Flipping out over Flipping Classrooms!

Flipped Learning

I had kind of been waiting during the Coetail course to get to grips with the idea of flipping the classroom. I was excited to learn more about it as I had heard mixed reports on its efficacy. The main question I wanted to answer from this week’s readings was could it work effectively in the elementary years when children might not have quite so much autonomy around screen time at home?

My first stop was this infographic (ever since course 3 I get a little over excited when I see infographics, sad I know). This was a good general overview but I got more out of watching the really informative videos  on scoop.it which illustrated how flipping the classroom works and what it should look like.

CC technapex.com

CC technapex.com

Reverse Instruction

My original idea of reverse instruction/flipped learning was you(the teacher) explain a concept or model a strategy eg for addition via video; kids watch at home and then can get straight into activities in class, maximizing in class learning time. How naive I felt after watching the above videos-its clearly ALOT more than that! I think the term ‘reverse instruction‘ made me think it was teacher input-student output type of thing.


CC ajcann.wordpress.com

But could that be a good place to start until students and the teacher get more used to flipping the learning? I still wasn’t sure if its was process that would work effectively with younger students and with time/resource constraints.


CC Virtuallawpractise.org

So I moved to have a look at gamification. I had heard a bit about this but as I am really not into computer games, it still feels a bit ‘beyond’ me at the moment. The furthest I have delved into it has been the Minecraft game during our school’s Hour of Code. So I had a look at other posts fellow Coetailers had posted on it to try figure out what exactly it meant to teach through gamification. I came across another great inforgraphic (of course) on Megali’s page which defined the differences between games, game-based learning (both of which I have done) and gamification. I am not sure if I am ready to take my first tentative steps into gamification just yet……so I went back to take another look at flipped learning.

Should I try flipping my classroom?

In Ramsey Musallam’s article Should You Flip Your Classroom he says,

‘Good teaching, regardless of discipline, should always limit passive transfer of knowledge in class, and promote learning environments built on the tenants of inquiry, collaboration and critical thinking.’

He advises the reader to,

‘ask yourself this question: Given my style, do I currently use class time to teach any low level, procedural, algorithmic concepts?’….If yes, begin by creating opportunities for students to obtain this information outside of the classroom.’

The answer is Yes, I do sometimes do this and I would love to reduce this so that the whole of each lesson could be devoted entirely to critical thinking and inquiry.

But where to start?

It seemed like a mammoth task so I fished around online and found some simple, specific instructions on how to get started with flipping my classroom from Jon Bergmann’s article Flipping the Elelmentary Classroom. Start small and build from there-flip one lesson! OK, I can do that…I think! Going on the advice in the article I could post a video to our class blog and checked that my students have watched by asking them to leave a comment.

One of my biggest concerns was what if my less enthusiastic students don’t watch the video and I end up have to teach it in class the next day anyway? The article suggests  keeping the video as a centre in class for those that struggle with the concept and need it to be reinforced (and for those that don’t watch it at home). Another great idea!

Moving forward


CC Pixalbay.com

So how can I adapt what I am teaching to include a trial flipped lesson? At the moment in Math we are working on more formal written strategies for addition. I have decided to create a video using Seesaw . I will post it to Kidblog and see what happens I guess! Aside from increasing the amount of inquiry time in class, I think parents will also benefit and appreciate this as they are often teaching the strategies they learned in school which can be counterproductive!

I look forward to giving this a go and seeing if I can flip further as I learn more about this.

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Eduro Learning: Coaching for School-Wide Change

In preparation for the final project, this week I wanted to think about how I can apply what I have learned over the past 5 weeks to an existing model of coaching at my school, namely the Leaders Of Learning teacher development programme. Again, I found Jill Jackson’s article 4 Simple Steps to Your Successful Instructional Coaching model very useful.




Right now teachers are invited to join LOL, first as a mentee then as a mentor. However, as the article mentions the issue with this is that invitation only coaching won’t catch those who really need it. Its important that all teachers are included and therefore the coach or programme leader needs an ‘in’, a particular focus for whole school. This makes a lot of sense to me as it removed the ‘exclusivity’ of the programme and encourages all teachers to take a degree of responsibility in a particular focus area.

It also benefits the coach as I wondered how can you be the ‘jack of all trades’ in terms of supporting colleagues. The truth it there is no need to be once you are knowledgeable and skilled or have mastered your focus area. The quality of support is heightened too. I liked this quote a lot;

‘Credibility leads to relationship.  And relationship leads to trust.  And trust leads to openness.’

Jill also mentions ‘going for the win‘ ie focussing on those who are close to mastery of the focus area. Which I think is how our LOL programme works. Those who are currently very good/outstanding teachers are identified and are invited to join. This may be an area for development as they are sharing with other teachers close to mastery themselves so the expertise isn’t shared with those who may benefit the most. Again, another reason why it should involve all teachers.



‘Teachers Teaching Teachers’

I was struck by the title of this article as I believe it is what we are trying to achieve with our LOL programme but it requires reflection and refining. I loved the idea of PLCs, Professional Learning Communities, within schools. As our LOL programme is by invitation only with a hierarchy of mentee/mentor it encourages an underlying assumption of exclusivity which can demotivating for those who may never be invited to join. If the development programme involves all teachers, they can choose where there area of expertise lies and become a leader in a specific PLC, motivating them to develop their skills in this area to master it so they can share that knowledge with others in the PLC who have joined because they are not confident in that area. Why not be a member of a couple of PLCs? For example, a teacher who identifies themselves as good at using higher order questioning in class may be the leader of a Questioning PLC while being a member/learner in another PLC where they have identified themselves as requiring development, eg a particular app/verbal reasoning in Math lessons.

In our school there are ‘What Works Well’ workshops but again, it is the same teachers from the LOL programme who run them quite often.




The most challenging part of this would be ensuring that this newer model doesn’t feel like ‘extra work’ for teachers, or take up a huge amount of their time. Therefore, it would be crucial to ensure that those coaching listen to the suggestions of teachers. And more importantly use this to reflect and refine their own practice in the development of the programme. This week I have a meeting with my principal and I would like to ask him if there is a reason that the whole school are not part of the programme we have and what other challenges leadership faces with such a programme. I intend to use the info I get from him to edit my plan for the final project.

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Eduro Learning: What Challenges do Coaches Face?

I found this week’s reading very interesting as we move closer to the final project for this course. As I am more of a visual learner the first link I clicked on was this interesting graphic on the cyclical process of effective coaching:

coetail coaching modelAs expected this clearly shows that it is an ongoing process which must include administrators/senior management, coaches and teachers. All must be invested in and believe in the process for it to be successful. I asked myself so then how can I ensure that this process is successful and works towards minimizing potential conflicts which undermine it?

I had a few ideas bouncing around in my head but when I read Jill Jackson’s 4 Steps to a Successful Instructional Coaching Model it helped to focus my ideas and refine the goal. I liked that she highlighted that as coaches, we look for PURPOSE and not perfection which makes a lot of sense to me.

Another step mentioned in the article made me think about this post-observation conversation I had with my LOL mentee. Jill talks about ‘going for the win’ and to focusing first on those who have skills which are almost at mastery level, supporting them, and then in turn they can support their peers. From speaking to my mentee it was clear that she was competent in formative assessment strategies and was interested in practicing a way to support this using IT. I say support, because I noticed that she also used whiteboards during the lesson; a clear indication that she knew her class well and that some students may not yet be comfortable or competent to show their learning using Plickers. This was evident when I spoke to some children using the Looking 4 Learning questions by Kim Cofino from last week. I wanted her to reflect on this instead of me just asking ‘ why did you do that?’ so I used the ideas from last week’s reading on an effective coaching conversation. One of the questions I asked her was to share the decision-making process and planning process which led to her to use whiteboards and Plickers. Another question I posed led her to come to the conclusion that she now was very happy to share Plickers with the rest of her year level teaching colleagues. Me asking her directly to do this could easily have been seen as ‘extra work’ but as she came up with it herself, she was motivated and excited to show others. This was certainly a more reflective, mentee-led conversation which in the end, we both benefited a great deal from.

This reflective questioning approach was also helpful as she identified that her next goal was to use the PYP Concepts more effectively in her lessons. This will give me a great opportunity to share and support her in an area she is less confident in as she has only been teaching PYP since September (I can certainly empathize with what a change it can be coming from the British curriculum I also trained and taught in). We have agreed a specific time within a particular lesson and there is a good reason its not just a ‘drop-in’. This quote from the Peter deWitt article on reasons instructional coaching will not work is something all coaches should keep mind during this process.

‘If teachers believe that coaches are there to evaluate them, it will make it much harder to foster a positive relationship between teachers and coaches. Coaches are supposed to be working in partnership, in a non-evaluative way, with teachers.’

I agree with this as when I was in the mentee role previously, my mentor and I set specific times during the week when she would come into my class. It was something I could then build into my weekly plan and as teachers are so incredibly busy all the time, I found this definitely took the pressure off.

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Week 4 Eduro Learning: How Do Coaches Work?

I was in a bit of a panic about this week’s task to observe a lesson as my chosen colleague has been out of school for the past week and I was worried I would fall behind. But as it happens, our LOL programme started up again just last week which was serendipitous for me thankfully.

Leading Learning the fun way

Leading Learning the fun way

LOL stands for Leaders of Learning and it is based on the idea that teachers are paired up in a mentor/mentee way to learn from each other and share best practice. This programme linked well with the National School Reform Faculty document I had read earlier in the week about Peer Coaching. For the LOL programme, I as a mentor, have been given a new mentee to coach. (I hope I am allowed this once to focus on another colleague?)

We started last week with my mentee coming to one of my lessons where I was to showcase as many elements of best practice as possible and she would give me feedback on it. She identified an area she would require coaching in, specifically using IT for formative assessment, as she had observed me using Plickers in class for this and wanted to try it out. She asked me many questions about how it worked and I made sure I took the role of ‘listener’ so that she felt confident about applying it in her own class. We arranged a time for me to come and watch her use it in class.

Earlier today I went to see her use it during a Math problem-solving lesson. As I moved around the room I applied Kim Cofino’s Looking for Learning questions. I found these to be an excellent guide and as I came mid way through a lesson I focused on one or 2 key questions:

What do you know now that you didn’t know at the start of this session?

·    What can you do now that you couldn’t do at the start of this session?

I will be giving her feedback tomorrow about how it went, focusing on the part of the lesson that she identified as her goal and not the whole lesson as the idea is to have one particular focus each week or over a number of weeks until the mentee is confident. We will look at the data she gathered and see how accurately it represents the children I spoke to. What I particularly liked about this lesson was that she adapted the task for her class (ages 4-5) and had them solve first on their whiteboards using manipulatives if they needed and then using Plickers so she has recognized that it will take a longer time for this age group to use Plickers effectively and therefore, she adapted her formative assessment to support this. I am confident that she will be able to identify those children which the data doesn’t represent accurately! She then may like to continue with this same goal or identify a second goal and observe me before I observe her lesson again. I think this ‘peer mentorship’ is a very effective coaching method as the mentee doesn’t feel they are being judged by the mentor as they are simply applying what they have already observed as good practice in their own way which takes the pressure off.

Its great for me as a mentor too because I can model how to lead a feedback session and really have her reflect on her own practice. I will for sure be applying the skills from the Susan Scott article I read on What Is A Coaching Conversation. Currently we are encouraged to use the ‘sandwich’ method of feedback which works well but it was nice to have the bullet points in this article as a focus.

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Eduro Learning: Why do Schools Need Coaches?

For this week’s task I first took a look at this interesting article about identifying the right conditions for effective coaching in schools: https://www.edutopia.org/blog/four-conditions-instructional-coaching-elena-aguilar From reflecting on this I do feel that my school has the right conditions since we work in collaborative teams to plan our units of inquiry and are open to ideas and learning from others. So, since we have suitable conditions how am I to actually go about helping my colleague for this Eduro course?

Coetail Venn

Finding the balance between Tech and Pedagogy

I found this article helpful (https://www.iste.org/explore/ArticleDetail?articleid=38&utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=Social&utm_campaign=OnlineCourses#) as it highlighted the importance of starting by asking questions which reaffirmed what I had already done. We sat and spoke about what specifically she felt she wanted support with and more importantly what tech integration would benefit teaching in a PYP school (which is brand new to her). Another important element from that article stated that we must ‘uncover the instructional goal‘ and ‘consider how class time will be spent‘. So technology for a purpose. I understand that it can be all too easy to get excited about the tech and forget about the pedagogy so it was useful to focus on the SAMR model when speaking with her.

She told me that the hardest part were the unit of inquiry lessons and the focus on collaboration and research. How could she achieve this in a meaningful way using IT? I decided straight away that Google Classroom was the most beneficial tool I could coach her in using effectively. I use is extensively when doing research as I can post links to various websites and encourage independent research amongst my students instead of having them trawl aimlessly through the internet and getting nowhere fast (they are only 7 and 8 years old!). Also it sparks collaborations as children can post their own useful links and leave comments about what they have discovered. So I will be observing my colleague when doing a unit of inquiry lesson which has a focus on research and seeing how she currently does it. As a follow up I will show here some examples of how I have used Google Classroom and hopefully she can take some skills I teach her and apply them in her own class. I really look forward to helping with this!

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Eduro Learning: Coaching as Leadership

I know pretty much straight away who at my school would be a good candidate for me to coach during the next few weeks (and beyond). I chose a new member of our Year 3 team Sara. She is new to teaching PYP and since joining our school in September has demonstrated a willingness to learn as much as possible so she can ‘hit the ground running’. As her team leader I already have experience in coaching her through the different elements of PYP teaching and we have developed an positive and open dialogue. When I asked her if she would like to be coached by me in areas of IT she was excited about it. She doesnt have much IT experience and we use resources such as Google Drive alot in our Unit of Inquiry so from both our perspectives its been great to now have a specific time dedicated to when we can develop her skills in IT while developing her knowledge of PYP. From the weekly readings the main message that was glaringly obvious from many of them was that cultivating positive relationships is key to effective coaching and vice versa. Kim’s article about ‘early wins‘ to foster these types of relationships resonated with me as this is my first year as team leader and it has been an eye-opener!

The key to developing positive relationships with my team this year will also be my goal when working on a individual basis in coaching Sara in tech over the next few weeks-LISTEN! This image is a representation of my experience as year leader this year:

Effective Coaching=LISTENING

Effective Coaching=LISTENING

I plan to ensure that I fully understand what Sara will need to develop her confidence in using IT effectively by listening and not making the mistake of assuming what her IT needs are!

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Course 5 Final Project

Well, its hard to believe I am writing my last COETAIL post. Not my last blog post ever thanks to my COETAIL experience!  What a journey it has been over the past year and a half. I have learned so much which has enhanced my teaching; its hard to know where to start to be honest!

flickr photo shared by topgold under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license
Making this final video has been a labour of love….and hate at times! Its still not perfect – I would loved to have had longer to record my students’ development and hone my Movie skills; I have a while to go before I am the Stephen Spielberg of iMovie! But like every new tech experience COETAIL has thrown at me I have learned a valuable lesson: the journey/mistakes/re-dos are the learning, not just the completed product.

I suppose the best way to reflect on my COETAIL journey is do what I’ve done for my previous final blogs for Courses 1-4……

2 Stars:

Its hard to pick just 2 positives from completing the COETAIL course but I’ll try:

  1. The opportunity for practical application of tech in the classroom and the freedom to interpret the weekly readings and use them however I could in my specific school setting. With COETAIL its certainly not a one size fits all approach, the cohort have had varying levels of experience with edtech and each one has been supported and accommodated by the tutors and peers in the cohort. Another thing  I loved were the readings such as those Flipboard and Digg. Not just boring theoretical article after article but hugely interesting and engaging information on so many different areas of ed tech that you could be absorbed for hours-which I often was!
  2. Being forced out of my comfort zone and pushed into creating a PLN! I can honestly say I would never have done this without the encouragement and expectations of the course. I finally understand what a wonderful resource a community of like-minded teachers really is! This was the biggest hurdle but the most worthwhile and has had a major impact on my classroom as you can see from my video.

Wish: A wish for my ongoing professional development after COETAIL is to keep up with blogging as much as I can. I know it will be trickier when I don’t have deadline but its important to try to document what I am learning about and I think its something which is becoming more important in the teaching recruitment field also.

I know going forward I won’t have the safety net of the COETAIL cohort but I am hopeful that I can continue to learn from all these wonderful people through the wonderful medium of ed tech!

Thank you for the learning COETAIL! 🙂


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PLN: Professional Lurker Now what?

My venture into developing a professional learning network was tentative to say the least. I joined Twitter first in 2013 and promptly forgot about having an account until I started Coetail and in 2015 I was forced out of my comfort zone and into, what I imagined, to be online ‘networking’. This filled me with dread but I was happy to know that I wasn’t the only ‘lurker’ and that with time I may even enjoy, and learn a lot, from the connections I made online.

This definitely is not a tale about how I have amassed hundreds of followers on Twitter (which as it happens has been my main source for building my PLN). See below for proof of this:


BUT I do feel that the connections I have made in the development of my PLN have been worthwhile and meaningful to me as a teacher, and to the learning of my students. I want to focus on two particular connections which have transformed the learning environment in my classroom.

Global Read Aloud

Back in my professional lurker days, circa 12 months ago, I had just started Coetail and saw some buzz on Twitter about the Global Read Aloud, ran by @permillerip. This is a really wonderful initiative and while I tried to get involved last year, I had arrived to the party a little late (about 5 weeks late) and the task seemed to large. I vowed that next year I would be fully involved from the start for #GRA16.

Up until this year I had been using Kidblog with my class but this year I decided to make use of the blog available on Seesaw   or the Global Read Aloud as this app would be the basis for my final project.


I know it sounds silly, but once I had tweeted this I reverted back to a schoolgirl momentarily. ‘But what if no one wants to connect with me?!’. Thankfully, Twitter isnt nearly as scary as I had imagined and in fact, there are some really lovely people out there in the Twittersphere.


When I told my class that we would be discussing The BFG by Roald Dahl with students from other parts of the world, the response I received was overwhelming.


They couldn’t wait to see what their friends in the US would say about their blog posts. It literally transformed the level of interest in just reading a book to the class. Each week there were (and still are, we are still in the middle of #GRA16) guiding questions relating to the chapters we read.


Knowing that we were sharing this book, not just with the class, but with the world was incredibly engaging for them.


My students are now more motivated and open-minded to the possibilities of sharing other work they create this year in a global context and I hope to build upon this as the year continues.

Mindfulness in the classroom

For the past year or so I have been using the Headspace app regularly and find it really excellent. I wanted to bring this into my classroom as I think children these days don’t have enough time to just be bored or focus on the now. Anxieties, even for the youngest of children, are everywhere and as a result many children just cannot do their best learning in class. I started doing some simple breathing exercises using the free gozen videos on youtube.  Unfortunately, at nearly 200USD per year for a subscription I was stuck with the free videos until I saw this post by @Ed_Tmprince on Twitter:


I had been following Tammie since the end of the last school year when I tried out her #MonthOfMindfulness:



My class last year loved the activities we tried so this September I decided that mindfulness would be part of our class routine from the very start. I contacted Tammie and she suggested some strategies I might like to use with my class.


My class have embraced mindfulness activities as part of the school day now and some have even told me that they have done some of the breathing techniques at home when they have felt anxious, or frustrated. And for me, really there is nothing more rewarding that hearing a story like that.

My class wanted to share our mindfulness techniques with their peers so our upcoming class assembly is going to be about mindfulness and teaching some breathing exercises! They are so passionate about it and I love that they feel empowered in doing these exercises outside of class too. I feel that I have also been both inspired and empowered to make more meaningful online connections with others which has had such a wonderful impact on the learning in my class.

So, while its true I haven’t reached the dizzy heights of Katy Perry in terms of twitter followers, I hope one day to break the 100 mark 🙂

flickr photo shared by Copper Lynfield under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license


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GoFormative and Prosper?

The end of COETAIL is fast approaching and the due date for the final project is ever looming…I have so enjoyed every part of the experience but I must admit I lost that loving feeling a little when I found out that course 5 couldn’t be used for credits towards the masters at SUNY. For a while I found myself going through the motions and kind of just wanted to just get the course done so I could focus on another goal. However, what I have found is that COETAIL has instilled in me an eagerness to learn, (trial and error mostly!)  about new areas of IT to improve my teaching which I am really grateful for!

Redesigning Math Stop-Checks

In our Math curriculum we follow a spiral structure and this year my year 3 students started with number which will be revisited twice more throughout the school year. As part of each concept we do whats called a stop-check round about the halfway point in the learning. For the past couple of years this has been paper-based (it doesn’t have to be) but I have been trying to reduce-reuse-recycle as much as possible as our school goes greener while still having a record where each child is mid-unit.

flickr photo shared by Sean MacEntee under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

Here we Goformative

By the power of Twitter, I came across a Tweet about  GoFormative. I had been looking for something similar-ish to Socrative but a little more user-friendly for my 7 year old students. I love using Plickers with my class but I wanted to be able to have students demonstrate their understanding creatively and with Plickers its limited to multiple choice. I particularly liked that to trial it students can use it without creating an account. I really didn’t want to have my students sign up to a dozen different things we may never actually use consistently. I even reached out to the team @goformative for help on this (a big step for a former professional lurker).


I added some questions from our upcoming Stop Check and I shared this with the students on  google classroom.

This first use was certainly a trial and error as I soon realized that I hadn’t  added all questions correctly and I could’ve used other goformative  response tools to enhance this experience but for a first try I was pretty impressed. I really like the whiteboard on the ipad they can use and the fact that you can upload a document and they can write on it to show their thinking. I will definitely be getting my class to sign up for goformative as its a great way to have a record of where students are at without having to waste time and resources with a paper-based assessment.

flickr photo shared by Room 216 under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

The one major plus for Goformative is the ability to see exactly what each child is writing on their ipad whiteboard in real time from the teacher desktop computer,  and giving feedback directly to  students as a lesson is going on. For me, I think this would be used daily if I was in an ipad 1:1 class but unfortunately in our year group we share 1 set of ipads between 6 classes so I think, for now at least, doing our Stop-Checks this way could be really beneficial. I am hoping to move to a 1:1 class next school year and for sure Goformative is something I will be using on a daily basis!


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Course 5 Final Project: E-Portfolios and Seesaw

Well, I hope all my fellow Coetailers had a great summer break and a great start to the new school year! As ever with the start of each Coetail course during this whole experience (which I have loved), I have found post 1 of Course 5 difficult to write as I tried to  remember how to blog! I wonder if I will ever get over the mental block I have when I have gone a few weeks without blogging-what will I do when this course is over?!

Where Do I Begin?

To help reboot my memory and help me focus I read over my previous ideas for the final project and the feedback I had gotten from Rebecca and other Coetailers. 2 things have changed since my last post; 1) we are not 1:1 ipads classes in year 3 as I had hoped, and 2) I am now the coordinator for the year 3 team which has so far been a wonderful, but very steep learning curve! (I am told that the 12 hour days at school will reduce once I get the hang of all this!)


flickr photo shared by flickingerbrad under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

PYP Porfolio and Seesaw

Following Rebecca’s sage advise, my final project will apply the SAMR model and redefine how PYP portfolios are used in Year 3 using the Seesaw app which I used for the first time last year with my class and loved. While we do not have ipads for each child this year we do, however, have a class set of ipads which we can share among all 6 year 3 classes so thankfully my project is still achievable. The ultimate aim is to give students the power to select a piece of work (written work, group work, something creative) and have parents reflect on this with their child during the unit as they will receive updates each time their child posts in the Portfolio folder on Seesaw. This, I hope, will encourage parents to become more engaged in what their child is working on in school and therefore be more aware of what they can do to help them achieve their potential.

flickr photo shared by o.tacke under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

So far, so……?

So far, the year 3 team have met with our PYP Coordinator to plot out a list of expectations of what needs to go onto Seesaw for portfolio. The requirement for the first unit is that we must choose a writing target and have at least 3 pieces of writing which demonstrate progress from the start, middle and end of our first 6 week unit. Not exactly as empowering as I would like for the students but at this stage I am just happy that our portfolios are not solely select pieces from Language Arts and Maths books which no one looks at until the very end of the year when parents come in for 10mins to look at their books and talk about their work with the child. This process was superficial and really of no benefit, so for now I take this as a step in the right direction.

With my class, we have created folders for Math, LA, UOI and Portfolio and they got the hang of using the app really quickly. I have given access to parents so that they can like, comment and reflect with their child on the work that they post. However, so far, the  parent engagement has been a bit of a mixed bag…


Parent engagement has included comments relating to achieving the target, “ok let’s work on spelling together”; those that are supportive but unspecific, “wow, well done!” and then those like the above that are non existent… I think as its still the start of the school year I can reach out to parents and really stress the importance of taking the time to sit and reflect on what they have been learning about in school so I am hopeful that with some continued encouragement parent involvement becomes more consistent.

Global connections

For the past couple of years I have used Kidblog with my students which has been an amazing tool for them to practice their online communication skills, develop digital citizenship skills, and connect with other classes across the world. However, it has at times been tricky as my students need to remember passwords for this, pc logins, google drive etc. This year, my aim is to use the Seesaw blog feature instead so that my students can have meaningful conversations and give and receive feedback on their work to/ from their peers. This may end up having more impact on their learning than the parent engagement, we will see! While we may be still a little confined as regards our specific portfolio content, there is nothing to stop us selecting pieces of work to share on the blog. Knowing that their work will be shared with a global audience will hopefully motivate and encourage my students to reflect on their targets and goals (both personal and academic) and empower them to achieve and share their success with children just like them!

I have reached out to other elementary teachers on Twitter so hopefully my next post will include some details about our newest global connections on Seesaw! Watch this space!

flickr photo shared by fdecomite under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

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Course 4 Final Project: Decisions, decisions

There have been so many different ideas that I have considered for my final project and I am still not sure which one I will go with so while I was tempted to use the UbD planner to reinvent a recent unit I am instead going to reflect on a couple of potential projects and see which is the best fit with my new class.

Redesign our ‘Action in the Community’ unit

In this unit the students will develop google forms skills to create a survey which they will share with the school community to gather data on various interest areas (eg bullying, recycling, deforestation etc). The data collected will then be represented in bar charts created from the excel document (linking to our data handling unit in Math) and used to create a persuasive poster (linking with our Language Arts genre) to raise awareness/money for their chosen cause/initiative. I have loved playing with infographics during course 4 so ideally, the students would create a infographic poster  from the report template on Piktochart and upload the data they collected from the school community.


We have a class twitter account which up to now really hasn’t been used but students could also contact their chosen charities and research more information which they can use in their infographics. Skype calls with representatives could also be arranged to gather more information than the traditional books and internet research my students normally do, and find quite difficult. They can then share their posters with the wider school community via their google accounts and post to the web via the twitter account using relevant hashtags.

Developing connections and a sense of global community

Developing connections and a sense of global community Photo Credit: https://www.123rf.com/

This project would be an excellent way for my students to connect with a wider audience to feel as though they are really making a difference which is what our action unit it really all about; to understand that community isn’t just where you live and go to school, we are part of a global community and can make a difference in many ways. They would use skills that I have learned during this course with GAFE and Piktochart and understand that they are developing these skills for purpose and not just because I want them to learn about them. Their research would be more focussed and meaningful on the whole as they could tweet out a specific question directly to a charity instead of trawling through lots of info their website and getting frustrated! Using these skills would redefine the way this unit is taught as the students would be making connections in so many different ways which empower the children to drive their own inquiry into a particular interest area instead of me leading them a little which often is the case.

I taught this unit just recently so if I decided (and it was agreed by the rest of the year group) to move around our units so that this would coincide with course 5, it would be a concern whether at the start of the year students really have the self-management or research skills to undertake a project like this. Its a huge transition between Year 2 and Year 3 and we tend to leave the action unit until later in the year when the children are that bit older and more mature. I think it could be a little over their heads but then maybe I am underestimating them? For this unit to be successful I need to take a much more ‘hands off’ approach. We have often been stuck to a 5/6week time frame which has meant I have at time had to lead certain groups so that they are on track. But with more streamlined,  effective research resources (twitter, Skype) more quality research could be carried out in less time and ultimately the inquiry would be more meaningful for students and deepen their understanding of the whole unit. They would be driving their own inquiry and be more motivated to find out details. I need to give them the time and space to do that, make mistakes, learn from them and move on. My job is reflection with less direction. Developing GAFE skills and infographics would require that the students display commitment and self-management early on so that they can collect their data effectively. I really want to do this but I definitely need to think about this a little longer and iron out any potential kinks especially if I am hoping to do this for my course 5 project.

E-portfolio using Seesaw

Besides infographics, another think I learned about in Coetail from other people is the wonder that is Seesaw. I love it, and have been using it extensively in my class since I first heard about it. For the past couple of years our school have been discussing how best to present PYP portfolios. For the most part they have been paper-based. Right now, students choose a piece of work from Math, LA and UOI for each unit that they did well in and write a reflection. Not very inspiring, very time consuming and super restrictive for the students. Parents do not get to see these until the last Parent Teacher Conference at the end of the school year-pretty pointless!

Starting next year I intend to use Seesaw as the eportfolio. Children can photograph something they are particularly proud of in any subject at any time (not just once per unit as we are doing now) and save time by leaving a voice comment on it to reflect. It needn’t be something from their books, it could be a group project for instance where they demonstrated excellent cooperation skills. This would save so much time as children will do an ‘on the spot’ reflection, and not everyone will have to choose something at the same time, it can be anything, anytime. So instead of  6 pieces of paper-based work for for each subject area, each student would have a combination of photos, book work, project work and all with a typed/audio reflection attached. The beauty of this is that it puts the student in charge of building a portfolio of work that they are proud of. If its more in Math than in Language Arts that’s OK; it should reflect the student, not be a carbon copy of everybody elses. Furthermore Seesaw would redefine the student portfolio as parents would be automatically updated when a new piece of work was added to their child’s portfolio. This in turn, would encourage parents to reflect with their child more often (hopefully) throughout the unit and give them an insight into how they are developing both academically and personally. This would promote the parent/teacher/student connections  as both myself and parents could leave comments on a child’s uploaded piece of work, and not just when a report is sent or a PTC is scheduled.

Parent Child Reflection Photo Credit: https://www.hoopoekids.com/

Parent Child Reflection
Photo Credit: https://www.hoopoekids.com/

I think I would need to become less rigid in my expectations for portfolios. So far we have school wide expectations for what should go in one. I think I need to ensure that we have portfolio agreements set at the start of the year and then give the students the responsibility for ensuring they meet them eg you must have once piece of work from each subject for each unit but then allow them to upload other pieces as they see fit. A potential issue is that students upload everything and anything just for the novelty of doing it in each lesson and their portfolio ends up being nothing more than jumbled mass of random things but by the students developing the skills too use Seesaw and developing responsibility and reflection I am hoping this will only arise at the start of the school year. Another concern may be that while parents are connected to the portfolio they don’t actually engage with it or reflect with their child. I am still not so sure how to overcome this but maybe make it clear that this is very important from the get go. Each new school year, parents are invited to a presentation which the class teacher gives so this could be a useful opportunity to highlight the importance of this.

These are just 2 areas that I will definitely develop next year but whether I choose to do them for the course 5 project remains to be seen. I am also considering a flipped math unit which could be a possibility but I want to make sure that I have the time to create the videos etc so I will do more work on that idea over the summer. I can’t believe this is the end of course 4-where has the time gone? Loads of new cool stuff learned, it hasn’t felt like learning, its been fun…but I guess that’s what Coetail has been teaching us all the time, right?

Have a great summer break fellow Coetailers and see you in Autumn 🙂

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