Redefining “Teachers”

Explaining Glogster To The Grade 8 Class

I know that my students usually still see the adults in the school as the only “teachers” there. It’s hard to make a change. Way back in the summer, I read various blog posts by George Couros (@gcouros) and Shawn Ram (@sram_socrates), and both of them showed me the value in giving students the chance to lead. This year, more than any other year, I’ve tried to make a change in my teaching style, and I’ve tried to make the class a real “community of learners.”

Now the students are the ones that review the literacy and math centres each day, they teach each other how to use new tools in the classroom exploring the tool on their own and sharing with each other what they’ve learned — and they push my thinking by coming up with new and creative ways to share their learning with the class, with the school, and with the world. I’m so proud of them!

On Friday though, I think that my students really started to see themselves as “teachers.” On Thursday night, there was an email in our Memos To All Staff section from a Grade 8 teacher at the school. She wanted to teach her students how to use Glogster on Friday, but this tool was still new to her, and she asked for some help. I wrote her back and said that my students have used Glogster a lot, and they’d love the opportunity to assist her. This teacher immediately jumped at the offer, and we arranged for her Grade 8 class to come down to our classroom after phys-ed on Friday morning. My students would use the SMART Board to “teach” her class.

Since this was a last minute plan, I never got the opportunity to tell my students about it until minutes before they were going to “teach.” When I met them in the hallway after gym and filled them in on the plan, one student said, “How can we teach the Grade 8’s? We’re only Grade 1’s and 2’s.” Before I could even reply, one of our amazing phys-ed teachers, Mr. Baillie (@coachbaillie) jumped in with, “Age doesn’t matter. You know how to use this tool, and the Grade 8’s don’t. You just need to show them what you know.” Thanks Mr. Baillie! My students really took to heart the power of your words.

When we got back to class, the students took turns showing the Grade 8’s how to create a glog, add text to a glog, rotate and resize objects on a glog, and save their finished work. Our principal even joined the Grade 8 class for this demonstration, and despite the number of people in the classroom, my students were amazing. They were teachers!

I think that we’re going to try to do some more Glogster lessons with the Grade 8’s, and I look forward to having the students plan exactly what they’re going to say and do. Then I won’t need to even need to interrupt with follow-up questions, as the students will really be in charge. They can help the Grade 8’s see the value of this tool, not just as a “tool,” but as a real “tool for learning.” I’m so excited about the possibilities!

For all of you that have given students the opportunity to “lead,” how did it go? I hope that we can all share our experiences here!


30 thoughts on “Redefining “Teachers”

  1. Thanks George! Honestly, if it wasn’t for you and teachers like, Shawn, I wouldn’t be at this point this year. You really showed me the value in developing leadership skills in students and building community too. I can’t thank you enough!


  2. Great story Aviva! Last summer, I taught at an enrichment camp for kids at WLU. My program was called Technology Rocks and my ‘campers’, ages 8 – 13, explored all kinds of Web 2.0 tools throughout the week. We all had a blast! There was a group of teachers in a room down the hall who were taking the AQ course, Writing Part 1, who often peeked in to ask about the cool things we were doing in our room. So, one afternoon, their teacher and I arranged that my campers would be ‘teachers’ to the teachers and show them their websites, blogs, glogs, voicethreads, vokis, Scratch projects, Frames4 animations, google docs and so on! They were nervous to start for the same reason your little ones expressed, “How can we teach teachers?”, but in the end, it was a great afternoon of teaching and learning for all! I agree this is a model we should use whenever we can!

  3. What a nice story, Aviva. I wonder what the response would have been had the students known in advance and had the nervousness of having to plan! It’s a great testament to the enthusiastic young learners who I’m sure didn’t even think to ask “what’s it worth?”

    • Thanks for the comment, Doug! That’s a very interesting point. I thought that the students might be even better teachers had they known in advance and could plan more of what they were going to say, but maybe they’d be even more nervous, and hence, not as good. Hmmm … now you have me thinking!

      I will definitely agree that they were enthusiastic learners, and not one of them asked, “What’s it worth?” That I love!


  4. I love how you share how things go in your class and also invite discussion. The ideal blog post style, right here!
    I also think the comments of your phys-ed teacher were so powerful. When their “regular” teacher tells them things like that, it’s one thing, but for someone else to show confidence in their abilities and give them words of wisdom is another.
    After we had a workshop for the entire staff on spreading the 3-part lesson beyond math congress, SMART Board interactive white board use and differentiated learning, one of the classroom teachers I work with decided she wanted to try one of the tasks mentioned at the session. We asked the kids in pairs to explore a tool on the SMART Board and teach us (and the rest of the class) some of the features of that tool. It took a while for each group to share their findings (it ended up taking more than one period) and some were a little scattered in their descriptions, but many showed us things we had either forgotten or did not know how to do – such as making shades for individual cells in a table.

  5. Thanks for your comment! I’m so glad that you enjoyed the post, and I agree with you about Mr. Baillie’s comments too. I think that having these comments come from him meant far more than they ever would coming from me. I can’t thank him enough for this!

    I love the example that you shared here too. What a great opportunity for the students! I find that with more opportunities for students to share and teach, the better that they become. As a teacher, I find the same thing is true for me too!:)


  6. Wow, Aviva! What an amazing story! A great experience to empower your young students and have them share their learning with others!! Thank you for sharing in an inspiring post! Anything is possible with knowledge and a chance to lead!

  7. What an amazing story! Thank you for sharing : ) It is wonderful what children are capable of when we are willing to give them the opportunity!

  8. What an inspiring story! My grade threes love it when they can help out with technology! I will definitely need to plan a teaching event for them. They will love it! This is truely leadership in the making.
    Thanks again for the inspiration!

  9. Aviva,
    You empower your kids to do great things and they do. We have a third grader who emailed all of his classmates Thursday night telling them of the impending Tsunami. He did it because he knew he could and it was important for him to do so. You are an inspiration to us all.

  10. Wow JoAnn! Thanks for the very kind words and for sharing the incredible story too. You inspire me so much, and I’m so glad to have you as part of my PLN!


  11. What a great post! I too have aspired to develop an authentic community of learners. It takes purposeful planning but is so worth it. Students learn to rely on one another more than the teacher. They learn to be independent and learn to brainstorm ideas to benefit themselves. Recently I gave the students a list of famous people and places studied in grade three. They chose from the list, or could chose a name or place off of the list w/ approval. They were to research their topic and present using prezi, ppt, or glogster. Each child or set of partners also needed to create a google form ‘quiz’ for their audience. We began the presentations this week and I was blown. away.!!!! They are amazing – and when we had questions at the end my students asked amazingingly smart questions and the ‘teacher’s new the answers!!! They are fully capable of being self directed learners. I’m excited to continue this approach to being the facilitator of learning…not a teacher!!!! Thanks for sharing!

  12. Wow! Thank you Beverly for sharing this amazing story. It truly is incredible what students can do when we give them the chance to do so. You’ve proved that here.


  13. I LOVE it! Glogster Edu is an excellent tool and how amazing to have the 1st and 2nd graders teach the 8th graders. My students teach each other within the classroom, but what a wonderful idea to expand to it other levels. It seems like our lower elementary students have taken off with the use of technology, and your example would be a perfect way to involve many of the upper graders. We have a connected elementary, middle, and high school, giving many opportunities to try this.
    Hurray for supportive teachers at your school too!
    Thanks for sharing and inspiring.

    • Thanks for your comment! I hope you do try out something like this at your school, and please share how it goes too. It sounds like your students would love this!


  14. I’ve found that the more I can remove myself from the equation the happier the students are. This is especially true for middle schoolers and high schoolers.
    The biggest learning for me so far has been that it actually takes some structuring and strategy on the teacher’s part to get students to the point where they feel empowered enough to fuel their own learning. It was a difficult transition for the kids to go from having me as their enthusiastic entertainer to me as their enthusiastic cheerleader. It meant they actually had to do something.

    • Thanks for your comment, Katie! I agree with you too. It was a transition for my students to take more control over their learning, but they’re so happy now that they have this control, and they’re learning so much too.


  15. Wow! Not only do your students experience collaboration, but what a wonderful boost to self esteem and self confidence, to realize their abilities are not limited by age!

  16. Thanks for the comment, Ruth! I think it’s great for the students to realize that they are not limited by their age. They were all proud of themselves on Friday, and I’m proud of them too.


  17. What an awesome post, Aviva! What a thrill that must have been for your students. My Grade 3 kids were paired up with a Grade 7 class on Friday for our first ever, school wide “Snuggle Up and Read”. (See our blog for details. A parent and some kids told me in the morning that some of my kids were nervous about working with the Grade 7 kids. I was chatting with their teacher in the morning and he said he was interested in starting a blog. On the spur of the moment I suggested that my kids teach his kids about how to write a good comment and post (we created success criteria for both). I think that just knowing that they would later be “teaching” these big teenagers made them approach the situation with a little more confidence. I hadn’t thought about that until just now!

    • Thanks for the comment, Marie! I love what you did to help your students feel more comfortable working with the Grade 7’s and develop some leadership skills at the same time too. Glad this blog post encouraged you to share!


  18. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful story, Aviva. I love to work in K-9 (Alberta) schools where there are so many opportunities for students to become buddies and make connections with students from other grades. I did, however, assume that the ‘leaders’ would be the older students. I will now rethink this and imagine more possibilities in the future. Your students are so fortunate to have you as you all enjoy this journey together 🙂

    • Thanks for the comment, Cathy, and all of the very kind words as well. I usually find that the older students lead the younger ones too. It was nice to see the opposite happening.


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