Parents As Partners


On Monday, September 20th, I had the wonderful opportunity to speak as part of an EdTechTalk Program on Parents As Partners thanks to @lornacost. I feel very strongly that parents and teachers need to work together to provide the best possible learning opportunities for students. Web 2.0 tools allow me to connect with parents in many of the same ways that I also connect with students in the classroom. I love the fact that the parents are embracing many of these social media tools, including both blogs and Twitter. With students using these tools too, they can show their parents what they’re doing at school, and all of us can learn together.

Many thanks to my Twitter PLN that was there to support me during this presentation, as well as to some of my colleagues from school that participated in an online session like this one for the first time in order to offer support. It also meant a lot to me that my vice principal, Mrs. Adler, signed on to listen to this session and participated in the chatroom as well. I cannot thank all of you enough for the numerous ways that you inspire and support me!

I am excited to continue my learning journey, and find new tools that I can use with both parents and students, as well as find different ways of using tools that I’ve already used before. I would love to hear how you use Web 2.0 tools to connect with parents, or if you are a parent, I’d love to hear your thoughts on using these tools to connect. We can learn so much from each other!


Our Class Of Leaders

For a long time now, I’ve been reading numerous blog posts by George Couros, a principal in Alberta, and Shawn Ram, a teacher in Alberta, about giving everyone the opportunity to be a leader. Seeing what they’ve done with the students at their school is incredible, but I was still somewhat skeptical that six-year-olds would really be able to “lead” others. At Meet the Teacher Night on Thursday though, I was amazed with what I saw. The students were teaching their parents and siblings how to use the Livescribe Pen. Listen here, as one student explains the process to his mom, and then together, they leave a comment for us.

Wow! While I was circulating around the classroom and talking to parents and students, the children themselves were leading this activity. They were problem-solving, they were helping each other, and they were being real leaders. George and Shawn were right: all students have leadership potential!

 As I’m taking all of this in, I then watch another student walk around the classroom with her mom, dad, and brother. She has started at the door, and step-by-step, she has explained everything we do during the day. She is making reference to the anchor charts in the classroom, she is thinking aloud, and really, this six-year-old, is being the most remarkable teacher I have ever seen. I stand behind her family as she explains the writing centre to them, even explaining the importance of all of the conventions in a list, and in that second, I have my a-ha moment! Why do I review the literacy and math centres each day when the students can take on this leadership role? I decide then, at around 6:30 on Thursday night, that I am going to change.

The next day, during literacy centre time, I tell the students all of the amazing things that I saw last night, and I let them know that today, they are going to lead. Students select each other to come up and review the literacy centres. They ask many of the same questions that I’ve asked before, and even remind each other about what to do at the centres when they need help, and what I would want to see as I’m walking around the room. They think aloud during this review time, and they make sure that all of the students understand what is expected by asking questions and sharing past examples. They even remind the class about how to sit and listen. Another teacher walks into the class during this time, and is in awe of what’s happening. I’m sitting on the floor with the children, and the children are standing up and instructing each other.

Referring To The Anchor Chart While Modelling The Activity For The Class

The most incredible part was during the centre time itself: never have I had such few questions or such few requests for help, especially so early in the year. I think that by hearing the instructions from each other, the students realized that they really can ask each other for help, and so they did. They saw each other as leaders, and seeing this, changed everything!

Thank you George and Shawn! Without the two of you, I would have never made the changes that I made on Friday, and I know that I will be a better teacher now as a result. I can’t wait to see our class of leaders in action again next week!


September 20, 2010

Today, I continued with this approach by allowing my students to be leaders and reviewing the math centres with the class. By sitting back and watching, I was also able to ask them guiding questions that allowed me to ensure their understanding of the material and continue to develop their skills too. The video footage that I got from today’s centre review gives me some wonderful electronic portfolio data. I can’t wait to see what the students have to say tomorrow!

Video Of Student Giving Instructions For A Math Centre Activity

If you’ve used this leadership approach before, how did you get started? What did you think of giving students these leadership opportunities? I would love to hear your thoughts!


Why not start now?

Our First Week In Grade 1 — Click here to see an Animoto Slideshow of our first week at school.

We have just finished a week of school, and what an incredible week it’s been! My students sent out their first tweets from our class Twitter accounts using both the classroom computers and the iPod Touch Twitterific app (click here and here to view them), used the Livescribe Pen in multiple ways for both reading, writing, math, and Social Studies’ activities, published their first blog posts, used Palm Treos to take photographs during literacy and math activities and to discuss learning too, and created a VoiceThread to show off their reading and writing. While all of these big highlights include the use of technology in the classroom, this technology was used to meet a number of different curriculum expectations: allowing the students to be engaged in their learning while also learning. In four days, they used many of these different technology tools independently during both literacy and math centres, as well as during full class activities. Our classroom program has started and on what an exciting note too!

If you had told me even last year that we would be doing so much in the first week of school, I wouldn’t have believed you. Don’t we need to establish routines first? Shouldn’t I be teaching writing first and then blogging? Isn’t this going to be too hard for the students? I have come to realize though that the best time to start is now. Using technology responsibly is part of my classroom routines, so I think that they should see that from the beginning. Blogging is writing, and incredibly motivating writing too, so why not begin with it and get my students excited about writing? Regardless of age, your students will amaze you with what they can do! Within four days, my students can now use the SMART Board, iPod Touches, Palm Treos, Livescribe Pen, and computers independently to complete numerous curriculum-based activities. I think that it’s all about creating a climate of high expectations, and believing that your students can do what you set out for them to do. Why not start now? What do you think?

If my Grade 1 students are doing this now, I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year will bring!