An Inspired Lunch Hour with Random Acts of Learning

Every Friday at lunch recess, Mme Smith and I host Random Acts of Learning (RAOL) in the KCS Library. It’s a drop-in for any students from grade 2 and up to do, well, random acts of learning. Here’s what happened during last Friday’s lunch hour when 47 students came to RAOL:

  • Three students from grades 5 and 6 met to talk about a leadership project supporting Syrian refugees
  • One brought his Arduino kit to build a machine for his grade 7 service learning project
  • Two others worked on their littleBits ‘keytar’ (their own musical synthesizer)
  • A few others worked on the video games they’re creating themselves
  • Multiple others worked on their own independent projects, just because they want to learn more about something; this will culminate in a class presentation (Habit: Share What You Know)
  • Others are working on writing books, a few of whom are writing to submit a French book in a national contest
  • The newspaper club came to work on their upcoming edition
  • Some older students chose to study for exams
  • Many others just wanted more time to read

That was my lunch hour. How inspiring was yours?

Andrea Fanjoy,
Assistant Head, Academics
You can follow Andrea on Twitter @afanjoy.

Studying Isn’t What It Used to Be

StudyingTechnology, like all things in life, has sides that are both yin and yang. Studying for exams with my son in grade 8, I’m loving the yang side of it.

We counsel our students to study for two subjects a night over the three weeks before exams. The other night, my son chose to focus on history and math. For history, he announced with uncommon enthusiasm that he was going to use the Study Wiki that he and his classmates made. A wiki is a collaboratively-built online reference site, the most well-known of which is Wikipedia. KCS teachers are embracing the making and use of wikis as a meaningful tool for students to take notes and communicate learning. The fact that these notes are shared online raises the whole exercise of note-taking to a real-world relevance that it never had before and, with that, the quality of what they produce goes up. I, and many other parents, are familiar with student “notes” that are sparsely or imperfectly done, and of little support when studying. Studying with the wiki, my son worked with thorough definitions and concept maps, and played knowledge games that cover most of the content he needs to remember. This wiki is available 24/7, thus having the added benefit of not needing to be “brought home” and “returned to school”, demands that often sabotage many a well-meaning student.

Then we moved on to math. This year KCS introduced a new online math resource that offers many benefits. For the purpose of studying, the students were sent a collection of review questions. Each question page had a link to the online video and practice questions that the student could go back to if they needed a reminder of how to approach the problem. When my son didn’t understand a question, it was no longer my responsibility to figure it out and teach him what to do – I simply reminded him to go back to the video for guidance. When my son was done, he received instant feedback on which questions he answered correctly, and which were incorrect. Seeing the ones that were incorrect, we went back to the videos to find out where he took a wrong turn.

Studying well requires many things to fall in line:

  • having what you need, when you need it;
  • having quality notes that are easy to read and use, even enticing to use;
  • getting frequent feedback on how you are doing; and
  • having material available in multiple formats.

These are but a few details that make a significant difference. Any tool that makes more of these fall in line is a tool that is most welcome.

Studying at KCS truly isn’t what it used to be. While the ancient Asian concept of yin and yang has these two as complementary and balanced, studying with technology is firmly on the yang side of this balanced equation. And thank goodness. Exams, and the challenge in facing them, otherwise haven’t changed at all.

Good luck to all in grades 6 to 8, and happy (as-can-be) studying!

Andrea Fanjoy,
Assistant Head, Academics
You can follow Andrea on Twitter @afanjoy.

Exams Got You Down? Just PAUSS

The following blog first appeared one year ago. It’s as relevant now as it was then. We all face challenges from time to time, and how we face them makes all the difference. That’s where the KCS Habits come in.

At KCS, it’s our mission to develop lifelong learners with the habits to face and embrace life’s challenges. Many of our students and parents have an extra one of those challenges on their plate right now.

Exams.

Students in grades 6-8 write exams starting January 28th. Love them or dislike them (yes, we’ve had students say they love them!), learning to prepare for and take exams is a challenge we all have to face at some point. Starting them in grade six, with ample guidance and time learning how to prepare, is the best way to start. Though a big deal, exams at KCS are also a safe opportunity to face this challenge, ‘try your best’, and learn from mistakes.

Looking at our Habits poster in my office Friday morning, I wondered which of the habits students should focus on to be successful preparing for exams. Five stood out. When written down, it became clear they made for a nice little acronym – a beacon for calm in the storm of stress that often surrounds the ‘e’ word. The acronym is PAUSS. The habits are:

Persist – this is a marathon, not a sprint

Adapt – old patterns of studying and time management likely need to change

Use past learning – use notes and old tests; use strategies that you already know to work, and avoid those that you know don’t

Show self-control – stick to the study plan; focus on the task; remember to also rest, eat well and get exercise

Strive for accuracy – follow the study keys, test yourself, aim to understand any errors

Exams inherently stir up anxiety. PAUSS, happily, does not.

If your child is writing exams, encourage them to PAUSS. And watch with pride as your child develops habits that matter. Take heart. Dread will soon be replaced with delight, and doubt will be replaced by well-earned confidence. And the unknown challenges to come will face a tougher foe.