Dear Students: I Understand!

Dear Students,

Today, I get it! Today I understand why sometimes it’s hard to focus. It’s not your fault. You are trying to listen. You are trying to pay attention. You are trying to take it all in … but maybe that’s more difficult than I once thought.

Today you shared your Passion Projects with four classes of students. The Grade 6’s were writing EQAO at the time, and you wanted to stay quiet for them. None of you shared your work in the pod. We kept the doors closed to keep the noise in … but boy was there a lot of noise!

Between those of you speaking as you shared your work, the visiting students that asked questions, and the numerous students wandering around, the noise never stopped. Two groups were playing music: one student was playing a recorder song and one student was playing the guitar. Then there were the three videos people showed, the chairs that were constantly moving around, and the sound of lots of little feet as students walked from display to display. I didn’t realize that feet could be so loud.

Let’s not forget about all of the visuals in the room too. There were the display boards, the art pieces, the PowerPoints, and the movies. There were the baked goods, the hamster (in the maze), the volcano, and even the tsunami in a fish tank. Walls were covered in posters, and desks were full of objects. There were lots of bright colours and large visuals.


Students Sharing Their Passion Projects

There were also the lights on, the windows (and blinds/bulletin boards) open, the computer screens a-glow, and many iPods and iPads bright with colour as you showed your various media texts. I can actually feel my pulse racing as I write this letter … let alone remember what it was like to experience everything.

I couldn’t take the noise. I couldn’t focus enough to ask questions. I couldn’t pay attention when you were talking to me. I actually found myself standing at the door, watching the clock, and waiting until the visits were over. For the first time ever, I raced downstairs at the bell, sat alone on the sofas in the staffroom, took a deep breath (or many deep breaths), and gave myself the self-regulation lunch that I needed.

I understand Stuart Shanker‘s book even more now. I see the value in some empty walls and some quiet areas in the classroom. I think about the many anchor charts that I hang around the room — and yes you use them — but do I hang too many? How can I balance the needs for visuals and calmness? How do I become even more aware of those of you that would become just as overwhelmed as I felt today?

Yes, I know that you had fun today. I know that you enjoyed sharing your work with others, and I know that you had a lot to say. From our conversations this afternoon, I know that many of you learned new things. But for those of you that found it hard to focus, for those of you that found it hard to listen, and for those of you that found it hard to learn, I apologize. Next time, we’ll spread out the displays. Next time, we’ll try to control the noise. Next time, we’ll take into account all learning needs and all learning styles. Next time, we’ll make things better!

Yours Sincerely,

Miss Dunsiger


10 thoughts on “Dear Students: I Understand!

  1. Yes! I have been concerned with this issue as well. I am a bit of a minimalist at home when it comes to room decor. I like clean lines and I do not deal well with clutter. Yet as I look around my classroom I see a full-to-the-brim word wall, clothes lines with anchor charts hanging from them, and Math and Reading I Can … statements. My motto for next year: More is not always better! I plan to think carefully about each paper, chart, or poster that is placed on classroom walls. Even if a chart is created together as a class or if a poster is student made, I want us (teachers and students) to carefully reflect and think if that item would help learning or distract from learning.
    You made a good point with noise distractions as well. It has me thinking about a way to set up a quiet work area within the classroom. Perhaps not easy in a room full of first graders, but I think it would be beneficial.
    I love that you are constantly reflecting, and encouraging your blog readers to reflect and improve practice as well. Tomorrow is my last day of the school year, but you have me thinking of ways to improve my classroom set-up for next year.

    • Thanks Julie! Today made me realize just how distracting visuals and noise can be for students, and made me think about ways to minimize these distractions. I’m going back to Grade 1 next year as well, and I’m wondering about a quiet area as well. Maybe some shelving would help create this area. Maybe just moving the area away from the door would help. I need to think about this more, but would love to hear any ideas that you come up with as well.

      I’m also wondering if some anchor charts could go in duotangs for students to access instead of on the wall. Maybe stacking some of the charts would also help. Thoughts?

      Thanks again! Have a wonderful summer!

  2. I think the day was fun. I didn’t really care or notice the noise.

    And, WOW, that was long! It was very descriptive too. I will say the day was fine and I didn’t even notice the noise. Our classroom was full.

    I’d also like to say that you didn’t need to apologize as I don’t think it’s your fault. The day was crazy and noisy and all the other things you said about it. You always help me learn.

    • Thanks for your reply, Mark! I’m glad to hear that you had fun today, and that you didn’t even notice the noise. I wonder what other students in the class thought. I’m going to need to ask people tomorrow. If they did find it hard to focus — as I did — what would you suggest? How could we make things easier for everyone?

      What did you learn today? What project would you like to find out more about? Maybe we can share some more learning with each other tomorrow.

      Have a great night! I loved hearing your thoughts from today, and I’m really glad that I can always help you learn!
      Miss Dunsiger

  3. Reading your comment about the anchor charts reminded me of an idea I’ve seen before where teachers take photos of anchor charts and store them in binders that are always available to students. Sounds like lots of learning by all today!

    • Thanks Julia! I love this idea. I did something similar with some graphic organizers this year, and it seemed to work well. I’ll definitely be re-looking at this idea for next year!


  4. Hi Aviva,

    Sorry I didn’t reply till now. This has been an issue for myself too. I really try to make sure that what I put up is what the kids want and will make use of it. I have really been learning a lot about Bansho and how to use it effectively here is a link:

    I also have been really impressed with Covey and the seven habits. It has helped my students to be more organized and to think planning and sorting through information to be more successful.

    Inquiry and sharing is always messy but with proper help and planning it can be structured for success. Hope that helps.

    • Thanks Jonathan! This helps a lot. I’ve heard a lot about Bansho and would love to find out more. The link that you posted here isn’t working for some reason. If you’re able to share the resources in another way, that would be great!

      It’s neat to hear how others feel about this topic and how they make a busy classroom work for themselves and their students!

      • The bansho has been a really cool way to represent student work. When I first learned about it, it was more about showing students work and mapping out strategies but now it is more organized. It’s purposeful showing with less strategies, more choice from the teacher with also kore reflection. Will fix the link in the morning so sorry.

        • No worries at all! Thank you so much, Jonathan! Right now, I do more of a Math Congress, but I think that the Bansho is slightly different. I’d love to read more about it.


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