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Visible thinking with Mural.ly in the PYP classroom

Posted by Jocelyn Sutherland in Uncategorized on Monday, April 8th, 2013 at 20:19

Today during my Grade 5 EAL class, I decided to trial a new (free!) online visible thinking tool called ‘Mural.ly‘. Its claim is that it is ‘Google Docs for Visual People‘, which couldn’t better define myself or my EAL learners.

Using Mural.ly with Beginner EAL students: Tuning-in to UOI vocabulary

Students are able to upload google images, directly from a search tool on Mural.ly or they can upload images themselves. This was ideal for students as a lot of new vocabulary was introduced to front-load our next PYP Unit of Inquiry: Where we are in Place and Time.

With my beginner EAL group we have already tuned into some key vocabulary for our unit that will focus on migration. Before discovering Mural.ly, students used google translate and google images to help them design their own visual definition of the following terms:

migration, opportunity, risk, push/pull factor

Once I discovered Mural.ly I realized I could extend this further and students were now able to add relevant links (websites), add text (post-its) and most importantly, collaborate on ONE document together.

Students are still working on this share-document but here is what they’ve come up with so far using Mural.ly:

What the students really enjoyed about using Mural.ly was the cohesiveness of this online tool…everything can happen in one space: links, images, text..and all of it drag and drop!

It was equally easy for them to teach my larger EAL group (Intermediate English speakers) how to quickly sign in, create an account and get started.

Using Mural.ly with Intermediate EAL students: Tuning-in to the key concept of ‘perspective’:

I have my larger group of nine EAL students for just a mere 40 minutes. I wanted them to get ‘logged in’ and starting as soon as they walked in to class. They were very excited and curious to walk in and see a ‘blank’ Mural.ly canvas on the board with a provocation: “How do these images connect to you?”

Preparing this didn’t take long as I was able to google image search words that connected to the vocabulary we were exploring: Opportunity, Risk, Pull factor, Push Factor.

Students were engaged and eager to share their own personal perspectives as to how these words connected to their own ‘migration’ from their home country to Indonesia.

By the time they were logged in, the students spent the next 20 minutes sharing their perspectives through short anecdotes on stickies, photos, google-searching websites etc and by the end of our lesson had produced this:

Here are some closer shots of some of the thinking happening

behind the images:

OPPORTUNITY explored through images and words

PULL FACTOR explored through images and words (and links)

  RISK explored through images and words


When asked how this tool could be helpful in learning students answered the following:

“We can use it to present our work.”

“It helps us practice our writing.”

“It shows what we think while we work.”

“It teaches us to work together”.

I couldn’t have agreed more. Students willingly asked to work on their Mural.ly for homework tonight so we can share them publicly on their blogs using the ‘embed’ feature. This tool has reached students in a new way and my only regret is that I didn’t discover it sooner! We will make the most of it in the last 10 weeks of school.

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