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At Whitby, we use a variety of strategies throughout the curriculum to empower students as learners.
When students prompt the units with their own curiosity, it increases motivation and investment in the given topic. Together with the guidance of the teacher, this drives a passion for learning.
Whitby encourages students to explore the questions that interest them. Every Lower School classroom has a Wonder Board where students can post the questions they wonder about. In our 3rd and 4th grade classrooms, students use the Wonder Board as inspiration to pick passion projects to explore. It is amazing how well students learn when they are able to throw themselves into answering a question that captures their imagination.
Our students take an active role in school conferences. Since the goal of the meeting is to talk about a student's learning and progress, we feel the student themselves should be present and driving the conversation. During a typical conference, students lead the meeting and do a presentation on their learning journey.
This is tremendously empowering for students because they get an opportunity to share the joy of their learning journey as well as reflect on their strengths and challenges. Then, students work together with teachers and parents to create mutually-agreed upon strategies for overcoming any learning challenges and meeting their personal goals.
We assess at Whitby to promote student learning, provide feedback relating to planning and teaching, and to evaluate the effectiveness of our curriculum and program. Our students begin each unit with the end in mind through the use of rubrics that are shared by teachers. These helps students understand their goals as learners and how teachers will be assessing their work.
Whitby teachers give students on-going assessments at the beginning, middle and end of units. When students are given a chance to reflect on their learning throughout the units, they can look back to see the progress they have made and can develop a deeper understanding of the learning that is taken place.
Reflection offers students a time to open their minds and develop new connections to other areas of learning. This is also a key way to reveal what a student understands about a topic and uncovers where the student needs more support.
When students are given a voice in their classroom, they become much more invested in their learning. There are many ways Whitby students are given a voice. For example, they create classroom agreements and lead morning meets starting in our Primary program. Through projects such as the PYP Exhibition and the 8th Grade Project, students take the lead in their learning and teach their classmates about topics - rather than simply relying on a teacher to speak for them.
Portfolios are collection of student work designed to demonstrate growth, higher order thinking, creativity, reflection and successes. Portfolios empower students to be active participants in their learning, and enable students to reflect with teachers, parents & peers. Over the course of the year, these portfolios demonstrate progress and growth, and are designed to set individual goals and establish teaching and learning plans.
This year, Whitby is beginning to use the program SeeSaw as a means to maintain Digital Portfolios for students. Digital portfolios can be easily shared with parents, fun for students to create and compile, and are simple to transfer to next year's teachers so they understand where each student is in his or her learning.
In Whitby's Upper School, ATLs facilitate student learning in a variety of areas such as how they manage time and tasks effectively, how they work with others, how they manage their state of mind and how they use language to communicate.These skills include critical-thinking, reflection, organization, collaboration, affective skills, information literacy and media literacy. ATLs also help students become more aware of the learning process and understand their strengths and challenges as learners.