Push Stop and Reflect

In my last post, I described our plans for a more flexible learning day through the use of Choose, Act, Reflect time (C.A.R. time) to give learners more voice, choice and ownership over their learning. We wanted to engage learners in co-constructing our learning experiences and choice over how they structured their learning, so they could develop an understanding of who they are as a learner. We wanted the learning to be a motivating factor for writing, to give writing an authentic purpose within our learning environment. We were moving from a fairly structured learning environment to more time for free flow and choice. Since then, our KG hub has been a whirlwind of activity. We have reflected and adjusted, but not really had a moment to push stop.

“We need to push stop and reflect,” is a favorite saying of my colleague Zoe Roles (@RolesZoe ) as she reminds us of the need to reflect to move forward. So, this post is my reflection on changes we implemented in our Kindergarten learning hub.

So I baked cookies with my daughter to get me into a reflection mindset.

During the first week, I tried to take the time to step back and observe. We noticed engagement in the first learning experience that learners chose, but very little documentation unless it was adult directed. we also noticed that after a while, learners lost focus and would revert to their comfort zone (the want to do experiences), rather than explore new learning experiences.

Based on these reflections, we decided to model learning experiences, model using writing as a documentation tool and introduced one session of interactive writing per week in small groups. One of the benefits of teaching and learning in a hub is that we can have several groups with an adult mentor.

I also began to focus our planning of guided reading to meet the needs of each small group. To support us, I took the Teaching Every Reader course led by Anna Geiger, M.Ed. and Becky Spence, M.Ed. Through the course and discussions with colleagues, I discovered Jan Richardson‘s “The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading.”

Each guided reading session is planned to review and teach new sight words, develop fluency, phonemic awareness, decoding skills, comprehension skills, vocabulary and provide opportunities for writing. I strongly feel like investing the time to plan and establish the routines for guided reading has been a driving force in helping our learners develop the skills they need as readers and writers. The small group sizes mean that I can personalize learning and give feedback in the moment and we are seeing progress. Learners are beginning to see the importance of decoding strategies and learning sight words.

Having said this, the time it takes to run these guided reading sessions during C.A.R. time means that we have had less time to observe and interact with learners engaged in other learning experiences. Personally, I felt like we made the change so we could have more time to interact with our learners, and found that we had less.

In response to this observation we decided that it was time support our learners with making choices to support their learning. We created advisory groups so learners could meet in smaller groups. We shared the learning options and learners could stick icons to a planning graphic organizer. At the end of C.A.R time we met back in our groups to reflect.

Our C.A.R. Time planning organizer

We asked our learners how they felt about C.A.R. time and discovered that they liked having the planning discussions, but it was challenging to keep track of their plan. Over the next few days we continued our conversations and discovered that our learners missed writing together as a class and would like to so for some days in the week. They also suggested that they could plan their day without trackers if we took more time to model each learning experience. We also discussed simplifying the ‘must do’ experiences to number and word/letters learning. Finally, we decided to wait to begin ‘want to do’ experiences until most learners had opportunities to engage in the ‘must do’ experiences.

Not everything we have tried has worked for us, but each experience has been a learning opportunity. Through listening to our learners and own intuition, we feel like we have balanced our schedule to support our learners develop the skills they need to push their learning forward. Through engaging in a #riskandreflect process we are defining how we learn together in our kindergarten learning hub.

Learner agency through Teacher Agency

Student agency has been a buzzword with educators for the last few years. As I look through definitions of the term I have found some commonalities:

  • giving students voice
  • giving students choice 
  • making learning relevant
  • students having an active role in learning
  • student have ownership

When I look at that last term of ownership, my focus shifts to learning. Therefore, I make a conscious effort to use the terms learner, not student and learning not student work.

Over the past two days I have had the amazing opportunity to learn about learner agency with Taryn BondClegg (@makingoodhumans), and have had many opportunities to reflect on my practice as an educator.  She structured our workshop learn about agency, by giving us agency. She has also ensured that she gives us the opportunity to unpick the why? how? and what? Taryn began by giving us time to connect and then self assess our understanding. We also generated our own success criteria for the session, because as long as we understood the why, the choice of how and what we learnt was ours.  As we were generating our success criteria for the two day, we were asked to share them as we were reminded that:

Learners should have accountability to themselves and their learning community.

After we developed our success criteria, we unpicked the why, how and what of documentation. Again, as long as we were clear on the purpose of documentation, the how and what we documented was our choice.


Before we chose our learning for the day we were asked to consider the following questions:

What do you need to learn about?

How best do you learn?

How much time do you need?

When do you need to take breaks?

How can you learn from one another?

This process supported us to reflect upon ourselves as learners, so that we could control and direct our own learning using the CAR model – choose, act, and reflect. Taryn has blogged about this process and you can find this post here.

Over the two days, I was reminded what it was like to be a learner. This was not a PD session where the vibe was ‘do as I say, not as I model.’ I felt engaged and energized throughout the learning. There were some issues I grappled with, and the conclusions I came to were my own, not answers given to me. I had to push myself outside of my comfort zone and my new learning was earned. I will say that as energized as I was, it was also intense and was very grateful that we did not have homework at the end of the day!

So, what were my big takeaways from learning about learner agency through agency?

The first idea isn’t new, it was just a great reminder. We can support our learners by building positive relationships with our families within our learning community by keeping them informed!

Agency will look different in each circumstance. We need to do what works for us in our situation. Learner agency builds up over time, so be wary of transplanting what works at another school. By all means, learn from others, share ideas and adapt them to make them workable for you.

The foundation for learner agency is learners developing self awareness of who they are as learners. Therefore, taking time to connect each morning and reflect at the end of each day is vital to supporting learners to move from one place to the next on their continuum of learning.

We can give learners agency through a cycle of risk and reflect. We should continually ask ourselves what we can do to give our learners voice, choice and ownership of their learning.

And finally, it is okay to start small, and so I did.

The next day was International Day at our school. We were exploring the theme of peace  and our team had planned to have learners do the same learning activity. Our plans changed. We began by exploring why we need peace. Then we generated ideas of how we could be peaceful. Finally, we developed a list of ideas to show what we could do to show our understanding of peace.  Some learners chose to play with peaceful intentions, other chose to build collaboratively.

Some chose to paint.

Others chose to write.

And some chose to use the app Draw and Tell to explain their thinking.

Before I finish today, I would like to thank Taryn, our administration and all the experts who took their time to share with us.

Finally, I ask you, what will you do to honor your learners to give them voice, choice and ownership over their learning?