Category Archives: Engagement

New and Improved Lessons to Inspire Learners & the Challenges That Go With It

It’s been awhile since my last post…but for good reason! My blogging efforts have been spent more on my classroom blog. The purpose for my classroom blog has evolved since September. I think that when I first started it, I just knew I wanted to blog and jumped in with both feet. After settling in to my new role I have allowed many things to change as needed. My blog is now serves as a connector between home and school. Its purpose it to keep parents informed of upcoming themes and events, to showcase student work and exciting happenings that go on at school, to share ideas of how parents can support their children with what is going on in the class (such as math strategies, home reading, etc.). I’ve also added a section for extra copies of resources that might come in handy. I used to post more, but have also started a classroom Instagram account where I feel more comfortable to post students’ faces (where I do not in the blog). We post something everyday because it is so easy to snap a photo or photos and make a collage then post. Parents love it because again, it keeps them connected. We’ve been using the Instagram account for just under a month and I have 21/25 students with permission and have 24 followers (which includes some staff and other classes in the school). I am happy with the interest and participation so far and will be able to show other parents what we are up to during conferences and see who else might be interested! I feel that this in itself is a new and improved part of my teaching that has inspired learners and their parents. This is a quote from a parent that was posted on the classroom blog “Wowza! What an amazing month. I’ve noticed so much enthusiasm at home time listening to all of the cool things you’ve been up to. Thank you so much for painting such a vivid picture. It helps us stay connected.” This…is why I use the blog. This…is what I wanted families to get out of it!

There are challenges that go with blogging and managing an Instagram account. First of all you need to be interested and  take a risk and just go for it. Then there is the time commitment, teaching parents about it and getting them to subscribe and then use it. If no one is reading it, then my purpose is not met. Then there is the challenge of permission for posting. I decided not to use photos with faces on the blog, because the blog is not private and I wasn’t interested in creating a password for parents to use to access it. Instagram seems like the way to solve that issue, but then the division doesn’t have a standard permission note for Social Media yet. It took time and effort and the hep of others to create a note that worked for us. The Instagram account is private, but still parents could technically copy those pictures and share them elsewhere. It felt like ‘unknown territory’ for me. I just want to make this as private as possible because these are not my own children and it shouldn’t be me that makes the decision about their face being posted online. Sometimes I think the ‘old’ me would have just said that there are too many barriers to this and walked away. I’m glad I didn’t because things are going so well, but those challenges are always there.

It helps when I see other teachers in the school taking these risks too. It doesn’t feel like a risk anymore. It feels like part of my day or week. It makes me feel connected with other classes when we don’t have a chance to go to their classrooms and see what is going on. It’s an opportunity to ask questions to other people in my building and to offer support and hopefully inspire teachers who are ready to start their journey too.

This was not the route I was planning on going for this post! It just sort of happened and I think that is okay! I was going to write about student voice and choice that has led to empowerment, which maybe I still have a moment to comment on 😉

I think two of the most successful new and improved examples of my teaching practice that inspires and empowers my learners is voice and choice. This year has been such an exciting one for me so far. I wonder if it is because I’m new to the school and to the grade, so I feel like I can really start fresh, combined with the culture of the school that makes me feel so refreshed and ready to take ‘risks’ in my style of teaching?! Throughout the year I have been trying to give my students more voice and choice. I wanted to start the year off with this. At first it wasn’t easy for the students. It was like they were sure what to do with the ‘freedom’. I allowed them to sit where they wanted, we revamped the classroom library into how they wanted the books sorted, gave them options of what they wanted to learn about during theme time instead of telling them. It got easier as time went on. The kids stopped asking if they could sit somewhere. The just started sitting where they felt like working. Now-they crave this type of ‘freedom’. Everything we do involves their voice and choice. They respect each other’s ideas, they listen to each other and they compromise when needed. I am there to facilitate, but I rarely even need to present options for them now.

All voices are heard! There are students who learned that their voice isn’t the only one that matters and students that learned that their voice matters. Some scaled back in order to listen and learn from others and some learned to find their voice. It really is a beautiful thing! They are taking ownership of their learning and they feel empowered.

A challenge that can come with this is for teachers to let go. Sure, sometimes things happen differently that if I would have planned it myself, but it doesn’t matter! That can be hard for us as teachers. I’m very “Type A” and I worried that maybe I would have a difficult time letting go, but watching this evolve was a confirmation that this is actually what I wanted all along. No learning has suffered from giving students voice and choice…it has only created more opportunities for students to see themselves as learners and teachers and important members of the classroom and school community.

Ancient Civilizations in Room 123

As I have mentioned in a previous post…I have changed schools and grades this year! After only a short time in my new position I can already see how this change has been impacting me as a teacher and as a learner.

I’m in a teaching position where I have the opportunity to work closely with two other teachers as part of the 3/4 Team as well as a full time Inquiry Support Teacher and a half time Art and Outdoor Education Teacher. How lucky am I?! I feel that as a team we are able to accomplish so much more than I’ve ever been able to as a solo teacher.

Over the past 6 weeks (ish) we have been doing an inquiry project on Ancient Civilizations. My class (along with the other two 3/4 classes) have been so engaged during this inquiry process. We have committed to five days out of the school cycle for at least an hour a day to work on Ancient Civilizations. It may seem like a big commitment, but we cover so many outcomes from the curriculum in such a natural way (Social Studies, Science, ELA, etc.) So far we have done a provocation day where the students got excited about the idea of Ancient Civilizations and started to ask questions about their wonderings, ideas, what they noticed, what they wanted to know more about. This was done through stations of music, books, number systems, art, leisure activities, architecture and photographs of teachers who had been to visit places with Ancient landmarks. At every station there was a chart paper where students could write down their questions. After this provocation day and time spent looking at books, watching videos and thinking about what they wanted to know more about, the students made a list of their top 5 choices for research and were grouped accordingly. We wanted the class to work in small groups/partners so they could really communicate and collaborate with each other. Once they were in their groups and had their topic of interest we started with some research online and in books. Things were progressing nicely but then our plans changed! Our inquiry support teacher found an idea from other teacher and we decided to add in come creativity to our projects! The students made “Tube People” based on the topic/civilization they had chosen. The tubes were from ArtsJunktion and they were perfect for this project! We definitely used the 4Cs throughout the project and really tried to learn from the process and not only see it as a final product. We aren’t finished learning about Ancient Civilizations. The mindset of being flexible and open to change of plans has developed into a really great side project. We also have some pretty excited students (in our 3 classes and students from around the school), parents and staff members.

Slowing things down, finding out what the students are interested in, using a variety of teaching and learning styles, enjoying the process, including student voice and choice, reflecting, making changes, communicating, collaborating, thinking critically, showing creativity… are all things that we’ve been doing for weeks now and there is no way we intend to teach differently in the next topic we study!

img_2512 Provocations and the blueprint/search for possible materials


Planning, Painting, Making


We are makers!


Finished!!! Group photo 🙂


Contributions from Ancient Civilizations that impact how we live now!

To us…this is a unit that we could sell tickets for, and we aren’t finished learning yet!

Thanks Team Montrose!