Month: January 2014

And Action: My next amazing steps

My immediate next steps:
– Reading through all of the resources supplied by Garth on personalized learning.
– Research different examples of ‘redefined’ projects in English.
– Post plan for personalized novel study (as it is unveiled to the class) for feedback (from Cohortees and students)
– Speak to my mentors about presenting options / opportunties

Sharing my findings:
I would like to present the possibilities for redefined projects to both my English department and my Middle School team.
– In the spirit of personalized learning, it would be amazing to design a personalized workshop / lunch and learn / immersion experience for fellow teachers (at a PD day, English department meeting, Investigations and Expressions day?) on how a personalized learning experience could take shape in an English class.
– I would like to investigate writing about this experience for an outside publications (Educational Leadership? Edutopia? Our Kids?)

– What findings / aha moments / insights would be most beneficial to share with fellow teachers?
– How could I structure these findings with a personalized pedagogy?
– What are some misconceptions that teachers / students have about personalized learning that could be dispelled with this sharing?

Connected: (self-Aware + digitally literate)

A bit of a disclaimer: I had an idea of posting her some initial musings about what directions this novel study  was going to go in; however, I have yet to unveil this complete plan to my students (it is certainly in draft form) and I have recently discovered (much to my delight) that a few of my students have stumbled upon my blog (hi girls)! I love that a few of the Grade 7 girls are reading this and are peeking in to see what their teacher is writing about, but I also don’t want to reveal things too soon. Or should I just put some initial thoughts up and allow these curious young people to also offer their suggestions (I mean, if they are going to the trouble of reading this, maybe it would be great to have them also share their perspectives). Girls? What do you think? Thoughts from the Cohort? Okay, back to the share:

Garth suggested after my last post about audiobooks and I just wanted to riff off that (!) for a moment. My Grade 7 readers are all at varying reading levels, so to help scaffold this challenging text some students have elected (or have been suggested) to read the text along with the audiobook. Some students have also seen the movie over the winter break, which has allowed a good boost in background knowledge and eased their ability to connect emotionally with what they are reading (other English teachers, I’m curious what your take on books made into movies are. Can you stop students from watching the movie? Does it matter? Is it useful? Or do you find it just distracts?). At Klingenstein, one of my favourite lecturers, Dr. Kelley Nicholson Flynn, explained that when  cognitive working memory is freed up, thinking can actually occur. If our brain is bogged down with trying to make sense of the story or decode that weird new word, it is much harder to make meaningful connections with what we are reading.

Support through audiobooks on iTunes may not seem like a truly transformative practice (and maybe it isn’t) but it’s a little drop in the bucket that can amount to great things down the road.

Student Centred: (appropriately challenging + vigorous)

Reading Note: I posted this image in an earlier post, as a framework for how I understand 21st Century Learning: three distinct categories with many different concepts, beliefs, and practices housed in each one. My explanation of the “Pre-Reading” part of “The Book Thief” study relates to the “student centred” section and the “appropriately challenging and vigorous” category. For each post explaining my 21st century novel study, I will start with the section and category, to explain how this study shows this nebulous idea of 21st century learning.  


This book is a big one. I hesitated when considering if we should bother reading such a meaty, hunky tome of a novel. But then I thought, that we should read this book because it is a challenge! It is also one of the best books written for young adults that I can think of. I would much rather dive into an amazing, challenging, and stimulating book that pushes readers past their current skills, than something in the middle of the road. “The Book Thief” can be understood on many levels, so I know the students who need more intellectual rigour will have their work cut out for them. That said, what about my students who find reading a challenge?

For the two weeks leading up to the new year, I selected a few readers to get a head start so they had more time with the text. Some will get the opportunity to read key passages a few times, while others will be able to read it more quickly with an audiobook (for story and plot) and then with the class for the second round for deeper understanding.

I don’t claim any of this to be ground breaking (21st century learning, I would argue really doesn’t need to be revolutionary), but rather there is a purpose and an intentionality that guides planning.

A 21st Century Novel Study

Before teaching Grade 7 English, I was a Grade 6 Literacy teacher. There are (I have come to realize) a great many differences between these two disciplines (but perhaps that is for another post).

Because English is new territory for me, I have just started to have my whole class read the same novel  at the same time. At first, I thought that there was no way I could possibly have a “personalized” reading program with me calling the reading shots and all of my students just following along dutifully (like that ever happens, anyway). But switching into English from Literacy called for different approaches and one of those was having the whole class read the same text together. While we have read one text (the play, “I, Claudia”) together (with moments of success…more on that in another post), “The Book Thief” is really the first reading mountain my class and I have started to scale together.

The following posts are my attempts at documenting a 21st century approach at a whole-class novel study.

Because we have just started this in class (on January 9th and 10th), the next posts to follow will be chronicling my real time successes, struggles, failures, and joys at applying my pillars and attributes of 21st century learning to this unit of study.

Stepping back to move forward

I’m struggling right now with finding that delicate balance between designing my learning experience with my own personal outcomes in mind and outcomes that will benefit the community surrounding me. Let me explain.

At a recent English department meeting, small teams of teachers were looking at various “scope and sequences” of English from grades 7-12. As I am new on the department, I had the ability to choose which team I jumped in on: assessments, texts, discussions / oral tasks, media literacy, and technology were my options. Guess which one I flew to like a moth to a flame?

While sifting through all of the survey data from teachers about how they use technology, I had a delightful “a ha” moment, inspired by my Cohort clan: the SAMR model would be a valuable way to sift all of these uses of technology in our English classes.

Technology Scope and Sequence copy

See the fuller explanation of our scope and sequence.

Not surprisingly, my sifting partner and I quickly noticed that we too (gasp) might be in the “trough of disillusionment”: most of our uses of technology were somewhere in and around the “substitution” or “augmentation” realm.

Enter the struggle: my current action plan is centred around how well my Grade 7 English program measures up to the standards of “21st Century” learning. But I realized through this conversation (and through reading Tim Rollwagen’s blog) that another possibility is to harvest for my department various possibilities for “redefined” English assessments and tasks that leverage technology in creative and innovative ways.

How can I balance my own personal goals / interests with what will clearly benefit my department? Is there a way to combine these two possibilities, without making my brain explode? I think I just need some suggestions or offerings from an outside perspective…this is my electronic SOS!