Discussing Desks

For a couple of weeks now, my students have been talking to me about moving desks. Students actually spend very little time at their own desks (as they’re always working all over the classroom), so as a result, I don’t move desks much. I knew that a change needed to happen though, and I thought that I’d make the move after the break: a new year and new desks.

Usually I just make the new seating arrangements, but today I thought that I’d try what some other teachers have tried, and I’d let students write down requests of seating partners. I also let students write down a person that they would prefer not to sit beside (for any number of reasons), as long as they kept their thoughts only in writing and completely confidential. I always find seating plans difficult to make, so I thought that I’d add the additional challenge to the class of designing a seating plan if they wanted. I really had no intention of redesigning the classroom — just moving the students.

Then two students, Emily M. and Ava, came to see me. They created six groups of desks in the classroom — instead of my three — and they asked if we could make these smaller groups. I was about to say no when Emily M. and Ava said to me, “We often work in small groups, and having these smaller areas will make it easier for the groups to find different spots in the classroom to collaborate.” What fantastic reasoning!

Students were telling me not just what they wanted, but why making this change would be a good idea. They were thinking about our classroom structure and the needs of students. I was so impressed by this that when the students went to the dance this afternoon, I started moving desks around. Here’s the new layout for after the holiday break: the students have already given me their nod of approval!


I’m excited about this small group set-up and what it will mean for collaboration opportunities. How do you arrange your desks in the classroom? Why do you have this layout? I would love to hear about your classroom set-up as well.


Who Says You Need To Be There?

Today was our Holiday Concert. The students have been working hard in class to prepare for their speaking parts as well as the big dance. Unfortunately, students have been getting sick all week, and not being at school has sometimes made it hard to practice. With technology though, anything’s possible!

Yesterday, one of the students with a big speaking role was off sick. At the end of our rehearsal yesterday afternoon though, she used FaceTime to see the practice and to hear any last minute tips. When this student wasn’t here this morning, we thought that she would miss the presentation, but just before announcements, she connected with us via FaceTime. She sang O’Canada, listened to the announcements, and joined us for our morning practice. When connecting with us, she assured us that she would be at school in time for the performance, and then she said her lines and even joined in with the dance from the comfort of her home. I’m glad I had my iPad with me and was able to capture some of this in the video below.

Today made me realize that with a little creativity, a day at home doesn’t need to mean a day away from school. I love that my students are suggesting new ways to use FaceTime in the classroom to connect with those students that are sick or away. How have you used FaceTime to open up the walls of the classroom? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


Our 21st Century Classroom

Last week, the students in my class and my teaching partner’s class worked together to create a short video about our 21st Century Classroom. We decided to enter our video in the Mindshare Learning Video Challenge.

One key theme that comes up in this video is that the 21st century classroom allows us to connect with others on a global scale. I was particularly impressed this week when students decided to harness the power of this connection for one of their current media literacy projects. After reading a variety of stories about how children have made a difference in the world, the students were challenged to pick an issue and create a media campaign to share with others how they could make a difference. This was not about raising money, but instead, about raising awareness. I was incredibly impressed when two groups of students chose to use Twitter to spread the word on their projects.




In the 21st century classroom, students know how to use social media responsibly to not just share their learning with others, but also to raise awareness and ask for help. Students are tackling real world problems in a mature way, and they’re building a positive digital footprint even at a young age. I applaud all of my students for being so responsible online, and using social media to discuss important issues. So during this holiday season, I hope that you’ll help me out (and help my students out too) as we look to collect food donations and give gifts to charity. Please share your thoughts using the hashtags #need4food and #HelpThem on Twitter. Thank you!

What does a 21st century classroom mean to you? How do your students use the power of social media to connect with others, raise awareness, and make a difference? I’d love to hear your stories!


Students Guiding Students

I’ve blogged numerous times before about student leadership. George Couros and Shawn Ram are two amazing administrators from Alberta that have inspired me to give my students more leadership opportunities in the school. Last week, I realized just how much students can lead. Not only can they lead, but they can guide each other!

Last Thursday, my class hosted a radio show on 105 the Hive to discuss the books they read for Thinking Thursdays. Usually I monitor the discussion in the Today’sMeet and Twitter backchannels, and ask the radio show hosts questions that come out of these backchannel discussions. This time though, I had a student volunteer (Delaney) that asked if she could do it. She used the iPad to watch both the Today’sMeet Room and the Tweetstream. Reading through the questions, she picked ones that she thought would elicit them most discussion, and she asked the student radio show hosts the questions. She helped facilitate the discussion and guide the conversation. This gave me an opportunity to sit down with other groups of students, talk to them about their reading, and assist them with their written responses.

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A Pencast Of Our 105 the Hive Radio Show

I’m so glad that Delaney asked to fill this leadership role, and I will definitely get other students to do so for future radio shows. Maybe Delaney can train the next leader, so that the students can lead together and really take ownership over this radio show literacy project. How have you used student leadership to not just lead but guide instruction?



Yesterday, all of the teachers in the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board were on their one day rotating strike. This blog post is not about politics though. It’s not an in-depth look at Bill 115. It is about what happened when I was on the picket line.

As I walked in circles for three hours yesterday, I spent lots of time talking to different teachers at the school. We didn’t talk about what we did on the weekend though, or about our holiday plans — we talked about school. We spoke about our classroom programs, and what we think we’re doing well, and what we think we need to change. We exchanged ideas. Many of us spoke about resources we use in the classroom, and what we’re going to continue to use, and what we will re-look at using. We spoke about what we can do to help more students, and ensure that all students become independent learners. On the picket line, we created our own professional development. We put kids first!

A Photograph From Yesterday - From THE HAMILTON SPECTATOR Website: http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/855281--teachers-picket-20-schools-mpp-mcmeekin-s-office-monday

A Photograph From Yesterday – From THE HAMILTON SPECTATOR Website

I love teaching! I’ve wanted to teach since I was a child myself, and I can’t imagine doing anything else besides working with students. I come to school every day with a smile on my face, and I leave with one too. Teaching is not a job for me: it’s my passion! I know that I share this passion with millions of other educators that constantly look out for the best needs of students. Yes, it was hard not being at school yesterday, but I’m glad that “school” still made its way to the picket lines!

What are your “positive teacher stories?” I hope that people will share their thoughts here.