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.


‘Twas the day before Christmas break

We had a very spirited discussion today in our table groups. It was a perfect example of accountable talk.

The students were writing their response to the following question,

By controlling medical research funds, you are in a position to guarantee that a cure will be found in 15 years for any disease you choose. Unfortunately, no progress on any others would be made during that period. Would you target one disease?

It really didn’t matter what they decided. The point of the exercise was to have them state a clear opinion and support it. Students faced off in an oral display of give and take. Everyone was respectful of the opposing opinions, yet held steadfastly to their own beliefs. Even at the end of the period when one student remarked, “We really didn’t get anything done this period” one of her friends countered with, “But we have so much more to write about now”.

It’s starting to come together.

Finally, a blog post

So here’s the deal. I’m a bit impatient when it comes to some things.

“How long is that download going to take?”

“Come on, boot up faster”

“Seriously? Six months until the next OS update?”

Interestingly though I find myself patient when driving in traffic and generally calm when waiting in line for things.

One thing that really gnaws away at my low frustration tolerance shortcoming is change. Change in myself and other people. I want it all to happen faster. Not only do I want it to happen faster I want it to mesh perfectly with my utopian ideals of the way things should be. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

It took me a couple of months to realize that this was contributing to the dissonance around my classroom practice this term. People weren’t buying what I was selling. BYOD didn’t happen in the first week. I wasn’t able to successfully flip my classroom by the end of September. I wasn’t instantly faced with a class full of inquiry-based learners. The shift in the culture of assessment didn’t happen overnight.

Okay, I realize I was foolish to think that any of those things were going to change right away. Still, why wouldn’t you want to do things easier and better? Ongoing descriptive feedback moves student learning forward much more effectively than a series of end-of-unit tests. Three-part math lessons help students construct a much deeper understanding of mathematical concepts than consecutive pages of drill exercises in a textbook. Why not opt for a more effective way to do things?

I guess I’ll have to channel my best Andy Dufresne and patiently chip away at the old constructs before change can occur. That’s not too much to ask, is it?



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.

Critical Thinking Skills

My friend Tami Brewster shared this on Pintrest.

A poster created for [our] English language arts and social studies departments (humanities) to use in their classroom, as well as in the library.

Not-for-profit organizations are free to use it within the Creative Commons licensing parameters.

Critical Thinking Skills

Why Go BYOD?

Going BYOD
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Long Range Plans v 1.0

So part of working on the First 5 Days is collaboratively working on long term plans. Our district’s long term plans need to include overall expectations from our province’s curriculum, themes, or big ideas or units, and a calendar timeline. I’m feeling a bit visual these days so here is a version 1.0 of my grade 6 thinking for 2012-2013. Lots of revisions will be forthcoming in the days ahead, but this is where I am thinking of starting.