Letting The Students Shine

Student Taking A Leadership Role To Review Centres & Explain Learning

This week, my students had some amazing opportunities to share their learning with others. On Wednesday, November 24th, the Early Years Consultant for the Board came into the classroom to see how the students are using technology as a learning tool. There are a number of full-day, everyday Kindergarten classes in our Board, and for next year, some of these classes will also be involved in a special “technology pilot program.” I don’t know all of the details of this program yet, but the Consultant was looking to see what kinds of resources they should look at purchasing and how these tools can be used too. While this Consultant was in the classroom, she spent a lot of time talking to these students, and boy did they have a lot to share! They explained how to use all of the different technology tools in the classroom (from the computers, to the SMART Board, to the iPod Touches, to the Palm Treos, to the iPod Nanos, to the Livescribe Pen), and they really showed how these tools can be used to help them learn. These students were engaged in meaningful activities, and they were working independently as well as helping each other along the way. What I loved though is that this visit was not about me: I could certainly share my thoughts on these tools, and I did, but best of all, the students could take the leadership role here. I was thrilled to watch my “little leaders” shine.

Then on Thursday, November 25th, two of my students got an amazing opportunity thanks to my incredible principal: she asked these two Grade 2 students to share what they are doing in the classroom with eight visiting principals and a superintendent. These two students went up to the meeting room on their own, and they basically underwent a “mock Student Led Conference” with these administrators. The focus of this Student Led Conference though was on technology and how the students used the technology in the classroom to help their learning. They showed off their blog posts, the Blogger’s Cafe (on the iPod Touches), and even different websites that they use in the classroom too. These students told me that they had to answer some “hard questions,” but that they did, and they were so proud of what they were able to do on their own. One of the students came back from the meeting and said, “I thought that there were only two principals there, and then I turned around, and there were hundreds.” šŸ™‚ She added though, “Miss Dunsiger, this was a bit stressful, but it was a lot of fun too! They didn’t even know how to use everything that I showed them. I taught them something new.” Wow! This is something that these two Grade 2 students will remember for a long time to come! A special thank you to my principal and all of the other visiting administrators too: you gave my “little leaders” a chance to shine.

This week was certainly full of some student success stories, and I would love to hear about your student success stories too! I think it’s important that we all celebrate the amazing things our students can do!


Letting Students Lead: The Benefit Of Student Led Conferences

When I first heard about Student Led Conferences, I had my doubts. My students are six and seven years old, and I really didn’t think that they were ready to lead a discussion on their learning. That being said, I was willing to giveĀ Student Led ConferencesĀ a try, and I even started blogging about this topic too. My first blog post resulted in some wonderful comments, where I really started to see this conference format in a whole new light. I then had the benefit of sharing information with @royanlee, @techieang, and @kristenwray, who all gave me many new things to consider. Over the last month, I developed a format that worked for me.

Creating a plan though is very different than carrying it out, and I was worried about what would happen. Even though we practiced a lot, would the students be willing to talk with their parents in the room? Would they really be the leaders that I knew they could be? I shouldn’t have been concerned. The students were fantastic! All of them discussed their progress with ease, and showed their parents what they were learning in the classroom and the tools they were using to help them learn. I was so proud of all of them!

Back in the summer, I had many discussions on Twitter with @gcouros and @sram_socrates about shared leadership and giving the students the opportunity to lead. Thanks to George and Shawn, I have changed my teaching practices a lot this year, and for the better too. The students really are in control of their own learning, and I know that the skills that they are developing will help them as they progress throughout the grades. Seeing this change in my students is one thing, but seeing the parents reflect on this change as they offer feedback on this conference format, is another. Wow! Reading this “wall of feedback” really showed me the true benefit of Student Led Conferences: students taking ownership for their learning.

Having used this format now, I know that I will want all of my future conferences to involve the most important person in the classroom: the student. For those of you that have used this conference format before, I would love to hear your thoughts on it too.


Star Struck: My Reflections On #ecoo2010

Yesterday, I had the amazing opportunity to attend ECOO, and even be involved in two presentations as well. It was the most incredible day, and I don’t know how to take all of that and put it into a blog post here. For over a year, I’ve been communicating online through Twitter with numerous outstanding educators. I learn so much from my PLN, and without a doubt, all of these educators have made me a better teacher.

Yesterday was special though, because yesterday, I got the opportunity to meet so many of them. I almost felt “star struck.” These are the people that have inspired me, and here I was sitting with them at breakfast, conversing with them after the presentations, and even presenting alongside them.

It all hit me when I walked into the Sheraton Parkway North Hotel, and was almost immediately greeted by @mkgoindi. Before yesterday, she was just a face on her Twitter page, but yesterday, she was real. Wow! Then I go to register, and I see @zbpipe, @carolgau, @brendasherry, and @lchupa shortly after. I follow many of them to the first presentation on the Livescribe Pen, and then meet @gill_ville and @lisaneale while I’m there.

I leave this presentation, and bump into @thecleversheep in the hallway, and then move onto @kentmanning‘s presentation. There I receive such a warm welcome from such an amazing person! It’s like we knew each other, and yet, we never met before. Absolutely amazing!

As the day continues, I get to meet so many other terrific educators, including @cgu92, @cyndiejacobs, @snbeach, @colinjagoe, @jaccalder, @misterpuley, @mrjarbenne, @aforgrave, @peterskillen, @kimmcgill, @danikabarker, @msjweir, @mswu, and @cakewley. I even get to present alongside some of them, and I’m still awed by the opportunity.

When driving home last night with @mrjarbenne and @misterpuley, I realized though what this day was really about: it was about connections. From the connections that I made inside the hotel to the ones that I continued making on the way out the door, every moment was a memorable one. Let me end by saying, thank you for a great day!


Click here for great photographs from ECOO.

Never Miss The Chance …

Today was one of the most difficult days I’ve had in a long time. I had to say “goodbye” to an amazing person: my great-aunt, Eleanor (“Joey”) Dunmore. I met Joey about 20 years ago when my mom and step-dad got married, and for over 20 years, this incredible individual has struggled on and off with cancer. No matter what she was going through though, Joey was always smiling. Even when she was sick and in pain, she forever remained positive and happy. Joey was a wife, a mother, a grandmother, an aunt, a friend, and a teacher … she was many things to many people and loved by all of them!

As I was waiting for the memorial service to start this afternoon, I looked around the church, and I was in awe of the number of people there. From family and friends to her dental hygienist and cleaning lady, hundreds of people came to say goodbye to Joey. Sitting in this church today, it really felt like this one person touched the world.

Today I started to think: I knew that Joey was sick, and at the end, before it happened, I knew that she was going to pass away too. School was busy though, and life was chaotic, and I thought that I still had time to see her first. I was wrong though. Even now, I’m trying to think of the last time that I saw her, and the last thing that I said to her too. Did I tell Joey that I love her? I hope that I did, and I know that from now on, I will never miss the opportunity to tell those close to me how I feel about them.

Joey, I love you and I miss you. This blog postĀ is for you!

Aunt Joey: Loved And Missed

Age Isn’t A Factor


A Grade 1 And A Grade 2 Student Hard At Work On Writing Their Storybird Together

Yes, I teach young students. As Grade 1 and 2 students, these children are just learning how to read and write. They have only been in school for three or four years, and they are continuing to learn a lot about school routines and expectations. My Grade 1’s are coming to school for the first time for a full day, every day, and this can be an adjustment too. Regardless of age, what these students can do is truly amazing!Ā 

Early this week, I showed my students how to create a Storybird for a special math centre activity. When I pulled up the Storybird website, my students got so excited. Many of the Grade 2 studentsĀ remembered writing Storybirds last year, and they couldn’t wait to get started. I thought that it would be fun for a special Friday Journal activity. Today, my Grade 2 students taught my Grade 1 students how to create a Storybird.Ā 

I was just thrilled! We’ve been working on story elements for a while now, and the students used what they knew about story elements to create real “stories.” Each story had characters, a problem, and a solution. I couldn’t believe that last year, I didn’t even attempt Storybird until the end of the year, and here we are, just months into school this year, and my Grade 1 and 2 students are already creating digital storybooks together. Wow!Ā (Finished Storybirds can be found here.)

Today showed me what real collaboration and meaningful writing looks like. It proved to me that age isn’t a factor: regardless of age, if we set high expectations for our students and support them as they achieve these expectations, they all WILL achieve them. Watching what was happening in my classroom this morning was an incredible experience for me as a teacher, and I’m glad that I can share this experience with you too! Please share your “wow moments” here too because I was definitely “wowed” today.Ā