students especially enjoy these activities

– Time to climb – where they choose an animated character and climb a mountain as they answer questions correctly – it’s a race to the peak!

– Matching pairs in a memory game

-The collaboration board serves as a reflection space where the class voice becomes visible

Sharing a lesson I created on International mindedness using both the content and activities feature of Nearpod. As you will see from the images – I first added some content for students to understand what is international mindedness, then asked them open ended questions about what we all share in common and what is unique to us, followed by a collaboration board where they reflected on how they can develop this trait

The link to the activity is also shared below –

https://share.nearpod.com/gbqlgFIeBib

The Nearpod library also has an amazing collection of SEL resources. I have tried a few of them (I messages, My values) – very interactive and well designed activities

3. Formative assessments / Exit tickets

A range of assessments are available for different subjects, again these can be used as is or customized. I find these a very engaging way for student understanding to be assessed – takes away the stress or fear from the word assessment.

Sharing an exit ticket activity I created to assess student understanding of a math concept – Properties of numbers. The report generated shows me how the students performed.

How can we authentically involve student voice in the learning process in a variety of ways?

I’m sure every PYP teacher has asked himself / herself this question many a times, especially as ‘student agency’ is the buzzword in the enhanced PYP model. We learn so much from our own experiences, however there is much value in learning from the experiences of others – especially those who tread the same path and share their pearls of wisdom.

My initial understanding of student agency was giving students a choice of medium in expressing their understanding, a choice of tool in assessments and co-constructing assessment rubrics .

Reading Trevor MacKenzie’s book ‘The inquiry mindset – assessment edition’ has been a completely eye-opening experience. I have been reading this book as part of a book club of like minded PYP educators around the world – Ecurious Minds. The value addition this community brings to the understanding of the book is incredible!

Sharing my insights from the book which helped expand and deepen the scope of student agency for me –

Co-designing learning with students and involving their voice in the learning process in a variety of ways is essential to the inquiry model.

3 benefits of co-designing learning experiences with students

  • Students see that their voice matters in an authentic manner. Learning is a partnership between student and teacher and that their decisions hold weight in the classroom.
  • Teachers can more powerfully meet the needs of their diverse classrooms by planning learning with students rather than for students. By co-designing learning with students, teachers can coach, model, and differentiate to best support students in taking on the heavy lifting in learning.

  • The learning community is shaped by teachers and students working together – students gain more agency over learning, and teachers discover a balance in their workload. This is a process that takes time – with consistent scaffolding, clear values, and a continual connection to co-designing that students become increasingly successful in taking ownership over their learning. 

How can we involve students in different aspects of their learning ?

  • By posing a series of guiding questions,
  • Getting students talking and sharing ideas in small groups,
  • Gathering information to synthesize and draw conclusions from, teachers can start the process of co-designing the type of classroom where agency will thrive.

I did this activity in the first 2 weeks of the academic session to set the tone and understand better how my students want to learn. Students discussed their ideas in breakout rooms and then shared on the Padlet.

The common ideas generated from these guiding questions helps to create a co-designed document that becomes a collective commitment to recognized beliefs and practices.

It is important to realise that this is an ongoing document that can be revisited and modified at different times as learners grow and change throughout the year.

These are the common ideas that emerged from our collaboration during co-designing and I’m quite thrilled with the ideas students came up with !

Looking forward to the next part outlined in the book – co-designing competencies and dispositions with students keep your eyes peeled for the next post !

The PYP Exhibition – where students combine agency with passion within the framework of the PYP essential elements

This year our school, decided to venture into having the PYP Exhibition outside of the Programme of Inquiry – the 7th unit of inquiry, so to say. Grade 5 students expressed their culminating understanding of the Primary Years Programme by choosing a concept they are passionate about inquiring into. This was a complete demonstration of student agency – students shared what they were passionate about and wanted to inquire into in detail for a significant period of time.  They decided how they wanted to express their understanding and what action they wanted to take.

Some criteria were shared beforehand to ensure depth of thinking while choosing the concept-

  • What is your big idea?
  • Does the topic provide an opportunity for exploration or inquiry? Is it long lasting, and will it extend your knowledge (4 – 6 weeks)
  • Does it provide an opportunity to use variety of resources?
  • Taking action – Does the topic gives you opportunity to design something (awareness campaign, survey, poster, video for awareness, polling, innovate/change the design of any object to make it better)  
  • Does that action affect the world at large? 
  • Does it provide an opportunity for collaboration with peers, teachers, parents? Does it have scope for development of ATL skills?

The concepts were shortlisted based on the criteria shared – exploring ancient civilizations, sustainability, marine life, climate change, technology, artificial intelligence, solutions to the pandemic, media etc.

Students were grouped according to their areas of interest and assigned mentors.

I was assigned mentor to a group that wanted to inquire into the broad concept of sustainability. We initiated the Exhibition process from February 2021. Setting the stage to lend a structure to the process was crucial before deep diving into the inquiry. The planning stage included –

  • Framing essential agreements for the group
  • Making a timeline of the process – planning backwards from the date of the exhibition on May 22.
  • Signing a pledge for academic integrity

Student ideas were scattered – theory of evolution, ancient civilizations, modern and ancient medicines, art and architecture. However, the common thread of sustainability brought these ideas together.

We mapped our ideas with Sustainable development goals of the United Nations – SDG (Goal 11) – sustainable cities and communities. This goal states –

‘By choosing to act sustainably we choose to build cities where all citizens live a decent quality of life, and form a part of the city’s productive dynamic, creating shared prosperity and social stability without harming the environment. As of May 2020, the majority of national and city governments are revisiting urban planning to help prevent the next pandemic’ 

This reassured us about the relevance and criticality of the concept we had chosen to inquire into.

Students shared that they wanted to explore past civilisations for their sustainable practices and make connections to see which of those could be implemented today. Some wanted to inquire in depth into the good practices followed by their grandparents, whereas a few wanted to research modern vs traditional medicine. All these trains of thought helped us in framing our broad central idea.

Central idea – Version 1

Understanding and adopting sustainable practices from past civilizations can positively improve our quality of life and the environment’

Central idea – Version 2 

‘Understanding and adopting sustainable practices can improve our quality of life’

We mapped each version against the following criteria 

  • Can it be linked with the transdisciplinary theme?
  • Is it a big idea that will allow in-depth inquiry?
  • Would this Central idea be worth studying in any part of the world? 
  • Does the Central idea remain relevant at any point of time – in the past, present and future?
  • Are we able to take action because we have better understanding on this idea?

Central idea – Final verison

which fit the criteria of being a broad, universal statement with enough scope for inquiry, and action

‘Sustainable practices can improve our life’

Students also brainstormed and listed their wonderings – this facilitated the process of identifying the key concepts to narrow down our scope of inquiry and framing the lines of inquiry.

In this post I would like to focus on how student agency was integrated seamlessly into every aspect of the process.

What process would we follow?

Students had learned the Design Cycle process in their ICT classes and they felt confident about expressing their understanding through the phases of the design cycle. This is the one they chose, as it covered all the aspects we wanted – from inquiring right upto action

What understanding did we want to display?

Here as the mentor, I explained to the students that they had to understand the main purpose of the exhibition unit –

  • display of an understanding of the chosen concept of sustainability
  • display of a culminating understanding of the essential elements of the PYP – knowledge, ATL skills, learner profile attributes and action

How would we display this understanding?

What transdisciplinary elements could we integrate to enhance the depth of understanding?

Students shared some of the ways they wanted to express their understanding of the concept of sustainability –

ICT –

following the design cycle process for inquiry

creating a chatbot as a means of addressing queries about sustainability

Music

students wrote and recorded a song on sustainability under the guidance of the music teacher

Math

expressing data on waste management in the form of bar graphs and pie charts

Art

students created posters to raise awareness on sustainability

Language

students wrote poems to spread the message of sustainability and summarised relevant newspaper articles to express their understanding. 

Scope for developing international mindedness

There was ample scope for developing international mindedness throughout the process –

  • exploring civilisations around the world (Indus valley, Greek civilisation, Roman civilisation) to understand their best practices towards sustainability through water conservation systems, waste management systems and architecture.
  • Developing solutions at individual, community and global levels
  • Some students also expressed a desire to connect with their grandparents to understand the practices they followed in their days which were sustainable. This brought in multilingualism (students conversed with their grandparents in their mother tongue – Hindi and Tamil) thus bringing a refreshing perspective to the inquiry.
  • Students bonded with their grandparents, connected with them through technology (recording podcast interviews with them) and shared some doable practices that we could integrate in our daily lives. Eating regional, local and seasonal foods, drinking water from clay pots and using home remedies in the form of our kitchen herbs and spices were some sustainable practices shared.

Evaluation and Reflection

Following the design thinking process, students evaluated their understanding by expressing an enduring understanding of the central idea ‘Sustainable practices can improve our life’ through the thinking routine ‘I used to think … Now I think’ – which helped showcase how their understanding developed over the course of the exhibition.

Students reflected on different aspects of the process to understand their strengths and their areas of improvement for the future.

  • Reflecting on our journey together
  • Reflecting on the skills developed
  • Reflecting on the learner profile attributes and dispositions developed

The exhibition process was intense, exhausting and confusing at times, yet so rewarding! I was able to consolidate and reinforce my understanding of PYP elements and student agency further while mentoring the students.  It was immensely gratifying to witness on the exhibition day, the comprehensive presentation of knowledge, conceptual understanding, skills and dispositions from this enthusiastic group of children. As a mentor I was so proud to be able to nurture my students passions and build ladders to help them achieve their dreams. You may go through the entire Google site presentation using the link below. I have deleted the student images to maintain their privacy

The sustainable squad – A virtual PYP Exhbition

Creating co-constructed essential agreements for a meaningful start to the year

What are essential agreements?

Essential agreements are a class consensus that will guide our behavioural and learning expectations throughout the year. How do we learn best? How can we grow as learners? How can we reach our best potential as a class?

 It is definitely important to start the year off on the right note – which makes it worth the while to spend enough time on framing constructive and meaningful essential agreements with the students and for the students. If these agreements are mutually constructed and not imposed as rules on the students, they will definitely take ownership in adhering to them.

How did we create the essential agreements ?

I created a Wakelet lesson plan for co-constructing essential agreements with students.

The tremendous advantage of using Wakelet was that

– my instructions for the class,
– resources and links I wanted to share and
– student collaboration

all happened at one place. I’m sure all of us know the pain of sharing links on different tabs, looking for and then sharing resources or videos – the struggle is real!

Wakelet sure made my life easy in this regard – and its ease of use is fantastic! A must have tool in every teacher’s repertoire.

Back to the essential agreements – here is what I did

  • I first shared a video link with students and asked them to make connections between what they observed in the video and with how our class should be. They discussed in small groups first (breakout rooms) and then shared their thoughts with the class.

Derek Redmond-You raise me up – YouTube

  • Students made some relevant observations about how we can do better when we help and support each other, how everyone needs to be motivated and encouraged when they are down. I felt this formed a good base for forming some constructive behavioural expectations for the class
  • The next step was a discussion around the Learner Profile attributes.
  • The purpose was twofold –
    • establishing that the Learner Profile and the dispositions subsumed within them are an essential element of the PYP framework and would guide us throughout our learning journey, and
    • framing essential agreements around some of these attributes, the awareness and development of which would help each one of us achieve our true potential
  • Co-constructing the essential agreements meant involving the students to express their understanding of what the Learner Profile attributes mean to them and how they can grow as learners through the display of these. The students chose the attributes they would like to focus on to begin with.
  • The next part of the activity was a Mentimeter activity – each student shared 2 words or phrases indicating what they would like their classroom to look like.
  • I would love for my classroom to be all this and more 🙂 and hope I can live up to these expectations
What our classroom will look like
  • Based on these insights and expression of intent from my students – I framed the following essential agreements for my class. A student volunteered to create this beautiful Canva slides for the same
  • I felt Math deserved and needed its own essential agreements – so here goes

Essential agreements for Math

  • We will articulate our thinking process while solving math sums, showing our working in an organised manner
  • We will be courageous by actively participating in math classes – asking questions and clarifying our doubts
  • We will make real life connections wherever possible to make math fun and more interesting
  • We will be open-minded and explore different strategies in math, and then use the ones we are most comfortable with
  • We will reflect and make adjustments to our learning where required

Concluding on a poetic note 🙂

We hope to have a great year, full of learning and fun

Nurturing our curiosity, of everything under the sun

We will grow together as learners, and enjoy a lot of thrills

Building our knowledge, concepts and skills

This is an exciting journey, come join us in our quest

As enthusiastic travellers, we are truly blessed

3 mental strategies to make math magical

You are born either loving math or hating it – I’m sure most of you would agree with me. I was lucky enough to be born loving math, and now as a teacher of math, I feel it is my primary responsibility to make my students love math before anything else.

When do you love to do something – when you enjoy it, have fun doing it and have no fear of being judged if you go wrong, am I right ?! How can we achieve this with math?

I start the session by framing essential agreements with my students for math –

The above agreements go a long way in making students comfortable in class and willing to learn with a growth mindset. What I also do is focus on the different aspects of math – making real life connections, demonstrating mental math strategies, and engaging them with critical thinking questions

In this post I will focus on 3 of the mental math strategies that help students speed up their calculations while avoiding lengthy calculations with paper and pencil. It helps make math more fun, almost magical when you play around with numbers like this and helps develop a passion for the subject

In this post, I am highlighting 3 of the many mental math strategies I use in my classes –

Multiplying by 11 using Vedic math strategy

I love this one – it’s like magic and my students love it too!! In fact, I tell them to impress their friends and family at home by asking a question like – what’s 263 x 11, and then just instantly answering it with an abracadabra – . The answer is 2893

Let me demonstrate how to multiply with a smaller number first – 26 x 11

Write the lowest and highest place in the number as is. Here it would be 2 and 6. Then starting from the highest place, add each digit with the next place thus –

2 then 2+6 then 6 = 286. i.e. 26 x 11 = 286

Similarly 34 x 11 = 3 (3+4) 4 = 374

45 x 11 = 4 (4+5) 5= 495 and

541 x 11 = 5 (5+4) (4+1) 1 = 5951

Try this magic for yourself –

  1. 431 x 11 =
  2. 8103 x 11 =
  3. 713 x 11 =

(All answers at the end of the post 🙂)

It works with numbers where there will be carry over too, for example

89 x 11 = 8 (8+9) 9 = 8+1 7 9 = 979 (as 8+9 = 17 the 1 gets carried over to the higher place)

Try one for yourself – 467 x 11

Double and half strategy

Suppose I need to solve 48 x 50, i would usually do it using the column method right? There is an easier way though! It is always easier to multiply by 10 / 100/ 1000 right? So double the 50 (that’s 100)and halve the 48 (that’s 24).

The value remains the same and it is so much easier to multiply 24 x 100

So, 48 x 50 = 24 x 100 = 2400

The strategy will only work when one number can be doubled to give a 100/ 1000 etc

Try a few for yourself –

  1. 632 x 50
  2. 450 x 500

Rearranging numbers

When you need to multiply 25 x 141 x 4, you would normally multiply 25 by 141 and then by 4 right ?

Using the associative property of multiplication I can rearrange the numbers to make my job easier – 25 x 4 x 141 = 100 x 141 = 14100 –> and voila, done mentally !!

Similarly –> 20 x 329 x 5 = 20 x 5 x 329 = 100 x 329 = 32900

Try a couple for yourself 🙂

  1. 25 x 678 x 4
  2. 20 x 9099 x 5

While I encourage my students to look for these patterns that will definitely make their life easier, there is always a word of caution – be comfortable with the strategy and choose the appropriate one!

Answers –

  1. 431 x 11 = 4741
  2. 8103 x 11 = 89,133
  3. 713 x 11 = 7843
  4. 467 x 11 = 4 (4+6) (6+7) 7 = 4+1 0+1 3 7 = 5137
  5. 632 x 50 = 316 x 100 = 31,600
  6. 450 x 500 = 225 x 1000 = 225,000
  7. 25 x 678 x 4 = 25 x 4 x 678 = 67,800
  8. 20 x 9099 x 5 = 20 x 5 x 9099 = 909,900

Wakelet – wade into this wonderful world to save, organize and share your content !

Foreword – Do read this post by Teachforthought – every point resonated with me completely

Why Teaching Is The Best Job In The World (teachthoLearning Networks (PLN)\nCreating exclusive spaces for my own resources for easyught.com)

The potential to transform lives equipping them with 21st century skills and with strategies for building strong emotional and mental health profiles

A chance to continuously be creative – always trying to think and do things differently

Opportunities to always get better – the teacher community is immensely supportive. I always have a chance to learn from best practices around the world – attending webinars, PD courses, book reading clubs – the possibilities for growth are limitless.

It is a grounding, humbling profession – oh yes! Always putting the needs of the children first does ground you and changes perspectives

There is always satisfaction somewhere – true. Making a difference in the lives of so many students year after year, also continuously getting better and more creative yourself

It is truly a chance to lead the world into the 21st centuryteachers build the world – the leaders, the artists, the doctors, the musicians – all of them

The children – the ones who have our heart – and for whom we do it all, day after day, after day.

The next part of this blog post correlates with points number 2 and 3 – finding creative ways to engage with students online and looking for opportunities to always get better...

Beginning to harness the potential of Wakelet

I had used Wakelet once in the last academic session – as a collaboration tool for one learning engagement with the students, and somehow just never got around to using it again.

Of late, I have been hearing about Wakelet from just about everywhere, and now that the current academic session has ended – I decided to explore this tool once again and was amazed at the potential.

The Wakelet Surf school illustrates the potential beautifully

Wakelet – Surf School

Wakelet is more than just a tool for collaborating with students. It can be –

  • A tool for collaborating with colleagues and Professional Learning Networks (PLN)
  • Creating exclusive spaces for my own resources for easy accessibility and sharing
  • Creating lesson plans for students

….and so much more. The image below shows how many fascinating possibilities are there for the teacher community to tap into!

Armed with renewed enthusiasm, I went back to my dormant Wakelet account, and this is what I did –

  • I first created dedicated spaces for the different aspects of my teacher life. This is what my home page looks like on Wakelet. The small icons you see in the top left corner are the dedicated spaces for
    • Professional development
    • Student related stuff
    • Resources
  • I then started creating my collections under each space.
    • For eg. under professional development I have included resources and links from webinars I have attended.
    • The Resources space has a collection of Math and English resources, a collection of visible thinking routines (Image inserted below)
    • I also have a collection of Wakelet resources to guide me in my Wakelet journey!
  • Under each collection, and this is the part I really liked, one can add text, a website link, a video link, upload a pdf – you name it. I found it fascinating that an entire lesson plan can be created using Wakelet. I defintely plan to try this out in the new academic session. Am sharing a lesson plan here for reference – (you can see the combination of text, images and embedded links that would make it so engaging for students).
  • Link to the lesson plan is shared below –

Student Leadership Lesson Plan – Wakelet

I created a collection for all my blog posts too – just loved the appearance – in a grid view as you can see in the image below. So easy to view and access. The image also shows how you can add a new item to your collection – just click on the + sign and paste a link / upload a file and/or add text.

Concluding with a short poem I composed – 

I have taken baby steps in exploring Wakelet

There is a lot to learn yet

Am eager to explore and find out more

so that learning does not become a chore