Unbound Learning: A Conversation with CAST Author Chelsea Miro

Unbound Learning: A Conversation with CAST Author Chelsea Miro


>>Welcome to those of you
who are getting online. This is a sound check if you want to say hi in
the chat box, please feel free to let us know where you’re calling in from today
and if you have any burning questions that you want to make sure we cover. Welcome. Good morning from South Australia,
wonderful to have you.>>Wow.>>Wow, very exciting. I hope that you’re safe there. All the sad fires going on in Australia.>>And what’s the time difference between the
East Coast and well, and welcome from Jordan. We have folks from all parts of the world here.>>Wow Shasta County in California,
nice and sunny that’s awesome. Very exciting.>>We’re having cold drizzle here in Boston. Snow turned to rain in Western Massachusetts.>>I’m guessing Australia, Jordan and
California are having better weather than us. So we’ll get started in two minutes if you all
want to grab a cup of coffee or tea or water and it’s 7 a.m. here on the 11th of
February so no spoilers about what’s going to happen the rest of the 10th of February. It looks like a team from Pennsylvania. Fabulous, thank you for letting
us know that there is a team. Mindy is sharing good advice. There’s a little button you can click to say to
all panelists or to all panelists and attendees. So please feel free to include
everyone in the conversation if you’d like to click all panelists and attendees. Well it’s 3:30 here in Boston,
is the team ready?>>Ready.>>All right welcome everyone to an unbound
learning conversation with author Chelsea Miro. I’m Allison Posey and I appreciate
everyone who is able to join with us today including Mike our captioner. If you want to turn on your captions, please
feel free to click there’s a little button at the bottom of your screen that
comes up to enable closed captions. So Mike thank for being with us
today and captioning this webinar. For those of you who are joining us live thank
you for being here from all around the world and welcome to those of you
who are watching the recording at a later time, we’re thrilled
to have you here. Author Chelsea Miro invites us to imagine
a classroom that empowers every student to pursue their interests, to
travel the paths of their curiosity, to allow learning to be a natural process. So today we get to explore with Chelsea
what this looks like, feels like, and sounds like in her recent
book The Unbound Classroom, I’m bringing out my copy
right here for you to see. We’ll discuss how we can design
our classrooms and lessons so that they bring this vision to reality. She talks about creating experiences
that are of value, that inspire agency, and that students can do so much
more than we often imagine they can. So before we get started with Chelsea, we
invite you to contribute to the conversation. So what you can do is use the text chat,
open the chat panel from the center top part of your screen and choose all panelists and
attendees from the drop-down menu as you type. If you’re joining us remotely or if you prefer
today you can reach out to us via Twitter. So you can share using the hashtag
CASTPL, at CAST underscore UDL, hashtag TheUnboundClassroom, and at ChelseaMiro. You can do all of them in your tweets,
so please free to join us through Twitter so you can contribute to the conversation at any point not just right
now during this time period. And we want you to know that all of the
materials that we talk about during the course of the webinar are available
through this digital handout. So if you go to this bit.ly link you’ll
find our notes from the discussion, you’ll find information about
how you can access the book, and additional supplemental resources
so you can keep learning more. So know that that digital handout
is available for you at any point to use, it will be up indefinitely. So our goals for today specifically are to discuss what makes the unbound classroom a
unique approach to cross-disciplinary teaching. We’re going to build strategies to get
started integrating into lessons right away and like we always want to do, we want to give
you some behind-the-scenes moments from Chelsea, moments that you can’t get
just from reading this book. But we’re so lucky to have her live with
us today, that we really this is a chance to ask her some behind-the-scene questions. So please feel free to really you know let
your curiosity go, the sky is the limit and post those questions via
Twitter or via our chat box here. I do want to note that in Chelsea’s introduction
as I just got started, she wrote this quote that I’m just going to share with you. She said, I had never thought
about being a teacher in large part because I hadn’t really enjoyed school as a kid. Already I’m thinking of a lot of
students that’s going to resonate for. As a justice-minded, logical
thinker I often felt that school was unfair and didn’t make sense. I couldn’t figure out why I was learning what
I was learning and what good it was to struggle through things that seemed
irrelevant in the outside world. So with us to kick off this afternoon is David
Gordon who’s the director of CAST Publishing. David can you share a few words with us for why
this book was so important for us to publish.>>Yeah. Well I was just so taken first
of all with Chelsea’s personal story as a struggling learner, as someone who
learned differently and had kind of figured it out with the guidance of a skilled
teacher, a teacher who really cared. And then brought that wisdom, that knowledge and
the really practical approach to the students that she’s dealing with,
which are primarily students with learning differences
that’s Chelsea’s specialty. But there was another reason this book really
resonated with me and that is that often in the UDL field we — how do to say this. We kind of gravitate toward people who
speak the same language that we do. And the UDL field can have a very specific
vernacular and we can tend to quote chapter and verse from the guidelines and
the UDL principles, and all of that. What I saw in Chelsea and in Chelsea’s book
was someone who really deeply understood UDL and understood learner variability without
necessarily having all the specific vocabulary that we’re bringing it to but when she
read the UDL guideline she was like yeah, I get it, it totally makes sense. So it was a way of kind of coming at
UDL through a very organic experience and one that she described
so well and was living out in her work and had lived out as a student. And I thought well this is a wonderful
book to add to CAST’s catalog of books, wonderful books about UDL but also a really
important voice to bring into the UDL field. Because I think a lot of times,
I hear from people in the field that you know we really get stuck on the
language, we get stuck on the chapter and verse like any movement right and we get people
feel like they have to say it a certain way or they’re not saying it
the right way or whatever. And in Chelsea I really experienced
someone who was living UDL, doing UDL, whatever you want to call it, but
in a very organic, very informed way but a very organic way that hadn’t
necessarily been influenced by the UDL field. And I felt like there was a freshness, a
wonderful approach to learning and teaching in this book that was fully compatible with
what we’re trying to achieve in the field. And just said a little different way and I
thought you know this is really good for us and let’s publish this book, let’s go
ahead and engage with Chelsea around this. So I think we need to find
more of these books and if you out there have one send us your
idea, we’ll gladly look at it. And we’re putting together an
editorial advisory board that’s going to be vetting all of this
so we’d love to see it.>>Fabulous.>>Yeah.>>Thank you, David.>>Okay.>>I really appreciate that.>>Yeah, absolutely.>>And so without further ado, well I’m
going to further ado just but one moment. So and I do want to share a quote that was said about unbound learning just the unbound
classroom offers a fresh, empathetic approach to reimagining how and why we learn best. So now without further ado, I’m so excited
to welcome Chelsea Miro to the conversation. Chelsea thank you for being with us today.>>Thank you, guys so much for having me. Thank you for hosing this David and Allison. And thank you for all the wonderful things
you’ve said that was an amazing introduction. Thank you.>>Well and as a little background
so you’re a founder of a tutoring consultancy Chelsea Miro
Educators, you’re a K-12 learning specialist, you’re a former elementary school educator,
you have degrees from Brown University, you have a master of arts and teaching. But tell us something we don’t know about you.>>Oh that’s a tough one, I am a sharer so it’s
hard to think of things I don’t usually share. Well let’s see, so you know
that I struggled in school. I would say that I probably
struggled the most in PE if I’m being honest, that was not my thing ever. But I really, I think something that you don’t
often hear or that people don’t often share sort of their favorite moments in the classroom
or what they love watching in children. And so for me I guess I love
watching kids who are curious. I love watching my tiny little son
pick up something new and spin it around in five different
ways to try and examine it. So to me I think that’s something I
really love, that’s what drives me as an educator is really bringing
curiosity into everything that I do. So I don’t know.>>And we invite you all to share
a little bit about you as well. Please feel free to share those moments
that you really, you know that you value, that you treasure as an educator. And thankfully we outgrow the urge to put
them all in our mouth, [inaudible] accurate. But sometimes that could
be a very valuable step. So Chelsea what is the problem,
what was the problem that you were trying to address with this book?>>Well when I first started coming up with
these types of units I was in graduate school and I was really lucky I was in an incredible
program that was very thoughtfully designed. But I did feel like a lot of times
especially the learning that you were seeing in classrooms was so, it
was very straightforward and it was very focused on
one small piece at a time. So you know we would do a reading workshop and it would be strong readers
visualize as they read. And we would be doing these
very set activities and I know that those skills are really
important, I know that kids need those, and I know those lessons are really valuable. But I also felt like we were doing so many
of these that there was no moment for kids to wonder, for their own ideas to
be welcomed into the classroom. And this really hit me in a moment, and I do
say this in the book too so I’ll be quick, but when the earthquake, a huge
earthquake hit Japan, it was 2011. And my students had so many questions, they
wanted to know what was going and we ended up spending our whole math block talking about
this earthquake because they were so concerned and they wanted to understand what was going on. And so I just thought this is
what they want to learn about, is there a way that I could teach them
that strong readers visualize as they read but to also teach them about what
they’re curious about at the same time so that they can apply it, so that they can see
the value in learning to visualize as they read. So that was really the problem
I was trying to address.>>And just in my UDL language you know as
David mentions, you don’t need this UDL language but in my UDL head I’m thinking you know
you’re starting first with engagement and you’re really thinking about what’s
authentic and relevant to your learners. And then they’re also thinking
about expert learning. So for those of you who might be
visualizing the UDL guidelines the whole goal across that horizontal part of the bottom of
the UDL guidelines is about expert learning. So Chelsea as you’re talking
thank you for highlighting two of probably the most critical pieces of UDL is
really thinking deeply about that engagement and thinking about we’re really
scaffolding to that expert learning. And I appreciate you know your focus on thinking
about the boxes that we may put students in. Who’s this little kid out here?>>This is my nephew Juda and I would
say that he refuses to be put in a box. This is probably the only moment in
his life anyone’s ever let him do that. And so you know he is an amazing
kid and he’s [inaudible] if he was in a really traditional classroom,
he would be a challenge. He would be constantly, you know, he’d be getting letters home
he’s not doing what he’s told, he won’t do this worksheet
properly, he’s all over the place. Luckily, he’s not in that environment,
he’s in a really wonderful school where they really understand him and
allow him to dictate a lot of what’s going on and so he gets a lot out of it. And he’s incredibly curious and incredibly
driven, incredibly you know just wise. But I look at him a lot and I think about
what it takes to educate every student in our classroom in a way that is
thoughtful and honest to who they are. And it’s definitely a lot of work
but when you can do it it’s amazing.>>It’s amazing and that again kind of brings
up that UDL language of what are the barriers that are in the environment that
may be getting in the way actually of this high-level engaged expert
learning that we’re looking for. And so before we go too much further, I
do just want to clarify is this technique, the unbound classroom, is this
something that’s really only applicable for young kiddos and elementary school?>>No so I think you can use this at any
grade level, I think you can absolutely do it in middle school and high school. In the book I focus more on elementary but
I do have a lot of tips for high school, middle school teachers to be
able to integrate this in. It’s certainly a bit easier
when you’re the sole teacher. But when you’re in middle school
and high school if you can work with your grade-level teachers there’s
absolutely work that can be done there. And it is work that’s almost more fruitful as
they get older because the kids are so engaged in the world outside of the classroom. And at that point a lot of kids are
used to the classroom being one thing and life outside of it being another. And those moments when you can bring it
together for a high schooler when they’re like oh this is interesting, this is cool,
my teacher knows about this then you know that can be a great way to get kids in. So it’s absolutely relevant for older grades too
it’s just that there’s more people at the table.>>That makes perfect sense and I’m even
thinking why stop you know let’s even think about adult learners.>>Absolutely adult learners can totally
benefit from this because especially if you’re working a job all day you
know then to come to a classroom and have the classroom feel
totally different and irrelevant, you’re just sort of gaining
credits to get to the end. So absolutely for adult learners
it’s incredibly valuable too.>>Fabulous. And so when we think about the why, so why
would I integrate the unbound classroom, what are some of the — let’s start
with this engagement ourselves and think about the expert learning
ourselves for the educator. Why integrate the unbound classroom?>>So I think to kind of explain just roughly
what it is, the idea is that as opposed to teaching real math, science, English,
history and looking at these set stills that go with each discipline we look at a theme
or we look at a topic that’s relevant to the children’s world, to the kids’ world. And then we figure out how these skills
and tools come naturally within that study. And so in doing that you’re also just
— it’s a more natural way of learning. So you know back to my one-year-old
son, he’s constantly figuring out you know how the world works by touching,
feeling, putting things in his mouth. He’s doing that for himself, he has a natural
drive to sort out what’s going around him. Does he have a natural drive
yet to fill in a worksheet? I don’t think so but we train kids to do that. Instead of spending so much time training
them to this work and tasks of the classroom which of course they still need and still have
to do, we can kind of switch gears and work within their old natural drive and their own
natural trajectory to learn their own curiosity. And then it also becomes they’re
much more motivated, they’re excited. They’re picking up something
and wanting to learn about it, they’re asking questions about it. So I think that’s kind of the big
why do it is that the kids love it.>>So in terms — well let’s get to the next
slide because I think you’re going to talk about what I’m wondering now is
when you think about as you start to describe what it looks like, sounds like,
and feels like I have a moment as a teacher where I’m thinking but I have
30 students in my classroom. Or if I’m a middle or high school
teacher and I have rotating classes; I have 125 different students
how can I possibly attend to that level of curiosity and engagement? Sometimes I just need them to sit
and do this worksheet, darn it.>>Totally, I understand.>>So help me understand a little more and bring to life a little more not only what this
unbound classroom can look like, feel like, and sound like because it’s a
vision that I want for my children, that I want for every learner in this world. But how do we also wrestle with some
of the real constraints that we have, some of the barriers that we have in our system?>>Totally. So my first unit I had 38 fifth-graders in
the classroom, they didn’t even physically fit in the room at a time so I
completely understand that. And there are certainly moments
where what they’re doing is sitting at a desk and working through something. So you know we can’t get out of that world
entirely, it’s still the world we’re in. But we can find moments and times where
kids can be up and moving and thinking. And I think a lot of the ways that you
can build in kind of support for yourself as an educator are by first
creating a classroom environment where the students are really
used to this type of work. So doing some simple activities right
at the beginning of the school year. One I always loved to do was I’d read Math
Curse which is a funny book by Jon Scieszka and my students would have to go and find
a math problem somewhere in the school, and then they’d sit and they’d solve it. So you know it’s simple but it’s getting
them to think a little more outside the box so they’re a little more used to it. And then there are some just very practical
tools which I do go through in the book too but that really will help the
students to figure out how to solve a lot of their questions on their own. And that’s really the goal too,
you’re helping give them the tools so that they can go and explore. So some of those things are using
rubrics, I’m a big fan of using a rubric. And that really helps students to be able to go
back before they go to you and say hey did I, you know, did I read through
everything I needed to? Was my dance really that interactive? Did I get an audience member participating? You know so helping them build some
self-reflected skills can help a lot in the classroom management aspect of it
because you’re totally right in this work, in this unbound classroom kids are up,
they’re moving, they’re talking to each other, they’re grabbing books out of the classroom. And you do have to be comfortable with that
because the classroom is no longer your space, it is their space and they are
exploring and doing what they need to do. It also takes a level of trust
between teacher and student as well.>>And do you have suggestions, so these
are big, tricky pieces for building that trust, building that classroom culture. I appreciate that you know that it takes
time, it’s not like this is just a little box and you go and implement this box and
poof you get this unbound classroom. But do you have any tips or
observations that you’ve made of some ways that educators have been able to really foster
that trust and that culture in the classroom?>>Absolutely. I think a lot of this work comes when
the kids first enter your classroom. You know I’m a big fan of those sort of first
month of school being just about setting up that rapport with your students. And letting them kind of let go of any fears
or feelings they’ve had from previous years, whether they’re positive or negative. Just knowing that this is a new space for them and a new relationship teacher
to child it can be hard. Kids hang on, teachers become this kind of
big bubble and we all get mashed together. So they need to know who you are, they need
to know who their teacher is as a person, they need to recognize your humanity
as much as you recognize theirs. So you know I’m always a fan of sharing
about yourself in those beginning days too so that they recognize that you might have a
bad day, you have feelings, you are a person. You know other things that I do as well, a
big thing is that kids really need to know that you’re aware that they
need different things to learn. And when you have a diverse classroom your
students have to know that you understand that their learning might look different from someone else’s learning,
they have to all know that. So having really explicit conversations with
students at the beginning about variability, what needs there are, you know what
tools are going to help students. So if one kids need to sit on a ball that
doesn’t mean every kid needs to sit on a ball. You know fair doesn’t always mean equal. So just figuring out a lot of
those pieces in the beginning of the school year I think can really
help create a classroom community where students are ready to trust you. And they know that your you’re
doing this and you’re pushing them because you know what they can do.>>And I want to thank you actually
addressing one of the questions in the chat box that says classrooms today are more diverse than
ever but not all students have equal feelings of safety and belonging within the classroom. So I even think of a student who this
teacher was like I am right there at the door as they come in and I give them all high-fives. And works for some students but there was a
student who literally was like I do not want to go give a high-five every day to
this teacher right as I walk in there. It was too much for that individual. So it’s not that we don’t want a
teacher welcoming student but it’s as you were saying it is kind
of appreciating that variability and providing some flexible options. You know the goal is I want to
welcome you to the classroom, maybe here are two options that we can have. You could come give me a high-five
or you can you know write me, you know get a little Post-it note and you
know post a welcome to me with a Post-it note. I’m making that up but it’s being able to have
that kind of flexibility there from the get-go. So yeah, do you have any suggestions recognizing
you know I know that your book is full of them, so I’m going to say definitely
check out her book. But do you have a couple of favorite strategies
that you use to really think about how to meet just that huge range of trust
and feelings of safety in school that you know you’re going
to have in the classrooms?>>Absolutely. So one of the first things I
do every year at the beginning of the school year is we have a
conversation about what learning looks like. And so students will start by discussing with
a partner and then they’ll write a little bit about what learning looks like
for the, what it feels like, what is hard for them, what they love. And then a lot of times if I
have the time I’ll try and build in just one-minute quick
chats with every student. And in those moments, you get a lot of that,
you them telling you I hated math last year, I panicked when I had to learn my
multiplication tables, I can’t do it, I’m so afraid you’re going
to ask me to do them again. And you can sense some of that and it
gives you an opportunity to address it. And then you can have a big conversation with
the classroom where you can bring some of that up and say you know I know some of you had a
hard time with multiplication tables last year and it can be really tough when
you are trying so hard at something and it just feels like it’s not working. So you know for some of us to learn
something we have to try it a different way, we have to figure out another way of
learning something that’s really challenging. And you recognize that some things are going to
be tough that doesn’t mean you write off math and we hate math and we’re terrible at math now. You know so then it allows you to bring
some of those to the classroom discussion and we’ll actually create a
big chart after that discussion that says what we all need
in order to learn best. And I’m always really amazed by
how open students are in that. You know I have students saying that
it’s [inaudible] to learning best or I’ll have students who say I need a special
pencil you know or I need quiet or I need loud. And so we get to really see what they all need and have a big open conversation
about what that looks like. And I find that is a really fabulous
starting point for kids to recognize that. And then later on when it comes out that you
know someone’s saying like oh why are you using that pencil, we go back to that chart and say
hey we all need different things to learn best.>>And on one day what you need might be
different than what you need the next day. So this idea of really opening the dialogue
would I think would encourage students to start considering things that
they maybe didn’t consider before. Like maybe if I try that special pencil then
that might you know really help my handwriting or it really kind of opens the door to
not just being the teacher says do this so I’m doing this. But it becomes about what the
students collectively are needing to do their best learning. And I also just want to note
and really appreciate I don’t if I’ve ever had a conversation, and
this is going to be something I’m going to start integrating into my work, but where I
really just ask the students what does learning look like. Because I worry that often I perceive as
a student oh learning means I take notes and when the teacher’s talking, I nod my head. And that’s from my cultural background so it’s
going to be you know different for everyone. But very interesting to recognize or
again to start to open the dialogue around what really does learning look
like, what do we mean by learning. And it’s not just about compliance, it’s
not just about filling out worksheets and turning them back in and the teacher
being the one to give the right answer or not. But what you’re describing is so much
more of a process that begins on day one as you were sharing and as you were describing. So I thank you for noting those
two pieces in terms of thinking about what this unbound classroom
can feel like, what you can hear. And so when we think about how
educators implement the unbound classroom in their practice again to try to start
to put educators at peace that one yes, you’re not going to have
students necessarily sitting and doing the same thing at the same time. But how do you also deal with the
concern of you know my background is in science, I don’t know history. How can they now expect me to have to know
how to do history and science and math, what? So could you talk us through a little bit you
know how do educators implement the unbound classrooms and what are some suggestions
that you have to help you know put at ease some concerns that you may have heard?>>Absolutely. So recently I was helping a first-grade
teacher who had the exact same issue, we were creating a myths
and legends unbound unit. And so in creating this we came up with
some science work she was going to do but she said I don’t know
science, I was a terrible — I’ve been terrible at science my whole life,
I can’t do that so we’ll just leave that out. And I was like no that’s kind of
defeating the purpose of what we’re doing. So what we did and what I encourage
people to do is first of all just so that you know I’m not a math
person, I’m not a science person, these things do not come naturally
to me, they’re very tough for me. They were tough in school; they
still can be really challenging. What I do is I really start when I’m
implementing, even before I implement, when I’m creating the unit, I
start by just researching myself. So for example, I’m working on a unit on bees
right now so I’m just learning about bees. I’m reading everything I
can read and as I do that, I’m writing down the mathematical
questions I have and the science questions.>>Talk about those mathematical
— yeah, that is so interesting. So yeah, can you?>>Like I learned recently that
bees make this incredible pattern in circling with their wings, I had no idea. And they can beat different patterns and
they think it may be a way of communicating. So to me I started thinking okay that’s
really fascinating, how can we communicate through these beats and through different
motions and this repeated you know sequencing. So then that got me thinking about
sequencing which is a huge part of math. And so in my little kind of math
column as I’m planning this unit, I thought okay how can we think about beats
and sequencing and patterning when it comes to this communication method
that bees have developed. You know so that’s like a great way of
integrating it very naturally that’s fascinating and really cool, especially for
little kids kind of thinking about like creating their own little
bee beat language that they can share. And that way they’re really learning sequencing,
they can be counting by twos, counting by fives. But at the same time they’re learning about how bees are developing
these methods of communication. So you know that’s one way of kind of thinking
about these things that I don’t know all of it but I can start to see these connections
as I naturally have my own curiosity.>>Well and it sounds like you’re
modeling traits of an expert learner. That you really have become expert in
learning some in the representation column of the UDL guidelines of just
being able to build background, being able to understand what
some of the key languages. And being able to make sense of, you know,
understand those core concepts and be able to start to learn how to take that
background and apply it to something new. And you’re thinking about that
action and expression column because you’re thinking how can you show it, how can you talk about it,
what do experts do with that. You know when you find out about the bees and
the beating of their wing what does that mean. And maybe, I mean I’m thinking already
my head is starting to spinning. I know here at MIT they’re working
on coming up with artificial bees. Now I’m like I want to go find out how they
are calculating the speed of the bee wing.>>Yes.>>And then in terms of engagement it starts
to, I mean and I just want to keep hitting up on what you talked about at
the very beginning that curiosity. All of a sudden, I mean I have to say when
you first talked about bees I was like yeah, I get stung that’s about where I
felt like you know my knowledge was. But already in just this short you know
30 seconds you’ve sparked my imagination a little bit. So that’s going to make me more willing to
you know persist through some challenges or maybe want to talk with
someone else and collaborate. And you mentioned the importance
of those rubrics so we kind of know if we’re making progress because we’re able
to do these self-checks with each other. So we did not plan this conversation, this
is just very authentically in the moment. It’s really exciting to kind of see
how the brain can start building on what you know our previous
experiences have been.>>I mean that’s part of the fun of it. As a teacher too, as an educator
it is fun doing this work. And when you challenge yourself to say I want
to learn about something I don’t know anything about you can get so much
empathy for the students. Because you’re going to hit similar
roadblocks, you’re going to hit moments where you doubt yourself and you think, do
I understand enough about this to teach it, do I understand enough about this to keep going. You are also figuring out what information
they need in order to continue on. So as you’re building the unit,
you’re really walking the steps that the students will be later on. And so it’s fun because just like you
experienced you all of a sudden go, I never thought about this and this
is cool and I remember a friend who just told me this and
how can I connect it so.>>Well you might get this,
I’m just already imagining but I don’t have enough time in the day. I would love to go spend — yeah,
I would love to go down to MIT and be able to talk with somebody. But the reality of our school
schedules, at least here in the US, and I’m going to take the words out of
CAST [inaudible] founder Davis Rose, teaching is emotional work. And we really, we often do have limited time
and resources so what do you say to that when teachers just say but I don’t have time?>>Oh it’s so true, it’s so challenging. And so you know there are a
couple of things you can do. The first thing I would say is if you’re
doing this bee lesson and you know someone at MIT is doing something related to
it email them quickly and ask them if they’d come visit your classroom. So you are not alone the bearer of all
this information, bringing other experts into the classroom is a great tool and
wonderful way for kids to learn more about whatever this topic is and
see how adults are engaging with it. So that’s a really kind of
simple way of putting that in. The other thing is you’re absolutely right
it is incredibly hard to do this work. I found I was often doing it like the
night before scrambling to try and think of how we were going to integrate
jazz into our math the next day. I really just tried to set a goal for
myself of creating one new unit when I was on a break, when I had a chunk of time. And then trying to implement it when I
found the right space in the classroom. And then the nice thing that I found is that once I got these units
going it was a lot easier. And I actually needed to do less prep because
the students are doing a lot of the work. There wasn’t as much for me to script the
night before, there’s not a huge mini lesson. You know it does at a point become
where you’re going into the classroom and you’re saying everybody get
out those books and let’s get to work, you know what you’re doing. And so you know when you kind of get them moving
it’s also really nice because every moment of your day is not like completely
planned, scripted in advance. So you know but you’re absolutely right
it’s just a tough part of being a teacher. Those 15, 16-hour days of planning
and then teaching all day are tough. And this is definitely work to figure
out but I do find that once I get going on it it’s also a lot more invigorating
than it is sitting with my giant textbook and you know writing out my lesson plan.>>Can this align to the standards? So in the US we have standards and you know
how do you find that it aligns with standards? I know you address it in the book. [ Cross-Talk ] Here that would be again another concern,
but I have all of these standards I need. You know I have an exam that I
need students to be able to pass. How can you wrestle with that tension?>>Absolutely. No, it’s really tough, you do have to be hitting
the standards in every lesson and you have to be able to prove that that’s really
your guiding force is the standards. I actually was anxious about this when
I first started planning these units. And then I started finding that my lessons
fit really well with the standards. So for example, I did — back to a jazz unit I
mentioned a second ago, but I did a jazz unit and we talked about how beats work. And we used that to talk about fractions, so
fractional pieces so a quarter, an eighth. So that’s going to be you know a quarter
would mean you’d have four beats to a measure. You know and I’m not a music person so
I might be getting this confused now.>>Well I’ll just go on the neuroscience,
there’s no such thing as a music person or a science person or an
art person neurologically.>>No, that’s fascinating.>>That’s another conversation. Because your background isn’t necessarily. [ Cross-Talk ] I couldn’t resist Chelsea.>>That’s pretty cool. So yeah, so you know I don’t know how all
that works but I researched a bunch on it. And then I looked, and for third-graders you
know understanding fractional pieces was a huge standard. And obviously that’s not the exact wording
of the standard, but that is a major one. And so, we did work on this for a while
and students wrote their own songs. And then we also went into our everyday math
textbook and we did the unit on fractions. And my kids got it, and they got it
so much more than they did before when I hadn’t done this work before. So it took time away a little bit. But then when we went to go do
our math that we had to do it went so much faster, everyone was excited. They were getting it so much more because
they had this grounding in a context. So I absolutely find that as you
travel these sorts of natural paths and you start creating the
lessons, I sit with the standards on one side and UDL guidelines on the other. And so I’m thinking okay, am I doing
everything I need to make sure I’m inclusive and this lesson works for everybody. And on the other side, I’m looking at
it and going am I hitting the standards? What standard can I make work for this? And if I have to adjust the lesson a little
bit so that it fits the standard then so be it. But honestly, I found that
the standards are open enough that you can really make
your lesson fit with them.>>And I’m thinking when you’re describing
this lesson on fractions and beads, they’re experience multiple
representations of that information. So they’re not just seeing it on,
you know, on a flat piece of paper but they’re actually feeling
what it sounds like. You know experiencing you know the motor
movements that go with it and talking about it, wrestling with it around a
song that they’ve created. So then when they’re in the car or wherever
they might be listening to music that’s going to trigger that thinking and that understanding
and additional questions to want to learn more at a higher level that probably
weren’t going to be initiated from like you’re saying just
a decontextualized worksheet. And it supports one of the questions that came through was just how can we really
you know transform bees or fractions into being these authentic problems that have
really a purpose that’s meaningful to students? So it sounds like that’s, you know, if I’m
still one of those you know a student who’s just like I am just not interested still. Do you find that you know
this process is able to pull in sometimes even the most
disengaged students from the learning?>>Absolutely, I certainly do. And you know some of the units
do it so more so than others. So bees might speak to just a
particularly curious kid who’s looked at them out the window a bunch of times. Or someone, I had a student who was
really allergic to bees and that was kind of how we started doing this because
he was so incredibly afraid of them. And to him they had so much of a
different value than to other kids. I thought you know we all kind of need
to understand them a little bit better. So you know all the kids are
engaging with bees in different ways. And you can certainly make some very
[inaudible] justice-minded units this way too, and that speaks to a lot of kids. You know so doing — I did a public
art forms unit and we made murals. And my students there who I was working with,
they weren’t kids who had access to museums. And that wasn’t the art that
they were engaging with, the art they were engaging
with was tags on the street. And so every time we talked about art
and art was in a museum, it was distant and foreign and not part of their life. And they didn’t feel welcome
or safe in that space. But when we talked about public
art forms as being the mural, on the wall they walked past every day to go to school then they could
understand it and engage with it. And so this work I find on so many levels is
able to bring students in who are struggling to feel at home in the classroom. Whether it’s by welcoming their world
and their community into the classroom, or it’s by helping them to build a
context and a place for their learning. So that when they see it on a worksheet, which
they are inevitably going to need to know how to deal with and engage with,
they can think back to that unit and think oh I remember that song I made. And then they’re tapping out the beats and
okay going at four, and eighth is half a four. Okay I remember that.>>And it sounds also, there’s also
a comment just if you have a student who already knows fractions, you
know been there done fractions. Are they also able to be as engaged and
as challenged in this kind of context?>>Totally. So the great part is this really works
well for kids on all ends of things. So you have kids — if a child is struggling
with fractions, this helps them understand it. If you have a kid who is above and beyond and
they’re like well I already get fractions. I kind of doubt that they’ve already
thought about them in the context of music. And so then it allows you to really quickly
and easily push them and challenge them too. Okay you get 4ths and 8ths,
write me something with 16ths. And then I want you to do different
beats with different fractional parts. And let’s start adding and
subtracting fractions using that. Let’s think about how we multiply
fractions using that [inaudible]. So you know and then you know can you
demonstrate for me how we use multiplication of fractions by creating a song that shows it. So you can really push students ahead
really easily through this as well too.>>And it sounds like that’s
getting to your point here, then students really are the
ones who own the expertise. It’s not you up there teaching, here is how you. But it’s really the students sharing their
knowledge and what they’ve discovered, and where they are within that
content and that understanding. And so I’m curious then, in your teaching
experience how did you kind of come to use this practice and then
end up turning it into a book? So yeah, if you could just share a little bit
about what you started to see and how you felt like this was something different
enough than practices as they were prior to the unbound classroom?>>Absolutely. So I just kind of naturally
came to creating these units, as I said with that natural disasters
unit which was the first one, I made. That just came because my students
were really curious about this and I wanted to be able to go with that. And I still had standards to hit, so I thought
how can I make these two work together. And so I created a unit on natural disasters. And then after that I’d started
to see more places where I could create units
that would do the same work. And I read a lot and did a lot of work
within the project-based learning sphere, which is very similar to what I’m doing here. But with project-based learning
there are a couple of differences. One was that it was really I found kind
of challenging to integrate when I wasn’t in a school that welcome project-based learning. And so, when I started trying to do
things in this sort of project mindset where we had one big question that was very
specific to a topic that we were looking at. It was harder for me to integrate
everything and hit the different standards. And then for me the goal become more about
allowing kids to learn in a natural way about a larger topic, and for them to create whatever the question
was that they were interested in. But [inaudible] define the
lines of inquiry more. So that was how I came more to
this unbound classroom practice. And I started creating so man units on this and watching my kids just love
it and go further and further. And now my first year of kids are now in
college and so I still hear from them. And so when I started thinking about
writing this book the kids were, you know, in high school and I was still
seeing them from time to time. And they would say to me hey remember
the Chumash museum we created? Remember how I did this and I was an
economist, and so I studied how they use money? Well now I’m taking an econ class
and I actually use [inaudible]. And so I thought maybe this is
useful for other people to do too. And more teachers started asking me [inaudible]
for them, and would say I want to do a unit on you know like the myths and legends. Or I want to do a unit on gardening. Or I want to do a unit on you know
on people who we don’t usually study. So having the kids really challenged to find
someone, this is a Black History money unit, but really should and could be done at
any time of the year where we study people from the Civil Rights movement
whose names you’ve never heard of. And we called it the names
you’ve never heard of unit. And so you know things like that where we
just started creating more and more units. And I thought I think teachers would enjoy this.>>And I wonder, so before
we get to that next question. You’ve used the word natural a number of
times which is a big word, it’s very vague. So I’m wondering if UDL at all, as David
was kind of alluding to at the beginning, if UDL helped give language to what that
natural might be or where barriers might be to that natural process or
not, it doesn’t have to. But I guess I’m wanting to
understand a little more of that natural piece that you’re talking about.>>Absolutely. So you know I really didn’t
understand what it meant to for example have an auditory
processing disorder. So when I started teaching, I had no idea
that there were students in my classroom who my voice was just coming
through as a jumble. And that the process of hearing me and then understanding what I
was saying was not happening. And that wasn’t because they
weren’t paying attention, it wasn’t because they couldn’t focus,
it wasn’t because they didn’t care. It was because of how their brain operated. And so as I started looking more at the
UDL guidelines and I started looking more at my students, and thinking
what’s going on here. Why are you having such a
hard time with directions? I starting to understand that you know this
child in front of me is perfectly capable of learning, they want to
learn, they’re excited to learn. But no one has found a way
to engage them and a way to help them understand how
their brain operates. And what methods are going
to work best within that. And so you know that was
where UDL came in a lot. And I really believe a lot in giving
kids agency and giving them the tools. And so a lot of that comes from very
openly understanding and talking about how everyone’s brain
processes information. And so you’re absolutely right, I say natural
a lot just because it’s what I’m thinking. But the deeper process there is that I want
the students in my classroom to know themselves and know how they process information. And what the best method is
for them so that when they walk into the next classroom they
can say to the teacher, just so you know if you give me something
on a piece of paper it’s very hard for me to connect what those letters, what
those words are saying to what you mean. So if you could tell me a couple times
too, that would be really helpful. I mean.>>That is, that’s incredible and
to me is so different than natural because natural I almost feel like
I don’t have any control over that. And you know get the sense of almost apathy
of like oh well you know I’m not natural, that’s not something that comes natural to me. But what you just described is like
the opposite of being totally empowered and understanding at such a high level. And I love that you’re describing
it in young kiddos. That it’s not like oh when
they get to fifth grade or whatever you know then
they’ll be able to handle it. But kicking right off of it from, you know, you described your three-year-old
nephew at the beginning.>>Right.>>Your one-year-old son.>>He and I have had those conversations before
when someone said to him you have to sit down, and he’ll say that is physically painful for me. And so we’ve talked about like
have you ever told someone? I can’t sit, it’s just too much for me, my
brain doesn’t like it, my body doesn’t like it. Can I figure out something else? And when you give kids the tools
to do that, they’re amazing. And you’re absolutely right,
I’m glad you brought that up because I think you know sometimes there
are these words that we get engrained in the process of sharing something. And you don’t question yourself as to
how other people are understanding them. So I’m really glad that you brought that up
because I definitely don’t mean that sort of apathetic sense when I
say kids’ natural learning. What I mean is their own particular
learning needs and their learning process. And giving them the tools and the skills to be
able to vocalize that and understand themselves so they can be their own advocates. And in order to do that they have
to know what it feels like to learn. They have to know what it feels like
to be included in the classroom too. So that’s where that work we were talking
about earlier as an educator comes in is that your students have to
know that you’ve got them. That you’re listening and you
can figure out what they need.>>And I am so grateful for that last
little bit that you just said there. And I was thinking that too that you really,
you’ve given us very concrete strategies from the moment students walk in to
start to be able to empower them. To deepen their understanding, deepen
their language, deepen their strategies. For educators to open up their cabinets and
see what materials and resources are there. I appreciate that you talked about
the importance of collaboration. The importance of starting small. And in just 30 seconds here are a couple
of tips that you’ve given teachers. So do you have any just quick tips
or pieces you heard from educators who have implemented the unbound classroom?>>Yeah, absolutely. So I think start small. You know don’t feel overwhelmed and
like you have to rewrite an entire unit in order to integrate disciplines. And in order to really you know
create a well-integrated less. Try one thing you know if it’s — we’ve been
on bees so let’s stick with bees for a minute. If you just want to go read an
article tonight about bees and figure out how you can create a cool lesson that
maybe doesn’t fit math, science, English, history but is interesting
for the kids, do that. Just give it a try and see what this
work feels like in the classroom. So yeah, just don’t let the
big idea overwhelm you.>>Start small, it’s so important,
it’s so important. And so behind-the-scenes, so is there anything. And I’m going to look here and
see if anyone has any questions that they’re wondering from Chelsea. And if there are any behind-the-scenes, like any moments where you just said
I can’t do it and scrapped it or any? The image on the front I just love
because it’s this plant coming out of this you know this tough wall. But any behind-the-scenes moments that
you just want to share very briefly?>>Oh yeah, absolutely. I mean there were plenty of
moments when lessons went awry or when I think they’d go a certain direction
and they went a totally different direction. So yeah, I just had to learn to be open to
that and not try and to corral them back into what I thought they needed to get out
of it, let them see where they [inaudible].>>Probably feel scary. So yeah, do you have. [ Cross-Talk ]>>I think as an educator it can
feel totally scary doing this because you’re in total control anymore. And I think as a teacher we’re so often taught
that good teachers are in constant control of their classroom and all their students. And students don’t like that and
it’s really hard for teachers to do. And so there’s moments when you
just have to give up control. And so like really early on in this
process I remember having a student who we were building for our Chumash museum. The Chumash are the Native tribe
where I used to live in Santa Barbara, in California so third-graders
learned about them. And the kids in the previous years had
all made teepees, and a teepee village. But that’s not what the Chumash lived in, so
it was completely historically inaccurate. And I had a bunch of kids come in one day
and we were talking about [inaudible], which are the houses that the Chumash lived in. And they were like well we just want to make
teepees, why can’t we make these teepees? And that was a moment where it was kind of the
opposite of some of what I’m saying where I had to deal with some of their, you know, their
preconceptions and their misunderstandings. And help them to understand why not only
we need to learn what’s accurate to them, but why sometimes we teach
history so incorrectly especially when it comes to marginalized people. So there were like a lot of big topics
that came up in this teeny moment. So you know just finding a space for those and
being open to that took me a while to figure out how to find moments lie this
where I could say to kids you know like okay we have 10 minutes, we’re going to
have a quick discussion about how the teaching of history has been flawed for a very long time. Or to say this is a lesson for three
weeks from now, and we’ll get there. But yeah.>>Well Chelsea, you’re inspiring
me because it’s not just about, it goes back to that question you asked at
the very beginning, what really is learning? And really understanding that learning
is much more a lifelong pursuit and it is messy, and it’s complicated. And if school is not providing a
context to be able to translate to life what is the purpose of school. I mean you’re really challenging us
to ask some really hard questions that I think are really important. And Chelsea has shared two quotes
with us that I invite you to read. And Chelsea you know let’s
take at this one just briefly. Liberating education consists in acts of
cognition, not transferals of information. And for me you’ve summarized that
so well in the conversation today, I don’t know if you have a few words that
you want to speak to about this quote.>>Absolutely. So you know I think we’re in an age of Alexa
and mine’s going to turn on because I said that. And so kids can get answers, they don’t need you to tell them the right or
wrong what 4 times 5 is. They have the Internet; they
know how to do that. So our job as educators is to teach them how
to ask questions of the world around them. It’s to teach them how to engage with the world. It’s to teach them what it is, what it feels
like to learn, to trudge through knowledge to find something interesting and go with it. And so that’s where I see this quote, that’s
how I really understand it and how it kind of inspires me as a teacher to remember when
kids ask me a question that there are times when I have to say, we have
to figure that one out.>>I think that’s why I got into education
in the first place and probably a lot of you, that’s probably resonating. We got into it to really
transform lives in this way. And as someone noted in the chat, and to
become expert learners which is just fabulous.>>Absolutely.>>Chelsea had recommended inspiring
schools and valuable recipe, recipes resources from her perspective. Those are all in that digital handout
so I invite you all to see that. And please get your copy of Chelsea’s book, it
is light, it’s wonderful, it’s easy-to-read. It’s you know easy to highlight and make your
underlines, and really truly is fabulous. And you get a 25% discount if you use
this code unbound during checkout. And this is good until February 29th,
so please take advantage of that. Join us at the 2020 UDL-IRN
International Summit that is happening in California April 8th through 9th. So we invite you to join us for that
and sign up for our CAST newsletter. We like to share a lot of the exciting
events that are happening at CAST and with our collaborations with
all of you all internationally. So I want to thank the folks
who are here internationally. I want to thank our tech team, Mindy, Nathan thank you for getting this all
set up, and having it run so smoothly. Mike thank you for the captions. David Gordon thank you for publishing this
book The Unbound Classroom with Chelsea Miro. We’re getting some thumbs up from David. Chelsea thank you so much,
I’m very inspired right now. I really appreciate this conversation so much. Thank you for being with us today. For those of you who are watching,
we’ll stay on for another minute or two. If you do have questions, we
invite you to put them in the chat. And here is a quick opportunity
for you to share feedback with us. How was this webinar for you? What additional topics would
you like for us to cover? What else can we do to continue to
iterate on the design of our webinars? So thank you all so much for joining today. Chelsea just a big thank you.>>Thank you, thank you Allison,
thanks David, thank you everybody for joining us, this is exciting. And feel free to reach out to me in any way
if anyone has questions, I know it’s a lot. But I also know that as you start doing this
work it’s really awesome, so I’m here to help.>>We’re available.>>Thank you, Chelsea it’s a great book.>>Thank you, David. Thank you so much. Thanks, Allison. Thanks, everybody.>>And this will be recorded, so please know that you can have access to
this recording at any point. And someone’s asking for the book code
again, here you are it is unbound. There are some great comments in here
Chelsea, I don’t know if you are able to see. Thank you for creating a space we can learn. Question and wonder.>>Oh awesome, thank you. No I didn’t read it as much while I was going
but I really appreciate everyone who is here and commented, and thought about this. And I know what it is to be in the classroom, I know an hour after school
is a big commitment and a lot. And so you know I’m really grateful to everyone
who took the time out to participate today. And I hope that this is inspiring
and exciting for everybody.>>It is for me, I’m ready to go teach.>>Awesome. Now you’ve given me ideas too. Now I’m going to look up this MIT lab doing
the bees so I can work on this for that unit.>>Oh it’s the waggle dance, isn’t it? I have heard of that.

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