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Copy of Inquiry Action Plan: Teaching Perspective

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Edie McDowell

on 19 July 2013

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Transcript of Copy of Inquiry Action Plan: Teaching Perspective

I used strategies to explicitly teach the students how to think:
Prompts to scaffold and deepen thinking
Specific thinking routines
Records of students' thoughts
Extended wait-time
Input 1: Theory
Teaching with social justice in mind
Can I create a challenging, engaging, differentiated curriculum, which teaches 5th Graders to interpret, analyze, evaluate and understand others' perspectives?
I developed lessons and units in SEL, Social Studies and English Language Arts to explore the concept of perspective. I used a variety of strategies to make the students' thinking visible, so that they were aware of the perspective through-line, even when the lesson had other content objectives.
Jessica Lawson 2012/2013 School Year
Inquiry Action Plan: Teaching Perspective To 5th Graders
"Powerful advocates and strong believers, elevens are passionate about their ideas and opinions, allegiances and sense of justice"
(The Responsive Classroom).

If the purpose of education is empowerment, then the 5th Grade classroom is a great place to start that process. This year, I consciously tried to create active learners and critical thinkers by promoting empathy, compassion and curiosity in my students. I rooted my curriculum in the '5E's of Emancipatory Pedagogy' set out by Laurence Tan at the Watts Youth Collective.
A teacher's first task is to engage her students and their families. These are the Rules of Engagement:
Build trust and respect
Choose curriculum content that is relevant and interesting, where students can make personal connections to what they learn.
Value the knowledge and skills students bring to the classroom.
The fundamental goal of an educator is to equip students with the skills they need to be successful:
Set high, achievable standards.
Enable all students to develop academic skills.
Teach problem-solving and critical thinking.
Create digital citizens who can access, analyze, evaluate, create and participate with media messages.
Students need to be exposed to various possibilities and perspectives, and to learn that they can challenge oppression in the classroom.
Provide opportunities to challenge stereotypes, value difference, and explore alternative roles in SEL.
Use role-play, field trips, class visits, and literature to provide a variety of gender, racial, cultural, class and ability perspectives on the world.
When students see people like themselves in the history they study, they are more likely to envision themselves as active agents, empowered to act on their world:
Include stories of people throughout history who have struggled and succeeded.
Encourage students to set their own goals.
Believe in their ability to effect change, and challenge/support them to do so at an appropriate developmental level.
Social action gives students opportunities to act as responsible, participatory citizens. Provide opportunities through:
service-learning projects
community involvement
school participation (such as Buddy programs)
Input 2: Context
The Setting
I teach at a small, private school in the Bay Area. There are 2 5th grade classes, with 18 students in each class. I have 9 boys and 9 girls, mostly from affluent, highly-educated families. There are 7 students of color. The students come from a variety of faiths, notably Christianity and Judaism.

Although two of my students have assessed learning differences and need support with organization and/or attention, overall, the class has a high level of academic skills, with most reading above grade level. They are an articulate, noisy, active, opinionated, wonderful group who have grown up with each other at school. This is their final year together, and the preparation for middle school is a key component of their 5th grade year.
My Background

This is my first year teaching 5th grade and working at this school. With a strong sense of social responsibility, I was a social worker before I became a teacher. At the start of this year, I was excited about the opportunity to bring together my twin passions of teaching and social justice to create an environment where children could develop the empathy and global perspective necessary to become active, inquisitive citizens of an increasingly connected world.
Our student-generated classroom contract was posted on the wall, and students were held accountable to it in a variety of ways.
Class jobs were based the jobs on the President's cabinet, as a way of teaching Government vocabulary at the same time as building class community.
Leadership was a key theme for the year, as the 5th Grade is the final grade in the school. Students earned stars for demonstrating leadership qualities.
Brainstorming about the relationship between empathy and perspective with Janice Tobin.
Reflective Practice means:
Reading books about teaching and content
Meeting regularly with my teaching partner and my mentor
Meeting with parents and students
Collaborating with specialist teachers
Creating a curriculum overview, and planning out a scope and sequence, helped me identify and reinforce key themes, and ensure that the students experienced a sense of continuity and direction in their learning. Backwards-planning units of study helped me teach for understanding and assess student progress towards the learning goals.
Lies My Teacher Told Me, by James Loewen (1995)
Making Thinking Visible, by Ritchart, Church, and Morrison (2011)
Teaching With the Brain in Mind, by Eric Jensen (2005)
Through Other Eyes: Developing Empathy and Multicultural Perspectives in Social Studies, by Skolnick et al. (2004)
Mindful Teaching and Teaching Mindfulness, by Deborah Schoeberlein (2009)
The Responsive Classroom 'Knowing 5th Graders' (www.responsiveclassroom.org)
Teaching a People's History, The Zinn Education Project (www.zinnedproject.org)
Cathy Howard (BATTI Mentor)
The Phantom Tollbooth Celebration
Good teachers provide:

An engaging, relevant, developmentally- appropriate curriculum.
A safe, organized, nurturing environment.
A curriculum with a clear scope and sequence.
Differentiated instruction.
Assessment-based instruction.
A student-focused approach.
I used assessment as a tool to inform my teaching as well as to enable students to become reflective learners. Rubrics made my assessments more specific and nuanced. Students developed skills in self- and peer- assessment.
Other ways I differentiated:
self-differentiating projects
Everybody's ideas are sought and valued.
A variety of entry points and ways to show learning
Making Thinking Visible
English Language Arts
Social Emotional Learning
Social Studies
Thinking Routines
The Explanation Game
(make observations, then make inferences based on the evidence)
(Start with what you know, think about what you wonder, then decide how you will find out the answers.)
Chalk Talk
(having a conversation on paper promotes time for reflection and makes students accountable for their ideas)
Scaffolds and Prompts
Routinely asking
'What makes you say that?'
requires students to think about and justify their ideas.
Observe, Infer, Empathize, Imagine:
Prompts for looking at a picture or photograph.
Maintaining a Visible Record of Thinking
Steps for Reading and Taking Notes
(note that 'stop and think' is a step!)
Follow up questions required students to evidence each step in this process.
Post-it notes and chart paper are essential components of a visibly thinking classroom!
I maintained a perspective
through-line by facilitating:
Mindfulness practice enables students to learn to notice what they are doing in the moment so that they can make conscious decisions about what they will do or think next.
The Effect of Distraction on Memory
The power of paying attention:
The students identify their own apples from the pile after conscious observation
Leadership and Teamwork
In a year long study of the meaning of leadership, students regularly worked together to solve problems. They explored the various roles people can play in a group, and what factors promote successful teamwork.
5th Graders are becoming aware of gender differences and gender roles. By providing opportunities for the students to talk about gender, and talk in gender-specific groups, the students could make a personal connection to the concepts of difference and stereotyping.
Girls' Open Session on Transitioning to Middle School. They each received an 'I Rock' rock - as a physical reminder to value themselves and other girls.
Discussing gender-stereotyping in the media
and Sharing
Students were given opportunities to reflect and share in multiple ways:
Whole class discussion
Written reflections
Partner sharing
Domino Share (small group, turn-taking)
Silent sharing (step into the circle, holding up signs)
A personal reflection based on a native american tale .
Students held up these signs to silently share their responses to conflict role-plays.
Year-long Study of the Meaning of Freedom
In order to understand another person's perspective, you first need to know your own. Over the course of the year, the students examined and reexamined the meaning of freedom, starting with themselves, and then for different groups from history.
Stand By Your Quote:
Famous quotes scaffold personal perspectives.
Role Play
Role playing is a powerful method of teaching perspective. As they get into character, students become engaged in the historical context, and their understanding of the issues becomes more complex. It is the difference between learning about two sides of a conflict from a text book and learning it through experiencing the conflict.
In this Constitutional Role Play by Bill Bigelow, the students reenacted the Constitutional Convention. But this time, the voices of poor workers and slaves were brought to the table along with the wealthy bankers and landowners. They negotiated and bargained with each other, and ended up abolishing slavery by democratic consent!
In this role play, the students became investors in the Virginia Joint Stock Company, buying and selling their shares as the story of Roanoake unfolded.
Sir Francis Drake:
Hero or Villain?
In this early lesson about perspective, the students read an article about Sir Francis Drake. Half of the students were asked to find evidence of his heroism. The other half were asked to look for evidence of villainy. They quickly discovered that their answers depended on whether they were Spanish or English, leading to an animated discussion about perspective. In the culminating vote, Drake was pronounced a villain.
Perspectives from the Thanksgiving Table
After some online research about the First Thanksgiving, the students imagined the perspectives of the different participants. They discovered that native americans, religious leaders, and women might have had different feelings about the feast. They used speech bubbles to put words into the feasters' mouths.
Evaluation is a key component of developing a perspective about historical events. It requires separating fact from opinion, and supporting opinions with relevant evidence. The students practiced these skills using prompts and scaffolds to support their progress.
In our Explorers Unit, the students were challenged to evaluate their explorers in different ways: in role, they were asked why they were proud of themselves; in a research paper they were asked what contributions their explorer had made to history; in travel brochures they were asked to evaluate their explorer's strengths and weaknesses as as a leader.
An effective learning environment
Rope Games to Practice Teamwork
Using pattern blocks to model fractional parts of a whole
An engaging, relevant, developmentally-appropriate curriculum
Organize subject matter to maximize learning.
Instruction designed to meet the needs of all students
Reflective Practice
Flexible Grouping
What is perspective?
The ability to put oneself in another's shoes.
It is:
Affect + Cognition
the ability to feel for another person by making a personal connection
the ability to understand and explain why a person might act in a certain way
It is a key critical-thinking skill.
Why teach perspective?
It is developmentally-appropriate
Through the elementary years, children shift from ego-centric thought to thinking about others and their place in the world. An increasing ability to take perspective is linked to cognitive, social and moral development.

It is a key skill for success in social relationships.
Successful collaboration and team work depends on the ability of participants to understand each other's point of view. Perspective-taking also decreases propensity for prejudice and stereotyping.

It is a motivator
When students try walking in another person's shoes, they become interested in that person, leading to increased curiosity and engagement in the learning process.

It is an important critical-thinking skill.
The ability to consider multiple perspectives is a higher order thinking skill, important for evaluation and decision-making
Why teach critical thinking?
Research shows that thinking skills instruction enhances student achievement.

By creating age-appropriate learning experiences and tasks, teachers can challenge and stretch students' thinking. It is possible to increase students' creative and critical-thinking capacities through explicit instruction and practice.

Critical-thinkers are better equipped for life in a rapidly changing world, where specific knowledge may not be as important as the ability to learn and make sense of new information.
Input 3: Pedagogy
Perspective-taking was embedded into the Social Studies Curriculum.
Historical fiction
Interpreting Author's Message
Critical Reading and Media Literacy
Empathy and Character Analysis
Students had numerous opportunities to empathize with the characters in their reading, and take a perspective on the choices the characters made. They also practiced interpreting an author's message, justifying their opinions with reasoned evidence, and considering their audience when writing.
Historical Fiction texts provided a personal perspective on U.S. history. Students discussed their learning in literature circles, deepening their understanding of historical context and learning to support their opinions with evidence from the text.
Students considered the author's message for each book they read. Each student came up with their own original message. All messages were valued as long as they could be supported by evidence from the story. In this way students learned to take an informed perspective on their reading, and celebrate diverse perspectives.
An important aspect of Media literacy is the ability to recognize and evaluate an author's perspective in nonfiction. The students practiced this skill in a year long Digital Citizenship/Blogging Unit. They used scaffolded prompts to practice critical reading, including identifying facts and opinions, and considering whose voices were missing from the articles. They also wrote their own nonfiction articles, with clear messages, supported with facts and opinions
This is my prezi on Blogging. You can view it here: http://prezi.com/leh6m_mzxte6/developing-digital-citizens/?kw=view-leh6m_mzxte6&rc=ref-29139981
Critical Reading Prompts and Scaffolds
Fictional characters provide low risk opportunities to make value judgments and practice empathy. I chose high interest books exploring complex characters and issues to challenge students' perspective-taking.
This Character Mandala examines the complex character of Dennis, a boy who loves soccer, and also loves wearing dresses. From The Boy in The Dress, by David Walliams.
This graph shows how Milo, from The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster, grows as a leader chapter by chapter. This activity required students to integrate and apply their knowledge of leadership from SEL with evidence from the story to justify their opinions.
This year, I wanted to try adding a social justice element to my curriculum. This prezi shows the 'Input' (the theoretical and practical context of my project), the 'Process' of designing an IAP about perspective-taking, and the 'Output' of the project (the curriculum I designed, and the impact that it had on the students).
Reading (interpreting an author's message)
Writing (writing for a purpose)
SEL (developing empathy)
Social Studies (Critical and historical thinking)
Reflection and sharing.
Active listening
Teamwork and leadership conversations
Gender-specific conversations
All the students in the class made progress in their ability to take another's perspective. Some students began to use the language of perspective-taking automatically, while others continued to need prompts and scaffolds to stretch their thinking. I followed the progress of 4 students: two girls and two boys at different developmental and academic levels. I assessed their progress against the following parameters:
The ability to imagine another's thoughts or feelings.
The ability to explain/justify their reasoning.
The ability to consider multiple perspectives.
Student A
Above grade level in all areas
Often requires extension activities
Showed signs of perspective-taking early in the year
Learned to justify his thinking with evidence and take multiple perspectives.
Student B
At or above grade level in all areas
Showed some signs of perspective-taking early in the year
Began to justify her thinking with evidence and take multiple perspectives.
Student C
At grade level in most areas
Used prompts and scaffolds to take another's perspective, and justify her opinion with evidence.
Showed good growth in these areas over the course of the year.
Student D
Learning challenges in reading and writing.
Started to perspective-take with teacher support, and when prompts and scaffolds were provided.
Student A demonstrated a sense of perspective early in the year.
His quote on the meaning of freedom in the first week of school shows that he could imagine a world beyond his own personal experience.
The code 'AY' refers to 'Author and You', meaning that he knew the answer required information from the story, plus reader inference. Student A used a quote from the story to justify his opinion.
Student A's end-of-year definition of freedom includes multiple perspectives.
He also justifies his reasoning using examples from history.
"Freedom means free speech, voting, and equal rights."
This reading response in December 2012 shows the growth in Student A's ability to explain and justify his reasoning.
Student B's first definition of freedom was entirely personal. By the third iteration of the activity, the personal perspective is still there ("being what you want to be"), but she has started to think about another perspective too.
Here, Student B practices the process of taking a perspective, starting with making observations about a picture. She demonstrates her ability to move logically from observation to imagination, or from evidence to perspective.
The Message
My friends always told me that my message was eventually going to get across but I didn’t know it would be so hard. I am a Protest Poster, and it took a long time for people to understand my words.
It all started on May 3, 1963. My owner and I were preparing for the peaceful occasion, The March on Washington. I was ready to protest. I’m a white poster with big black writing and at that time, I had thick blue lines surrounding my border. We went outside in my owner’s backyard and he picked me up and wrote on me “We Demand Decent Housing NOW!!” He held me by my stick and we walked to the bus station so we could take the bus from from Alabama to Washington D.C.
This opening paragraph from Student B's Civil Rights Historical Fiction Story shows how she is able to imagine another's thoughts and feelings, even in a different historical context.
In addition, she regularly considered multiple perspectives during class discussions.
Student C's first attempts at perspective-taking were rather basic. With practice, she was able to expand her ideas based on the specific historical context.
Prompts and scaffolds extended Student C's ability to imagine another person's point of view and justify her opinions with evidence.
Student C's end-of-year definition of freedom is consistent with the start of the year, but now considers multiple perspectives.
“Freedom means to not be controlled by another person; to not be a slave, or not have the right to vote because of race or being a boy or a girl; to live in peace without discrimination; having liberty and justice for mankind and all cultures"
Student C's definition of freedom at the beginning of the year.
Student D soon began to use historical information to inform his opinions and take a historical perspective.
With teacher support, Student D imagined how a native Massassoit might feel after the arrival of the Plymouth colonists.
He clearly empathized with the African American experience, and is beginning to justify his reasoning with examples from history.
Student D connected his end-of-year definition of freedom to our final social studies unit of the year: The Civil Rights Era.
To what extent can 5th graders take complex perspectives across the curriculum?
All the students showed growth in their ability to take complex perspectives in reading, writing, social studies, and SEL. They enjoyed sharing their opinions on perspectives.

With prompts and scaffolds, all the students were able to imagine the thoughts and feelings of other people, even when crossing gender and generational boundaries and taking historical context into account.

With practice, most students were able to explain and justify their reasoning independently. While many were able to consider multiple perspectives during class discussions, only a few began to do so independently in their writing.
Can all students increase their ability to take another's perspective?
All the students in the class became more adept at imagining another's thoughts and feelings over the course of the year. The students demonstrated this growth best during class discussions. They were able to identify alternative perspectives and accept more than one point of view on a given topic.

The opportunity to revisit concepts and ideas in new contexts (progression) was a key factor in student progress.

Most students also increased their ability to explain and justify their reasoning, especially verbally. Some students were able to consider multiple perspectives simultaneously and independently, without prompts and scaffolds.
What factors extended or inhibited students' ability to take other perspectives?
Progression (Reexamining concepts in new contexts over time (EX: the meaning of freedom, weekly leadership discussions)
Detailed contextual knowledge
Whole class discussions
Guiding questions
Think Pair Share
Graphic Organizers
Developmental readiness
Lack of contextual knowledge
Individual levels of social awareness
Requirement to explain ideas in writing
Lack of prompts and scaffolds
What changes could I make to the curriculum to extend students' ability to identify, evaluate, and utilize an understanding of perspective?
Create posters which scaffold perspective-taking routines and display them in the classroom
Develop a physical symbol as a metaphor for taking another perspective. For example, 'perspective glasses'. When they wear the glasses, students must 'look through another's eyes'.
Provide perspective-taking sentence frames for struggling writers.
Extend current events curriculum to include debating. Practice identifying and supporting the pros and cons of an argument with evidence.
Observation notes from my mentor teacher.
I used FAS Tools to develop an Inquiry Action Plan which mapped out my content area focus, inquiry questions, desired results, actions and methods of assessing student progress.
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