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The Power of One – #saskedchat summer blog week 4

on July 21, 2015

As you can see, I missed last week’s blog challenge.  I was away from my family and quite enjoyed my time away.  I did some reading, some visiting, some sun-soaking and just relaxing.  This week I’m back!

While I was away, I read the first book in the #2k15reads book club: Learn like a Pirate, by Paul Solarz (@paulsolarz on Twitter).  I read it quite quickly and was equally as quickly inspired.  However, like many PD sessions or reading sessions, I quickly slip from inspiration to but’s.  I like the ideas but…  I love the idea of giving kids independence, but they are only six and seven!  I like the idea of collaboration, but do they really understand at that age?  I like the idea of having a student-led classroom, but can they achieve that so early in second language instruction?  I like the idea of a fluid, changing space, but I’m not a classroom teacher, do I have any control over their space?  I like the idea of setting goals with the kids each day or week, but with only 120 minutes a week, is that possible?  I LOVE the responsibility partners idea, but can six-year olds understand the concept of helping vs. giving answers?  I love the Marble Theory of knowledge and strengths, but will these little people understand it?

As you can see, it is easy to be inspired and just as easily write these ideas off as not possible.  I was probably ready to just leave things as they were until this showed up in my Twitter feed:



Well, okay, the universe didn’t want to just let this one go for me.  So, I replied with a truthful but shallow response:


However, thankfully, neither the universe, nor Scott Totten (@4BetterEducatio), were willing to let that one go just yet.


Okay, so I really need to start thinking about this… I can’t just let this one go.  So, I was honest in my response and Scott was equally honest in his.  tweet4So, here I am.  What can I do, as one itinerant teacher, to empower my little six and seven year old students?  How can I, who comes in for 60 minutes at a time, twice a week, empower these kids who are just discovering a new language, just discovering this thing called school?  And quite frankly, how can I, who enjoys having a clear path in front of me with set steps, create a learning environment that is messy, loud, and meaningful for my students?  Scott encouraged me to try to answer these questions.  Jana Scott Lindsay (@janaslinday on Twitter) aptly chose a topic for the #saskedchat blog post this week that seemed to push me even further in this direction.  What power do I have, as ONE person, one prep teacher, to create this positive change?


I started by rereading the chapter on Peer Collaboration from Learn like a Pirate.  It seemed to me that this is where I need to start with my kidlets.  For each big idea I came across, I wrote my thoughts down.  I will share them below.  Please, if you have any thoughts or ideas, share them with me.  Right now, I am just at the early stages of processing all this information.  I hope to dig deeper in the next month or so before school is back in session.

  • We are a family!
    • We want everyone to find success in this classroom.  From my experience, younger kids have a natural ability to be happy for their classmates, and sad for them.  They love seeing people from their class win prizes in school-wide contests and become very concerned for them if they are sad or hurt.  This plays naturally into the concept that we are a family.
    • They still need to be reminded, however, that family members can argue, disagree, and even fight sometimes, but that we still need to be respectful.
    • This idea also fits in really well with our Catholic teachings of “we are all children of God.”
    • While reading this section, I started thinking about the “I can” statements that have become very popular as of late.  Could I transform these statements into “We can” statements?  Would that underline the idea that our goal is that we all can achieve the desired outcome?  It would eliminate the “I can do it before/better/faster/neater/etc than you” statements.  It would give the quick finishers a focused goal: make sure that everyone can do it.  I like the idea.
  • “Give me Five”
    • My first reaction, and continued reaction to this is that five, six and seven year olds wouldn’t get this.  They are just discovering what school is all about.  However, is there a way to adapt this idea?
    • I really like the idea of stopping a working session and asking a student to share an instruction, an idea, or a question.  I think that is I did the stopping but the student did the sharing instead of me, this is a happy compromise at first.  It would show the students that I value what they think, their ideas.
    • Many young students don’t quite know yet how to read time.  Perhaps I could travel with a digital clock on my cart and post the transition times so students would be able to keep us on task.
  • Setting goals collaboratively
    • Take five minutes to debrief that day with the kids and to set a goal for the next class.  In the book the kids run the show from leading the discussion to getting the supplies to writing the goal.  How can I make this work in a grade 1 classroom where at the beginning of the year they can neither read nor write?
    • Can I ask the “capitaine” to be responsible for getting the supplies (with the support of everyone)?
    • Since I’m travelling in and out of the classroom, how can I find a physical space for this?
    • Can I start the year with visuals of some standard goals? (speak French, stay on task, help a friend, …???)
    • Keep it simple!
  • Providing “space”
    • I don’t have control over the way that the classrooms are organized as I am just popping in and out.
    • I need to find a way to organize my cart in such a way that although the supplies on the cart may change, that each classroom has a “space” on my cart that doesn’t change.  Is there anyone out there that teaches from a cart that can share how they organize themselves???
    • Can I ask the teachers for a spot in their room?  A corner of a shelf or bulletin board?
  • Responsibility partners
    • For those that haven’t read the book, here is how Paul Solarz describes responsibility partners (page 54):
      • Responsibility Partners sit together and bounce ideas off of each other but still come up with their own products using their own ideas.  They check in regularly with one another to make sure they each understand the assignment and required tasks, ad they confer with one another whenever they have questions.  They also hold one another accountable for completing all the steps correctly.

    • This idea brings me back to the idea of family and helping each other.  The idea that WE CAN do things in addition to I CAN.
    • This supports French immersion’s goal of oral language development and gives students the opportunity to use French in a real-world way.
    • Paul Solarz also brings attention to The Cone of Learning which fits in quite nicely with the idea of giving the students an opportunity to talk about their work.  It takes the learning from passive to active.
    • I love this idea and am determined to give this a go in my classes.  The only difficulty I foresee is figuring out how to teach the little people the difference between helping by just giving them the/an answer, and helping them discover an answer on their own.  Little people truly believe they are helping their friends by telling them exactly what to do.  I am looking for lessons, books, ideas, ways to introduce this idea to my students?  Anyone have any they would like to share?
  • Conflict resolution
    • When you are asking kids to work together and collaborate, it is inevitable that there are going to be disagreements.  I love the three simple rules introduced in the book: Rock-Paper-Scissors; Compromise; Choose kind.  The work at all age levels and could likely solve most problems.
    • Paul Solarz also talks about using The Leader in Me and the 7 Habits of Happy Kids.  I really like what I’ve seen of these resources.  I would like to see if the classroom teachers would collaborate with me on some of these lessons at the beginning of the year.
  • Collaboration
    • I’m always on the lookout for new picture books to use to teach these kinds of lessons to my younger students.  I came across a lovely story of collaboration this summer: By Mouse and Frog by Deborah Freedman (@deborahfreedman).  Unfortunately, this is not currently available in French.  Do you have any suggestions for books?
    • I think that it is important to practice collaboration.  I like the idea of quality, not quantity.
    • In the book, it is underlined that learning, not perfection, is the ultimate goal of all collaboration.  I think this is super important.

There are many other things in the book, but as with everything we learn, we can’t do everything at once.  Here is where I am going to start.  Please share your thoughts and ideas.  Please ask me questions if you think I’ve misunderstood or haven’t clarified enough.  Thanks for reading!


5 responses to “The Power of One – #saskedchat summer blog week 4

  1. Paul Solarz says:

    Amazing reflection Jamie! You are in a unique position and should definitely collaborate with others on your journey! Here are two links that might be helpful:
    – A list of bloggers who are trying #LearnLAP in their classrooms (separated by grade level & position):
    – Twitter names of people trying out #LearnLAP this coming year (by grade level):

  2. kwhobbes says:

    Great post. Having used and referenced The Leader in Me a few times, I know that our staff was used the ideas at the school and in their classrooms. Our school used the ideas from the book to help us as we began to develop our school culture in the new school. I highly recommend the book to anyone looking to empower students and help develop a culture of thriving and development in a school. I also recommend the book The Power of Trust by Stephen M.R. Covey for all teachers – it has so many great ideas about developing trust within an organization.

    The greatest thing is that you are thinking about how you can use the ideas within your own domain and not waiting for others. One of the biggest inhibitors of innovation is waiting for others to okay our ideas. Sometimes we need to boldly step to the edge of possibility to see what happens.

    So looking forward to hearing how these ideas continue to develop as you mix them and reframe them over time. What a wonderfully exciting path you are on!

  3. I love the honesty of your post Jamie… I think so many educators, myself included, are equally inspired and leery of change as we continue on our journey as teachers as learners.

    Always? The barriers are real and time seems to be at the top of the list.

    I really like how you have broken down the problems you foresee coming to the surface and have talked through manageable solutions to make sure there is no possibility of derailment. This year I was itinerant in classrooms and faced many of the same things you mentioned. I don’t have a cart but I do have a space in my office where I pull together the materials I need. I also often asked to use space in the physical classroom to post our thinking and wondering. I will say access to technology and web tools was key. I am not sure what I might have done had I not had access to Google docs and YouTube:) With older students the blog became our common place to connect, share, and grow together. Always open to new ideas and supports as you come across them… the life of an itinerant teacher:)

    And I agree… the power of one becomes possible with backup.

    Community is key… relationships with students, peers, the greater learning group, colleagues near or far… that is how each and every one of these barriers will be overcome.

  4. Hey @fiteach – I really enjoyed reading this. I picked up (and read it’s entirety!) because I was following your tweets. This year- coming back from my 2nd mat leave – I have a 2/3 Immersion class. I have similar concerns about the ages of kiddies and level of French (for some of the written and read aspects), but I am going to try it out!

    (I totally didn’t even think that these kids likely can’t read analog clocks – duh! Time to find a digital one.)

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