Day 37: The Computer Lab

I remember in grade 3 when we were allowed to go to this new room. It was the size of a classroom, it had an air-conditioning unit (no other rooms had that), and I didn’t have to bring a pencil. The computer lab has been a standard component of schools since the mid 90s. A shift is happening now, and that computer lab is changing.

I have had the opportunity of teaching at schools that are brand new and ones that are rich in history and tradition. Some newer schools opt to skip the computer lab and those who have had one are letting go. For my school it is a space issue. With new classes being added to the school the computer lab is being converted into a classroom. This is OK with me.

As computers are redistributed into the classrooms I forced to look at how I have used the lab over the past year. Transitioning from a set time each week to an online booking system that allowed me to book it when I needed it provided some self reflection on my pedagogy. Last year I was in the lab every week for one period. This year I have probably used it under 10 times.

I really had to have a strong purpose to use the lab, and this year this was not the case. Fortunately I have access to in iPad cart (which I have utilized more this year) which I have found lends itself to the primary division. SO…what is replacing the computer lab (other then classrooms)? Tomorrow I will discuss my thoughts on this- and they include maker spaces! But for now, I am going back to the days of playing Cross Country Canada…a trucking simulator that had me turn on the wipers on my big rig as it rained, the good old days.


Day 36: Everyone is Smart

Due to a random meeting at a parenting class before Abigail was born, I now have a new social group of first time parents. The main thing that brought us together was the mutual journey of parenthood. Today as we helped one move from one house to another I was asked a question regarding the idea of being smart.

Does everyone think their child is smart?

I thought about my own experiences with Abigail and how my family often tells me how smart she is, how she is a thinker…I hesitated with my answer knowing he thought his daughter fell into the smart category. I paused not because I didn’t think his daughter was smart, but because I wasn’t sure what smart meant.

I believe everyone is smart in their own way. This wasn’t the easy answer I am sure he was looking for, I began to explain my reasons. In school we can measure smartness through IQ tests, grading, all formulaic ways of calculating specific data to determine on a scale where a child is based on all the other children. I believe being smart is a much more complex idea then a grade or test.

Doctors are smart, plumbers are smart, taxi cab drivers are smart, executives are smart. This ties into the multiple intelligence theory and growth mindset. I explained to my friend that I try not to tell Abigail that she is smart- and I have discouraged my parents from this too. I feel like this can put some unnecessary pressure for her to perform or achieve something that really isn’t defined.

Students constantly feel that they are not good enough, or smart at something (usually math and reading). I told my friend that you should start identifying the “smart” thing that his child was doing to deserve such an acknowledgement. Be specific with your feedback. If you tell a child they are smart, it doesn’t benefit them as much as you telling them they are good at something because (insert specific thing).

Build on the positives, identify the next steps, set goals, keep making progress. That is what smart is to me. What does it mean to you?



Day 35: Homework-ing For You?

I am still trying to navigate the value of homework, including the definition. Last year I thought the purpose of homework was to prepare my 7/8 class for the workload of secondary school. I had something due everyday with some choice built in to provide variety. The end result had me rethinking this for my current year in 2/3. I found:

  • too much marking
  • not enough time spent on valuable feedback
  • students who didn’t do the homework never had an opportunity to develop the skills

My time is valuable, my students time is valuable, and the family of the students time is valuable. If I am going to assign something to be done outside of the classroom I need to make sure it is absolutely necessary to what is happening in the class. I have a few rules that I put in place this year:

  1. Anything assigned as homework will not be assessed/evaluated for “marks”…only feedback (this is also linked to Growing Success).
  2. Homework should be an extension of the learning in the classroom, not just repeating a concept or skill (no rote work).
  3. It should be accessible and inclusive to all families. This includes access to the internet, purchasing materials, etc.
  4. Enough time should be given to ensure all schedules are met (at least 1 or 2 weekends before something is due)

I try to write a daily message to parents using Class Dojo that includes curriculum connections and extensions that can be done at home. No paper, no workbook, no mandatory logs. I offer suggestions to connect the learning in the classroom to at home.

This allows parents to not have to rely on the same old question “What did you do at school today”, instead they can start with “tell me about this coin” (we covered money a few weeks ago). Learning should be a collaborative experience.

Families should have discussions, ask questions, and engage in authentic moment. I stopped the weekly reading logs and homework folders after Term 1. By providing prompts and filling in families on what we have covered and where we might be going, I have found that students are more likely to engage with the learning at home and in their community.

Where do you stand on homework? Is it working for you?


Day 34: Time to Reflect

This is a natural reflection time as June is upon us. Have I done enough? What didn’t work?  What should I do more of? Some of this will be productive and influence real change while a few of the questions will forever follow me and never provide constructive feedback. I am taking the opportunity to look at a few things today. Yes, there are still a few weeks left and that is why a reflection now has a little more value. I have sometime to try a few new things before the end of the year.

Have I done Enough?

Never…I think this will be one of those things that I will always feel like I could do more. Hindsight is comforting but in the moment is when it can be overwhelming. This is not really a productive question but one that stokes the fires to keep going and trying. It’s like running past that finish line after the race is over because you don’t want to slow down too early.

What Didn’t Work?

This is more of an in the moment question. I have found this year that I am more adaptive to responding to the failures of the room. Class Dojo was introduced and I was hesitant at first. The point system didn’t effectively shift behaviour (although my hesitancy surely played into this), however the direct messaging to parents proved to be an invaluable connection.

The room itself…lots of resources (from years past) and items I haven’t found until recently this week when myself and my Co-op student began the task of purging and reorganizing. This is changing, new (well used) furniture and assistive pieces (seat cushions, peddles, silly buddy) have produced progress. The purge is an ongoing process but I am already noticing a difference.

What Should I do More of? 

This is similar to the first question. I want to strengthen my connection with families. I want there to be an opportunity for feedback and discussion about what is happening in the room and at home. This has been facilitated already through the Class Dojo messenger service.

I have this vision for September (wherever I end up) when the Meet the Creature (Teacher) Night is held. I want to have an introduction to all the families, at a set time, in the classroom. I want to use Nearpod to facilitate the discussion about the program, their involvement, my expectations, and how their voices will be valued and heard (and possible a Number Talk). I don’t want to wait until progress interviews and I think newsletters only benefit my voice.

What are some of the things that you look back on and wonder about? How will you use that reflection to further your program for next year? For right now?


Day 33: My Epic Failure

I was worried about introducing Genius Hour into primary. I didn’t want to lean too much on the parents for research and material support. I didn’t want my students to start something they couldn’t finish…I had a lot of negatives built up. It hasn’t been easy, and then today happened.

Students are at the stage of sourcing materials, designing their build, and some have attempted a first prototype. The enthusiasm from the students has been incredible, they keep wanting to just build. The parents want to help but are not always sure how to. This is OK, as each project is different.

My role has been the facilitate and direct the positive energy from the students, and encourage the parents to trust the process as the final product is not really the end goal (although it is a great artifact to represent all of their hard work). One student today in particular shared his experiences.

He explained that he had gone through what he called An Epic Failure. He shared with the class some design challenges when working with materials to build a prototype robot (tubing, cardboard, etc.) that wasn’t exactly as flexible as he wanted. He explained to his peers about going through all that work and having to start over. Someone asked him if he was upset. His response deserved a slow clap followed by a standing ovation with cheers and confetti (in my opinion).

“I didn’t really fail, I just learned how to do it differently.”

Today was when I knew that Genius Hour was a success in my room. We still have the majority of building to do and many more epic failures to discover. I can’t wait to epically fail with them.

Day 32: Start. Stop. Repeat.

It can be overwhelming at times to introduce a new idea, concept, resource, etc. to the class. I often have a quick arc that seemingly resembles that of remembering a prestigious award like an Oscar or Grammy recipient. Apps are the best example for this.

When I find a new App I tend to love it, hug it, use it over and over in the beginning. Much like the Best Picture award for 2011 (I don’t remember it, if you have to Google it then you don’t remember it either), I find myself forgetting about the app a week after introducing it. Sometimes a good one will stick (Nearpod), but those are probably in the 10% club.

It’s OK to keep trying new things, stopping, and then repeating the process. My students have benefited from the process because they are seeing myself model problem solving strategies and creative risk taking. They know when I am trying something new. I explicitly tell them my frustrations or discoveries and wonders along the way. They are the best resource for letting me know if something works.

Don’t feel bad if you are not consistent, Number Talks are in this category for me. I am still discovering their multi-purpose use beyond Number Sense. I tend to flow in and out of them, and that’s OK. Remember to go back to something that worked, and something that didn’t work they way you wanted it to. Start. Stop. Repeat.

Day 31: It’s OK to Purge

It is report card writing season, you know..when the sun is beautiful and the only thing you want to do is go outside. I am beginning to notice a pattern in myself around this time of year. I like to clean, reorganize, make little projects seem extremely important. I have become a productive procrastinator over the years and 2016 is no exception.

As you may know if you are following the blog, I am in the process of redesigning the room I am in. As an LTO it is difficult to make some decisions about permanent fixtures. I have the support of the teacher, admin, and fellow staff who are also researching environment and the impact on student engagement. But it’s hard to throw stuff out…

A great purge was done in the summer before I came into the room. The room was filled with the ghost of retired teachers past. Let me clear though- I am grateful for the resources and supplies. I always think that maybe I could find a use for the 1990 edition of math power or the 1989 classic edition of information books. If the kids didn’t use it, if i didn’t use it, and it is not the property of the current teacher I am in for, it’s gone.

I still design a process before the garbage as a last step. I am putting resources in the staffroom for 2 days. If they are not collected, they are tossed. This will provide other teachers an opportunity to find value in something that wasn’t being used. So why am I purging aside from procrastinating?

It is important to maximize the space and value in the room. If old resources can make way for inquiry projects and showcase student work, then that is more valuable then a dust collecting series from 1975. By the way, the oldest article found was from the 1960s…impressive!

What are 3 things you would remove from your room right now? What value does it bring to your classroom? These items provided a great return on the purge investment for myself.

  1. Teacher desk removed = quiet reading zone added (seats 4 students comfortably)
  2. Tele-Sesonry Machine (really cool 1970s reading magnifier) removed = tech station for iPads & computers (dedicated space for tech inquiry)
  3. Old Resources/Textbooks removed = shelf space for manipulative to be displayed and accessible for students

What would you remove?


Day 30: #Outside

Ask yourself if your lesson can be done outside. Nature is a very calming environment. Try it math, Looking forward to trying it this week!
***OK, this was the last Twitter-vacation sized blog post for a while…back to full size tomorrow.

Day 28: Move Around 

Travel is helpful in developing my perspective and pedagogy. Go to other classes, schools, & communities. Give and take with each of them!!!
***day 2/3 vacation…goal is to write a tweet sized blog to stay with #the100dayproject timeline & not kill my data plan all at he same time.