Taking a Risk With Student Surveys #IMMOCC Week 2

At the end of Chapter 3 in The Innovator’s Mindset, George Couros asks you to consider, “What risk might you take to change learning experiences?”. After hearing both George and Pernille Ripp speak at my Teacher’s Convention in February, I have been toying with the idea of asking my students what they don’t like about our classroom. I have often asked my students what they like about our classroom, but never have had the guts to ask them what they don’t like, because I find criticism hard to take, even from a group of Grade 2 students.

Well, after this week’s readings and YouTube live session, I finally figured I need to take the risk of surveying my students about what they don’t like in order for me to reflect on what is not working and what needs to be changed.

I was unsure of the kind of response I would get from a group of seven and eight year olds. I had my students write what they liked on one side of a card and a ‘yuck’, or what they don’t like, on the other. I asked them to not put their name on the card, but five or six of my students ran up to me to share their cards. The kids who ran up to me with their cards wrote things like this:

Things They Like
‘Yuck’ Things

I decided that these cards weren’t helpful in my reflection process, but it’s always nice to know my students like their teacher and that they wouldn’t change anything! A few did tell me that they didn’t like home time as they wanted to stay at school since they like learning so much.

I did receive some cards that were able to give me some more feedback on what’s working and not working.

Things They Like
‘Yuck’ Things

I can see that my students do enjoy choice in activities like Daily 5 and they enjoy blogging so a wider audience can be a part of their writing. From the responses of what a few of my students are not enjoying, I can see that I need to innovate on how we practice our spelling words and do word study. Even though this was done anonymously, I do know who wrote Writer’s Workshop, so I know that I need to work with him on developing a passion for writing. I am going to need to reflect over the next few weeks on how to help this student to learn to love writing, considering I already offer choice in what they can write about and each student works at their own pace. Any suggestions on how to innovate in writing and word study would be greatly appreciated!

This morning I was a bit nervous to read what my students would tell me, but now that I’ve asked them once, I think it would be easier to hear criticism when I do this again. I also think the more students were asked these kinds of questions, the more focused and helpful their responses would become.


Embracing Change #IMMOOC Week 1

The second round of #IMMOOC started this week and to say the least, I left the YouTube Live session feeling invigorated, motivated, and inspired. There were so many great thoughts and ideas that I couldn’t wait to share with my colleagues.

The idea of embracing change has been at the forefront of my mind for awhile now. In the past, I have felt like I have been judged for doing something different from other teachers and colleagues. The statement made during the live session that you aren’t the problem if someone feels uncomfortable about the good stuff you are doing, made me realize I could let go of all my past feelings of guilt for not always using whole class teaching with booklets and themes. I finally was able to accept it’s about showing others the way of change and doing what’s best for your students – thanks George!

Along with teaching my own Grade 2 class I also have a small amount of time to visit classrooms as a “technology coach” and collaborate with the classroom teacher to integrate technology, voice, and choice into their lessons. Some teachers have been more reluctant to embrace change than others. Over the past couple of weeks, one teacher in particular that I have been working with has started to shift her thinking and has become inspired to try “new stuff”. I’ve really enjoyed having conversations with her, guiding her, and supporting her in her journey.

In my own classroom my students are constantly bringing up questions, wonders, and ideas and we sometimes get “sidetracked” with great thinking. After reading a book titled ‘All About Robots’, my students had their newest idea – a Robot Contest.  When this idea was first brought forward, my initial thought was, I have no idea how to do this! I relayed this idea to my friend and she suggested to ask my students what they want the Robot Contest to look like. After she recommended this, I thought “Why didn’t I think that?”.  Our Robot Contest planning will start next week and, needless to say, I can’t wait to ask them what a Robot Contest entails and work through designing and implementing it with them.

On a final note, after school yesterday, I was excitedly sharing with a colleague about Monday night’s session and just before our discussion wrapped up, I told her that I was proud of her for changing her Twitter profile picture to her real picture and pointed out how she wouldn’t have done it in the past. She replied by saying that because of me, I had pushed her to try new things and made her excited to innovate with her class. This small comment made me realize that if you only reach one person, the uphill journey of embracing change was totally worth it.



Re-Thinking Book Shopping

During Pernille Ripp’s workshop “Creating a Passionate Literacy Classroom”she talked about how the book shopping time in her classroom is all about sharing and talking about books. After reflecting on her students’ book shopping experience, I decided that mine needed an overhaul.

Previously, book shopping looked like four to five students each day in the classroom library quietly changing their books first thing in the morning during Calendar. I expected my students to be quiet while book shopping so the rest of the class could still be working. There were no book conversations or recommendations made. Pernille challenged me to think about how I wanted my students to be excited to read, talk about books, and make recommendations to each other – how else would you ever find your next great read?

Last week, we tried the new and improved version of book shopping. We are now book shopping as an entire class on Friday afternoons so we have a box full of books to look forward to enjoying the following week in Daily 5. Book shopping now has three components: Booktalks, To Be Read Lists (Thanks Pernille!), and Book Shopping.

Booktalks take place before book shopping and are completely optional. I invite my students to booktalk any books they want to share that they think their classmates would enjoy. A booktalk consists of a student giving a quick snapshot of a book that will hook someone into wanting to read it, making sure they don’t give away the entire book, in less than one minute. Last week, over half of my class did a booktalk!

To Be Read Lists
While listening to the booktalks, if my students hear any titles they want to read, they will write the title and book bin number down on their To Be Read List. They can use their To Be Read List to help them choose books during book shopping. My students keep their To Be Read List in the back of their Tiny Topic Notebooks.

Book Shopping
The entire class book shops together at the same time. Last week, book bins were pulled off shelves, books that hadn’t been read all year were being put into Book Boxes, conversations about books were happening and recommendations were being made. Yay!!

I haven’t seen my class so excited about talking about books all year! They told me that they enjoyed book shopping as a class better than quietly in the morning. Since the ‘new and improved’ version of book shopping was launched last week, my students haven’t stopped talking about books with me and making recommendations all week. They left tonight with books already picked out to share tomorrow.

One of my personal goals is to read more of the books in my classroom library so I can make recommendations for my students. This week I have read six different books, albeit short ones, that I plan on booktalking tomorrow. Eerie Elementary was a recommendation made by half of my class – a definite must read.img_6597


A Blogging Re-Start

teach-1968076_1920While completing my Masters I started blogging at http://elemelements.blogspot.ca as my courses convinced me to share all my ideas and innovations with the world. Since finishing my Masters in April 2015, I haven’t wanted to be anywhere near my laptop. Needless to say after spending three days this past week at Professional Development, I have been re-inspired to share my thoughts, opinions, challenges, and ideas as a teacher in this wonderful time of change in classrooms.

I had the amazing opportunity to spend the a day with the great Pernille Ripp, founder of The Global Read Aloud, who made me realize that I need to remember to be brave, to break the rules and push the boundaries of education for what you believe in. She reiterated the importance of choice and allowing each student to have time to talk and have their story heard. Be passionate about what you do to inspire your students – Wow!

I also had time to hear George Couros speak and like Pernille, he made me realize the importance of sharing what you believe in and to keep moving forwards, even if there are bumps in the road. I loved his quote: “Make the positives so loud that the negatives are almost impossible to hear.” This is going to become my mantra to get me through my journey of encouraging others to embrace technology and stay relevant.

So, this re-start blog post is my step back into sharing my thoughts and ideas. Like Pernille said, you can’t change your students but you can change the way you teach…