Shift This! – A Review

       “Joy Kirr speaks to you directly from the heart in Shift This! This is one teacher sharing her journey in an easy-to-follow format and striking narrative. If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed or frustrated at all of the changes in education, Shift This! is the book for you. Joy shares simple shifts that any teacher can use to make their classroom more student-centred and empowering for all of our students!”

  • A.J. Juliani, innovation specialist and co-author of LAUNCH & Empower

A.J. Juliani sums up the theme and mood of Shift This! How To Implement Gradual Changes For Massive Impact succinctly. Joy Kirr is honest, detailed and generous with her reflection of 22 two years of practice. One thing is obvious from this book, and that is the value Joy places in the relationships and trust that she builds with the learners lucky enough to pass through her door. Another powerful part of this book are the questions posed of the reader throughout. Joy doesn’t set out to solve every problem the modern teacher faces, merely offering to hold up a mirror for the reader to reflect upon their own practice and beliefs. I can’t recommend this book enough, particularly to middle school teachers.

Who is in charge of learning in your classroom?

Who is doing most of the work in your classroom?

Who is making most of the decisions?

Who is giving the feedback & handing out the grades?

If your answer to these questions isn’t “the learners“, then this book is for you.

Beginnings and The Catalyst provide an insight into what is a common theme amongst teachers – finding our way through the early stages of our careers.

I too, like Joy during the early years of her career, have felt a need to change. For several years I have tinkered with my practice, but a nagging feeling remained that there must be a better way. I just didn’t know what it was. Unlike this book’s call for gradual change, I’ve gone big. I was ready to throw caution to the wind and hand my classroom over to the kids.

In Questions, Joy shares a sample shift in independent reading as a way to move towards engaging and empowering students to read and share their learning. Can’t say I thought of Snapchat and Instagram as legitimate tools for sharing learning publicly, but in 2017, these are platforms that students know and use, so the question becomes “why not?” I particularly love the use of Google Forms for students to choose the way in which they feedback their learning. Instant feedback –

I’m pleased that many of the remedies that Joy suggests in Classroom Environment are things that I have implemented. Saying goodbye to my desk and workspace in the classroom has been a positive move. Joy poses the following questions and calls to action:

What does your classroom look like to the students? Sit in different places around the room and imagine being in that spot for a while. Heck – sit in other classrooms too. What do you notice about the physical look of this place? What would distract you? Lure you? Welcome you?

How can I make our class more inviting?

How can I encourage independent, pair and group work, as well as whole class discussions?

How can I make other staff feel comfortable using my room?

How can I share our agenda, classwork, assignments, project dates, reflections and class celebrations with students… and also with parents?

Joy suggests unleashing creativity and allowing the artists in your room to decorate the blank walls (or at least some), allowing students to contribute and feel a sense of ownership. Who chooses where students can sit? Can music that has been chosen by students be incorporated into lessons? One of the great parts of Shift This! are the simple remedies that are suggested, like a shared spreadsheet that students can suggest music for a collaborative playlist using Google Forms.

In Chapter 5 Joy covers classwork and explores how to ‘gamify’ lessons, ask for student input, and shift discussions from teacher centric lectures. She asks the reader to consider:

How much time of the day you spend speaking versus listening?

What discussions about content could students in your class have?

If you have made it this far then I strongly suggest you get on Amazon and purchase Shift This! If I continue to summarise the book there will be no reason for you to buy it! From here I will share some of the highlights and exerts that spoke to me. I love the chapter on grading. It is worth the price of admission alone. I really believe that this is the next big shift/movement in education. Away from letter grades and towards digital portfolios that are a true reflection of skills, passions and abilities.

On Homework:

On Grading & Feedback:

What do parents get out of a letter grade at the end of each semester?

Check out for how Joy’s seventh grade English classes are functioning without grades. I have been waxing lyrical about our shift to a gradeless classroom. My grading journey can be found on BlogMoore17 and on the legendary LiveBinder .


One of my favourite links in the book is the example of “Austin’s Butterfly” which highlights the importance of quality feedback and uses a grade one student as an example. This simple strategy will underpin my teaching for years to come. It is powerful.

On Social Media:

I’m honoured to be part of the teachers Journeys tab on Joy’s legendary LiveBinder.

On Student Directed Learning:

On Resistance:

Final Word: 

Joy Kirr Can be found on Twitter on this link. Her book Shift This! can be purchased on Amazon Australia on the Kindle app for iPad/Mac/Android.

Twelve bucks pretty well spent I would say.

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