What’s Your Tab Story?

For me, this is one of a few Communication of Learning writing weekends. I tried to be productive last weekend, but I couldn’t focus, so I got very little accomplished.

As I shared yesterday and today on Twitter, this weekend was far more successful.

I’m pleased to report that I met my goal of 14 completed Communications of Learning, so now I can reward myself with this blog post. πŸ™‚ As I’ve been writing these past couple of weekends, I couldn’t help but notice the tabs that I have open on my internet browser. Here’s a screenshot of what I see.

These tabs could seem so random, and yet, there’s a lot of thinking behind each of my choices.

First, there are the Twitter and Instagram tabs. These are partially for distraction/reward. Just like Lisa, I need rewards. I try to reward myself for each comment that I complete, and then later, for reaching my goal for the day. Yesterday’s reward was reading a book, even if I did have to stay up until 1:00 in the morning to finish it.

My reward for finishing a comment is a browse through Twitter and Instagram posts. Let me see if I missed anything exciting or can get sucked down a rabbit hole somewhere. πŸ™‚ I limit myself to no more than 5 minutes of browsing time before heading back to write the next comment. I also use these sites for proof of the expectations. Paula and I have documented a lot of student learning through the mini-learning stories that we share on Twitter and Instagram. While I tend to recall the proof that we want to use for each child, sometimes finding a specific quote or more information, helps. Thankfully I tend to remember what the posts look like and approximately when we published them, which makes it easier to refer back to them as needed.

Then there are my two email accounts: Yahoo and my Board mail. Yes, I have a Yahoo account. I also have a Gmail one, but I never use it. Actually, I have a few, but that’s besides the point. πŸ™‚ For me, email is like a text message … the text for the person that always has two devices and no pen, but doesn’t own a Smart phone. πŸ™‚ It’s my little bit of distraction that I sometimes use as a reward instead of scrolling through Twitter and Instagram. If I hear the chime, I can choose to check my email after writing a comment and forgo my social media fix. I wonder if others work regular distractions into their report writing weekends.

After that, we finish strong with the good stuff. First, I have open the document of completed Communications of Learning from last term. I can see what we wrote then, and if the next steps could be communicated on again as an area of growth or key learning. Then I have The Kindergarten Program Document. I’ve scrolled along to Page 308 with the chart of expectations. These help with deciding on the key areas for each child and each Frame. Finally, I have Power Teacher Pro: the reporting program itself. When it comes to writing, I don’t keep a lot in front of me. I think about the conversations that my teaching partner, Paula, and I have had about each child and the learning that’s happened throughout the term. Then I close my eyes, I picture the child, and I write. This is one of many things that I love about the Communications of Learning, as this truly is a learning story: moments of success and growth for each student. A recent Twitter discussion with Mrs. Orchard reminded me that how we write these Communications of Learning might vary, even during the writing process itself.

For me, these tabs tell a story, and are just diverse and plentiful enough to allow for a successful Communication of Learning writing weekend. What’s the thinking behind the tabs that you have open when writing report cards or Communications of Learning? It’s interesting to hear different perspectives. For the educators that might be writing their first final reports of the year, maybe hearing about different approaches will prove useful. Maybe somebody can also provide me with a new “distraction reward.” πŸ™‚


What’s Your “Noise?”

During our staff meeting the other day, our Emotion Coaching lead shared with us a fantastic video that Jennifer Faulkner tagged me in about a week ago. Take the time to watch this video — maybe multiple times through — and have some Kleenex nearby, as it will bring you to tears.

This video though also reminded me of why my teaching partner, Paula, and I often break the #1 video conferencing rule: we don’t consistently enforce all microphones muted. Yes, during our one daily full class meeting, this is harder to do, and our kids usually mute after they share. I do some additional muting as well, especially if there’s a lot of echoing in the background. Sometimes, we’ll ask children to also mute, especially when there’s feedback. But during our small group meetings, many kids will leave their microphones open for most of the time. While there will still be moments of static, and occasional times that I need to mute a couple of students so that we can hear others, this unmuted, free sharing time also leads to the wonderful “noise” showcased in this video.

There’s the excitement as Paula reviews the yoga story with the group …

The connections around snacks and vitamins …

The unexpected, and expected, conversations that come from reviewing a read aloud while waiting for the book to load …

The added joy when a child realizes that maybe a Picasso picture is really a Paul Klee one …

And the times when connecting is truly the biggest goal of all!

It’s hard to know what the next week — let alone the next month — will bring in Ontario education. Whether we’re virtual or in-person, I’m thinking a lot about mental health. I realize that every grade is different. Yesterday, a Grade 4 teacher that I know, mentioned that he put all of his kids in breakout rooms with their friends for the last period. He moved between the breakout rooms, but gave students time to just connect. Those that usually leave early, not only stayed until the end of the day, but wanted to stay past that. I realize that the end of the year is coming soon, and there are still expectations to address and teaching to do. I have to wonder though …

  • Do kids miss the “noise” as much as we do, and how might we attempt to replicate this noise — in all grades — online?
  • What have you tried already?
  • What do you hope to do in the next few weeks?

Maybe we can learn new ideas from each other, and give all students and educators what they might be seeking out most of all in this strange world that we’re living in right now.


Learning Upside Down: Is It Time To Reframe What We Think About This?

Lately, I’ve seen a lot of Twitter posts with adults sharing photographs of their child during remote learning. There are a huge number of tweets with the slight variation of the kindergarten-age student hidden under a table or curled up near a sofa somewhere. The implied message is, “We’re done with remote learning!” I get it. I have no doubt that a handful of our amazing parents need to work hard each day to get their children online. While I’d like to think that connecting with us and with their friends is enough of a pull to show up day after day — and for many kids, I do believe that it is — I’m not going to pretend that this is enough for everyone. But these photographs are triggering for me, and last night, I think that I figured out why. Maybe those little areas under the table or on the sofa are the perfect spaces to learn.

For years now, there has been a move to “flexible seating.” In classrooms, the norm used to be that children sat at desks or tables and on chairs, but now bean bag chairs, wobble chairs, scoop chairs, and pillows are quickly becoming more prevalent, along with the ability for children to decide what works best for them. This was a struggle with some of the COVID classroom restrictions, as flexible seating became more of a challenge, and at times, almost an impossibility. We know that some of our students need these alternate seating environments. Even given our classroom restrictions of one front-facing space per child, having kids lying down or sitting under their desks, standing up as needed, and using Tupperware tent spaces, are just some of the ways that we try to explore flexible seating at school. With this in mind, would it not stand to reason that some kids might be seeking out these same options at home?

Sharing From A Distance

While most of our students sit at a table of some sort for the meeting times, we have a few that don’t. One child loves to use an iPad for our class meetings so that she can move around. Standing up over top of the iPad or even partaking in the class upside down are often the norm for her. It would be easy to assume that she doesn’t take it anything that we’re saying, but this is far from true. She frequently chimes in with questions and comments related to the provocations shared, and even excitedly shares her work with others during class. Yes, Paula and I might get a little dizzy from the iPad movements — especially when we go on a wobbly walk through her house — and yet, we also love them. This child is making online learning work for her, and just as she would find ways to sprawl out, move around, and explore heights in the classroom, she’s doing so at home. Independently. In a safe environment with her peers and educators that care for her and love hearing her many contributions to classroom learning.

So, if I could say anything to the concerned parents that share photographs of their child under furniture or curled up in a corner, I’d love to say, “I wonder if this might support your child’s Self-Reg. What would happen if your child joined the meeting times like this? Would it help your child feel safe? Would it give your child the support that he/she needs to contribute and engage in the class? Could it maybe even spark some wonderful empathetic responses from classmates and educators, and hopefully, a shift in feelings as the meeting time progresses?” And if the curling up and hiding means that kids need a day or two off from online learning, I completely understand. But I would also want to get to why the child is feeling this way, and what could be done to change his/her feelings. Remote learning might not be ideal, or at least not ideal for all kids, but I still believe that there’s a lot that’s possible. Maybe letting go of the need to sit at a table or stay still for the whole online time are good places to start. I’ll happily embrace a little dizziness each day for the happiness that goes along with it. What about you?


1, 2, 3 Repeat … Again, And Again, And Again!

This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about revisiting learning. How often do we return to the same topics? How often do we read the same books or look at the same videos? How often do we have similar conversations? This year, I feel as though this revisiting has happened more frequently than ever before. Maybe it’s due to the nature of our kids. They do have some interests which have remained consistent since September, and they even request similar books, video clips, or topics of discussion on a daily basis. I’m pretty sure that we’ve read and discussed The Lorax a hundred times, but our class would happily make it 101, and the same is true for Plastic Planet. I remember listening to a Speech and Language Pathologist, many years ago now, talking about read alouds. She said that children are happy with repeated readings. It’s adults who tend to get bored of the same books. Observing and listening to our kids, I would say that this holds true. Throughout this past week though, I became even more aware of why this repetition is so important.

It all started mid-week when I began to question a routine, and then this happened.

Then the next day, there was this discussion during one of our small group meeting times.

We’ve talked about Picasso and Paul Klee more times than I can count. To hear this SK student reflect on the artists and modify his thinking around his sister’s work is quite incredible.

Following that, we had our Fun Food Friday, and we heard this discussion to start our day.

Fast forward to our small group read aloud, where we were looking at some more of Peter H. Reynolds’ Be You. This one page led to a conversation that we did not expect but totally loved. (In retrospect, I wonder if we could have looked at intersectionality here, and talked about what we can’t see but could know about each of these people.)

I remember back in February when our students struggled with noticing and commenting on differences, especially around race. Then our vice principal suggested the use of a different book, and we got a few more comments, but it was still slow.

We’ve returned to conversations around equity, race, and intersectionality often, and hearing the comments yesterday made us realize that so many topics just cannot be taught in isolation. Regular conversations help increase understanding and comfort, so that the discussions happen more naturally and more frequently. A special thank you here to Sajah, Stephanie, and Parsa: these three educators wrote the lessons for Learn. Disrupt. Rebuild., which really has us thinking differently about our approaches, resources, vocabulary choices, mini-lessons, and conversations.

As June nears and another school year comes to an end, my teaching partner, Paula, and I are reflecting on what we revisit, how we revisit it, and what new information might spark further thinking and conversation. We’re eager to gain some insights from our students on what they might want to look back at again. While this strange year with regular pivoting (I do dislike this word, but don’t know a better one) might make for some concerns around what “hasn’t been covered yet,” I can’t help but wonder if re-looking at important topics might allow for links to even more expectations than we realize, especially when starting with the overalls in mind. What do you think? What might you revisit as a class in the coming weeks? This past week has shown me that it’s the repetition that truly does allow for more.


How Do You Make Report Cards And Communications Of Learning Work In The Time Of A COVID Shutdown?

Yesterday, I wrote a blog post about the moments online that make me smile. In this post, I also referred to a recent one by Lisa Corbett, and I mentioned that Doug Peterson highlighted Lisa’s post in his This Week In Ontario Edublogs feature. Among other things, Lisa’s blog post discussed the upcoming report cards that go out at the end of June. When Doug went to read my post, he left a comment about these report cards and some inspiration for a future post. Unfortunately, there was a technology blip, and I did not receive the comment, but a Twitter conversation helped me piece things together.

This is the post that Doug inspired. The more that I thought about his tweets, the more that I realized that there is a lot to say beyond what can be encapsulated in a few tweets.

I know that there will always be some students that participate and attend more online than others, and some that come for less time for a variety of reasons. Pivoting throughout the year is never ideal, and while a remote learning environment can be wonderful for some students — and we do have some that thrive in this environment — it’s not for everyone. A general comment as Lisa suggested would likely be great for most report cards and Communications of Learning — and yes, I am separating these two, as I feel as though they are so very different — but I also believe that there can still be a lot said on these report cards and Communications of Learning, even in the strangest of circumstances. Here’s my thinking around how we could make these reporting requirements work β€” in no particular order, even though there are numbers.

1.Begin with the overall expectations. While I’ve taught kindergarten for most of my 20 year teaching career, I did spend about six years in other grades, and this is a message that spans all grades. It’s even part of Growing Success. The specific expectations provide proof for the overall ones. Considering our pivot, I would think that by looking closely at the key areas of learning in each subject area or frame (in kindergarten), we can then find entry points given possibly some very different material access and spaces at home. This would maybe help address Doug’s comment about tennis. Tennis might not be possible at home, but what is the key learning here, and what could be done to support this learning?

2.Look to families for support. I realize that with our shutdown right now, many parents are working at home alongside their kids. Not all parents are able to sit beside their child for each class and/or spend hours uploading proof of learning outside of classroom time. I wouldn’t expect this either. In fact, I love the independence that even our youngest kindergarten students demonstrate online, and both my teaching partner, Paula, and I want to continue to support this independence.

All of this being said, if ever there was a time that “parents as partners” is key, I think that it’s now. I keep thinking about this photograph and these videos that a mom shared with us on MS Teams the other day (permission granted to share publicly).

While the video clips are short, the discussion that she has with her son not only provides us with insight about his thinking and learning, but also about her support. We can then suggest next steps accordingly. This is also evidence of learning that we can reflect on in the Communication of Learning. While I realize that this will not look the same in all grades, my step-dad is also a teacher. He mentioned that many of his parents email him with student assignments. Through the email discussions, he’s able to ascertain independent student work, parent support, and next step possibilities. Now he also has this information for report cards.

3.Personalize. While expectations need to guide assessment regardless of grade, there’s nothing to say that comments need to be the same for each student. Different specific expectations that match up to the same overall ones might align better for various students and given various circumstances. Maybe COVID becomes the call to personalize reports even more regardless of grade. (This is already key when it comes to the Communications of Learning, which is one of many things that I love about them!) I wonder if considering these different pieces of evidence might also reduce some teacher stress around needing to collect the same assignment from each child.

4.Consider the triangulation of data, maybe more than ever before. The triangulation of data is highlighted in Growing Success, and even present with slightly different wording in Growing Success — The Kindergarten Addendum. Sometimes collecting work products and seeing demonstrations of learning are harder online, but what about conversations with students? What about observing students as they work? In kindergarten, this observing part is often easier with cameras on, but I know that cameras are frequently off in older grades. I wonder if a breakout room discussion might work though or even a discussion in the chat. Collecting data in these different ways might still provide wonderful evidence of student achievement.

5.Contemplate different activity options. The teacher librarian at our school, Karen Wilkins, has me thinking about this point. At home, students don’t always have access to the same materials that they do at school, which can make certain subject areas more challenging than other ones. Lisa even addressed this in her blog post. We are still responsible for assessing all of these subject areas, so how do we make this work? Kindergarten has very open-ended expectations and an amalgamation of subject areas in each frame, which makes things easier at times, but this is not true for the other grades. Through Karen’s tweets, she shows how being online might be the perfect time to reconsider some material choices and use ones that might not be as accessible in the classroom. Check out this student work: it’s exciting, engaging, and meets expectations!

6.There’s no need to work in a bubble. I know that being at home makes it even harder to see and communicate with others, but this is where the ideas shared through Twitter and Instagram can be fantastic! Looking at how others are meeting expectations, and even exploring professional resources like OPHEA, might provide options for those expectations that educators still need to meet. For kindergarten teachers, connecting and reflecting with your classroom teaching partners is key. Often this leads to sharing different perspectives and considering examples of learning that might have otherwise been overlooked. I think it’s important to remember too that there are numerous educators that have been remote all year long. Maybe they can help with suggesting ways to collect data, teach different concepts virtually, and access resources remotely when the classroom is not an option.

7.Remember that the term began well before April. I know that there’s so much learning and growth that happens in these last few months of school, but I also know that we all have data from before we went online. Maybe these strange circumstances give us additional permission to weigh more heavily on some of this evidence than others. We can still provide the asterisk of when this learning occurred, and maybe sometimes, this asterisk isn’t necessary.

8.Soft eyes for all. Susan Hopkins regularly uses the phrase, “soft eyes,” and I think that it applies to reporting this year.

There are different stressors at play right now, and everyone is responding to remote teaching and learning differently. At times, I think this might mean more frequently giving children the benefit of the doubt, and forgiving ourselves if our teaching might not be at the same par as it would be in a normal year. Maybe this means that some specific expectations are not addressed as well as others or certain grades are based more on one expectation than another. The Communication of Learning allows for this to happen with greater ease than reporting in other grades, but I think that we all need to be more forgiving of ourselves and others in pandemic times.

We are all doing the best that we can, and while I do believe that there’s always more learning to do, I also think that it’s valuable to embrace and own these words given our current reality. How do you plan on making report cards and/or Communications of Learning work in the time of a COVID shutdown? Crowdsourcing ideas could be fantastic as June — and reporting season — quickly approaches! Good luck to all educators as the end nears. We’ve got this!