Tuesday, April 29, 2014


Our current UOI in Grade Five is using the central idea 'A balanced lifestyle contributes to well-being'. Although our hope is that they never truly end, we're coming towards the scheduled end of this inquiry. Over the past five weeks the students have explored the different body systems, how they function and interact; the different elements of lifestyle and how they influence each other; and the effect of reflection on achievement. Yesterday my teaching partner and I introduced a forum for discussion about some aspects of our learning. We presented the students with a series of statements and they were all required to take a stance in relation to their level of agreement. They could choose one of the following four options:
  • Completely 100% agree
  • More agree than disagree
  • More disagree than agree
  • Completely disagree
This was a great formative assessment opportunity for us as teachers because it required the students to make a decision and then justify it to everyone else. The strength of their justification provided an insight into their understandings about the UOI.

Philip Cam, in his book 20 Thinking Tools, states:

"In collaborative inquiry, agreement and disagreement represent patterns of convergence and divergence in thought that enable us to tack back and forth into the wind, and give our inquiry its forward movement"

We were lucky to have three teachers in the room during this task so while one of us was moderating the discussion, the other two could take notes on specific students and their responses. Later on we caught up to read over and discuss these. One example of a statement we posed to the students was this:

It is ok to spend a lot of time on your work if its something that you are passionate about.

This statement infers that if you are spending a lot of time working on something then your lifestyle is not balanced. It helped the students to test their understanding of balance, how lifestyle and elicited a variety of responses. One of our students said that she completely 100% agreed with this statement. When we asked her to explain why, she said that even though you're spending more time on your work, because its something that you're passionate about it means that your mental and emotional well-being will be strong. And you'll also be able to develop your social well-being because you'll be around people that are interested in the same thing as you. Wow. This showed us that she had a very strong understanding of the elements of well-being and how they can connect with our lifestyle choices.

This engagement also has benefits for other areas of the classroom community. First of all, it is inclusive. If someone doesn't have a solid understanding of the question or statement posed then they are able to discuss it with their peers while they arrive at a decision. They also have the ability to listen to other people's perspectives when they are giving reasons for their choices, and can change their position on something if their thinking shifts during the process. We have a lot of students with English language needs at our school and they were able to join in this activity without the fear of being put 'on the spot' in front of their peers. This activity also helps students to learn about and deal with instances where there are differences of opinion, clashing of ideas and debate over perceived truths. These are vitally important skills to develop and we were impressed to see the way that our girls handled themselves when challenged by their peers and teachers. 

Here are the statements that we used.

Lifestyle Agree:Disagree Statements by Dave Secomb

This video shows a discussion with Professor Cam and his views on teaching philosophy in schools.

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