Face 2 Face Sessions

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One of my goals for this year was focused around student involvement, engagement, and participation in all types of learning environments.

At the beginning of the year, the focus was more on the virtual learners in our hybrid model and ensuring their voices were being heard in a lesson. One strategy I used was an exit ticket where I had students answer 3 quick questions:
1. What did you learn today?
2. What questions do you have?
3. Do you need extra help?

These were quite useful as I was able to more quickly connect with students that needed support in learning the lesson. I was also able to clarify any questions in the following lesson if there were misunderstandings with the content.

As we then switched to fully remote learning, my focus switched slightly to balancing silence with student input. Now that everyone was remote, I sometimes found myself asking questions and getting no responses. The silence was intimidating at the beginning. How long should I wait for any response? How long do I wait before asking the question in a different way? Do I ask a completely different question?

So my work for the later part of the year has been on getting student input during the lesson and being mindful of the questions I ask. Having had the chance to work with a teaching intern, I was able to observe her try a few different strategies and have the chance to debrief what worked, what could change, etc.

We tried using the chat feature in Google Meets to get students to give answers. This is challenging in a math classroom as the chat works best for word answers and not math equations.

We tried a randomized wheel to randomly select students to answer a question. We made sure that the questions we asked were mostly based around past knowledge and not new content so that whoever was selected would be successful in answering. The surprising outcome to this was that when the wheel was not used, more students volunteered answers in that lesson.

I've tried a quick "show me thumbs up, thumbs sideways, thumbs down" to gauge understanding of the material. This is a good way to quickly get input and then follow up, if needed with students who may need further support.

These were just a few of the quick things we tried and could adapt to any class. I am still working on finding other ways to collect input from students in a virtual learning environment. As with many other moments in teaching, there is always something else to try...

@elee @hjepson @mmoore @acampbellrogers @tfaucher
@jfroggett @mrand @vsanto @beaton @dlumsden

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One positive aspect of this new learning environment has been giving myself the opportunity to try new things. In past years, I'll admit I could easily get caught up in making sure I taught every single criteria in the curriculum. I wanted to make sure that I set my students up for success in the next course they took. I would often attend professional development conferences and come back to school with great ideas but they would quickly get brushed aside in lieu of the importance of curriculum.

This school year started with being asked to do a curriculum deep dive - identify what was most important in your course and what did you want to linger once your course was completed. In working through this process, the idea of slowing down in the classroom came about. I know it sounds obvious but focusing on deepening understanding of the concepts rather than covering as much as possible was a shift in my practice.

Now along with this shift in the pace of learning, I was also mindful of making sure each student's voice was heard regardless of where they were learning. In particular, I wanted each student to feel confident or given a platform to ask questions whether they were in person or learning remotely that day.

So with that in mind, a few things I've tried thus far have been in terms of exit tickets.

In a Google Form, I started by asking three quick questions:
- what did you learn today?
- what question do you have about today's lesson?
- do you further support in learning this content?

In doing this, not only did I get to see where the students are in their learning but I was also able to guide my next steps. It was quick for students to fill out and they appreciated when I acknowledged their questions in the following class. The bigger take away was this then moved to students asking during the lesson instead of waiting to fill out the form.

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Using VNPS (vertical non-permanent surfaces) in my classroom has greatly changed student learning. No longer is the teacher the only holder of knowledge, students have more opportunities to learn from each other and share their knowledge with their peers.

Students also enjoy the problem solving using VNPS. When I interviewed 6 students this week, they all agreed that it was a great opportunity and worked well with their learning style. Usually the work at the VNPS has been either re-inforcement of a skill or review for an upcoming assessment. Students like the large work space, the ability to erase, if needed, and the opportunity to see a variety of solutions to a problem.

However, in my teaching brain, I feel like there is something missing to this work. After chatting with students and colleagues this week, I realize that part of my problem is that I can't really vocalize what I think is missing. Some things that I feel need thought are

  • how do I keep a record of the work that is done on the boards? Some students take photos for their own learning but I don't have a running log of the work that is being done.
  • how do students track their progress in acquiring skills while working at the board? If a student gets stuck and asks a peer for help, they may get the correct answer on the board but if the same issue arises in their homework, how do they know what to do if the work has been erased from the board?
  • how do students (or do they need to) reflect on their work at the boards? I feel there should be some individual follow up on how student learning of a skill has changed as a result of the problem solving at the boards.
  • how does the teacher provide more formal feedback to students about their learning of the key skills? Currently, the teacher walks around the room and provides on the spot feedback but how could this feedback be provided in a format that is more permanent?

So that's where my journey of the year will begin. Hopefully the next F2F session will give me a bit more clarity as to how to "solve" or a plan to follow to address at least one of these wonderings.

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Today was the first Face to Face meeting of this year's Cohort 21 and I'm so excited. The energy from the educators that surrounded me was amazing! I'm so looking forward to this journey this year and thrilled to be part of this group.

I'm not new to blogging. I created my first blog 2 years ago and used the opportunity to reflect on my teaching practice and things that I have tried in my classroom over the last few years.

I'm a bit more nervous about my Cohort 21 blog. I felt it was easy to blog before not knowing who was reading my post. Now that I've met the incredible educators that are part of this journey with me and know they will be reading my posts, I feel there is more at stake. But instead of worrying about writing the perfect blog post, I need to remember that this is an amazing opportunity to get support, input and opinions from this unique group of educators.

So thanks for a great first day @nblair, @ljensen, @mmoore, and @mbrims. Can't wait to see what is to come this year!

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c21_logo_mediumWelcome to Cohort 21. This is the first post on your new blog. This journal is an integral part of your Cohort 21 experience. Here you will reflect, share and collaborate as you move through the C21 learning cycle towards your action plan.

Cohort 21 is a unique professional development opportunity open to CIS Ontario teachers and school leaders who are seeking to explore  what it means to a teacher in the 21st century.