Sitting Back, Listening, And Watching

My teaching has changed a lot this year, and without a doubt, that’s thanks to my Twitter PLN. You really have made me a better teacher! I noticed this most of all as I watched my class yesterday.

We are working on a media literacy project where the students have designed their own apps, and they are going to advertise these apps too. Angie Harrison (@techieang) and her students inspired us to try this out when they shared about their own app making experiences. Over the past couple of weeks, my students have been hard at work creating an app for literacy or math, designing a logo, and deciding on the capabilities of this app too. Yesterday was the big day: the students got to paint their apps. They were so excited!

We Skyped with Angie’s class on Wednesday, and they offered us some words of advice:

1) A simpler design is better for painting.

2) Use a thin brush.

3) Outline the details in black paint.

4) Brighter colours work better.

5) Follow the plan. We are not painting pictures here; we are painting apps. Do not get distracted by the bright colours. Remember to paint the apps.

We reviewed these recommendations before the painting began. Thanks to a wonderful Grade 4 teacher at the school that saves all of his Coke Zero cans for me, I was able to have 56 cans of paint ready for our painting extravaganza. The only problem that I had was, what were the students going to do once they finished painting?

Paint Cans Are Ready

We are involved in this Flat Tiger Project thanks to @TeachingMcD, so I thought that the students could work in partners to complete a presentation on where they could take Flat Tiger on his visit to Ancaster. I figured that if I introduced this activity before the painting, the students could just go back to it once they were done. While I had an initial plan in mind, things started to change during my discussion with the students. Many wanted to use GoogleDocs for this presentation, but others really wanted to use paper and markers instead. A student suggested taking photographs and turning these “paper slides” into a presentation afterwards, and I thought that this was a great idea! Everyone was off working then: some in partners and some in small groups.

Working On The Flat Tiger Project

After the nutrition break, we then got started on the painting. That’s when it got interesting. Students created their own groups to paint, then they finished, and they were working everywhere: some were on the floor typing, some were in the pod on the desktop computers, some were at the tables drawing and writing, and some were huddled over in the buddy reading area creating their slides together. The room was buzzing, every student was on task, and every student was having fun too!

Painting Apps

Drawing Slides And Taking Photographs Of Them

The best part is that I could just sit back and watch the learning happen. It wasn’t about me: the students were helping each other and problem-solving together. They were really in charge of their own learning.

Helping Each Other

Last year, I would never have done this. I still needed to be in charge. I always loved having students work in groups, and I still do, but group work for me always used to be here’s the activity, here’s the tool you’re going to use, and here’s what I want the final product to look like. Now it’s here’s an activity overview, here’s a possible tool to use, be creative, show your thinking, and show me the best that you can do. I like the new “me” better, and I think that my students do too!

Thank you all for helping to create this new “me.” How has your thinking changed over the year? Where do you see yourself going from here? I would love to hear what you have to say!


11 thoughts on “Sitting Back, Listening, And Watching

  1. This is an incredible reflection! It’s incredible that you identified the shift in your thinking and noticed the results. I hope more teachers “let go” and provide opportunities for students to do authentic problem solving. We need to provide rich tasks and a variety of tools and then use prompts that enable the students to problem solve and discover. This is what I think inquiry needs to look like in our primary classrooms. Congratulations on moving into the next phase of your teaching. Your students are so lucky to have a risk taking educator who reflects every day and refines her practice. I feel so fortunate to have been part of this learning opportunity with you. Now you have me thinking about how I can provide more opportunities for authentic inquiry in my class.

  2. Wow! Thanks Angie! I really couldn’t have done this without you. You’re definitely one of the people in my PLN that have shown me the real benefit of “letting go.” As hard as it was for me to get to this point, I’m glad that I did, and I can’t wait to see where this takes me next! I’m excited to see where your thinking takes you too. I love the ideas that you share!


  3. You are becoming a real master at this trailblazing, Aviva. Reaching that magical ‘letting go’ point is something many teachers aspire to for their entire teaching careers. Just think of the possibilities now! Way to go!!

    • Thanks Cyndie! I definitely don’t feel like a trailblazer though. So many people here inspire me to really try new things, and I’m so glad that I do. I know that my students benefit.

      Thanks for being part of that inspiration!

  4. Thank you for sharing this! It is so nice to see your ideas in action and it inspires me to “let go” more and increase authentic student learning!
    As for me, I have made major shifts in how I do things in the class and I hope to continue reflecting and challenging myself and my students.
    Thanks for sharing & inspiring!

    • Thanks Crystal! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Others encouraged me to make this shift too, and I’m glad that you’re making it as well. I hope that you share how it goes!


  5. Hello! Love the app project. I’d like to do something like that with my students (grade 4). I love the reflecting on “letting go” I’ve only been on twitter for a few weeks but have had the pleasure of reading many blogs, articles etc. I too have been inspired to let go. Baby steps, started with an art project. Each student is designing his/her own art project. Something in art they’ve always wanted to learn about, be better at etc. They did research and wrote proposals. Reflecting along the way.The students are really enjoying themselves. I have students learning to draw dragons, students making flip books, animation etc. Letting go is hard, but I even with this little project, I’m really seeing the benefits.

    • This sounds like a fantastic art project! I’m so glad that you’re giving this a try too. Glad that you like the app project too. Angie was the one that inspired me to give this a try. I hope that you checked out her link (included in my post). She shares a fantastic video here of the process that she used.

      Thanks for your comment!

  6. Aviva,
    I always tolds parents and teachers that children learn more from each other than they do from us. I guess I always was ahead of my time and I was lucky my parents believed in me. We need to trust children and in allowing them to move forward we are then able to observe and draw conclusions that are so necessary.
    I wish I could be the fly on the wall…

    • I love that too, JoAnn, and I’m glad that your classroom parents believed in you as well. Thanks for teaching me the value in “letting go” too.

      Thank you for your comment!

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