Sunday, 4 January 2015

MORE or LESS in 2015

Sometime in December, I came across a tweet that has been at the forefront of my mind ever since. (Sadly, after a significant amount of time searching for this gem, I am unable to find it despite the fact that I am sure I must have favourited it....hmmmmmpf.)

Anyway, the tweet was two simple yet provocative questions.

What will you do more of in your classroom in 2015? 
What will you do less of or throw out entirely?

Or words to that effect........

Here is where I am currently at with these questions. This list will undoubtedly change, and so it should, as I get to know my learners. 


1. Student feedback- 

Year after year, my aim is always to be effective in the classroom and make a difference for my students. So this year, I want more student feedback with regards to how I'm doing. I want to know how they learn and what we can do in our room to help them learn. I want to know what they love about our class and what they want more of. I want to know what they don't love and what they want less of or what needs to be tweaked.

First Steps:
I'll be starting the year with a survey about how we can work together to ensure that my girls' final year at primary school is their best year yet. But that will be just the beginning. Throughout the year, I'll survey them regularly about how I'm going. Yep, I feel a little nervous about this- twelve year old girls can be devastatingly honest so I'm going to have to be wearing my thick skin! But I give them frequent feedback about how they are doing in our class so isn't it only fair that they get the chance to give me feedback?

Hmmmmm......I'll let you know how it goes. 

2.  Collaborating, not just connecting-

Over the past couple of years, 8C has become pretty good at connecting with other classes. We've taken part in global quadblogging, Quadblogging Aotearoa, the Global Read Aloud plus lots and lots of connecting through blogs. We even created a New Zealand-wide twitter chat to share book recommendations. We've formed lots of friendships in the past few years but in 2015, I hope to step it up and actually work with others on an authentic, collaborative project. 

First Steps:
There are a couple of amazing tools I'm hoping to explore with my girls including Flipgrid and Wevideo. I'm fortunate to work in an International Baccalaureate School and our Program of Inquiry this year offers a multitude of opportunities for collaborating with learners well beyond our classroom walls. I'm excited!

3. More Picture Books- 

In the last month of 2014, I embarked on a Picture Book a Day challenge.  Actually, calling it a challenge at all is a bit of a stretch as that implies some degree of hardship or even suffering. There was absolutely no degree of suffering except maybe to my credit card balance as I couldn't resist purchasing for my own children many of the titles I had borrowed from the library. Picture Book Month was a huge success and something I will definitely be repeating in 2015. I have seen many teachers on Twitter who commit to the Picture Book a Day Challenge for a full year. While I love this idea, I have decided to broaden this slightly to a Read Aloud Challenge for the year.

First Steps:
Read something varied and high quality to the girls every single day of the 2015 academic year. It might be an article, a poem, a letter to the editor in our local newspaper or the first chapters of an amazing novel. No more stressing that I am not going to get the 357 page novel finished before the holidays! Of course, there will still be complete shared novels but they will be less frequent, enabling us to share significantly more genres. 

4. More opportunities to CREATE-

I want to ensure my learners have lots of opportunities to create content, sharing their learning and teaching others.  To do this, I hope to give the girls the choice of a huge variety of medium and tools.

First Steps:
Wrack the brain of my team leader and Performing Arts guru, Greg Pearce and learn how to use the Arts more to share our learning. I'm also excited to do more coding with the girls. Computer Science is very strong at Selwyn House and I love that our girls choose HTML/CSS over drag and drop website creation tools. 
Having gotten totally addicted to the podcast "Serial" these holidays (like five million others) I am also interested in exploring the use of podcasting as a tool for sharing what we learn. 


1. Boring spelling programs

I fully admit that this is something that I have not yet mastered in our Year 8 classroom. We are a 1:1 classroom and the vast majority of writing that we do is digital; this means that the personalised spelling lists I used to have learners create based on their own writing are challenging to set up since the girls can easily see when they have spelt a word incorrectly on their google doc and fix it themselves. When we write on paper it tends to be a collaborative activity; identifying who owns spelling errors days later is tricky and pointless. So what is the answer? I've tried a few things and none of them have really grabbed me or my students. Have spelling lists had their day? Is a stand alone vocabulary and word origin program the answer and if so, how on earth do I make this fun and engaging? 

Any thoughts, good people? I need your input on this one!  

2.  Clutter

Last year, I boldly got rid of my desk. Anyone who knows me is well aware that I attract clutter in large doses and that this choice to eliminate a teacher desk was destined to be a challenge for me! If she is reading this, my teaching partner Liz Fairhall, will be nodding vigorously! So removing my desk had mixed results. Yes, it gave us more room for the girls themselves but it also increased exponentially the piles of paper and miscellaneous clutter around the area where the desk USED to be! 

I'm deeply committed to eliminating the clutter but I need some help. As my Mum used to say when I was an incredibly untidy teenager, "You'd be much happier dear, if you just had a system."  So desk-less members of my PLN- how do you do it? Any tips for me?

3. Filling of Gaps-

(More celebrating strengths and passions!) 

By this I am referring to our "fragile learners" for want of a better term. In the past, common practice has been to try and fill these gaps in the skills and knowledge of our most vulnerable learners. This deficit model has often meant lots of individual learning programs, removal from class to go to support programs and plenty of repetitive work to try to get these children to have a profile that is more "in line" with other class members. While this learning support work is important and hugely valuable, my question is, how can I work to find these students' strengths? How can I find their true passions and help their classmates see them in a different light and perhaps more importantly help them see themselves in a different light? 

I hope I have explained this clearly.......

4. Less Teacher Talk

'nuff said

So what do you plan to do more of in your classroom this year? And what about the things you'll do less of? I'd love to hear your ideas for your own classroom and also your tips to help me achieve this! 


  1. Loved reading this post Bridget. Your goals are very similar to my own. More 'collaboration' rather than simply 'connecting' is certainly something I am keen to do more of too. I too survey my kids throughout the year.. if you go to my blog, the results of the 'end-of-year' one are annalysed. Always an interesting read! I too have got rid of my desk but get you about the clutter! I have simply found 'a place in a corner' for mine and attempt to keep it orderly! I have ditched 'spelling lists' in favour of more 'student-driven' 'problem-solving' type teaching/learning regarding spelling. This is one of my BIG hurdles at school.. to encourage the same for my colleagues... lists do nothing.. it is like recalling a PIN! So I use Joy Allcock Programme to engage kids in a problem-solving approach... I can talk more elsewhere if you interested! Lastly, I found the 'MY Genius' really valuable for these kids who struggle in class with 'normal learning stuff'. It gave them an opportunity to delve into something they REALLY are good at, passionate about etc... some of my 'fragile learners' ABSOLUTELY loved the opportunity to 'teach' everyone else something .. we had a Tai Kwon Do lesson, an 'art' lesson, a 'cake decorating' lesson, a netball skills was fantastic. Here is a link to a post I wrote on our class blog if you want to have a quick look.
    All the best for your year and I look forward to 'collaborating' more!!


  3. Love point 3 as having a son who fits into this. For me it has helped me in my class as I re look at a lot of the way I teach things. The standardized way doesn't always work and isn't for everyone and finding that niche is so important.
    Spelling programmes, I might look at what Keri suggested as I struggle with this. Again, some can spell, others find it harder. It's actually those basic words compared to harder vocabulary that are the culprit as they tend not to be the ones you can phonetically spell.
    No desk was easy for me. I love to De clutter but yes, everything does need a place to make it run smooth.