I recently started working at the International School of Stuttgart. Just over a week ago, I accepted the position of Personal Project Coordinator too. Last Wednesday I did some training for the MYP teachers at the school. It is always difficult coming into something not at the start (The students started their PP at the end of Grade 9) and it is hard not knowing what teachers already know - BUT I have received positive feedback, so will share my little training session with you!
The week before I had worked with Grade 10s, to make sure that their goal was:
1. Not focussed on the product/outcome
2. The Global Context was a key part of their project, not an after-thought.
After doing that session with Grade 10, I asked 'how many of you are sure the Global Context you picked is still the right one?' - only a few students raised their hands!
My session for teachers was basically the exact same session, so that they would know exactly what I had gone over with the students.
I added two different activities.
1. After going through the examples showing how a project about cars could look very different explored through different Global Contexts - I had teachers imagine how a project about cookbooks could also look very different!
Scientific & Technical Innovation
Globalisation & Sustainability
Identities & Relationships
2. At the start of the session I had teachers imagine they were doing a Personal Project - what would it be about? At the end of the session, they shared their ideas with the group on MentiMeter
I really enjoyed running this session and was excited to see the teachers ideas.
Here is the presentation I used - feel free to make a copy and use this in your own schools.
We watched this short, funny video, where everything manmade is falling apart and vanishing! This started a good conversation about design. With students saying things including 'design is everywhere' and 'without design we would not be so advanced'. I used this video to show them how interdisciplinary design is, and that many people, who don't think of themselves as 'designers' still use design, (the example I pointed out, was the musical instruments falling apart. Maybe the person who made them would call themselves a musician, instead of a designer - then I spoke to them about people who made medicine, maybe identifying as scientists, or doctors, but still using the design process to make their product/solution).
Our next activity was a game, where students had to come up with lots of questions about mystery objects. I said they did not have to worry about the getting the answer, they could think of all sorts of weird and wonderful questions, and that shortly, I would reveal what the objects were.
After students have some time to think about the objects, we go one by one, discussing, then revealing what they are!
This is a toy which helps educate little children about plastic pollution in the oceans!
The students who have been looking at this object know that there is a zip in the bottom. I have one of these whales, so I show them, but I don't let them see what is inside till the big reveal! After students share their ideas, I slowly pull out all the plushy litter from the inside of the whale! Students seem to really like this, and it was not what they expected at all! My grade 8s will be doing an educational toy unit in a few weeks, so this also plants an important seed!
"Icefin is a hybrid remote or autonomous underwater vehicle (ROV/AUV) that is both modular and field-portable; it is essentially a small, long-range, deep-water, under-ice robotic oceanographer. "
Students were so pumped when they found out what this does...and even more pumped when they found out I have ordered one for the design room! Students were impressed with the video, mainly because 'it looks so satisfying' and 'the thread is soooooo strong'! We had a little discussion about how this 'cuts out the middle man' when it comes to recycling - and how this could mean we would never have to buy string again!
In one class a student then reminded me of the Adidas Parley - a shoe made from ocean waste - so we watched this video too:
I don't tell the students straight away what this is, but I tell them "I spent some time in India this summer, and saw these everywhere in north India. These were the only thing I really wanted to buy, and I fell totally in love, but could not find them anywhere! Eventually Anshu Sharma (MYP Coordinator at Noida Pathways) saved the day, but taking me somewhere to pick these up... Her driver took me to a place where a few trucks were stopped and a couple of people were selling these off of a small cart. What are they?"
After some more guessing I reveal that these are tassels that people use to decorate their trucks. Often truck drivers are away from friends and family for eight months a year - so when they first buy the truck, the family decorates it beautifully - by hand painting it, even adding poems, and adding tassels! It's also a way to take pride, and show off that their truck is the best!
Photographer Dan Eckstein documented these trucks beautifully in his book "Horn Please - The Decorated Trucks of India"www.hornpleaseindia.com/
With this last object students came up with some brilliant ideas! They could see that the product was called "Air Ink", so thought it could be:
I also really like this video because:
After a few minutes of discussion I have every student hold out their hands to show me how big it is! Some people think it is tiny, some people think it is giant! Many students thought it was a Taiyaki pan (something I also own...!). Some students thought it was a paper weight!
Before watching the following video I remind students of the design cycle, and how we might have an idea, but our research and testing, and when we know our clients better, means that we go back and change and improve our product. I also remind them that the man featured, but also not call himself a designer. If you only watch one video in this blog post...I recommend this one:
We end the lesson by doing the following activity, which helps them answer the big question "What is Design?"
I am actually itching to go! I can't wait to meet my new students and want to get teaching again. I need a routine and to be busy, so I am one of those annoying teachers who is ready for the summer holidays to end. (Sorry...not Sorry).
However - I am well aware that the start of a school year, especially if you are new, or working with new staff, can be a little stressful, so I have put together some links to old blog posts to get you started off on the right foot!
and lastly - this fantastic video: "Weird, or just Different?". This is a great video to start a discussion a out international mindedness. It's also great to show people who are going through transition/culture shock!
Send me any great 'Back to School' resources. Also, this year, I hope to blog more. Give me a nudge when I need it!
I use Calvin and Hobbes comics often to illustrate what I am talking about during presentations. I swear there is a strip suitable for everything. I recently used them to give some top tips for being a good Personal Project supervisor!
Although the Personal Project is an independent, student led project, and students should be in charge of reaching out to supervisors...sometimes we need to give them an extra nudge. A good way of making this still feel like the student is leading the way, is just sending them emails relating to their project instead of telling them what they need to do. For example 'I saw this great article, which reminded me of your topic, let me know what you think', instead of '...why haven't we had a meeting recently'.
If there is ever a time where you feel you need to reach out to parents, then I recommend sending a formal letter to the student, with the parents cc:ed in, instead of addressing it to the student.
During the very first meeting it is really important to have some essential agreements. These can include:
Some tips for further meetings:
This is one of the things students struggle with the most. It is likely their first long term project, and so they may put other work as their priority right up to the end. Sometimes it is very obvious when students are struggling with this, so you can easily support them. However, some super high-function students, who do extremely well in their classes, often struggle with time management too - the reason they do well in their other classes, is that there deadlines are always close and so they work towards those. A good way to mange this is to really make sure students are documenting all the work they are doing and that they are creating and sticking to their own mini deadlines.
I've shared these two videos before - but want to share them again - as they are so perfect for PP! The first one is a short advert (actually for a bank) and focusses on the 'Museum of Procrastination'. The second video is a very funny Ted Talk, 'Inside the Mind of the Procrastinator'.
Although the Personal Project is process focussed, and not product focussed....you still have students who either:
Students are asked to reflect on all five Approaches to Learning skills (ATLs) in their report. Many will find talking about some, like communication skills quite easy. However some challenges they have might be:
Make sure your student is documenting everything! This will make writing their reports so easy!
If a student turns up to a meeting without their process journal - reschedule!
Make sure your student is taking notes in your meetings too!
The most stressful time for the student! Make sure they turn in a high quality first draft. Then give them feedback, but instead of just writing on the report and adding comments - give them feedback strand by strand. You might read a report, which sounds fantastic, but if it is not linked to the assessment criteria, then it might not get a good grade.
The exhibition is a time to celebrate the success of the student. Although I am normally a super positive, happy person...I do get slightly miffed when supervisors don't come to the exhibition. Supervisors have been working with that student for the whole year, and they are possibly the only person who knows exactly what went into the project. Be your students champion. Show up and support them. (Bonus for giving them a nice card to say how proud you are!)
I recently had an idea to get supervisors to make their own mini comics, using Calvin and Hobbes comics with the words taken out. Some fantastic teachers at Pathways School Noida produced these excellent comics:
Here are the comic strips with the words taken out.
I can't wait to use these comics in my regular MYP classes too!
Comment and let me know if and how you use them. ALSO let me know your top PP tips for supervisors!
IDU overview, Day One and Day Two.
We started off in the theatre space, reflecting on the day before and answering questions, then students spent the next four hours working in their groups, to complete their script, bibliography, presentation and to rehearse! We had split the students up into different locations, with different teachers supervising....but there was very little for us to do! The students were engaged and focussed. It was lovely to walk around and hear their ideas and see the topics they had chosen. Topics included; freedom from torture, No unjust detention, imprisonment or exile, religious freedom, gun laws, immigration, freedom of the press, child slavery, "take a knee", abortion, death penalty, domestic abuse and more.
In the afternoon students met back in our theatre space and performed! We were blown away with the high quality work students produced in such a short time! At the end we did a feedback session, and some of the students said they wish it had a bigger audience - I asked them if I could share their videos online, and they agreed....so, here are a selection
Grading - As it was the end of the year (the students had a half day the next day only) and grading had been one of the things which put teachers off doing IDUs the most, we made it as simple as possible! During, or after each performance, teachers could fill in a Google Form, which would ask for a 1-8 grade for Criterion B and C, and also had space for comments. If you are curious, here is a copy of the form. I assigned different teachers, different groups, but said if they wanted to add additional feedback for a group they were not assigned they could. After school I created a doc for each group, which had a link to the video of their performance, as well and the grades and comments. I put in all the number grades, then made a best fit judgement: We kept it casual and informal, as this is our pilot group. Next year grades and comments will be on ManageBac, and they will get an IDU grade(s) on their report card at the end of the year.
At the end of the day we were able to reflect with the students. They talked about the IDU being very valuable, challenging and fun, and also gave us some tips for feedback next year. I am moving to a new school next year, so someone else will take over as the lead on this, but they should not be too much to tweak. Some main ideas: Move the IDU between semester two and three and to narrow down the topic, for example tell students they need to talk about human rights violations that many people do not know about, or maybe unheard perspectives. I am sad to not be apart of this next year, as it was so much fun, but know it will continue growing and evolving wonderfully!