I’m Listening: A Story of Making Learning Manageable for Both Students and Educators

Michelle teaches English Studies 12 and New Media 11 at George Elliot Secondary School in Lake Country. Her classroom learning environment at GESS is reflective of her pedagogical belief sets around the OECD 7 Principles of Learning. Placing learners at the centre is at the core of her practice, as she whole-heartedly listens to the voices of her students, and allows them to be the drivers of their own learning.

When Michelle first started her remote learning journey, she wondered how she could continue to reflect her beliefs as she provided opportunities for her students to communicate both with her, and with their peers. As you will hear in her story, her number one tool for making the learning both purposeful and manageable was to listen. To listen and let her students know that she values their thoughts and interests, and that they matter.

1. Staying Connected With Students

Michelle stays connected to her students through a variety of methods which include Zoom meetings (both large and small groups), and one-on-one conversations with students each week. She has also created other spaces for conversations, such as Google Classroom, Flipgrid, her teacher Instagram account, and through emails. She states that she wants to “keep the conversations going and the students connected, even when they aren’t actually connected via Zoom.”

Teaching remotely has taught Michelle that above all, it is the human interaction that is most important to her. She shares that, “the reason I love teaching is because of the humans. I always knew that connection was a big part of it for me, I guess I just didn’t realize how much. The content matters almost less than it has before, and what matters more, is the kids.”

Watch Michelle explain how she tries to stay connected with kids.

2. Using Feedback From Students to Inform the Learning

Feedback is something that Michelle has always asked for and honored, so she wants to make sure that she stays true to that belief. She asks for feedback from her students to find out how they are doing, what is working for them, and what they would like to change.

She gets feedback during her one-on-one conversations with students, on anonymous google form surveys, and from what is shared with her in other ways. As a result of the open, caring relationship she has fostered with them throughout the year, her students are very honest with their feedback, and Michelle listens to and continues to make adjustments based on what will work best for them.

For example, her students shared that they were “over” having to learn and think about COVID-19, and wanted to seperate themselves from the constant barrage of information about the pandemic. Michelle listened, put aside her original plans, and has created learning opportunities for her students to help them use media and literature to ‘escape’.

Watch Michelle explain why using student feedback to

inform the learning is important to her.

3. Giving Students Feedback to Help Them Improve Their Learning

Michelle uses a variety of tools to give her students specific feedback that will help them to improve their learning. Students are asked to use these tools to assess their own learning, to give feedback to their peers, and to use the feedback (self, peer, and teacher) to make adjustments and grow. Michelle asks her students to create short videos to make their thinking visible, she gives feedback to each of them, and then asks students in the class to comment and give feedback as well. She reflected on the assignment by saying, “If you think about it, a 90 second video is a very small assignment and it did take two weeks for them all to become a part of it, but it was worth it because in the end, it is now a place where they are all connected together.”

Prior to Spring Break, Michelle had also co-created criteria with her students, which they are continuing to use with single-point rubrics and learning maps to help them set goals, self-assess, and identify their next steps in learning. Michelle is finding that the best way to offer feedback to students is with small group and individual Zoom meetings. She makes it a priority to connect individually with students for a 5 minute conversation each week.

See an example of Michelle’s single point rubric and learning map. See a student example of the learning map here.

See Michelle discuss how she is helping her students to improve

their learning by giving them specific feedback.

4. Making Learning Manageable

Michelle has been hearing from her students, their families, and the administration at the school, that many students are feeling overwhelmed with their learning. To make sure that she is creating meaningful and manageable learning opportunities for her students, MIchelle schedules one zoom call per week, but also has office hours where students can join her on zoom to get help with questions, or simply just to have someone that they can connect to and chat with as they learn.

Michelle has also made the decision to have one assignment each week. Through feedback from her students, she said “that they have said how grateful they are to have just one assignment to work on throughout the week.” The assignments each week are connected to the ones prior, which connects the learning. Also, by being flexible with her plans, and following her students’ interests (ie: when they shared they were more interested in the idea of ‘escape’ than in COVID-19), the learning that students are asked to engage in will be more interesting and engaging for them.

Finally, because dialogue is truly the heart of Michelle’s learning environment, and students are used to engaging in sharing circles and learning conversations with each other in class, she is trying to mimic this as closely as possible with remote learning. Rather than change her pedagogy and what she believes about learning, she has provided her students with multiple opportunities to continue to discuss their learning with each other as they build collective knowledge. This is something that her learners have embraced.

See Michelle discuss how she is trying to make

learning manageable for her students.


A huge thank you to Michelle for making herself vulnerable and sharing what she is doing so far!

To see more of what Michelle is doing…

  1. Week at a glance for May 11-15

  2. Slide deck for April 20-24

  3. Slide deck for April 13-17

  4. Week at glance for April 13-17

  5. Individual Check In Zoom Meeting Schedule

To see examples of what other educators in our district are doing, click here:

For more ideas about how to schedule learning, click here.