Have A Plan

I was thrilled that I got to meet and spend the day today with Jonathan So: an amazing Grade 2 teacher from Peel, whom I’ve gotten to know through Twitter way before I got to meet him in person today. This was a phenomenal NTIP (New Teacher Induction Program) learning experience. When I got back to my school at the end of the day today, I was talking to my vice principal, Kristi, about my time in Jonathan’s classroom, and I mentioned that, “I love seeing teachers in action! I learn so much this way.” And it’s true … but with one important addition: You need to know your focus.

Jonathan was great because he asked me initially about this. I said that I really wanted to see different ways to get students to share their thinking in math (a Board and a school focus) and I really wanted to see examples of the use of technology to support critical thinking (one of my own goals). Keeping these goals in mind helped me as I watched Jonathan and interacted with his students. Here are some of my observations, reflections, and new learning from today:

– During Math String Activities (which I’ve started doing more regularly now), have students put their thumb by their chest when they have the correct answer. Then other students do not get intimidated by hands up, and all students have the chance to continue thinking.

– Try hard to never dismiss an answer. Even when a student gave the wrong answer to one of the math problems today, Jonathan asked the student, “how did you get that answer?” He went through the whole thinking process with the student, and used a real world example to help the student come to the correct answer independently. What great learning! (I wish that I remembered to take a photograph of the sign above Jonathan’s desk that highlights the importance of not taking the thinking away from the student.)

– Model the kinds of discussions you want students to have and model (and reinforce) the vocabulary you want them to use. It was great to hear his Grade 2 students discussing decomposition, and really understanding what it was and why it was a beneficial strategy. While students had these rich discussions in both Language and Math today (and seemed to do so naturally), I have no doubt that Jonathan has modelled these conversations all year long. What I saw today, proves that there is tremendous value in good, clear modelling!

– Always push for critical thinking! Even when doing a Daily 5 type of literacy centre rotation today, Jonathan pushed student thinking further by having students writing about, reading about, and discussing important issues. During reading time, he even had students create a vlog of their reading, listen back to what they recorded, and set goals for future reading based on their reflections.  

– Do not forget the importance of a congress (be it in Language or in Math). I loved Jonathan’s strategy today of having students walk around and sign their name on another group’s math problem that they could explain. This made them accountable for their learning, but also allowed him to choose a different group to expand on ideas and teach the class something new.

– Consider the importance of “thinking” in everything. Even as students played math games today, they were expanding on their thinking and discussing strategies. Many of them also did so without teacher direction. If students are immersed in this climate of thinking, it will become natural for them to ask questions, make comments, and continue to push themselves and others more. I saw this in action today!

– Remember to avoid pre-conceived notions. When we were there today, Jonathan suggested that we go next door to see his teaching partner’s literacy centres. She was having her iPad Time. Okay, I’ll admit it: I was reluctant to go! I am a firm believer in the fact that technology should not be an add-on, and that we should always use technology as a learning tool. When Jonathan spoke of an “iPad Time,” I was expecting to just see “game time,” and this is not what I wanted. But I went anyway, and I’m so glad that I did. What Keri Ewart is doing with iPads is absolutely incredible! She is using the apps as a starting point for meaningful reading and writing opportunities, embedded with lots of critical thinking. I even downloaded four new apps on my personal iPad during the visit today: all linked to Bloom’s Taxonomy, Graphic Organizers, and developing reading comprehension skills. I will definitely be using these apps in class!

– Try to always go on these classroom visits with another teacher. I was lucky to go with two others: my mentee (for lack of a better word) from the NTIP Program, and my colleague and friend, Jo-AnnHaving someone else there provided a great opportunity for dialogue on the car ride home. We could figure out ways to use our new learning in the classroom and adapt Jonathan’s and Keri’s ideas for older grades. We’ll also be there to support each other as we start using these new ideas in our classrooms. Support is good!

Thanks Jonathan and Keri for such great learning today! How do you get the most out of classroom visits? How do you go from “collecting new ideas” to “using” them in the classroom? I’d love to hear your thoughts!



4 thoughts on “Have A Plan

  1. Hi Aviva
    Great seeing your day in Mr So’s class. I’ll be following him on Twitter!
    You mentioned iQuestion and Brush with Truth.Wondering what were the other 2 apps?

    • Thanks for the comment, Lucy! I love learning from Jonathan. The apps I downloaded were Tools4Students, Tools4Students2, and ReadNRespond. They all look fantastic! I will definitely be using these in class.


  2. Hey! I just wanted to say that this is a wonderful topic to write about. Teachers learn from teachers, just as students learn from their peers. There are many ways to teach and learn, and communicating with people is the best way to get the most out of whatever you are doing. Another key step to this achievement is to get motivated. Sometimes you just need a little urge to get you back on track. I have a question: when you visited Mr.So’s classroom, did you have your students with you?
    I personally always feel that meeting with new people is hard. When I go to the Gifted center, they urge you to work with other people. But I have to stick with my peers, which I am lucky to have with me. (I have 3 peers with me that I know very well! ). It’s not always easy, but saying ‘hi’ can just be the key.
    Learning and teaching are usually about the ‘key’. Key to success, key to your goals… you just need to crack the code.
    Yusra 🙂
    P.S. Not to bother you, but please take the time to answer my questions from one of your older posts. You said to remind you!

    • Thanks for the comment, Yusra! It’s great to learn new ideas from others, and re-examine some things that I’m already doing. As for taking students along, that I didn’t do (although I’m sure that many of them would have loved to go)! I did go with two teachers though, and talking to them afterwards helped me think even more about the visit and the learning.

      Miss Dunsiger

      P.S. Thanks for the reminder! I sent myself an email, and I’ll reply to those other questions of yours on the weekend.

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