March 23, 2017

Using photos to spark discussions

Each morning, we have what we call "Morning Message". It's like our morning news program where we review our learning goals for the days, along with all kinds of other skills that don't quite "fit", so to speak, anywhere else in our day. As a teacher that likes to keep things neat, tidy and organized, it can be hard to figure out how to fit in all the items that need to be covered. 
For this reason, I created Morning Message.  

I love using photos as part of our message to get my students talking and thinking critically.  Developing our "accountable conversation" skills is more important than ever. After all, in a world that increasingly relies on digital communication, we can forget that what came naturally to us as kids (chatting, debating and respectfully disagreeing) may need to be explicitly taught to today's students.  

Photos are a great way to get students thinking and talking. We've looked at the pioneer school house, and the day or two I planned on talking about that, turned into TWO WEEKS because the kids had so many questions and loved debating whether or not they'd like to be a pioneer student. Their questions and conversations with one another were so impressive! 

This week, we've started looking at photos like the ones pictured below. Students are asked to make observations based on what they see (e.g. "Two of the four items are toys" or "Three of the four items are animals") The kids love to come up with really thoughtful, really critical observations about the photos. It's almost as though their attitude is, "I'm gonna come up with the most obscure, most creative idea!".  
I'm loving the conversations we're having about our little fractions photos.  It's so funny because even though there's 21 of us in the room, it feels more like we're a small group, all sitting around a kitchen table chatting. It's such a sweet part of our day and I'm so grateful for the opportunity to spend that time together. 


On Thursday, I showed the kids the four Easter cakes below. I asked my students to consider which cake they are most curious about. Not so much which one they want to eat, but "Which cake do you have the most questions about?" . I gave the kids a few minutes to think about this question and from there, I invited them to share their "I wonder" questions about the cakes.  As you can see, the cakes are quite beautiful and complex in their design.  

The boys and girls had all kinds of questions about things like: 
  • What flavour is the layer cake with the bunny on top?
  • How did those eggies get into the cake? 
  • How is the bird's nest cake an Easter cake? This was a great question and students were invited to share why this cake was appropriate to include. 
  • How did the baker make those layers so colourful?  
These kinds of conversations are such a great way to start the day because everyone can participate.  There is literally zero excuse for why kids don't have something to share. So for those kids who still feel a bit groggy or aren't feeling particularly great about participating during the Math lesson, they at least know that during Morning Message, they can share all their ideas and develop their essential oral communication and critical thinking skills.

In just a few short minutes each morning, students are building skills that, little do they know, can be applied to all the various tasks they'll complete throughout the rest of the day. 


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