Shift Happens

This year was a big shift for students in our class. We made a deliberate shift from textbook learning to a much more inquiry based, authentic learning classroom focus. The shift was a challenge for many students.

Overheard in the fall,

“Can’t we just do worksheets in math?”

Overheard yesterday,

“I’m so excited. Tomorrow we have a double math period!”

Perhaps the First 5 Days really takes 5 months. This is due in large part to my PLN in the Twitterverse for helping me stay the course and keeping the focus on the moral imperative.




Things are now set up and ready. It took about 2 days and I was constantly flip flopping between setting the class up “my way” or having just a shell of a set up and letting the students make it their own. I think I sort of compromised. The walls are going to be their own, all I’m going to suggest are the categories for the cork boards. Seating will be as mobile as possible. Groups of 4, theatre style, schoolroom style. It depends on what we’re doing. I anticipate moving the furniture frequently. Desks also are “turned in” with the storage on the inside. There are a number of reasons for this. In grade 6 students are assigned lockers so the most they’ll have to being to class are 2 subjects worth of materials. The second reason for this is that as we move to a BYOD setting, bringing less to class means bringing more.

I decided that the teacher desk was taking up a lot of space in some of the traditional class layouts. I’m going to try having it face the wall to keep it out of the way. See all that empty shelf space at the back of the photo? I dumped the dictionaries and atlas’ in the storage room. Others are welcome to them. I did the same with the filing cabinet. Everything I have worth keeping has been scanned to a PDF and sits on a series of hard drives, redundantly backed up, or Evernote, often both. Everything else I might need exists online. Everything.

So it looks a bit sparse right now. We’ll check in a week from now to see what it looks like.

First 5 Days

Spent this week working on the First 5 Days of inquiry. The first 5 days sets the stage for what you want out of your students, your classroom and yourself. How are the first 5 days of an inquiry-based classroom different from a “regular” classroom?

Alan November asked participants at this year’s BLC12 conference what the first 5 days might look like. Here is some of the thinking. This was some of our thinking from our few days together.

Welcome to the Journey!

Learning is messy. I may need you to remind me of that in a month or two 🙂



I have been asked to keep this blog to record the why’s and how’s of what I do at the beginning of the school year.  It is my goal this year to set up my class right from September to help students navigate their own learning through inquiry.

Inquiry means a lot of different things to different teachers.  For me, this process involves students taking control of what and how they are learning.  It involves knowing yourself as a learner – or discovering things about yourself as we go along that will help you in other areas.  It’s about curiosity, investigation and asking questions; knowing how to find answers; presenting and sharing your work with others; self-reflection and evaluation; choice and above all – talking, talking, talking, about what you are learning and doing.  It can be overwhelming to say the least.

I know from experience that teaching through…

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My First Blog!

Always exciting to start something new.


It’s early August and I have been asked to share my thinking about Inquiry in my grade 1 classroom through a blog.  Blogging is new to me; but I’m thinking it will be a great way to share my thoughts on everything that will be happening with my students as we explore new learning together this school year. I’m a little nervous about the blogging part – but so excited about the months ahead!

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Elevator Pitch

Tell me one thing about what your goals are for your students this year, and one goal for yourself this year.


This year is all about helping students know themselves with a focus on oral communication. Knowing their learning styles, their MI strengths and being able to advocate for themselves.
My goal is to flip my classroom to allow me to spend more time with students in small needs and interest based learning groups, providing timely formative feedback.


We worked on a visioning exercise today to figure out what our inquiry-based classroom goals are for this year. I decided to write a reflective blog as if this was the end of the 2012-2013 school year. Next June I hope my blog reads something like this.


So it’s the last week of school and time to reflect on the year that was. 

There was a lot that went right this year, and a few speed bumps along the way. 

All of the students were able to identify their strengths and areas of need in terms of learning skills, multiple intelligences and learning styles. They could independently group themselves by homogeneous learning style and heterogeneous learning style. They knew the strengths of grouping them selves with like-minded learners as well as in heterogeneous groups. I guess best of all the students knew how to advocate for their own learning style based on their MI strengths.

Our BYOD initiative was successful with almost all of the students participating. Those who could’t or chose not to we supplemented by the technology that the school had available. Students were very responsible in managing their digital footprint, and were able to speak eloquently and knowledgeably to both peers and adults on the subject. Students had developed great “habitudes”.

I think parents really understood classroom assessment better by June. They understood that it’s not just test scores and projects make up a grade, but it is the combination of conversations, observations and products. Students understood that too. Fewer students each month asked, “What did I get on that?” and more were focused on how they could improve their work. Some students used class generated criteria that was posted and others used strong and weak work samples to gauge their improvement. 

Students were able to better talk and listen to each other. When we moved to our “Say Something” phase of a lesson all students were on point with what they were talking about. Listeners knew how to listen patiently and objectively with out interrupting and offer useful prompts to help their partners get more out of what they were talking about.

Flipping the day was a success as well. We started with teacher generated lessons on the class wiki and then moved to ones that students were able to generate themselves. Even other grades began asking if our class could make math video lessons for them. Our class wiki grew to become our textbook for the year with many other teachers from around Ontario and Canada contributing to our learning. We skyped with many classes from other schools and even with classes in other school boards.

Our class timetable was almost ignored by the end of the year as all subjects seemed to flow into one another. Really big projects were embarked on and these were largely recognized beyond our classroom. I think based on the student reflection journals and videos that a larger sense of our place in the global scheme of things was realized.

Finally I was pleased that I was able to keep a daily journal of my practice and reflect on it regularly. This will provide guidance for years to come as it gets modified to meet the needs of each years learners.