Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Looking to make changes in your classroom? Book rec: Shift This!

By Kim Miklusak

Are you looking for a way to shake up your classroom space or instructional practices?  Are you a mid-career or veteran teacher who is looking for a new way to accomplish your classroom goals?  Are you a new teacher looking for a way to start off your practice in a new way?  Pick up the book Shift This by Joy Kirr!

I first "met" Joy when I attended the ISTE Conference in Atlanta...except Joy wasn't even there that year!  I went to a session on #GeniusHour, another name for a very similar practice of the 20% Time Project that I was hoping to implement for a unit in our American Literature course.  I connected with Joy via Twitter and found out that quite by chance she teaches in a district right near mine.  She was only too happy to meet, share her resources on her Live Binder site, and connect me with others who were doing similar projects.  This one shift in one of my units has influenced my teaching over the past few years as elements of it have seeped into more of my courses.

Image used with permission of the author
But that wasn't the only lesson I picked up from interacting with Joy on Twitter.  She has systematically moved to make her classroom space more student-centered, getting rid of her desk, having student working stations, and even broadcasting student voice and work on Twitter.  I made little steps: I moved my desk to the side, I opened my closet for students to take their own supplies...and eventually I moved to getting rid of my desk.  These little changes over the years have made such a difference.

Most recently I have picked up from Joy the importance of #First5Days.  What we do in the first week of our classroom sets the stage for our year.  Do we review rules?  Or do we jump right into getting to know students or starting our learning.  Every little shift makes the difference.

Book Review
Image used with permission of the author
The best thing about all of this is that Joy then went and put all of her excellent and practical ideas into her book.  Each chapter centers on a different area: classroom environment, homework, grading, student-directed learning, and more.  She shares her stories in her own voice and describes the processes she went through to change.  She acknowledges it isn't always easy but stresses that we don't all have to shift at once or even shift in every area.

But what she does do is start each chapter with questions that we as teachers may have that we hope to consider and resolve.  She then provides very clear examples of how she has done this in her classroom (including some photos!), external resources for more information, and note taking sections for us to reflect on our own practices.

Next Steps

If you're interested in more information, I would begin by following Joy on Twitter.  And if you'd like to do more of a book study with a virtual learning cohort, please reach out to the CollabLab as we will be doing a book study and chat with Joy and peers over three weeks starting in April.


  1. Kim - So funny when I read that about ISTE, I was thinking, "WHA??? Oh." ;D I'll be at ISTE this summer in Chicago, but talking about healthy grading... Another outcome of implementing genius hour in the classroom. Genius hour is just the beginning... Thank you so very much for trusting in me enough to purchase and read the book, and thank you for sharing it with others in this fashion. I hope it keeps the conversations going about what we believe is best for our students!

    1. Thank YOU for all of your resources. I've learned so much from connecting with you, and I know others will as well. Good luck at this year's ISTE!