Monday, 19 November 2012

Kids are blogging

Today I introduced the kids to!  They all have their own page and boy is it busy!  I checked on it several times tonight and the kids were blogging back and forth.  They had questions for others to answer, or just a little note about their day.

I'm planning on giving them assignments to blog but for now it's so fun to watch them enjoy it.

The other site they are HUGE on is sundog, we have an account there too and they love to practice their math and complete challenges.  I can't believe how often they go on!

The power of the internet!

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Pinterest peeks my interest

Hello!  Long time no blog.

First an update on how my risers and carpets are doing.  The kids LOVE the risers.  They spend almost all their time working on the risers or tables.  Many kids like to be on the shaggy carpets for games or sit outside when it's nice out.

I often forget how different my room is.  A group of Strong Start parents did a Halloween parade into my room on Wednesday and had some interesting reactions to my room.  They were chatting about how different it was and how the kids were spread out and working.  I think I may have opened a few new eyes to classroom difference in design.

Secondly, I have been having a GREAT year without planners.  None of my kids had to pay for them ($8) and no one has missed them.  Parents constantly tell me that they love the fact that the planners are gone because the kids would never show them or they would lose them.  Everyday or two I send a quick group email to all my parents that says two or three lines about what is happening in the week or what went home that day.  I get MUCH higher home reading participation, more interest in what is being taught and I get a very high percent of returned forms and documents!!!  I highly recommend switching to no planners.

The email takes me about 2 minutes out of my day, unlike the 15-20 for copying planners and children whining about it.

And now onto my MAIN topic...Pinterest.  I was reluctant to try a new form of social media because we get so much as it is.  But pinerest has really excited me!  I've found new creative art projects, ideas for my classroom, Montessori equipment that is less costly.  And that is just my classroom uses for it!  I also found that it has lots of great ideas for my home and my life!!!  New love = pinterest.

Animoto slide shows are going over really well with the class.  They love seeing their month in review and like to watch it more than once!!!

So far new ideas are working well.

One more thought:  I think it shocks people that I don't like to rely on PAC funding for my classroom or for anything I do.  It's not that I don't appreciate the parents working hard to do that for us...but I feel they shouldn't have to.  The government should be funding our classrooms!  Not parents.  Public education should be FREE.  So my goal is to charge my parents as little as possible for their kids education.

So where do I get my funding?  I look to the school funds for furniture, the pro d fund and also the Montessori Society funding.  I know most teachers don't get society funding but I take advantage of it.  Because Montessori is a special program they do charge parents for it.  So that is the only parent funding I try to use.  I encourage teachers to find out what funding the school gets for certain things and not to rely on parents having to fund raise for everything.  Put the pressure on the government where it belongs.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

A School Wide Transformation

Welcome back to the teaching universe!  I have decided to document all the classroom design changes made in my school since full day K and my own journey began.  It's amazing how people have been rethinking what a classroom should look like!  The change in my colleagues has been remarkable.  Today we will look at the library.

Priscilla has been focussed on creating an inquiring space.  I noticed when I walked in the other day that she had set up a welcoming zone to read to the children with new carpet/mats and all the children face her by sitting on chairs in a large arch/rectangular shape.

The other day she also set up an inquiry table.  There is a large question mark hanging above it and on the table are several non-fiction books.  The students have written their questions on the topic on small round paper and it covers the table.  Very cool.

I will take some more time this week to take more photos of my school and post them for you!  First 2 weeks are so busy...but life is starting to settle.

Friday, 31 August 2012

September's Set up!

Last year I set up 4 tables and a corner reading area.  This year I have separated the 4 tables to be 8 trapezoid tables, put the carpets in the middle and I have two sets of flip form risers at the end of the carpets.  With 25 students coming in my room I am hoping some students will choose to sit on the carpet, some on the risers and some in chairs.  But all students will be facing me during instruction!  Which is something I am very happy about.

Here is my classroom from 4 different angles.

Using Animoto this year

For those of you who have never heard of this.  Animoto is a website ( where you can upload you photos, set them to music and really make an amazing slide show!

This year I decided that every month I would compile photos of my class into a slideshow so they can see what they have learned and how far they have come.  By the end of the year I'll have 10 slideshows for a BIG presentation that will take them through their year.

To introduce it I created a slideshow of my summer so they can get to know me more personally.  I also have a page of slide shows.  Enjoy!!!

My summer video

PS:  It usually take me under an hour to do this.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Showing Masters Poster

Thanks to the people who stopped by my Masters poster today to discuss their interest in classroom design!  I am very psyched to bring more ideas to this year's set up!  Let me know if you have any great ideas :)

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Ideas are brewing


I haven't blogged here in a while because I've been putting the finishing touches on my Masters course. In 25 days I will be officially done!

What I plan to do is update my progress in late August of how I am going to transform my room!  I have grand plans and I'm going to share them right here :)

Throughout the year I'll update you on the progress of the transformation and take pictures of how the room evolves.

So stay tuned!

Friday, 18 May 2012

Hypothesis debunked

Well, after doing all my data analysis I have come to a statistically significant conclusion!  Teacher chosen work space for students significantly increases on-task behaviour in students over student chosen work space.  I really hoped it would be the opposite but at least in my research study with grade 4/5 students this was NOT the case.

I also found that two types of off-task behaviour were shown to be effected by student choice in a significant way:  behaviour issues (students poking each other, saying inappropriate things, generally becoming a problem) and students being distracted by others.  These two off task behaviours showed up more in the student chosen seating and were tested by to significant with only a 2% and 3% chance of being due to chance!  So there are my first findings.  I am now writing it all up and deciding how I want to use this in my classroom set up for the fall.

I think I will still have tables, risers, carpet etc, but now that I know the off task behaviours that result from more choice at this grade level I'll be watching and perhaps creating a different way of offering choice.  I am next going to look at whether some students had no difference at all between types.

Overall, doing this research was so much fun!  I'd set up another study anytime.  If you want a copy of my research I can make you one after July 2012.  Also you can see my research poster at the SFU Summer Institute July 12-14 at the Surrey BC Campus.  I encourage people to retry my research on older and younger kids!  I'd love to see your findings.

For a copy of my paper please leave an email I can send it to in August.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Socio-Cultural perceptions of Classroom Environments

So today I read a very interesting research paper.  I was drawn to it because it dealt with student perceptions of their classroom environment.  However, it was less about the physical layout of the classroom and more about teacher interaction, distractions etc.  It was about how they felt they belonged in their class and how it impacted their learning.  The study focussed on schools in Australia and Taiwan.  Here are some ideas I gleaned from it:

Australia models of teaching are very similar to Canada.  Teachers try to make the curriculum dynamic and teach for discussion and in small groups.  They feel that engaging learners in their learning is what is best.  While in Taiwan teachers felt the teacher directed model was best.  Since students both perceived their learning environments as good, why was this?  Apparently you can look to culture for that answer.

In Taiwan their curriculum is exam driven.  It is culturally accepted to have teachers who stand at the front and teach to the kids.  They see this as good learning.  Teachers are compared by the test scores their students receive.  However, in Taiwan the students LIKE this method of learning and they also are less behaviourally disruptive.  This is because there is NO TIME to stop and delve deeper into subjects, you have to learn them fast and there is not time for fooling around.

School in Taiwan

Australian teachers had more disruptive behaviours and students who felt that the teachers could teach better.  Taiwan students were mostly happy with their teachers jobs and had little complaint.  Teachers are highly respected in Taiwan.  The pressure on teachers in Taiwan comes from their inability to stray from the curriculum and the demands of the exams.  The people of Taiwan want their children to succeed and get into good schools.

Australian School

In Australia the pressure on teachers comes from having to teach academics PLUS social emotional behaviour (which Taiwan does not teach).  Teacher feel they could do a better job if they had TIME to plan but they don't because of all the add-ons they are expected to do in their jobs.

Both sets of students and teachers liked the way their systems ran and for their cultures they worked.

This got me thinking.

Have we come added too much to our Western style of schooling.  Teachers are overwhelmed.  Australian teachers felt that they couldn't always get through a lesson because of disruptive behaviour.  This occurs very frequently in Western schooling.  We spend a lot of time on behaviour and less and less on learning.  Children with behaviours often disrupt those who are trying to learn.  This frustrates me.  When did I become the counselor???  When did I become the one who teaches children manners, respect..etc.  Shouldn't that be the parents?

I found a lot to like with Taiwan's model.  The classrooms were quiet, children did not feel peer pressured to answer questions, students were asked randomly by number and if they got it wrong they simply got it wrong.  There was not cushion added in to protest the self-esteem.  The students also didn't expect one, because it's culturally okay to be wrong, it means you are learning.

Now, I don't like that they have exams and the pressure is high.  I like to be able to learn a subject with fun hands on activities and choice.  But are we too soft on kids now a days???

I also learned tonight that some Finnish schools (switching gears) have this awesome hour every day where the kids choose what they want to pursue.  ALL the teachers in the school teach what they are passionate about and the kids can choose from any of them!  I for one would be doing Musical Theatre.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Collecting Data

Hello! I'm sorry I haven't blogged in a while. I wanted to let you know that I'm currently collecting 5 weeks of data on student on-task and off-task behaviour. I'm finding more out then my research needs to cover but I will be adding that in.

Also I have a request in for 2 sets of flipform risers for my classroom! I'm awaiting info on that. AND the kids requested bean bag chairs. These are NOT cheap so I may not get any. I can't seen having 2 or 3 and 28 kids fighting over them. Ouch.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Data for Pilot

Today I entered in the data for the STUDENT CHOICE portion of my pilot. Right away I saw some interesting results. The average on-task score of the students was 13/20 minutes. Not bad, not bad. I had a large result for Talking (off-task) and Being Distracted by Others (off-task). Now we will have to see if my TEACHER CHOICE data shows any differences! So exciting. As you also know I will be collecting a fresh batch of data all of April in person because I found the video taping too difficult to work with. I can't WAIT to see if this effects my data or not.

Also I'm looking at some changes in my classroom for September. I'm thinking of taking the 8 trapezoid tables and splitting them so they can go around the outside of the room. I want to open up the middle of the room for a giant carpet area. The kids have requested Bean Bag chairs. Not too sure if I will give in to this request but I'm interested in trying it. I have had ball chairs before but storing them is a HUGE nightmare. I have a very small space! I am considering purchasing flip form risers to go around the carpet area and also for use when I have my projector up and running. I do want my projector mounted on the ceiling! That would solve so many space issues.

I was delighted that one of my parents has hooked me up on Twitter was some more fabulous thinkers!!! Teachers who are looking into changing their work space and experimenting. I can tell you it's been great. If you read back through my blog it will detail for you what has worked and what has not. Next year I go from 20 kids to my creative juices are flowing! I did have the kids draw me layouts because I told them, we have to fit 28 kids in here! How can we do that? And no I refuse to bring back desks. But I can tell you only 2 of my 20 even want desks back. They have tubs for storage (that I bought) and my ikea shelves are a dream!

I'm currently on Ed Leave as of tomorrow!! So I hope to be blogging more and getting more of my data completed.

You can find me on twitter at @sdaviss12

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Problems with my Pilot

I've been working on my pilot project for my masters research and have realized something.

Video taping students and then trying to figure out what they are doing at their work station is almost IMPOSSIBLE. Although I have repositioned my cameras to take 2 tables only for 20 minutes and then switch to the other 2 tables this has not helped the problem.

I have also discovered that when children are off screen I can't tell whether it is on-task or off. So it messes up my data.

New plan: I'm going to go back into the classroom and record the data first hand so that I don't have to rely on video cameras. This will alter my research a little because now I will have another teacher in the room and myself watching students. Will this make them act differently? Perhaps however, they will react in that way through 8 viewings so this should not effect my data in the end.

To recap, I am studying if students who choose their work space stay more on-task than students who are told where to sit during work time.

I am also NOW on ed leave! So this will allow me to work full time on my masters.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

A Gathering of Minds!

I was thrilled to get to take part in a workshop yesterday where teachers trying new ideas were allowed to get together and talk about them.  The best part was hearing what other people were doing.

I met one teacher D who is doing amazing imaginative role play in his class.  We had time to share and talk and I'm hoping that he can help me with my issue for next year.  The issue currently is if I have 28 kids in the fall how do I fit them all in the classroom?  Putting another table in would make the space smaller.  After talking to D I've decided to talk with the kids about how that can happen.  Perhaps bleachers in one corner, some stand up places to work and a lot of floor space.  I may move tables OUT of the room.
We'll talk about it before the end of February.  D and I also discussed planners and their purpose.  I'm realizing they are JUST to provide parents with info, which I do on my website and through do I need to set aside 15 minutes JUST to do them?  I'm thinking that may need to change too.

I also met G who introduced me to edumodo which is like a facebook site for a classroom.  I'm going to check it out over the summer and try to integrate it for September.

A friend of mine emailed me about the gallery of teachers being shown on the district website and whether that might make some teachers feel bad.  I am still mulling this over.  Yes, it's true not all teachers would be featured...cause that's not possible.  However, I think that if people have ideas they are willing to share, they could call up G (who runs it) and invite him in!  After all, it's by word of mouth that these things get discovered.  I was talking to E who told G...and that is where it went.   So if you are a teacher and you feel you have an idea you'd like to share, call G up!  If you want to know how, contact me personally.  I'll help you.

Tell me how you feel about this!  My true belief is that G is trying to share ideas and link teachers up to each other to learn from each other.  Join us!

Friday, 3 February 2012

28 kids and counting

I found out that next year I will have 28 grade 4/5s in my room!  I've never had more than 24 so this will be interesting.  I will need a whole new table, and 8 more tubs!  I may even need to reorganize my Ikea shelves to fit more tubs.  How will we do with 8 more bodies?  Not sure...stay tuned.

However, the best part is that the Montessori program is going strong at Seaview and that is all I care about!  Keep it up!


Research is getting up and moving!  I have approval from SFU, the School District, my principal, almost all my students and most parents.  I'm just awaiting a few more parents and I can start filming!  I've very excited.  There are now 24 teaching days until I go on Ed Leave to work on my Masters full time.

Thought for today:  During gym on Fridays I have the kids roam free.  They have split the gym into two sections, one side is for floor hockey and the other for scooter madness.  They love to tie ropes to their scooters and just drag each other around.  Today they added a new element.  Some kids started piling mats on the stage and laying on them.  Then some boys started wrestling.  Not in a mean way but in an old fashion kind of rough and tumble way.  I kept my eye on it, but chose NOT to stop it.  They were smiling and laughing and having a great time.  Then a few other boys joined in.  And then to my surprise the girls came and piled on.  No one got hurt the entire time, they were very careful.  I was shocked.  I hadn't seen this kind of wrestling action ever in school because this kind of play has been banned for years.

After seeing and hearing how much they loved the chance to just wrestle, I decided they can.  I will keep my eyes on them on Fridays and if anyone gets hurt it's DONE.  But after today my eyes were opened.  Why can't kids have fun and play?  In today's society it's like they all are in bubble wrap.  At the end of gym they were all red faced, sweaty and had huge smiles on.  They declared it to be the best gym block ever in their lives.  Hilarious...Just mats, and kids, and old fashioned fun.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Kudos and such

My goodness.  In the last few months I sure have got my share of "fame"!  One, I was on the front page of the Coquitlam Now in November regarding teacher assessment strategies in the face of job action.  I had no idea I'd appear on the front.  I thought I'd be tucked in the back somewhere!  Then just recently G, a fellow blogger and innovations master, put together a website which highlights what teachers are doing in Coquitlam with classroom design.  I appear on that page.  Then due to that page TG (head of Coquitlam SD) sent me a card congratulating me on my achievements.  Wow!

In terms of my classroom,  I have recently mixed up where the kids sit on alternating days.  I have to pilot my checklist in February and I want the kids to be familiar with choosing their own seats AND having me choose them.  Before they just chose their own, now I'm in the mix.

So how are they reacting?  Funny, some kids really like me choosing their seats because they like to sit with other people and when the kids choose their seats they choose the same kids to sit near all the time.  So mixing it up pleases some of them.  Others get really upset and don't like being told where to sit.  The girls hate sitting with the boys and vice versa.

I'm also creating a survey as my second tool for my evaluation class so we'll see how that turns out!