Last night I had the honour to attend the Blue Sky School Action Team Meeting.
Blue Sky School: the Experimental Prototype School of Tomorrow is a not for profit, independent school opening in September 2017 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. The educators behind Blue Sky School, Shauna Pollock and Karen Hill are rethinking education in its entirety and building their school from the ground up, literally. They are working on building a innovation centre and a completely new curriculum.
We did a really cool activity called Start, Stop, and Keep to help us rethink the current education system. What do you think the education system should START doing, STOP doing, and KEEP doing. Our table was a——- group of teachers, admin, parents, community partner and a government worker. By doing the activity on our own first and then sharing them with the group, it really became apparent the huge changes that need to be rethought and changed in education. Here is the picture of our ideas for Start, Stop and Keep.
We shared the key points from our tables with the whole group and the consensus was START
- telling the truth: parents to teachers, teachers to parents…
- collaborative, real world, problem solving teaching
- teaching students life skills: cooking, taxes, budgeting
- standardized testing
- curriculum checklists and struggling
- hands on learning
- field trips and connecting with real work
- caring and passionate teachers
This school sees all of these problems with the current education system, is addressing them, correcting them, and inspiring others to do them same. Education should be a community responsibility and Blue Sky Schools will be just that. They are encouraging community members and experts in their fields to connect and inspire their students to know that nothing is impossible. A future student created the schools tagline…
Blue Sky Schools where the sky isn’t the limit.
Education affects us all. We have all been to school, maybe you have children in school but we all know that education is essential for the future. Get Involved. Learn about Blue Sky School and partner up with them to show them that these educational change need to be made. Here is how you can help.
Accountable Talk PD – November 10th, 2014
Our School’s Mission Statement for our SLP:
If we engage students in accountable talk and model the strategies then students will have better understanding.
What do we know about accountable talk?
- oral communication
- ownership/accountable for learning
- students talking to each other in class
- explains and can answer questions
- focusing on big ideas
- script-I agree with ____ because___
- I disagree with ____ because____
What do we wonder about accountable talk?
- would love a guide to know how to implement it in our classrooms
- a concrete definition to what accountable talk is
- what is the past term for accountable talk
Lucy West Video on Accountable Talk:
- need to learn how to listen to the teacher and other students
- need to encourage students sharing with other students
- need to repeat over and over again
- need to SLOW DOWN in our teaching and focus on what students heard
- always ask further questions when students answer questions
- What does Revoice mean? Means rewording what a student said
- ”student talking to learn”
Accountable Talk is….:
- less teacher talk, more students explaining and teaching each other
- students being respectful with a rich discussion
- visible thinking
- teacher is a guide to allow students to come to their own conclusions
- articulation of students thinking
- need to create a safe classroom so students feel safe to fail/make mistakes
Lucy West video-Barriers to Accountable Talk:
Why is Accountable Talk important:
- need to clearly, concisely make your self be understood
- clarifying thinking
- discovery learning
- drawing conclusions
- inquiry learning
- we want to communicate with others, we need to teach them to talk with a purpose
How can we make Accountable Talk work in our Classroom?
Need to create a safe classroom for accountable talk to happen
- explicitly teach it and model it
- mixed ability groupings
- use talking stick/object so students can only talk when they have the object
- visual reminder
- I’ll restate/revoice what you just said. Listen to make sure I got it right.
- ”How do you know it’s true?”
- ”How are these things similar/different?”
- “Can you repeat what he just said in your own words?”
- “Can you tell me more about that?”
- “Ok. Let me see if I understand.”
- “How are they similar/different?”
- “What I heard is….”
- “So what you’re saying is…”
- “I do think this because…”
Accountable Talk Toolkit:
Recently People Magazine has been promoting their sexiest man alive issue which has just come out.
They decided to do something different this year though. They chose to do a section on sexy men at work. Nicholas Ferroni, a high school history teacher from Union, New Jersey was picked as the sexiest teacher alive.
I’m thrilled that a teacher was chosen to be highlighted and it’s a great chance to highlight the education field. My problem with this was Nicholas’ appearance on the Meredith Vieira show. Nicholas has 10 seconds to discuss what he is truly about and then they quickly go to a new segment playing a history game. This game is where Meredith says some history fact and it is linked it to a sexy man and Nicholas has to guess their name. To see the clip, click here. I was so frustrated by this segment and by Meredith. I know that Nicholas is working hard to raise awareness about LGBT youth, and questioning education policies. I know he could have spoken very eloquently about education and the changes that need to be made but wasn’t allowed more time from the show. Instead, Meredith uses Nicholas to play a game to win a dinner out for one of her audience members. What a waste of an amazing chance to discuss education with the public watching. My only hope is that people found Nicholas so good looking and kind that they google him and find some new information about education.
To see Nicholas talking about the need to teach LGBT history in school, check out the video below.
What is your favorite part of the school day and why?
I would have to say first thing in the morning is my favourite time. I enjoy getting ready for our day and then going downstairs and greeting them. Saying good morning, a smile, a hug, talking about what they did the night before. It is our time to connect and just be ourselves.
I said on the 1st day of school that it is their classroom. Today I showed them. We created our classroom today. All the ideas were given and voted on by the students.
We first started with where we wanted to put the smartboard, then to desks.
This is all the variations they came up for our desks.
Every student had a say and then we moved. It was loud, busy, and amazing. To see the before pics, check them out here. Here is the final outcome.
I really enjoyed this process. We had to problem solve through it which was really cool. I’m really proud of what they decided on. What do you think?
Based on my summer reading ‘Passionate Learners’ by Pernille Ripp, I really want to give my students more choice.
I have been trying… I told them it is their classroom and to give suggestions about setting it up, classroom jobs, where they sit, where to hang their backpack, pencil sharpening, loud voices. All their suggestions aren’t really helpful. I know if takes time to build trust for brutal honesty but I’m not sure if they ‘know how to do school’ like Pernille talks about.
So far it really isn’t working. Today in Math, they were not listening and being silly. So I straight out asked ‘what is going on?’ They know that they are supposed to be sitting quietly and listening so they just told that back to me. I asked them ’ are you bored’ and an honest yes came out. I asked who was bored and most of my class raised their hand. A brutal honest truth which is exactly what I wanted.
Now what to do. I am going to talk about our ‘I can statements’ tomorrow and I’m going to let them decide how they are going to learn it. I am unsure of how this will go. I guess we will see.
During the first week of school, I sat down with my students and asked them what they wanted to learn about. Together we made a list.
- Becoming a Vet
- Planes and Jets
- Inside peoples Bodies
It was a shorter list than I thought it would be. Many kids just agreed with others about what they wanted to learn but maybe the honesty and trust isn’t there yet. I get it is a process.
Anyways, I spent part of my weekend on Ottawa Public Library reserving books that they are interested in. I currently have 129 books on hold. This means many trips to and from the library but it is SO worth it to have choice and my students excited about learning in my class. It is another way that I can show my students that they matter.
I’m hoping that as time goes on, the list of what they want to learn about gets bigger and bigger.
So before the year began I really wanted to improve my assessment practices. I wanted to have an easy and detailed way to track all my notes, thoughts, and my students goals.
I came up with this method:
I made a new spreadsheet or sheet as Google calls them for each of my students and a new tabs for each strand. I loved how organized it was and as I started using it this week I loved it even more.
BUT then, I began documenting all my students work and opening up different sheets and tabs for each of the students took forever.
So I’m adapting and following advice from Joel Frey, and Kimberly Pollishuke. Thanks guys for taking the time and commenting on my post!
I’m creating a form for me to use to make notes about my students progress and to conference with them and make new goals.
Here is what it looks like:
I’m excited to try it this way and hope it is easier and quicker to use!
The first week of school is always a whirlwind. New students, students’ parents, colleagues and routines. It is hard to balance it all and all of the incoming paperwork. My week was crazy, tiring and joyful.
I wouldn’t trade the craziness for anything. I am feeling grateful that I’m back in the classroom doing what I love to do, with amazing new colleagues and very excited students.
This is my first time teaching a Grade 1/2 split and so far, although I keep on getting more, I currently have 25 students. I have never been through a re-org before and not sure what and if it will happen. Time will tell but excited to figure out the puzzle of my classroom this weekend.
Here are some things that we did this week that I’m excited about:
We started having a community circle every morning, An idea that I took from Cara Cahill who was awesome enough to share her day plans with me. So far we have talked about our favourite colour and activity and we also problem solved the problem of loud volume levels during group work.
We started Daily 5:
I’m excited about this since it will give our day some structure and give me some time to meet one on one with my students.
We created a class name and began our Go Noodle journey. My class loves it. Our class name is ‘Amazing Fun Canada Class.’
We created a time capsule including their name, age, favourite colour and a picture of themselves. We sealed the time capsule and will open it during the last week of school.
What they want to learn about:
We created a list today about what they want to learn about. It was a good, diverse list. Some of the topics they want to learn about are animals, science, planets, rules for soccer, basketball and hockey.
So this year I’m focusing on my WITH philosophy, essentially I’m doing everything with my students. But how do you set up a classroom without them when you want to do with them? I really struggled with this. I wanted my classroom to be inviting and comfortable for us to get to know each other and lunch time but I wanted it really unset up so we could set it up together.
Well, I guess I set it up anyways. I tried to do just the essentials and kept everything else movable or blank. The computer corner has to stay where it is due to the internet plugs but everything else is game to be moved.
From the first day, I’m going to let my students know that we are going to set up the room how they want it/need it. Then they can start looking at the room critically and we will see what is working and what isn’t.
I have to be honest, I am nervous. But giving my students more choice and say is important and a risk I’m willing to take.
Wish me luck!