Know your Learners #IMMOOC4

“As teachers, your greatest power comes from knowing your learners”.Katie Martin  in Learner-Centered Innovation. 

How well do you know your learners? Do you know what they are doing after school? What do they really like to do at school? What do they struggle with?   The first thing you need to do is get to know your learners. And that begins with building a relationship with each of your students. When students know you care about them and are interested in them, they will work harder. A fellow educator, Jed Dearybury says : 


When your students know that you love them, care for them, and are proud of them, then they will give you their best.  This is very important at any age. And all it takes is a small amount of time.


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Shifting Our Thinking

As the role of the educator evolves, the human connection and guidance will become increasingly more—not less—important. Katie M Martin in Learner Centered Innovation

Teachers are traditionally put into a role of being the expert. As primary teachers, we know how reading happens, and how to begin to write . And we teach that process to our students step by step. We show them how to add and subtract, and how to solve mathematical problems. We share our knowledge of the world with them. But in reality, there is so much more in the world we don’t know. Yet, our job is to teach. So, we teach our students to ask questions, and find solutions: we teach them to work together and listen to others because two brains are smarter than one. We teach them how to think about their learning and how to share what they know with others . However, recognizing that we don’t have all the answers is the first step for teachers towards growing as learners.

As teachers, we need to shift from being the only expert in the classroom to recognizing the strengths and expertise in others . One thing I adore about first graders is their willingness to take a risk. If they fail, most often they dust themselves off and try again. Some students “get it“ the first time they try, while others need several tries, and still others need more guidance. It’s time we make that shift in teaching and learning, challenge our perceptions of what a classroom should look like, and focus on our learners. Give them what they need and allow them some voice in how they work toward their goals.

“Our methods can and should move flexibly from direct teaching to collaborative …approaches based on the needs of the learners and the desired goals. -KatieM Martin

#Oneword for 2018

# Oneword


This has been a popular tweet and mantra this month. As we look toward new year, I am reminded of new beginnings and fresh starts This #oneword got me thinking , “How do I capture a year in one word? “, “What do I want to focus on this year?”(without sounding hokey).  I was stumped …for a while.

A friend, who is an inspiration to me, asked a few of us to video tape ourselves sharing our word from 2017. Now, I do not like hearing my voice recorded, it sounds so high pitched. But, he got me thinking about being vulnerable, and putting my ideas out onto the world, which is something I continue to work on. I thought, “Challenge accepted!”

There are so many words out there, so many people with so many great words to share , to inspire, to move us forward, to make us think.  What would my word be?

I wrote down words that inspire me, and thought about inspire as my word, but I needed something more for me. Last year, my word was believe. And this carried through to my classroom with our mantra “Believe in you.”  we listen to Shawn Mendes every morning singing “I Believe” as we gather for our CREW meeting. That word captured my year, believing in myself and my students to achieve more, to do more, to change our world. I changed jobs, began presenting innovative ideas to other teachers at local and regional conferences, and followed some amazing educators on twitter for my inspiration.

So, what word would capture 2018? What do I expect of myself this year?

And then it came to me…


Imagine the possibilities.

Imagine what we can do together.


This is the year to imagine what I can do with the power of #oneword. The word to inspire me to challenge myself and take some risks.

When I shared this with my class, they came up with words of their own, which will inspire all of us to imagine what we can do together.

What We Measure Matters #IMMOOC3



I am listening to a podcast with Kayla Delzer the inventor of “Starbucks seating”, or what we now call a flexible learning environment. She said  “What we measure matters.” Are we measuring growth from point A to point B, or are we looking at what most kids can do at this time? Are we looking at how well they ask questions? Or have a conversation with other students? Are we looking at perseverance, and how they stick to a task and try it again, and again, to get it right?

Are we only measuring academic growth in reading, math and writing? Or, are we looking at the whole learner, and evaluating how the shy kid who never shares during morning crew finally greets us all! That to me, is success! When I look at how my kids are doing on a daily basis, i am looking for relationships, and collaboration. I am looking for how well they communicate what they are thinking with others. I look at their creativity in finding solutions to problems – (even small ones, like “I need to find headphones”). i look for how they give each other feedback. Is it kind? Helpful? Specific?

I am so lucky to teach first grade because my kids don’t know what they don’t know. They are learning how to learn along with me. They do not have preconceived ideas on how learning should look. I’m guiding them to learn what works best for them.

We reflect daily during our Shout Outs at the end of the day. I love hearing what students see happening in our classroom, and how they encourage each other by calling out the great things I don’t often get to see.

It is so important to celebrate the small things that each child is achieving daily! Look beyond the reading score, beyond that math test, and beyond the spelling errors for what is written – because hidden in that writing sample is a lot of great thoughts and ideas trying to come out! Measure the baby steps, the progress toward becoming brave and having the courage to try something new. Measure the small moments shared in conversations around the room. And most of all, measure the kindness they share when they are helping others to do their best. That is what creates a positive, encouraging world. And that is what we all need.


Less is More #IMMOOC3

I am reading The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros.  In the book,  he talks about being intentional in our planning, and working toward achieving a common goal. One thing he said that resonated with me is Less is more

There is so much available to teachers today – resources,  apps, websites – a lot of information about making learning easier.  It when you start with just one thing, #onesmallthing, and go deep, that you make the greatest impact. 

In first grade, we have a lot of brand new learning. This is the year we see a lot of growth  in our learners. They learn how to become  better readers, writers, and mathematicians. They learn to get along with others. They learn how to make mistakes and try again.  They learn about first attempts, and second attempts, improving their learning each time.  We started to work with a new app each week, spending time on just one- exploring the app testing it out, using it for learning, working with others , and finding out what it can do.  One of the first websites or apps I share is Seesaw. It’s a digital portfolio used to share the learning. My students can upload their literacy activities so I have evidence of what they accomplish each day. I love it because it allows me to take the time to see what they are practicing while I am working with guided groups.  We are still learning to do new things on Seesaw. 

Using that less is more  mindset, I cut back on the number of apps we use, causing us to  become more intentional with the apps we are using.  It is important to give them time to become experts with a tool, so that they can teach it to others .  First we are learners, then we become teachers. 


Why is Innovation in Education so Important today? #IMMOOC


“Innovation is the process by which we change the world. Its about making things better in new and meaningful ways. It’s the practical application of ideas and technologies to make new and better things,” Carl Bass, CEO of Autodesk, from The New rules of education TEdTalk

I recently joined the IMMOOC – a massive online community of learners, innovators, and creators who want to make changes in their world. We were challenged to blog about why innovation is so crucial in todays’ classrooms. Through their thoughts and ideas, I am growing as an educator, and feeling empowered to try new ideas in my classroom.

Working with first graders, I often struggle with laying the groundwork versus trying something new.  I know that my kids need to learn how to read – but more importantly, how to find the information they need for the task at hand, and understand it. My students need to know how to write – but more specifically, how to communicate their ideas with others. My students need to know basic math facts and concepts, by more importantly, they need to know how they relate to their world. I need to provide that instruction through differentiated instruction, conferencing with students and giving feedback, and providing them with a safe-to -explore learning environment to show their learning. I need to teach these children that are growing up in the 21st century, in our changing world, so that they will be empowered to follow their passions.


After spending time listening to Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk on Starting with your Why? I have discovered that I want to provide a learning environment that is best for kids today. I want my students to have the best opportunities to follow their passions and dreams.

All kids walk into school curious and creative. We need to weave a path to accentuate the creativity in our kids.  George Couros

So, why is innovation important today? We need to reach all students, to spark their creativity, and encourage them follow their passions and empower them to ask questions and find their own learning path. As an educator, I need to try new things, challenge old ways of thinking, and take risks.  I need to be modeling that for my curious, creative students who come to me every day eager to learn.

“Innovation is a way of thinking. It is a way of considering concepts, processes, and potential outcomes; it is not a thing, task, or even technology.” George Couros, from his book, The Innovator’s Mindset



Building the capacity for learning


Now that the first week of school is done, we are ready to start building capacity for learning.

  1. The first step  is Building the relationship. Many of the posts and blogs I’ve been reading point to providing a safe, calm environment where kids can be themselves. This is true. I need to begin with understanding students’  strengths and growth points. I am spending time asking questions, getting to know who my students are, and what they are interested in. We spend time in our morning CREW meetings talking about favorites and who we are. Before kids can feel safe, they have to know you care about them.
  2.  The second step is Building the culture.  Once you have a relationship with each student, they you are ready to build the culture of the classroom. We are working on how we act in the classroom, towards each other, and in other learning spaces in the school. We focus on four main principles: Be safe, Be respectful, Be responsible, Be kind and have courage ( yes, this is from Cinderella – perfect for our class). We added kindness and courage last year at the request of one of the students, and these two principles really helped us grow together as learners.  I am embracing the power of YET! … and sharing that power with my students. Its ok to begin where you are.  We are all beginning at different places. If you are not where you want to be YET, there is time, and in my classroom, we will get there together.


3. Next, we work on  Building the community. Our class is learning how to function as a group. How we get along with each other. Then we learn how we function in our school community and our local community. We are learning how to connect with other classes around the globe to build our global community too. We must learn about greeting other people and having a conversation with others. We work on taking turns, how one person speaks and others listen, then another person speaks. In our classroom community, everyone has a voice and every voice needs to be heard, even if they want to be silent.

4. Then we work on Building the Content.  As I get to know my students as learners,  we start inquiring about likes and dislikes. I know the curriculum and the standards. We post them as we are learning about them. But the content, how we learn about communities and cultures around the world for example, should come from my students. What if I want to study England, but other students have relatives in Canada or Mexico. I need to be able to offer resources for them to investigate those cultures.  When we are learning about living things, I will model with one animal, and for their own projects, they can choose the animal they want to learn more about. Together, we build the content.

5. Finally, we work on Building our Future.  When students know they have the capacity to learn new things, using a growth mindset, and a lot of grit, they can solve problems in their world and learn to build their future.