June 7, 2015

I don’t want to learn alone…

One thing that I have come to value and understand at a deeper level because of [the IThink] practicum, is collaboration.  There have been times when we had to work on our own and most of us realized as the months unfolded that silos are pretty useless.  Our thinking is better when the experiences, deep thinking and reflections are shared.            —Heidi Siwak, Ontario Educator


Christopher Short via Compfight

I am your teacher. You are my students.


I dislike these roles. They act to separate, isolate, and compartmentalize us. And everyone acts as if this is the way it should be.

I want us to have a different experience.  I want us to feel the rush of each other’s insights and the weight of our collective thinking as we work together to first learn and then reflect on our newly acquired perspectives.

Imagine the possibilities!

Oh the places we will go

As I create/construct/write this post, I am conscious that I do so in the present tense even though the semester and our time together is drawing to a close. I don’t want this reflection to be an end though. I want it to be a beginning…a beginning for all of us to consider what collaboration means and what we need to do differently the next time we are in a learning environment (which for some of us may be all the time and everywhere) to move towards working together to do the learning that we could not possibly do alone.

This semester I created opportunities for collaboration by:

  • organizing seating in groups
  • encouraging you to share your thinking with each other
  • building in a peer review component for all writing/creating
  • using the question formulation technique to help us generate relevant and meaningful questions
  • having teachers model what small group discussion and collaboration can look like
  • bringing outside voices in like Mr. Chris Baird
  • doing the work with you like the poetry anthology and the re-framed blog
  • providing many exemplars of learning
  • holding a class read aloud of a common text
  • conferencing with you
  • blending our learning especially in Google Docs, but also with Mindomo
  • encouraging self-direction and reflection
  • building in metacognition

And yet, my voice dominated the space.

I don’t want to learn alone. I want to learn with you because your ideas, your questions, your challenges, your a-ha moments will not be the same as mine, and they will teach me.

Take a moment to reflect with me. What else do we need to do or to know that will move us along the collaboration continuum? What other types of support or strategies might you need to build your collaboration skills?

Collaboration Continuum


September 21, 2014

This is me in grade 9 baby! This is me in grade 9!

 journal coverOne of the truly awesome things about keeping a journal or daybook is having the opportunity to look back at ourselves. We think we remember who we were in grade 9, say, but our memories are not always terribly accurate. Our writing captures our voice in the moment, and when we re-read that text years later, the freshness, energy, and passion flies across time and we remember.

You have been asked to maintain a daybook this year. Daybooks have many roles. They can house everything that happens in class. They provide a space for reflective thinking. They are a place for us to store our writing on the way to creating a final product. Daybooks can have all manner of writing: lists, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, multiple sentences. They can be messy and help push us past a sense of perfectionism that we have to find true learning.

My writing over the years has been mostly reflective; a long personal narrative that really only exists in paragraph form. This is not what you are being asked to do, but it is what I was asked to do and it is what I can share with you.

Here are my words from the week of September 8, 1976….word for word:

1st week.

Today is the 1st day I’m writing for Mr. R again, for the year. I hope we, Mr. R and I, get along better than we did today, in the future. I mean after today I can wait to go back to school, or English anyways. 

Besides English, my other classes went really well. (even French) I’m really looking forward to History, Geography and Science this year. The courses sound really interesting. French will be french, what can one say? The books for Lit sound really interesting also, and I really like the Prose and Poetry books. Comp started off on the wrong foot, but it always takes me awhile to adapt to changes* and get settled, so I’ll probably enjoy the course. Last but not least Math! All I can say is that it’ll probably be hard but somehow with Dr. J, we always have fun!

The weather was ROTTEN! today! Rainy, cold, and windy, even snow is better than that, eh? Anyways this weather is giving me pains, the flu, actually. I’m practically living on aspirins and vitamin C’s. 

Talking about “pains” I think I’ll have to put up with Eileen all weekend, out of town that is! We, “the Balens”, are going to the cottage this coming weekend and Eileen is coming. Really, it should be a riot!!

Well so much for my problems today! Like my mom says I should get a boyfriend, so I could worry about him and not the little petty things! ‘night!



“There is nothing permanent except change.”   [Heraclitus]

May 20, 2014

Feedback. Beyond the Mark.

Much of what we do in English class is about process: reading deeply and creating analytic notes, planning, organizing, drafting, editing, and publishing writing, viewing various texts and thinking through the stories they are telling. Before, during, and after the processes, we support our learning with feedback strategies. We develop success criteria, conference together, talk to one another, share our work, and provide written comments. We don’t often fail outright.

But last week, you wrote a test.

It wasn’t a test of memorization, of regurgitating names and dates. Rather, it was a test of skills and problem solving. Show  how well you can read and annotate a text. Show how you support your thinking with evidence. Show how you apply MLA rules. Show how you can apply the rules of grammar in editing. And because you could use any resource in the room to help you (other than a person…no phone a friend in this test, although that is a great strategy) –your binder, your hanging folder, the literacy tool kit, dictionaries, and Chromebooks — this test was also about demonstrating how you are able to solve challenges and overcome obstacles in your learning.

Tests can be failed.

What does that test result tell you about your learning? What feedback is it providing to you?

More than anything else this semester, we are learning to be learners. We have been learning about and practicing growth mindset all semester. We have set long-term goals and created a plan to help us reach those goals.

When you get your test back, take some time to think about what the feedback is. Remember that feedback is not about praise or blame, approval or disapproval. Feedback is neutral. It describes what you did and did not do (Wiggins). Then post your thoughts to your blog about that feedback.

March 25, 2014

Reflection #2