Our Most Valuable Resource

Today was the second day that we got the pleasure of welcoming a group of e-Learning Contacts to our classroom and our school. Last night, I spent a lot of time reflecting on yesterday’s visit and updating my plan for today. I’m pleased to say that my change in plans made today a lot better. It was actually one of our visitors, Anne, that caused me to really stop and think during our activity time.

After we explored some clock stands together …

and listened to our challenge …

I let the students go off and start creating and testing out their stands. While I had pulled together a large group of recyclable materials, a huge box of Lego, and some other various blocks, many students started by grabbing materials off of the shelf that they’ve used most frequently. Anne quickly noted this. She said that even though I had collected these other materials — that in fact, I thought would work better — students went initially for materials that they knew best. The straws were especially popular, as students liked the straw chair that a child built the other day, and they seemed to want to make a clock stand using these same items.

A Video Of This Chair Design

Now though, I had a decision to make. Looking around the classroom, I could see some clock stand designs that looked like they might work, and many that looked like they wouldn’t. Should I stop the building? I’ll admit that I was thinking about it, but instead, I decided to see if the students would identify the problems with their designs on their own.

This is when questioning was essential. I got the students to test out their designs. Even if their structure would hold a clock, I tried to point out some of the faults with the materials by attempting to knock the structure over. I asked the students questions that got them considering what happened, why it happened, and what needed to change to make a more stable structure.

Some students were quickly able to identify the problems and fix them. Some students really needed to engage in a lot of trial and error. Some students built entire stands to realize that there were problems, and had to begin again. While in the end, the stands varied in terms of being aesthetically pleasing, all of the stands, minus one, worked, and this group has a plan of action to update their design tomorrow.

And it’s as I thought about Anne’s initial comment and our activity completion today, that I came to this conclusion: maybe the most valuable “resource” that we have in the 21st century classroom is “time.” 

  • Time to think.
  • Time to create.
  • Time to problem solve.
  • Time to try again.
  • Time to listen.
  • Time to talk.
  • Time to process what we learned.
  • Time to document this learning.

While there are many things that I’ve changed, and continue to change, about our classroom structure, the one thing that I haven’t changed, and won’t change, is the big blocks of time for student learning. I think that when we rush the process, we take control of the learning, and the students are the ones that ultimately lose out.

As the e-Learning Contacts go back and reflect on their visits, I hope that in addition to the discussions on technology and pedagogy, there is also a discussion on the flow of the day. If we want our 21st century learners to be skilled problem solvers, we need to give them the “time” to do so. This is where I think that we can all take a lesson from the Full-Day Kindergarten model. What do you think? How do you give students this gift of “time?” I’d love to hear your thoughts!


5 thoughts on “Our Most Valuable Resource

  1. Time is always a challenge in the classroom, isn’t it? We have gym, music, library periods scheduled right in the middle of a math or language block. I always find it extremely difficult to halt my kid’s learning right in the middle of conversations, exploring, investigating, and questioning. I try to pick up the momentum later, but often it has lost the engagement I had witnessed earlier. Unfortuantely, right now, I feel at the mercy of the timetable. I do find this frustrating but trying to work through this daily.

    • I totally understand what you’re saying, Josie! I must say that this is the first year that I really haven’t struggled with this “time” issue. Most of my preps are Period 4, so I have 3 periods together, and then two at the end of the day. This helps with groups of time. Yes, there’s a nutrition break in between periods 2 and 3, but we try to sum up what we can, and if we need to, leave our work to come back to after the break. The students continue to get better at this! I also have amazing prep coverage teachers that really extend the classroom learning through what they do. One of our phys-ed teachers, even took our Science inquiry on structures, and had the students create structures using their bodies (yoga). It was amazing! I know that time is forever an issue, but grouping periods when possible and working together with prep coverage teachers definitely seems to help with this flow of learning. Giving students enough time to try, fail, reflect, and try again, I think is truly essential when it comes to the 21st century classroom! I’d love to hear how others deal with this “time” problem.

      Thank you so much for your comment!

  2. First of all, the most important thing I want to say is, “Thank you, Aviva!” Having followed you and learned from you on Twitter for several years, and then had the fun of meeting you in person at ECOO, I think the chance visit your room today was a truly unique experience. We make a lot of “virtual” connections in this day and age, and I know I take these for granted, and feel as though I really know the person and of course I am learning all the time from them online. But to visit in person and see that educator in their element is truly a special bonus. In observing the environment in its totality, not just as cool photos, I got insight into the Reggio inspired approach. Seeing some past provocations and talking to your engaging, friendly students about them was super. The mix of resources, from “found” materials to purpose-bought and strategically used items, added a lot to my knowledge of the primary classroom. Well, I could go on…:)
    It is funny that from our brief conversation you would have zeroed in on “time” as a theme, because I knew right away yesterday that is what I would write about. It was inspiring to see your lesson discussion, the pacing, humour, equity, and focus of this time in the class. Regardless of the age of the students, this was an invaluable model. And the seamless integration of your tech in this part of the class was fantastic, whether for giving the children background or preparing for assessment as part of learning.
    Better stop now, and may use this as a part of my own blog… trying to get going again:)
    And I can’t go without passing along my sincere thanks to all of your colleagues who made yesterday such a memorable learning experience for us eLCs.

    • Thank you so much Anne for your kind words and for sharing your impression of the day! It’s always great to make more of these face-to-face connections with people that we communicate with so frequently online. I loved meeting you at ECOO these past couple of years, and I’m so glad that you could visit our school and see so many different teachers in action.

      I find it very interesting that you picked up on this “time” theme right away, and I loved hearing what this word meant to you in the context of your visit. I really hope that you do blog about these experiences, and I’d love to read your post when it’s done. Thanks to you and the rest of the eLCs for a very memorable two days!


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