Uncomfortability leads to learning for all

Creating a class of student voice and choice has been extremely rewarding but an uncomfortable and learning process for me.  I’m a pretty new classroom teacher but still the idea that students should be quiet lingers in the back of my head.

Today I was introducing Biodiversity and my class would not stop talking. It took us forever to get through our ideas of what Biodiversity could mean. CRsjeNFUAAAtym-

Finally I got them to go back to their seats to calm down and then we talked. I told them how I was feeling and asked why they were talking so much. I told them that I assumed that it was because they were being disrespectful. Many students hands shot up and they told me that they were just really excited about the topic. I asked the class who else felt this way and they all raised their hands.

I realized that my class just really likes each other, is really excitable and needs time to talk to each other. I know now that I need to schedule in time to my teaching to give them moving and talking breaks but I didn’t even think to give them ‘turn and talk’ time.

Asking my students what they need has been a HUGE learning moment for me. Whenever we have these talks, they always come up with a solution and we are both learning about each other in the process.

I’m thrilled that they are so excited about our class and what we are learning about. I know that this year is a learning process for all of us and I’m so excited that we can communicate and trust each other.

Creating Class Blog with Student Voice

This year my goal is to have student voice and choice be the most important thing in my classroom. We started this by creating our class name. We brainstormed for longer than I had expected, a week and a half. I was waiting for a name so I could create a classroom blog and twitter account. We came up with some great names: Tech Titans, World Skypers, The Skypers Crew. We ended up voting and the winner was Tech Titans.

You can check out our blog (a work in progress) here, and follow us on twitter @techtitans4. We are still working on a logo for our twitter page so check on that later.

I decided instead of me going ahead and creating a blog, I would leave it blank and get students to see some examples of what class blogs can look like.

I created a Google Doc with classroom blogs that I find inspiring and shared it with my students.

Blogs to Check out:

Grade 1: http://.edublogs.org/

Grade 1/ 2: http://www.mslimscassidysclassrenmansroom.blogspot.ca/

Grade 1/ 2: https://mrsbowkersclass.edublogs.org/

Grade 3 /  4:http://epcotclass.blogspot.ca/

Grade 4/5: http://www.awesomegeniuses.blogspot.ca/

Grade 7:http://www.mrsripp.com

I gave each table a blog to check out first and then when they were done, they could move onto any blog they were interested in. I introduced Google Docs to my students and got them to make a list about what they want our blog to look like.

Here is our list:

  • Tweet Attachment thingy
  • pictures of field trips we had
  • Contact Us button
  • Comment Section
  • Calendar of special events
  • Timeline
  • Book Reports
  • Share the sites we use to learn.
  • add a background to make it look yum yum
  • Custom Font
  • Challenges for other classes
  • Filter to make us Fab!
  • A follow us button
  • Subscribe Button
  • Mascot
  • Events that people will want to see. not boring!
  • Presentations
  • Giveaways.
  • Contests/challenges
  • Artwork.
  • Plays.
  • secret missions
  • birthday parties
  • math models
  • science experiments
  • PJ day
  • track and field
  • tournaments/tryouts
  • videos of things we did in class
  • good information
  • different people can write about it
  • making robots and castles and then take a pic
  • explain what we did in the day
  • put our goals put labels of what we did
  • Questions!!
  • put good pictures of our work
  • write about people who visited our class
  • fun background on the blog
  • Everybody can write their own post ones at a time,like whats happening at school,what is their feeling today are they happy for example, whats their comments about todays experiment on Science.Taking pictures from important events.
  • you have to finish your work on time. you have to be polite. you have to know what you’re writing.  

A great list for our first look at classroom blogs. I’m so excited to work with these students this year!


Student Choice and Social Studies

If you read my blog you know I’m doing something different in my class this year. I’m giving my students choice in everything they do.

We have just completed our first social studies project together and I wanted to share the process and outcome.

In Grade 6 students about supposed to learn about Canada’s impact on the world. I decided to share a Canadian History timeline with them and let them choose a topic of their choice.

Some of the selected topics were

  • World War 1
  • How Ottawa became the Capital
  • Hockey in Canada
  • Schooling in the 1700-1800’s

Students worked in groups to create something to show the class.

The presentations were varied. We had mostly slideshows but also had posters, homemade videos, and models.

After their presentations were completed I gave the group a self assessment rubric and they went off and had time to self-reflect.

I met with the groups later that day or the next day and we compared their self-assessment rubric with the one I completed. We discussed the differences in the rubrics and the similarities. If there was a discrepancy, I let the students determine what grade they should have.

When all the presentations were discussed, we met as a class to talk about the project in general. I wanted to know what did they like, and what needed to be fixed.  

As you can see, the class loved being able to choose their own topic, assessment type and they got to work with peers of their choice. Next time we are going to add some immediate peer feedback. Right after students present, their peers will share one thing they really liked about the project and one thing they would like to see next time.

We also discussed how they could improve their own project next time.


The experience giving my class choice in their learning has completely changed the way I look at teaching.   The students couldn’t wait everyday to work on this project and were highly focused during their group work. I love talking to my class to get feedback about how the projects are going and it will be something I continue to do for the rest of my teaching career.

Introducing Google Classroom

I knew the second that I was told that I would be teaching Grade 6 next year that I would be using Google Classroom with my students.


I decided that in the first week of school I would introduce Classroom, get them to join our online Classroom and introduce a very simple but fun get to know you slideshow. First, I showed them my “All about me” Project and then showed them how to access theirs.

I made each student a template in which they could create their own “All about me” Project.

This is what it looks like in Classroom.

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 5.31.04 PM

I only showed my students how to write in the slides and add pictures. I was amazed that some students were so excited about this that they figured out how to change the text colour, insert gif’s, and change the theme of the slides.

A great first project using Classroom!

*NOTE: Even though it says 6 are not done, they just forgot to turn them in.


First Week of School Plans

The first week of school is the most important one in the whole year.

Design your own Classroom and our Class Theme:

I have written many times about reading “Passionate Learners” by Pernille Ripp and how it changed my teaching practice. This year since I’m teaching Grade 6 I really want to give my students voice and choice in all aspects of my classroom. It starts with setting up the classroom.

We will also be deciding what we want our class to be called, our portable called, and our theme song. After this has been decided we will create out classroom blog and twitter account based on our theme.

Asking Classroom Questions:

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 10.33.50 AM



Team Building Activities:



Character Calendar by Blair Turner:

Character and Digital Citizenship will be a HUGE focus in my classroom this year. I love these Character Calendars that Blair Turner made.

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 1.43.11 PM

One Word Project and Goals:

We are going to be setting goals each week but in the first we are going to think of our goals and then decide on one word that we will focus on for the year. This is where I got the idea from.


2015 Classroom Reveal

I worked all week long to prepare my class to be ready. I’m so excited for a new year and to teach Grade 6. Here is the current setup of my class but I’m going to let the students have a say in it as well.  I’m so excited about the tables for collaboration, map for our wordly connections and the self assessment posters since we will be focusing on it highly this year.

IMG_6850 IMG_6846 IMG_6847 IMG_6849 IMG_6848IMG_6845 IMG_6838 IMG_6840 IMG_6842
IMG_6836 IMG_6837 IMG_6839 IMG_6831
IMG_6830 IMG_6832


Learning Skills-Self Assessing and Reflecting

I created the below document to help my students learn about the learning skills we assess them on in Ontario. I am going to give them this document at the beginning of the year so that they can create goals about these learning skills. I want my students to  be able to self-assess and reflect on what they can do better for the next term.

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 7.46.51 PM

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 7.47.03 PM

Click on the picture for the link.

Questions about Planning Math for Grade 6

This year I really want to plan incorporating student choice and voice in my classroom. The only place I’m really stuck is Math.

In Math I really want to practice Problem Solving every day, do real world applications, and allow my students choice in how they learn and practice the math skills.

I thought about doing a task list of tasks the students can accomplish to show and practice their learning. Here is the idea below.

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 7.32.03 PM

Also I wanted to do more self assessment and more accountability in their learning. So I created this.

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 7.32.10 PM

This is a very rough idea but I would really appreciate your feedback.

Grade 6 Planning

This is my first year where I got a say in what I’m teaching next year. I had already heard of teacher’s filling out the form of choices of what they wanted to teach next year but this year it was my turn.

The form asked for my top 3 choices on what I wanted to teach next year and why. My top choice was Grade 6 and my reasons were to connect them to the world, to have choice, voice and engagement in my classroom and to find their passions.

As you know if you have been following me or my blog, I got Grade 6 and I’m beyond excited.

Here are some projects I’m planning on participating in throughout the year:

World’s Largest Lesson:

The UN is going to announce new Sustainable Development Goals in September. World’s Largest Lesson is getting students involved to create change on one or more of these goals.

Website: https://www.tes.co.uk/worldslargestlesson

Student Vote:

Lessons: http://www.studentvote.ca/on2014/teaching-tools/elementary-school-resource/

Ties to Curriculum: http://www.studentvote.ca/on2014/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/ON-ELE-EN-Lesson-Curriculum-Connections.pdf

Global Read Aloud:

We will be reading ‘Fish in a Tree’ by Lynda Mullaly Hunt for the Global Read Aloud 2015. The Global Read Aloud begins on October 5th and there are many books to choose from.

Global Math Tasks Twitter Challenge:

Math Challenges created by teachers and students for others to solve. You can sign up for a week to create questions or you can just participate by answering the questions posted.

Any grade level is welcome!

Sign up here: http://gmttc.blogspot.ca/p/sign-up.html

Kid Tech Coach:

This is my own project. I wanted to start a website where students are the experts and they teach other students how to use technology. 

Follow Kid Tech Coach on Twitter @KidTechCoach

Genius Hour:
This is something that I tried to participant in in my Grade 1/2 class but I’m excited to do it with my Grade 6’s. Finding your passion and allowing choice in classrooms is something I’m really passionate about so I’m so excited to be a part of this process.

 Global School Play Day:

A whole day where students come to school to play with toys that they bring from home. There’s only one rule: no electronics. I’m hoping my whole school will participate. 

For more info, check out  http://www.globalschoolplayday.com/

Happy Classrooms:

This movement was created by Kayla Delzer and Greg from Kindersmorgie. It’s about sharing positive things happening in your classroom once per day using the hashtag #happyclassroom


What I learned from ‘Unshakeable’

I began gearing up for my Summer Reading plans in May and wanted to get a bunch of professional books that I could read. I have a huge list on Goodreads but wanted something special to read, so I reached out.

Pernille Ripp is an influential teacher and person to me. Her book, ‘Passionate Learners’ changed my entire viewpoint as a teacher. You can check out my blog post about her book ‘Passionate Learners’ here and her other book ‘Empowered Schools, Empowered Students’ here.

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 5.22.05 PM

I had never heard of ‘Unshakable’ but I went online and ordered it right away.


This is what I learned from Angela Watson’s ‘Unshakeable.

  • Bring your personality into your classroom. We are all unique so share with your students what you are passionate about and what you love. If you share your true self with students, you will have a better time in the classroom and create a stronger bond with your students.
  • Be present. At school with your students or when you are completing your work. Don’t watch T.V. while you mark papers because you will be doing it all night long. Focus on marking and allot yourself a specific amount of time to truly focus. In the classroom don’t multitask. Listening and look at your students, be involved. The work can wait.
  • Make lists of what you need to complete daily. I find this so important for me. If I don’t write it down on a list, I will forget about it. Writing my to-do’s on a list will ensure that they get done, even if I’m procrastinating completing them.
  • Prepare for the morning to make it less stressful. Next year I’m going to pick out what I’m going to wear the night before. I find I get stressed by this decision and it makes me frazzled and I just grab whatever to wear. When I look better, I feel better so I will make time for that.
  • Make a positive impression with parents on the first day of school or before. Call or leave a message introducing yourself, your contact information, and Meet the Teacher night info. This will start a positive relationship from day one.
  • No more complaining or listening to complaining. Change the subject or walk away. This year is going to be positive.
  • I need to create a personal and classroom vision statement.
  • Let the students discover why you are teaching a certain lesson. Why do you need to know this now?
  • Have fun! Create a classroom music playlist with your students. Dance, and be silly.
  • Students and teachers both need down time throughout the day. Plan to have downtime worked into your schedule. If you are feeling drained, your students are too.
  • Teach and reteach routines and procedures. It’s good for the teacher as well as the students to know exactly what to do. If there are changes to the routine, write them on the board.

Obviously from this list I learned a lot. I really encourage all teachers to buy and read this book. I will definitely look at this book for inspiration and for resources for years to come.

1 2 3 4 5 31