A Growth Mindset… Assembly!

Why has 4JR been so committed to keeping an hour per week for our Genius Hour explorations? Well, beyond how treasured the time is by students, Genius Hour explorations are often tremendous opportunities for learners to develop a Growth Mindset. What is a growth mindset? Why is it so important? Have a look at this previous post.

For our assembly with 4D class, we decided to focus on Genius Hour. 4D took on the challenge of explaining what Genius Hour is about, and 4JR were given the responsibility of the “why”. We decided to explain the “why” in terms of cultivating a Growth Mindset. We would introduce the concept, and connect it to concrete examples of how it’s been visible in our Genius Hour explorations.

Please enjoy our assembly in this video (the 4JR part starts at around 10:30):

“The Learning Myth: Why I’ll Never Tell My Son He’s Smart”

The title of this post seems to go against everything we’ve been led to believe about supporting our children and students to be the most successful they can be. We want them to believe in themselves. We want them to feel capable of taking on challenges, but a growing body of research tells us that we may be doing just the opposite with this kind of praise.

The title of this post was the title of an op-ed piece written by Salman Khan, creator of Khan Academy, published in the Huffington Post some time ago. In that piece Salman goes on to give an overview of a concept in education called the “Growth Mindset”. In short, having a “growth mindset” means believing that intelligence, and ability to learn, aren’t purely genetic, or fixed. That the brain is a muscle in many ways like all the others, something elastic, that when exercised can strengthen and grow.

Khan Academy, which many G4 students at IST have an account with, has been experimenting with this concept and attempting to apply this research through little experiments like placing growth mindset statements next to math problems. A statement might read: “When you learn a new kind of math problem you grow your math brain!”. According to Carol Dweck, the Stanford University researcher who’s published widely on the topic, “Students who saw these growth mindset statements solved more problems correctly, took more units and mastered them, and got more problems correct in subsequent units, even when they weren’t seeing the statements.”

Khan Academy last year launched their #YOUCANLEARNANYTHING campaign in support of cultivating growth mindsets in students. This video is a nice introduction:

The big question for us at IST, of course, is what are we doing with our students to promote this clearly powerfully important idea? Are we telling students they’re smart? That they’re not smart? Or that, they can learn anything…

A Year In Numbers

Each year I’m stuck with the same challenge… How to give students authentic influence, voice and purpose in their learning. Part of this must include cycles of reflection. Short reflections after a learning experience, longer reflection after a unit of learning and even broader after a year together. A yearbook, it seems, should be a time capsule of a year. Something to flip through and reflect on not only who was in your class, but what you did together. What was important, compelling and challenging at that time.

This year, in order to curate these reflections, I decided to survey the class and use the data to develop a variety of infographics, using easel.ly, to reflect their responses.

The following is the survey. Below it, have a look at the infographics for the yearbook.

And the Infographics generated:


Migration Stories: Realistic Fictions from 4JR

Early on this year grade four spent time exploring the push and pull factors around our own family migration stories, and those of others. This led into learning about the migrations of others in our community and eventually developing our own fictional characters and setting them in realistic fictional stories.

Some of the stories in this embedded document are not yet complete, and the document will be updated as the stories themselves evolve.

Enjoy reading and let us know what you think!


Use the Power! Make a… Something!

This morning was an explosion of inquiry-driven electronics explorations. Some students were experimenting with circuitry, trying to make buzzers ring, lights glow and switches switch. Others were busily un-making various electronics, finding the right screwdrivers and angles of attack to remove hard drives from their casings and motors from their shells. Still others opted to run the junkyard, collecting, sorting and categorizing the various bits and pieces we’ve removed from these objects over the past week, so they can be re-used for other purposes.

Now… As to those other purposes…

In addition to our ongoing twice-weekly Literature Circle homework today students received an exciting new project… Use the Power! Make a… Something!

Please see the details in the attached document below for more.

Here are some examples of projects made in past years.

IMG_0805 IMG_0803 IMG_0802 IMG_0796 IMG_0795 IMG_0794

To kick things off, while students went out to Swimming I spent a few minutes and followed the instructions from Exploratorium to make a Scribbling Machine! Easy and so much fun.


Student Led Conference Invitations

Dear Parents and Guardians,

We would like to invite you to our student led conference.

Student led conference is the way that the students show all their learning and share how we are in class five days a week. Its also  the place where students are in charge of what their parents learn about what they do in class.The reason is to show how we learn in the class room. The Student Led Conference is on March Thursday 19 2015, each student has been given a time from their class teachers. All siblings are not invited, we only accept parents and guardians. There are four centres and each centres time is only for ten minutes. The four centres are Math, Writing , Reading and Inquiry, three to four families are aloud to be in the class at the same time.

We hope you come to the Student Led Conferences.

From 4JR



Over the past month we’ve explored How We Express Ourselves through the lenses of poetry and photography, as well as in music and visual art. All of this culminated this week with our absolutely lovely Poetry Cafe, and Photo exhibition. What a day.

Students really took on the Poetry Cafe and made it their own, redesigning our space based on images of Beat Generation poetry cafes, planning a menu and order of events, assigning roles and responsibilities to each student and requesting more than a little help (mostly in the form of baking) from their families. Somehow, with all this work it came together into a truly lovely morning. Many thanks have to go to our fantastic group of parents who cooked, clapped and in some cases, even recited! Have a peek at this little video for a snapshot of the event. Any comments? Please leave them below…

Photo Metaphors for Challenge, Support and Inspire

On Friday we had our second visiting photographer speak with fourth grade about his work. Daniel Hayduk is a freelance photographer who works in Dar for a range of clients, but largely as a photojournalist and on assignment for NGOs and other organizations.

Dan spoke with us about his process, how he has to consider what his photographs will be used for, and what the intended message of the photos will be, before he makes them.

This caused us to reflect on how we rarely consider an intended message for our photos before we make them, so… Monday morning we gave it a try.

First thing we reflected on Dan’s message, then we shared this short assignment/presentation:

Next, students in small groups planned the images they would make to communicate what the concepts of Challenge, Support and Inspire could look like at IST. Then they were off. Within a half hours students began returning to edit their images, using elements of composition to strengthen their messages.

We added the finished images to this slideshow, then looked at each others work, adding comments to try to deduce which concept each image was intended to communicate. See if you can guess yourself!

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