Responsibility for their own learning?

My senior Economics class left me this message for Valentine’s Day this week! It’s sweet and nice to know your students’ demand for you is completely inelastic and that they view you as such a necessity!

However, I always think about how much of what I’m doing is actually preparing students to be independent self-regulated learners rather than teacher-dependent spoon-fed learners… The IB is all about teaching students to be responsible for their own learning and to take initiative and seek knowledge rather than just passively receive it, to be self-motivated inquirers…

However, as an IB Economics teacher, I can speak for my subject and say that the IB Economics syllabus is HUGE! There are numerous learning outcomes in four different sections of the syllabus. Proper inquiry-based learning requires time and more focus on processes rather than content. However, the syllabus is content-heavy, and as a teacher I feel like I’m always time-poor!

So how does a time-poor teacher with a content-heavy syllabus empower students to be inquirers and take responsibility for their own learning? I’m not really sure, and I’m still figuring it out, but from my experience so far, I’ve devised a few strategies:

1- EcoNews blogging assignments:

Basically, every few weeks, I ask students to go and find a news article that relates to a part of the syllabus we have recently covered.

Students then post the link to the article and a short 250 word analysis/evaluation using the IA criteria as a framework. Basically it’s a mini IA so it trains them for their actual IAs, but also helps them link what we’re talking about in the classroom with the outside world and gives them ‘real-life examples’ to enrich their Paper 1 essay questions too! So many birds with one stone!

2- Student Teaching presentations:

Occasionally I’ll assign groups of students sections of syllabus (I give them actual learning outcomes screenshot directly from syllabus), and ask them to prepare a lesson to teach the class this content. The lesson needs to include the content assigned, 1 or 2 short YouTube videos, 2 or 3 discussion questions, and needs to end with a paper 1 or paper 2 or paper 3 assessment exercise for the class to apply what they’ve learned (there are lots of exam-style questions in IB Economics textbooks).

3- Economics inquiry blogposts:

Sometimes, I take a break from the syllabus completely and I remind the students of what I believe are the six main principles of economics: scarcity, choices, consequences of choices, opportunity cost, incentives, and economic systems…

Students then pick a few of these principles and formulate an ‘economic question’ about something from their daily life that they want to analyze economically… Then they write a blogpost about it: no diagrams, no definitions, no fancy shmancy models, just a short blogpost about an economic question using only simple economic tools!

4- Occasional flipped units:

So I have a Youtube channel of IB Economics videos for the microeconomics and macroeconomics sections of the syllabus. Occasionally I’ll flip a specific topic or section where students are assigned lectures to watch at home (research proves flipped classroom works better when videos are made by their teacher), then come into class and work on practice activities or blog about topic or exam-style questions. This does free up class time, but I would not advocate for a fully flipped classroom ALL THE TIME, because it gets monotonous too 😉

These are my strategies for engaging my IB Economics students in inquiry-based learning and hopefully instilling in them a sense of responsibility for their own learning so that their demand for me is not as ‘inelastic’!

My lunch table!

At St Timothy’s, we have a dining program (which serves great food by the way). We also have a pretty cool system for our daily lunches. Each teacher is assigned a table that is theirs, mine is Table 9, and every two weeks a different group of students is assigned to sit on your table, so that by the end of the academic year you’ve had lunch with most of the student body!

I love my table! I use those lunch time student rotations to get to know students I don’t teach or build stronger rapport with students I do teach…

About two weeks ago, a student I teach came up to me during lunch time saying “Mr Elashiry, quick quick tell me something good! I’m having a terrible day!”

I panicked and felt like I was put on the spot and I too was having a somewhat challenging day, but I found myself asking her “have you had bad days before?”, to which she replied “yes”… Then I said “sometimes these bad days turn into bad weeks or bad months even, but eventually you end up having a good day or good week or good month right?” She replied “yes!”

I said “and there’s something good for you! No matter how bad a ‘bad day’ is, eventually it’ll pass and you’ll have a good day!”

Another student heard the conversation and said “wow Mr Elashiry, you should write a book!” We laughed initially, but eventually this YouTube channel was born as a result: Table 9 – Conversations at Mr Elashiry’s Table!

Check it out! I’ve posted episode one and will try to post an episode weekly, focusing on the issues teens face in their daily lives and how we can give them a ‘positive spin’!

I’m excited about this project 🙂

Long time!

It’s been a very long time since I have blogged! I have been focusing on building my library of IB Economics online videos and adjusting to a new school in a new country, as well as adjusting to being a teacher at a boarding school (which is a whole other ball-game).

However, THIS happened yesterday:

I had a swim meet and so had to assign my A-block American History class some work and leave for the swim meet. I come back the next day and I see this note on the board. After of course taking a photo of it and snapping it on both Instagram and Facebook so I can brag and show off, I realized I want to get back into blogging and sharing my journey and thoughts as a teacher, as well as my reflections.

It feels great that my students think of my classes as ‘therapeutic’, as a place where they can be themselves and express their feelings and be heard and understood! I would so much rather be remembered as that kind of teacher as opposed to to the teacher that ‘had so much knowledge’ about what they teach…

It’s time to get back to blogging, I believe! So, I’m back!

End of first trimester at St. Timothy’s – A self-evaluation :)

So, it’s the end of my first trimester at St Timothy’s School this coming Friday (Nov. 18th 2016)! And what a trimester it has been…

As part of our employment agreement, we have to submit a “self-evaluation identifying three strengths, three areas for improvement, and an action plan to support our professional development”, so here goes!

Three strengths:

1- My rapport with the students and the ability to establish relationships with them: I love the students at this school, and I feel like I have quickly built a solid connection with them all…

2- My use of the classroom facilities and resources: I have quickly embraced the new work space, I love that I have a massive National Geographic World Map in my classroom (picture below):

This map allows me to integrate lots of World Geography in my teaching of World History and makes it much easier to connect both disciplines (which are absolutely interdependent). My use of the technological facilities is also another one of my strengths: I enjoy using the EnoBoard and EasiTeach to create notes for my students to access after class or if they’re absent, as well as of course my expertise in integrating iPads in the classroom (all students have iPads = woohoo)!

3- My embrace of the community duties and responsibilities: I believe I have a very positive attitude and I have readily embraced the extra duties that come with working at a boarding school like roaming duty on certain weekends, organizing activities like dance classes for students, putting on performances for International Festival etc…

Three areas for improvement:

1- Using more differentiated teaching methods: I believe I do an ‘ok’ job when it comes to differentiating my instruction. However, now that the trimester is over and I have gotten to know my students better and assessed a lot of their work, I’m starting to see more differences in learning styles and learning needs and I need to reflect on and adjust my instruction accordingly.

2- Providing more support for my advisory group: I believe I can sometimes get bogged down with all the grading, lesson-planning etc, and forget to check up on my advisory group members, though I enjoy being their adviser very very much!

3- Allowing for more inquiry in my classes: I sometimes get carried away with how much content I have to teach in my IB DP classes, and would like to better plan my lessons to allow for further inquiry. In my MYP classes, I do sometimes stress about the content I have to cover and miss out on plenty of opportunities for further inquiry, even though the MYP class should not be so content-heavy. However, I have a rigorous curriculum I have received upon arrival and there is an expectation to go through ‘most’ of it.

Action plan to support my professional development:

1- Undertake MYP training as soon as possible: I enjoy online IB training modules and need to undertake MYP training soon to allow me to improve my instructional and assessment methods in the MYP classroom.

2- Continue building my library of instructional videos for IB DP Economics: I believe I need to make more used of flipped teaching methods to free up class time for further inquiry, and this means I need to update and add to my library of instructional videos on YouTube (an example of a playlist is here).

3- Attend a workshop or undertake an online training module on incorporating inquiry in teaching IB DP Economics: I believe networking with other teachers and see what they do to incorporate inquiry in the DP classrooms may benefit me a lot and give me plenty of ideas.

This Friday is the end of my first trimester at St. Timothy’s School and also my three month-iversary since arriving to the US. Here’s to another great trimester!

My IB Economics Online PD Workshop…

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Today marks the end of my first ver online IB PD workshop! It was a workshop that consisted of four separate modules, each module running for one week. I thoroughly enjoyed this workshop, particularly how it was structured as well as the learning activities that we were assigned.

The first week focused mostly on introducing the IB DP Economics Course Guide and Syllabus, and getting us as teachers to reflect on the IB Philosphy and the IB Learner Profile.

The second week focused more on the Syllabus content, and making us become more familiar with the four sections of the syllabus through a Jigsaw activity where we were divided into four groups and each group had to summarize the main outcomes of their assigned section for the other groups. There were also lots of other discussions about teaching strategies and tools.

The third week focused on the Assessment: internal as well as external. We had to create a Wiki summarizing the main expectations of external assessment, as well as mark sample papers and compare our marks to the Examiner’s marks. We were also assigned to create an outline for a sample IA commentary and find suitable articles for IAs.

The last week focused mainly on resourcing the IB DP Economics classroom, and explored different resources: textbooks, e-books, Web 2.0 tools, YouTube videos and many more!

I have to admit I enjoy online PD a lot more than face-to-face PD workshops, because I prefer to work at my own pace and I have the self-discipline and self-motivation to stay on top of the workshop assignments and activities. Also, I used this online PD workshop as a chance to look up several other Economics teachers on Twitter and LinkedIn and to connect with them, so I also built a PLN with which I can collaborate in the future!

My Learning Portfolio from the Online PD Wokshop

My assessment workflow in drama: AirDrop + iDoceo…

So, I previously wrote about iDoceo’s new rubric update, and how I was excited to start using it!

Well, now I can safely say I’ve used it, and I love it! So, I trialed it with my Grade 7 and Grade 8 end-of-year drama assessments, where they had to create a short script for a ‘fable/fairy-tale mix-up’, rehearse it and perform it in front of the class. I created the rubric on iDoceo, took a screenshot and shared it with the classes at the beginning of the task so that the students had an idea what is expected from them.

The rubric was designed to assess two ‘process criteria’: ‘Groupwork’ and ‘Use of rehearsal time’, and two ‘product criteria’: ‘Script’ and ‘Performance’. The rubric also had two criteria that were assessed for the whole group: ‘Script’ and ‘Use of rehearsal time’, and two individual criteria: ‘Performance’ and ‘Groupwork’.

As the students worked on the task (which took a few lessons), I would assess each criterion at the appropriate time: ‘Script’ was recorded on the rubric in iDoceo as soon as I had read their script, ‘Use of rehearsal time’ and ‘Groupwork’ I had assessed during the rehearsal period based on my observations of how the group members interact and rehearse’, and finally ‘Performance’ I would assess as the students performed their scenes.

Then I would hold a conference with each student where I would AirDrop them a screenshot of their assessed rubric, which they would then insert into their Portfolio in Book Creator. We would then record a short voice note where we discuss how they felt about the task and I give them one positive comment and one useful suggestion for improvement in future performances.

Apps/features used in this assessment workflow: iDoceo + AirDrop + Book Creator…


iDoceo keeps getting better!


OH MY GOD! Just when you think iDoceo can’t get any better, it does! I know I talk a lot about iDoceo and how much I love it, you can read this post here as evidence, or refer to this page here.

So, iDoceo is basically what I would describe as a ‘Swiss army-knife’ of tools for a typical teacher: lesson planner, calendar, to-do-list, gradebook, timer, seating-planner, random student-selector, resource-library, voice-note recorder, photo/video-evidence-capturer and so much more!

But when I updated my iDoceo on my iPad yesterday, I discovered something wonderful! The new update includes a RUBRIC tool, which integrates seamlessly with the Gradebook… As a teacher using iDoceo, now you can create/import rubrics and grade/assess projects using those rubrics right there on the app… The results will then be added and recorded as a column in the Gradebook!

Here’s a short video of me talking about this new tool, as well as showing how I too am still learning to use it: