Are you the only judge?

Is there a line of children standing at your desk waiting for you to look at their work?

No matter how old the learners are, they deserve better than to stand around waiting for your attention.

Have you added up the number of minutes in a day, a week, a year, that a child in your class waits on line for your attention?

Would any of the following work?

  • Have them share their work with a peer.
  • Have them self assess or peer asses, using pre -agreed criteria.
  • Collaboratively compose scaffolding questions to help them reflect on both content and purpose
    • Have I used capital letters?
    • Have I considered my audience and purpose?
    • Do I like how this sounds when I read it aloud?
    • Have I checked my spelling or my calculations?
    • Is there anything I could change?
    • Does my friend have any suggestions?
    • Could I have done this in another way?
    • What did I learn?
    • What I notice about myself as a learner?
  • Get them to read while they wait for the teacher: to themselves or to each other.
  • Have them post what they have done online (eg in Seesaw or on a class blog) for feedback from peers, parents, the world…


  • More efficient use of learning time.
  • Increased student ownership.
  • Practising a range of skills beyond waiting – reading, writing, collaborating, thinking, speaking, listening, decision making, reflection…

What other ideas can you add to the list above?

#2 in a series on breaking habits, making small changes creating learning time. It took me a while to realise what they are really about…

Homework: Add the number of minutes children wait for a turn to talk (see previous post) to the number of minutes they wait for you to look at their work…


How much time do you spend shushing twenty-four children while one child speaks?

Do you find yourself frequently shushing twenty-four children while one child speaks? 

It is true that children need to learn to listen as well as talk. It is true that patience is a virtue. It is true that we need to teach our children to be polite and wait their turn. It is true that sometimes (but not always!) it’s worth everyone listening to what one person says.


Have you added up the number of minutes in a day, a week, a year, that all except one child in your class are passively waiting their turn, while one child at a time (or the teacher!) talks? 

Have you considered the possibility that every idea does not have to go via the teacher?

Instead of every child getting a turn to share their idea while the whole class listens, would any of the following work?

  • Turn and talk to a partner.
  • Discuss in a group – Share only one thing that surprised you or one thing that was controversial.
  • Write your thoughts on a sticky note and post it up for everyone to read.
  • Share your thinking in a back channel like Todays Meet.
  • Write on big poster sheets then move around and read others’ responses.
  • A Chalk Walk, or a Carousel.
  • Collaborate on a google doc.
  • Use virtual sticky notes to post your thoughts in Linoit or Padlet or respond in Answer Garden.


  • More efficient use of learning time.
  • Active and social learning.
  • Increased student ownership.
  • Practising a range of skills in addition to listening (and waiting) – speaking, reading, writing, thinking, collaboration, cooperation, tech skills.

#1 in a series on making small changes

What other ideas can you add to the list above?

** Would you like to contribute a post to the series on making small changes? Something we all tend to do or you have observed in classrooms? Ideas of simple ways to do it differently? 



What does student ownership look like?

‘Imagine if we did this with kids’… I said in my previous post and, within a few days, some teachers have!

The learners work in mixed groups across two Year 6 classes and respond to the same question that we gave the teachers last week: ‘What does student ownership of learning look like’? 

The teachers move between the groups, asking probing questions, encouraging the learners to think more deeply.


IMG_4826Responses are quite revealing!

  • Teachers tell students where to go, but they choose their own route to get there.
  • Teachers tell the students what to do, but they decide how to do it.
  • People can have their own opinions and points of view.
  • Freedom to learn and independence.
  • Taking pride in your own learning.
  • Thinking and reflecting about what and how you learn.
  • Doing your work without letting yourself be distracted.
  • We are all unique in our learning and thinking styles.
  • Teacher opens the door, but only we can walk through.
  • Choosing wisely where to sit and who to work with.

It’s only Day 2 of the school year and I know things will develop as the year unfolds. These young learners have teachers who value student ownership and will work at establishing a culture where this is real. They are part of a learning community where ownership of learning is valued and beliefs about how this takes place have been articulated and agreed upon.

Yet I can’t help but wonder:

  • Have our learners really experienced ownership of their learning within a school context?
  • Are the children saying the sorts of things they think teachers are looking for?
  • Can our learners imagine what really owning your learning looks and feels like?
  • Do adults really believe that children can be the owners of their learning?
  • Is ownership of learning compatible with traditional models of school?
  • How can we help children (and teachers) separate the notion of learning from that of ‘doing school’?
  • Does our practice align with our beliefs?



Focusing on ownership of learning…

Day 1 of the new school year had a hundred and twenty teachers gathered in one place to think about student ownership! What could be better?

Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 10.02.01 am

In cross campus, mixed role groups, teachers took turns to talk about something they had learned during the holidays and how they had learned it. Conversations were varied and animated, as experiences and reflections were shared between people who don’t usually work (or play) together. *Imagine doing this as a whole year level or cross grade exercise…

Our 2016 focus was introduced: Increase opportunities for ownership of learning.

Teachers were asked to ponder the question – ‘What does student ownership of learning look like’? *Imagine doing this in your classroom…

  • READ a blog post. 
  • SHARE something you read relating to student ownership of learning.
  • DISCUSS which of our learning principles it connects to.
  • CREATE a poster about ownership of learning.

Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 10.02.54 am




How can we set a tone from Day 1 to give the message that we value student ownership? *Imagine asking your students this question…

Having considered the ‘what’, the teachers now explored the ‘how’, using Ron Ritchhart’s 8 cultural forces as a scaffold:

  • Time
  • Opportunities
  • Routines/ Structures
  • Language
  • Modelling
  • Interactions/Relationships
  • Physical environment
  • Expectations

And finally, it was back to where we started:Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 10.57.50 am

Looking forward to an exciting year of increased ownership of learning for teachers and students alike.

** Join us to unleash the learning in March at Unleashing Learning!


What will you teach your brother?

Dear Shai,

Your little brother Matan has joined the family (and the world) and his name has the same meaning as yours – a gift. Two precious little gifts, each with your own unique qualities and characteristics.

When you were born, we wondered who you would be and since then, we have been observing with delight as you develop, grow and learn.

What special gifts will you give to your brother, Matan?


  • Will you teach him to love animals and encounter every living thing with joy?
  • Will you teach him to be a curious explorer, eager to discover the world?
  • Will you teach him to build Lego towers and pillow houses, and to fill them with love?
  • Will you teach him to be fearless and determined and to fight for what matters to him?
  • Will you teach him to love life and to laugh with glee as he experiences it to the full?
  • Will you teach him to be gentle, tender and kind?

… just like you?

We look forward to finding out!


Granny and Grandpa.

To teachers everywhere…

Inspired by this post to children, by Colleen Wilson.

In case you think it goes unnoticed…

To the teacher who changed one small thing in your classroom thereby making a difference to the learning, I see you.

To the teacher who struggled to communicate difficult news to parents and managed to make them feel supported, I see you.

To the teacher who found technology challenging but overcame fear and got the children blogging, I see you.

To the teacher who wrestled with the option of an interesting job offer and made the decision to stay and make a difference, I see you.

To the teacher who had to deal with complaints, yet has risen to the challenge and decided to become the best educator possible, I see you.

To the teacher who thought she was ordinary and had to be pushed to realise her incredible potential, I see you.

To the teacher who was afraid to let go, but is gradually beginning to hand over control to the learners, I see you.

To the unassuming teacher, reluctant to put herself out there and share the amazing learning taking place in her classroom, I see you.

To the teacher who finds difficult situations intimidating and often blames herself, but works tirelessly to make things better for other human beings, I see you.

To the teacher who worried about managing what everyone else was doing and instead had the courage to try something different, I see you.

To the teacher who shifted from ‘doing school’ to observing carefully in order to be ready when the special moment happened, I see you.

To the teacher who measured herself against others and didn’t see herself as a leader but is ready to step up now, I see you.

To the teacher fearful of change, who clung to old ways of doing things and finally leaped out of her comfort zone, I see you.

To the teacher who is filled with self doubt, always thinking he could have done better, not realising that’s how all good teachers feel, I see you.

Thank you.

(Back in 2016.)

Student ownership of learning…

“I think teachers should not be telling the students exactly what they should be doing. They should be finding their own path and figuring out the ways that they learn best.”    ~ Georgia, Year 6.

The Year 6 PYP exhibition is a prime example of the kind of learning that is unleashed when students own their learning. The confidence and understanding with which Georgia and the other learners shared this learning experience are evidence of the power of student ownership…

Looking forward to increasing opportunities for student ownership in 2016!

How is learning unleashed?

Image by Elena Sacks

In the build up to our exciting Unleashing Learning conference, there is much discussion as to what the term ‘unleashing learning’ unleashes in different people!

The art teacher believes learning is unleashed through art. Some are convinced of the power of technology to unleash learning. 

The school is abuzz with ideas…

One teacher tells me that believing in her students is what unleashes their potential to learn. Is learning unleashed by positive self perception? By the way teachers talk to learners? Understanding the way each learner learns best? 

Is it when we stop covering material and allow learners to uncover and discover for themselves that learning is unleashed? Is it about student ownership and agency?

Is learning unleashed when you create a culture of thinking? By making thinking visible? By encouraging reflection on the process as much as the content of learning?

Does passion unleash learning? Is it the opportunity to explore something about which you care deeply? Is learning unleashed when there is relevance and connection to students’ lives?

Is learning unleashed through imagining and creating? Through self-identification of problems and exploration of possible solutions? 

Are time and space key factors in unleashing learning? What if we let go of restrictive timetables?  Is learning unleashed when the classroom walls are flattened and learning is taken outside… to nature, to the streets, to the world? Is it deep curiosity and the time and space to pursue wonderings that unleash learning?

How do you think learning is unleashed?

Making space for innovation…

When did you last spring clean your school events calendar? Are there items that you’ve had for years and may be ready to be modified, improved, replaced or thrown out? Are there things that don’t match any more? Don’t fit any more? Don’t work any more? Don’t excite you any more?

In today’s leadership meeting, we brainstorm some of our traditional ‘events’ and ‘customs’, each jot them down on sticky notes and then place them on a continuum according to our personal feelings about them:

Loathe it – Lament it – Live with it – Like it – Love it.


Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 6.34.30 pm

It’s a refreshing, honest activity, where we say what we think and the data is fascinating.  Apparently there are still lots of things we do because… well we’ve always done them. It’s the first step towards a thorough spring clean in which we will address which items to modify, which to replace and which to give away entirely.

The next step is is to conduct the same exercise with teachers and then students!

Looking forward to making space for innovation…