Monday 27 October 2014

Using Images to support learning

Using Images to Support Learning

Images can be effective tools for engaging students while teaching social studies. Old photographs and artwork turn your classroom into a history lab by offering students a glimpse into the past, and an image from which to think about daily life, culture, and change through time.

In this approach students make observations first and then inferences. In this way they have evidence to support their interpretations.

Commercial Product

See how you can address the content through an inquiry approach using images.

This resource contains nine featured activities for using photographs, drawings and paintings as information sources. Four of the activities, highlighted below, are included with a subscription to the Source Docs collection. The complete set is available for purchase.

Investigating Sources consists of two collections of online and print resources to help students learn to make effective use of pictures and realistic fiction as sources of information:

Getting started with inquiry

Getting Started with Inquiry

1) Minds On for Inquiry
Take a look at this video about inquiry and citizenship from Australia.
Reflection Questions 
  • What aspects about inquiry do you welcome?
  • What aspects are more challenging?
  • What are the next steps in your classroom to enable your students to be successful?

2) Read the following article about the inquiry process.

Key Messages
  • Teachers and students can land on any part of the inquiry process at any time
  • Inquiries do not need to go through the whole inquiry process
  • Aspects of inquiry can be done in 40 minutes
  • Teachers need to be deliberate about the inquiry focus in the class
  • Success criteria needs to be developed so teachers and students know what the target is

The inquiry needs to apply some sort of disciplinary understanding (ie. historical, geographical, scientific) so students can articulate what they have learned in these terms.
Jeffrey Whilhelm , Engaging Readers and Writers with Inquiry, 2007

  • What aspects of inquiry resonate with  you?
  • What challenges do you see?

Consider the following articles from the Ontario Ministry of Education

Capacity Building Series-Inquiry Based Learning

Getting Started with Inquiry

  • What aspects of inquiry resonate with  you?
  • What challenges do you see?

3) What are the benefits  related to the  inquiry process?

4) What could the inquiry process (historical focus) look like ?

In this video the presenter explains how the process of inquiry begins with a question, rather than the teacher presenting the key ideas. Then students investigate the content looking at a variety of resources.

5) How do you organize student thinking during an inquiry?

RAN Inquiry Guide

Click here to access the template

See how one teacher has adapted the model

  • Can your students benefits from organizers? 
  • How can the RAN organizer support teaching and learning?

6) What do your colleagues say about inquiry-based teaching?

7)  Preparing your class for inquiry

Hints for teachers who want to get started with inquiry (audio)

Reflection Questions:
  • What aspects of inquiry are currently a key part of your teaching practice?
  • What aspects of inquiry teaching  can you begin to work on now?
  • What support do you require to move forward? Who are the allies in your school community?

8) Visit the OESSTA website and explore the project related to inquiry

Listen as Pete explains his views on inquiry.

Visit the webpage with other video.

The OESSTA site has varied resources relating to inquiry, combined grades, spatial skills, integrating language, math and the arts and much more.

Learn about an inquiry that developed in a primary class

Reflection: Consider your classroom, what opportunities can you offer to allow inquiry to happen?

9) Inquiry is knowledge building.

See how this class of young students uses the knowledge building process which is a key element of inquiry.

In KB/KC classrooms, students work to identify problems of understanding, create theories, carry out research and investigations in order to refine their theories over time, revise their problems and strategies, and share and monitor the progress of the community towards its goals of advancing knowledge.

Reflection: What skills are being developed?

10) What is Inquiry Based Learning?

See this explanation about the process in a science classroom.

Use inquiry circles to get started with inquiry

Intermediate Inquiry Circles from adp center on Vimeo.

See how this teacher models the process for developing wonder and questions that can lead to inquiry.

This resource for this video Inquiry Circle by Harvey Daniels, Stephanie Harvey has been recommended by teachers engaged in inquiry.

11) A Reflection on Inquiry in Primary and Junior Classrooms

 Teachers are reflecting on the key aspects of the revised SSHG curriculum and they are examining their practice and considering next steps. See how one teacher is approaching inquiry
What resonates with you? What questions do you still have/

Voices of other teachers
Inquiry Process
Teacher Voice relating to Inquiry - Our perceptions are important!

I used to think
Problem-based learning meant not teaching content and allowing students to research content on their own. I never fully understood how we would be able to teach what they need to know in this way.

Now I think
Problem based learning is very important and does not mean that we don't teach content. The content is embedded within the inquiry.

As teachers engage in inquiry with their classes, their views about inquiry change. Some of our misconceptions are challenged and we can see how inquiry based learning links with student achievement.

12) Exploring Big Questions (getting started)

Listen to a principal explain how his school changed their focus to address inquiry based learning.


  • What changes can be done in your school?
  • What supports do you still need?

Teachers Point of view on Inquiry Based Learning

How does inquiry based learning impact teacher perspectives?

Developing Questions

Developing Questions 

Before we generate questions , consider letting students wonder about your provocations. These wonders can then be used to develop questions. See how one teacher incorporate wonder in her class.

Wonder Wall Article

Promote wonder in your classroom

How can we link the wonder to SSHG inquiry? 

See how this teacher models the process for developing wonder and questions that can lead to inquiry. 

This resource for this video Inquiry Circle by Harvey Daniels, Stephanie Harvey has been recommended by teachers engaged in inquiry.

Reflection: How can you model inquiry in your classroom?

Tools for Thought:
Ten tweaks for your questions

Tuesday 4 February 2014

What is problem based learning?

Problem Based Learning

KADS Global Education

KADS Global EDU is a consulting firm that originated through the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The videos are first-hand accounts of Problem Based Learning in action in three schools across the United States. The videos summarize PBL projects, and in these videos, the dialogue between teachers, the dialogue between students, and teacher and student reflections are highlighted

Problem Based Learning in Social Studies and English

This slideshare provides examples and shows the PBL process.

Examining the PBL  model 

I have attached a  file that shares some of the benefits of Problem Based Learning. We have used the Frayer Model to explain the process. Click here to access the file.

What do teachers say about PBL?

Click here to read a few views from classroom teachers about their experience.

Ministry of Education Inquiry Monograph
This monograph provides useful ideas towards inquiry which is a key element of PBL. Click here to access the document.

Inquiry-Based Learning

The Capacity Building Series is produced by the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat to support leadership and instructional effectiveness in Ontario schools.

Teachers play the role of “provocateur,”  finding creative ways to introduce students to ideas and to subject matter that is of interest to them and offers “inquiry potential” or promise in terms of opportunities for students to engage in sustained inquiry of their own

Click here to access the document.

Growth Opportunities

Use the attached resource to see how you can use Twitter to learn what teachers are doing with inquiry and PBL. Visit #ontsshg

To explore possibilities, use a site like to search Twitter hashtags related to subjects of interest.

Today we started #tdsbpbl and you may also access #ontsshg to participate in discussions related to SSHG.

We used Tweetdeck on laptops and Hootsuite on ipads.

This site is designed for teachers who want to include problem-based learning in their classrooms.  You will find a number of resources including sample lessons, videos, templates for planning and instruction, research and articles, and links to additional information.

Problem Based Learning in Social Studies and English

This slideshare provides examples and shows the PBL process.

I have attached a  file that shares some of the benefits of Problem Based Learning. We have used the Frayer Model to explain the process. Click here to access the file.

Tuesday 9 April 2013

Disciplinary Thinking

Disciplinary Thinking
The Ministry of Education has explained the concepts of thinking for Social Studies, Geography and History. 

The intent is that students will"do" the discipline rather than "learn" about it. This focuses students on doing the work of the discipline which includes inquiry based learning.

Click here for a written explanation of the concepts of disciplinary thinking.

Ontario Ministry of Education - Explanation
Watch the Disciplinary Thinking video (specific focus begins at 3:32 in the clip).
clip may be found on Edugains
> Click Resources
Part 5: Social Studies, History and Geography – Overview Pages and Concepts of Disciplinary Thinking

Success Criteria

Visit the resource page to access the success criteria that is related to each of the concepts 
(Social Studies, History, Geography).  The success criteria sets the target for the use of disciplinary thinking. The success criteria becomes the tool students and teachers can use to assess student performance.

What do the concepts mean to elementary teachers?

The following video is an international clip that explains some of the social studies disciplinary concepts (continuity and change, significance, and cause and consequence).
Our approach in Ontario is being used in several nations.

What does disciplinary thinking look like in the classroom?

Time from Kwan on Vimeo.

Watch this video to gain an understanding of disciplinary thinking and what it means for primary students.    (Start at 2:46 to hear about her approach)
Reflection: In this example the teacher speaks about her primary students explaining how they think like historians.

How can you develop the concepts with our students?
Consider how we can use this to develop the concept Continuity and Change.

Understanding Historical Thinking
Middle School teachers can benefit from the following video series that explains the concepts of Historical Thinking

Click here to access the video source. Note that lesson plans are included for grades 6-12.
To learn more about historical thinking visit the Historical Thinking Project.

How can you teach disciplinary thinking?

Try the following lessons to help students build an understanding of (Geographic) Perspective,  (Spatial) Significance, Interrelations and Patterns and Trends. These introductory lessons are useful for grades 1-12.  

See the playlist of videos from OESSTA that are linked to disciplinary thinking?


In this example from OESSTA, the teacher shows a systematic way to teach a concept of historical thinking by embedding it in instruction. 
Reflection: How can this video be used as a tool to explore continuity and change?

Developing Continuity and Change

How this video can be used to explore the concept of continuity and change. 

What aspects can be observed and compared?

Developing Significance

In this task students determine images that should be represented on Canadian coins based on their investigations.

Reflection: How can significance be addressed in the strands you are teaching?

Developing Perspective:
An examination of the following articles/videos can be used to explore the concept of perspective or geographic perspective:

Natural Resources
The Footprint of the Canadian Lumber Industry Click here
Elizabeth May on the decline of Canada's forests Click here
Keystone Pipeline Click here
Thousands rally to stop XL pipeline Click here
First Nations take their pipeline protest to the top Click here

Historical Perspective
Columbus Controversy  Click Here
Christopher Columbus   Click here

Why do we need to explore different perspectives?

Friday 22 March 2013

Getting started with PBL

Problem Based Learning is an authentic way to develop and use inquiry skills

Exploring PBL
  • Watch the video to explore the concept - problem based learning
  • Hope Floats
  • How does the video reflect the elements of problem based learning?
  • Use the Frayer Model to construct an understanding of problem based learning

Where are we now? Where do we want to go?

  • Talk to your peers at the table about your class and goals. Participants identify their own learning goals on the  placemats.
  • Discuss what inquiry looks like in your classroom? What would you like to see?
  • Observe examples of inquiry
What do your colleagues say about PBL?
How will we get there?
  • What are the elements or components  of inquiry?
  • Consider how your strand or subject reflects opportunities for problem based learning.
    Explore your curriclulum to determine big questions that can become the problem focus for the investigation 
  • For social studies refer to the inquiry expectations 
What are my next steps?
  • Consider the skills that you need to teach your students? (collaboration skills, questioning, gathering and organizing resources, interpreting and analyzing, communicating)
  • Prepare an action plan
  • examine overall expectations, learning goals, assessment, resources, scaffolding approach
Consider the following:

Immerse your students in the issue - building background knowledge
Edugains has produced a document focusing on background knowledge.

Teachers play a key role in helping students build and use background knowledge.
When students are actively building their background knowledge, they are more
likely to experience success in academic achievement (Marzano, 2004).

Click here to see the article

See how one teacher begins his inquires be focusing on building knowledge

Developing the language of Inquiry

"Most students need some help to discover what dialogue is and to develop grand
conversation skills (Barnes, 2008)"

Provide opportunities for students to see and practice the talk and listening skills needed to stimulate higher order thinking. 

For example: listen and speak, build on others statements, explain how you arrived at a solution, draw conclusions about what might happen next

To explore this process more visit our page: Developing the Language of Inquiry 
Determine the prior knowledge that students have

Students come to many topics with an understanding from their own expeiences or background. It is useful for teachers to gather this information because it can guide the inquiry and it is a key element of the knowledge building process.

How can I find out what they know? (RAN Organizer)

1) Consider using the RAN teaching strategy (RAN Organizer). This is based on Tony Snead's adaptation of the KWL chart.
To access the file click here. (Word)

See how one teacher has adapted the model

2) Another approach to determine what students know is to use an anticipation guide The guide will include misconceptions that surround particular concepts. Students will then explore some content related to the topic and reflect on their previous ideas.

3) See the attached page that contains a variety of strategies that teachers can use with students to determine prior knowledge and perspective.

4) Building and Activating: This article discusses the kinds of background knowledge that students bring to a learning experience. It also emphasizes the kinds of experiences that lead to understanding rather than regurgitation.

5) Examples of PBL
Explore your curriculum to determine how Problem Based Learning approaches can become the focus of your SSHG program.

Take a look at the following suggestions to see problem based challenges in grades 1-6. 

Commercial Materials

Examine commercial resources that reflect challenges related to problem based learning

This series of resources from The Critical Thinking Consortium (TC2) supports the new Ontario social studies, history and geography curricula.

Inquiry-pacs are course-specific digital resource packages containing detailed lessons, ready-to-use student materials and activity sheets,

images and source documents, and interactive visual displays for use with slide presentation software.

Problem Based Learning in a primary classroom

In East York a class is investigating their local community past and present. One of the problems is how can we learn about our past ?

Focus - Continuity and change 

The class is integrating social studies and language to conduct authentic research. This plan has been shared with parents since it includes content that only parents can share. 
The students are asking questions, reviewing a variety of resources and analysing the data using some of the thinking concepts (continuity and change). They will be given many opportunities to communicate their learning as well.

So far the class has created different family trees to emphasize that everyone has history.  This approach has also included everyone's story. Parents help their children to share the information that they are comfortable with. As I spoke with the class I could see that this activity has validated each students' experience. The family history assignment has evolved into a mapping task and  provided story writing opportunities. Included in this investigation will be an analysis of images of life in the community past and present. A trip to the TDSB TUSC schoolhouse will add to the experience. The class is exploring historical fiction novels relating to the 1800s as well.

We anticipate that the class will create an annotated map highlighting the immigrant experience (past and present). We found a laminated world map at Cosco for $7.95 that will be the foundation for the annotated map. This guided inquiry has created many new questions that can be explored by the whole group.

Discipline Based Inquiry - grade 2 Inuit Unit from Alberta

In this example the teacher speaks about her primary students explaining how the think like historians.