Snow Day: Thoughts about Student Engagement

Since the entire board is shut down for the day, I decided to take some time to reflect on our last four months of collaborative partnership.  What a journey! I’ve learned a great deal about how to use iPads and blogging effectively in my Grade 2 classroom.  More importantly however, I’ve begun to discover and understand what thinking and teaching in a ’21st century classroom’ is all about.

I suppose the biggest shifts for me in my thinking, teaching, and thinking about teaching have been:

1) I’ve begun to change my approach  from one where I deliver the curriculum to my students to one where I help my students discover the curriculum.

2) I am learning to focus on the process and not the product.  I’m teaching students the inquiry skills (4Cs and a P) they need in order to master the required material.

This has been a big risk for me.  It has meant admitting that I don’t know the answer.  It has meant asking for help from our group. It has even meant wandering down the the kindergarten room (A no-fly zone for me!) to see how they are approaching inquiry-based learning.

So far, it’s working.  All of my students have progressed two or more levels in their reading, are showing good understanding of math concepts and, thanks to blogging, are eager to write whenever they have the chance.  Their behaviour is improving too.

I think the reason things are going so well are a direct result of an increase in student engagement.  Slowly my class has begun to take ownership for their learning, and it seems to be contagious.  I think it is because with this style of learning, there is no risk in taking risks.  I expect it also has something to do with the freedom the kids have to use technology to help them figure things out and then communicate their learning.

I’ve noticed that lately when students have questions, it seems they can ‘google it’ faster thank I can explain the answer.  This means that instead of my role being one where I mostly present information, it has become one where I can spend time teaching how to analyze and interpret information. In the past, I think I’ve overlooked these higher level thinking skills  because I had to to answer all the questions.  However now that my students are gaining the skills they need to answer questions on their own I can use that time to teach Creativity, Critical Thinking, Problem Solving and Communication.  I’m not sure how to measure student mastery of these skills, but I am confident that Team 2 (me included!) is making progress.

This is fun.  It’s exciting.  And I have 16 7-year olds who agree with me.