3, 2, 1 … Talk Time!

Today, our primary division walked over to the local movie theatre to watch, Inside Out. As you can see from the trailer, this is a very entertaining movie, but certainly one that regularly requires the use of deep thinking and inferring skills.

As with most cartoon movies lately, there are certainly elements of it that are targeted at a more adult audience, as well as elements that are targeted more for kids.

Since we had so many students attending the movie, the theatre put on a special showing just for our students. The theatre even stopped the movie half-way through for an intermission (many, many thanks for this), so that we didn’t need to worry about regular bathroom breaks and could all enjoy the entire film. I share all of this because this whole viewing experience has me thinking about movie watching with students.

Just like libraries, movie theatres are usually expected to be quiet places without interruptions. I was definitely shushing students as regularly as other adults today — maybe even more so. But as the movie continued, I became more bothered by doing so. It was very interesting to hear the students talking to each other.

  • They were drawing conclusions.
  • They were explaining situations in their own words.
  • They were inferring the reasons behind what happened.
  • They were asking questions and answering each other’s questions.
  • They were connecting with characters.
  • They were thinking critically.

At the intermission today, many teachers were discussing the multiple layers of the plot line. While students seemed to understand the movie at a basic level, did they get the symbolism? Were they able to make connections? Towards the end of the day today, I asked my class to tell me about the movie. I wanted them to have a discussion and see what they really understood. I was amazed by how much they did understand!

Reflecting now, I wonder, would they have understood so much if they sat back quietly (and perhaps even, passively) during the film? How can we provide these “talk times” to aid in critical thinking? I know that the students could have conversed after the movie, but how much would be lost if they waited until the end? 

I’m not a big movie goer, but I know that most people don’t like to hear discussions during a film. Maybe in a special theatre of our own though, this whisper talking would be okay. Maybe some partner talks during the intermission would work. What do you think? I’m starting to wonder if a movie needs to be quiet, and if it is, what impact does this have on a student’s understanding?


For The Graduates …

Tomorrow, my first JK class at Ancaster Meadow graduates from Grade 8. This is not the first group of students that I’ve taught that has graduated, but it’s the first group where I was at the school long enough to really connect with all of them. I’ve seen the students grow up. For many of them, I taught them in JK, SK, and again, in Grade 6. I know their families. I’ve taught their siblings. I definitely feel a special connection with this group, and I’m incredibly sad that I can’t be there for their graduation tomorrow night. 

A couple of weeks ago, one of my former students emailed me and asked me to come. I was so touched that she would take the time to write me, and even though I initially had plans, I tried to reschedule them so that I could go. I thought that I was going to make it, but on Friday night, I got sick, and I just started antibiotics today. There is no way that I could sit in a crowded gymnasium tomorrow night for the ceremony. And so since I can’t be there, this blog post is for the graduates.

  • Thank you for sharing so much of yourselves with me!
  • Thank you for being brave enough to take risks, try again, and learn from your mistakes.
  • Thank you for forgiving me for my mistakes.
  • Thank you for inspiring me to really think about and live by the quote at the bottom of all of my Board emails: “If they don’t learn the way you teach, teach the way they learn.” (I wish I knew the author of this.)
  • Thank you for not being afraid to tell me what you need to do your best work … and thank you for working with me to provide it!
  • Thank you for believing in me — as a new Grade 6 teacher — that I could do the job and do it well.
  • Thank you for showing me that sometimes a little bit of Kindergarten can make its way up into all of the grades.
  • Thank you for making me so very proud of each and every one of you! It’s been a pleasure to get to work with and learn from (and with) all of you!

I may not be there tomorrow, but I will still be thinking of you on this amazing day! Here’s to a bright and wonderful future … with no need for any more “happy bubbles.” 🙂

– Miss Dunsiger, Miss D., or maybe just Aviva

Goodbye To “Additional Work” And “Free Time”

My thoughts on using technology in the classroom are constantly changing. I continue to try some tools, apps, and programs that work well, and some that don’t. I’ve used some with older students that don’t seem to work as well with younger students, some that work well with all students, and some that only work with some students — whether younger or older. Many times, I find that the best tool to use is not necessarily a device, but just the ability to capture the student learning with a photograph, video, podcast, or screencast is powerful.

Based on my thinking about technology use in the classroom, there are then two statements that I hear regularly that really bother me:

  • “My students are rushing through their work to use the iPads.”
  • “The iPads are great for free time.”

I’ve responded to these statements differently over the years, but recently, I’ve started to ask many questions:

  • How might the technology be used for the work time?
  • How does technology enhance student learning?
  • Which students might benefit the most from using the technology? How could they use it?
  • What is free time?
  • How could free time become work time?
  • What apps or programs are the students using? What other ones could they use to maybe support more thinking and learning?

We talk a lot that even when inservicing on technology use, pedagogy matters. I wonder if this is where the professional development needs to start. Maybe we all need to consider these questions:

  • How do we believe that students learn best? What evidence supports our belief? How could technology be used as part of this learning environment?
  • Who are our struggling students? How are we helping them learn? What tools could be used to support them more? How could we best use these tools?
  • What are the Big Ideas that we’ll be focusing on this year? What role can technology play in the instruction and exploration of these Big Ideas?

I know about the SAMR Model. I know that everyone needs to start somewhere and grow from there. But I really question the long-term implications if we don’t quickly move away from technology as being an add on to what we’re already doing and teaching in the classroom. As Kristi Keery-Bishop explains well in this blog post, we don’t have time for an add on. What do we need to “let go?” How can technology fill this void, and fill it better than it was before? I think that “work” can happen using many different tools (and maybe not the same ones for all students), and the “free time” can still be rich learning time. What do you think?


After Saying, “Goodbye!”

I was just reading David Fife‘s recent blog post, and it really resonated with me. His post talks about the difficulties with saying, “goodbye”: both with the person leaving and the people left behind. I remember being one of these people leaving last year. I was leaving a school that I taught at for nine years. Between homeroom classes and prep coverage, I taught every grade from JK-Grade 6, and connected with numerous students and families. Yes, it was my choice to leave, but it was still incredibly hard to do so.

This year has been a wonderful one of personal and professional growth. While I miss Ancaster Meadow, I totally love Dr. Davey, and I’m very excited to be teaching there again next year. This week has been a hard one though. My Grade 1 class is Skype Buddies with a Grade 2 class at Ancaster Meadow, and today, this class planned a special Play Day for us. I got to bring my Grade 1’s to my old school. I’ve been incredibly anxious about this visit all week long. How do you go back after you’ve left?


I will say that this isn’t my first time back at the school. I was involved in a PD Day session there in the wintertime, but it was only with some of the staff and none of the students. Today was different. All of the staff and students were there. It was like I was going back to my school, but it wasn’t my school any more. I realized today that as challenging as it can be to leave, it can sometimes be just as challenging to go back.

Throughout the visit today, I was amazed by the number of students that came up to me to chat. It wasn’t even all of the kids that I taught. Some of the students just remember talking on lunch duty, passing in the hallway, or connecting on bus duty. I taught some of their siblings. I worked with their parents on committees. I was a familiar face that now isn’t there.

One conversation really got to me. It was a very short one that I had with a previous student over the lunchtime. This student came into the Grade 2 classroom to meet my Grade 1’s. After waving hello and asking some of them their names and ages, she turned to me and said, “Miss Dunsiger, you [you’re] only here for a short visit?” Yes … yes, I am. And that’s the thing with leaving. We can come back for visits. We can re-connect. We can get excited as we see old friends and colleagues and previous students and families. But then once again, we have to say, “goodbye.” 

Today, I took the bus back to a school that I love with students that I adore, who continually amaze me with what they do and how they think. I’m lucky to work at Dr. Davey, but I was also lucky to work at Ancaster Meadow. After a year away and a wonderful new teaching experience, I still feel that sadness in saying, “goodbye.” Does this ever change? How do you adjust to “visiting” after you left? It’s nice to say, “hello” again, but it’s hard to say, “goodbye.”


I Wish I Could Dance Like Nobody Was Watching!

About three months ago, my previous vice principal, Kristi, was inspired by a high school dance experience. Today I was also inspired by dancing, but in a slightly different way. This afternoon was our Talent Show, and thanks to one of our Kindergarten classes, we were able to join along in their break dancing performance. I happily volunteered to sit on the floor and record the performance (shared below).

As I was watching the video after school today, here’s what I noticed:

  • Students were not focused on perfection. They were focused on having fun.
  • Even when they made mistakes, they got back up and tried again.
  • Students took risks: with trying new moves and performing in front of a large audience.
  • All students that wanted their moment in the spotlight, got it. There were no restrictions! Not everybody wanted this time, and that was fine, but these other students felt equally important cheering on from the sidelines.

I don’t know when or how it happens, but at some point in our lives, our thoughts on subjects in school are often based on “how well we do.” Phrases like,

  • “I’m not a good math student.”
  • “Science isn’t for me.”
  • “I can’t draw.” (Now replace “draw” with paint, sing, dance, act, etc.).

are often heard. Instead of being willing to take the risks and perform in front of an audience, we’re concerned about how we look or how well we do. We stop being brave!

I say this because I am this person. Yesterday, one of the students in my class was away, and another child was worried that she would have to perform alone. I promised to go up with her if this was the case. We had to practice this option yesterday, and the very thought of dancing on the stage terrified me. It made me want to throw up, pass out, and/or do both at the same time. Would I have honoured my promise today if this student was away? Yes! But I am so very glad that I didn’t have to. Why? Because I felt embarrassed. I didn’t think that I was good enough. I was afraid that people would laugh at me. 

I know from my experiences practising in the classroom that my students wouldn’t laugh at me, but would cheer me on. Nevertheless, that voice in my head convinces me otherwise. And the thing is, I really want that voice to change, and I also don’t want my students — the brave, amazing, inspiring people that they are — to get that voice in their heads. If they could always take the risks that they did today, imagine what’s possible! When and how do our opinions of ourselves change? Is there a way to stop this, or if it’s already happened, is there a way to go back? If only I could figure this out, maybe one day I’ll stand on that stage, bravely ready to bust a move! 🙂