Friday, December 16, 2011

Changing My Blogging Site

I am moving my class blog over to the Commons. A special thank you to @mrjarbenne for helping me making this move. You can now check out my newest posts at

Thanks for being so supportive of this class blog! I hope that you continue to follow our classroom happenings at our new blogging address!


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Understanding Inquiry

I think that today I really learned what "inquiry" means. I know that this seems strange to say, as I'm a believer in giving students control over their learning, but usually I still have quite a few parameters in place.

Today I tried something new. For a special literacy/science activity, my Grade 1 and 2 students each went to three different centres. At one of the centres, they wrote and created words based on pictures of seasons (for Grade 1) and liquids and solids (for Grade 2). At the second centre, students read and listened to information about seasons (for Grade 1) and liquids and solids (for Grade 2), and then they shared what they learned using the iPod Touch, iPad, Nintendo DS, or Livescribe Pen in any way that they wanted. At the third centre, the students tweeted out and replied to tweets about seasons (for Grade 1) and liquids and solids (for Grade 2).

While the Grade 1's have already learned some information about the seasons, this was my introductory lesson on liquids and solids for Grade 2. I gave the students nothing today. I provided them with resources, I encouraged them to talk and learn from each other, and I got them to try and use the information that they already knew along with the new information from today to try and better their understanding of these science topics.

I was so pleased with the results. Students naturally asked questions. They helped each other out. They talked ... a lot. They used this talking to inform their writing. Best of all, students chose to write. They could have used any tool to share what they learned, but almost all of them chose a writing tool. Students were on task, engaged, and excited to learn throughout the hour that we spent on these centres.

The interesting part is that when I asked them what centre they enjoyed the most and why, almost all of them said the, "tweeting centre." Students talked about how exciting it was to write to others online and have others reply to their tweets as well. They see the value in this "audience," and this "audience" encouraged them to keep on writing. Thank you so much for that!

Today I started teaching a new unit, but today, I didn't "teach" anything at all. I supported the students as they learned by themselves, and now I can use what the students know to inform my future lessons. I think that this is what "inquiry" is all about. I will definitely be doing more of this.

How would you define inquiry? How do you use inquiry in your classroom? I would love to hear about your experiences too!


Saturday, December 10, 2011

What Happens When It Doesn't Work

On Tuesday and Wednesday, my students completed some different literacy and math centres on measurement. I had what I thought was this great plan for one of the centres. The students made objects out of playdough, and they used measurement terms to describe these objects. They wrote their descriptions on sticky notes, and they took photographs of them along with the objects. The plan was to take all of their photographs and turn them into a digital book about measurement. The students were excited, and they spent a long time creating their objects, writing about them, and taking photographs too. There was just one problem: the photographs weren't clear enough. Often it was difficult to read the writing on the yellow sticky notes. I should have had the students write on a larger piece of paper and with marker too. The pen markings weren't dark enough. The activity didn't work.

So now what?
This is when the "process" is more important than the "product." No, I don't have a published book to share, but I do have lots of documentation of student work. I have written notes, photographs, and videos of conversation. I know what the students know, and I know what I still need to teach them too. This activity was a success, despite the lack of a published digital storybook.

The other activities worked too. You can see many examples of student work on our class blog: from our video toy catalogue to our Puppet Pal measurement and temperature videos to toy riddles that students would love for you to solve. There's also a video here of our Twitter game: #ispy2011. Students wrote clues of objects in the classroom, and other students from Canada and the United States, replied with guesses. These other students contributed some of their own clues too. This was a lot of fun, and a great way to get students reading and writing with a purpose.

There's also some videos here of the students at the different activities and discussing them too. It's great to hear what they have to say!

I'm now excited to see what adventures this week brings! Even when things didn't work according to plan, it was still a successful week of learning. What did your child enjoy the most about these centres? What did he/she learn this week? I would love to hear your thoughts!


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Redefining Problem-Solving

It's taken me a while, but I think that I finally understand one of my issues with math problem-solving. I really didn't understand what "problem-solving" meant anymore. When I think about math problems, I think about the ones that I grew up with: There are 10 candies. You give five candies to your friend. How many candies are left? These are the math problems with just one solution. They're the ones that don't require a lot of thinking or a big explanation. They may help students apply some of the skills taught in class, but they are definitely not higher level thinking math problems.

As I read more and discuss more about math, my understanding of problem-solving has changed. Now I also see how some math exploration can also be problem-solving. On Thursday, I was introducing my Grade 1's and my Grade 2's to measurement. We started with non-standard measurement, and I was focusing on length. After we worked together to define the terms "non-standard" and "length," I had the students work in small groups to measure different objects are the classroom. I had seven different non-standard units that the students could use for measuring the length of various objects (from playing cards to toy bears). The non-standard units varied in size. Before the students started to measure the different objects, they predicted if they would require more "smaller non-standard units" or more "bigger non-standard units" to measure the same objects. Then they went off into groups, and I got my camera ready to take photographs (seen in the Animoto slideshow below).

I saw students helping each other. I saw students solving problems. I saw them counting, estimating, and making predictions too. Then when the measurement activity was over, we met back at the carpet to discuss the results. Students shared what they found out. When they found out that two students were the same "length," they even figured out how to compare the heights of the two students to see if this was true. They reflected on their own results. They also looked at our chart of results, and they started to make comments on the size of the non-standard units. They realized which units were larger ones and which ones were smaller ones just by the results, and they shared their thinking with the rest of the class too. This "math exploration" was "problem-solving" as well. It just took me until now to realize this.

What are some problem-solving activities that you do in your classroom? How has your definition of problem-solving changed over time? I would love to hear your thoughts too!


Loving Our Flat Classroom

I'll admit that years ago when Zoe Branigan-Pipe (@zbpipe) introduced me to social media, I was skeptical. I felt that I ran a good, solid classroom program, where students were making gains and meeting expectations. Why did I need to add social media to this? Years later, and I now get it!

Learning becomes far more meaningful when we can learn with others outside of the classroom. Students get excited about learning when they can learn alongside other students in our country and from other countries around the world. Students come to understand why we do what we do at school, and that has value!

Over these past few weeks, I've really come to see what a "flat classroom" means. At the end of November, I saw a tweet from Karen Lirenman (@lirenmanlearns) that she did an art lesson with her Grade 1 class that I blogged about weeks before. A former student taught this lesson to my class, and I recorded his instructions using both video and the Livescribe Pen. Karen was able to use these recordings to instruct her group of Grade 1's in British Columbia. Wow! Amazing! It occurred to me that with the use of social media, teachers no longer need to be the experts in all subjects. We can use the lessons shared by others to help teach our own students. We can learn alongside other educators that can help make us better teachers. I know that this is what I'm experiencing right now!

As we learn from other teachers, our students can learn from each other too. Right now, my students are working on descriptive writing, including learning how to spell the colour words correctly in their writing. On Tuesday and Thursday, my students helped practice their skills through a Twitter chat called #namethattoy. Students tweeted descriptive clues about toys to other students from Canada and the United States, and they responded with their guesses. Then the other classes tweeted their clues too, and we responded as well. Students were reading and writing with a purpose, and from our room, they were connecting to others from miles away. Look at this video shared by Karen Mensing's class (@msmensing) in Phoenix Arizona:

The real impact of this Twitter chat came to me on Friday afternoon when one of my Grade 2 boys said to me after nutrition break, "Miss Dunsiger, on the weekends I think to myself, I wish that we came to school all week long. Wouldn't that be fun?" Then he started talking about the colour writing activities from this week (featured in the Animoto slideshow below), and he asked me, "What do you have planned for next week? Who can we connect with then?"

And this is why I now see value in the "flat classroom." Before I started using social media in the classroom, students never got as excited about learning as they do now. This excitement helps motivate all of my students to learn. I see success. As the quote at the bottom of my email says, "If they don't learn the way you teach, teach the way they learn." I think that I'm finally doing that!


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Learning Can Be Fun!

I think that learning can, and should, be fun! I love when students get excited about learning, and I love seeing them so engaged in activities too. I love hearing great conversations between students, and I love when students can learn together. Today was a wonderful day of learning and a ton of fun too!

In class, the students have been learning how to spell the colour words correctly in their writing. They've continued to learn about adjectives, and they're applying what they're learning by working on descriptive writing too. I set-up six special literacy centres that all focused on the colour words. The students only got to visit three of these six centres today. They'll visit the remainder on Thursday, so after Thursday, I'll blog again with more details about the activities.

Tonight though, I was going through the mini-movies made by the students using ScreenChomp and ShowMe, and I loved them so much that I just had to post them. In class, we read, My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss, and the students reflected on what they learned by creating some short videos. Some students spoke about their different coloured days. Other students read the story and responded to it through pictures. Some students even read the story, and thought aloud as they discussed what Dr. Seuss really meant in his book. I hope that you enjoy these movies as much as I do:

Another one of our centres today was descriptive writing using Twitter. I brought in two large bags of various toys, and students wrote clues through our class Twitter accounts (and my account too) to describe these toys. We used the hashtag #namethattoy, and other classes from "around the world," joined in with their own clues and their guesses too. Here's a short screencast showing my students' tweets and the replies too:

Students just loved this writing activity! They spent time proofreading their tweets, and working with the other students in their groups to help each other with spelling and punctuation as well. I was thrilled with the results! Thank you to all of the wonderful teachers and students that joined in on this Twitter chat today, and I look forward to doing it again on Thursday!

Looking back on just what's shared here, it's clear to me that learning can be fun! What do you think? How do you have "fun" in your classroom?


Friday, November 25, 2011

They Really Get It

My class has been fortunate enough to be involved in a Twitteracy project established by Brittney McCarter. While my Grade 1 and 2 students are continuing to tweet out summaries of the books that they're reading using the #twitread hashtag, Brittney is nearing the end of her project. She asked my students to reflect on their involvement in this project. Since she didn't need the whole class to reflect, I had a discussion with my Grade 2's today when my Grade 1's were attending a dental presentation.

I'll admit that I was procrastinating on this part of the project because I thought that the students were going to struggle with this reflection piece. Could they really understand the benefits and drawbacks of Twitter? Could they really reflect on how this Twitteracy Project made them better writers? I thought that it was going to take a lot of prompting from me. I decided to use the Livescribe Pen to record my discussion with the students based on the four reflection questions that Brittney emailed me:

1) How does using the confined space of Twitter help your writing?

2) What kinds of things do you think about when you use Twitter?

3) Are there any other things that you would like to use Twitter for?

4) Has using Twitter made you a better writer in other areas when using a pencil and paper? Computer?

My initial thought was that if I used the Livescribe Pen, I could focus on trying to get some good information from the students, and then I could later summarize what they had to say. As I said before, I was doubtful about how this would go.

I shouldn't have worried! As I was having this discussion with my students, I could almost feel myself getting excited by their answers. Here are seven-year-olds that really understand what Twitter is all about. This reminded me of Dean Shareski's post about his wife's Grade 2 classroom. Even in Grade 2, students know that they're sharing their thoughts with "the world," and they understand the implications of this too. They also believe that writing using this platform helps them become a better writer overall. They make some terrific points, and I hope that you enjoy what they have to say as much as I do (scroll over the page number to view the second page in this Notebook).

brought to you by Livescribe

Hearing what the students shared here makes me see the tremendous benefit of using social media in the classroom. What do you think?


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Making Nouns, Verbs, and Adjectives Meaningful!

Over the last three weeks, the students have been learning about nouns, verbs, and adjectives in class. They've been using various spelling patterns to write different nouns, verbs, and adjectives. They've been editing their sentences to add in more descriptive words. They've been learning about the importance of complete sentences and what a complete sentence includes.

This week, I thought it would be fun to review nouns, verbs, and adjectives by using different tools and different forms. I created six literacy centres, all of which are outlined in the Animoto slideshow below.

The students worked together to create media works, blog posts, and lists. They even tweeted their own sentences using the hashtag #nva2011 (inspired by George Couros' post on hashtags), and encouraged a conversation on grammar. Today, the students even replied to tweets from others about nouns, verbs, and adjectives: allowing them to read and write in a meaningful context.

I know now that all of the students understand nouns, verbs, and adjectives, and how to use them in their writing. I can't wait to see how their writing continues to improve as a result. For the parents out there, what did your children think of these activities? Which one did they enjoy the most and why? For the educators out there, have you ever done similar activities before? What were the results? I'd love to hear about your experiences too!


Saturday, November 19, 2011

What Student Led Conferences Taught Me!

On Monday, I started a week of Student Led Conferences as a follow-up to our progress reports. This is my second year doing Student Led Conferences instead of the traditional interview, and looking back on the process, I've learned a lot.

Here's my Top 10 List (in no particular order) of what Student Led Conferences have taught me:

1) Regardless of age, students can share what they're learning in class. They can show and tell their parents about what they do at school every day, and they can highlight some of their favourite activities too.

2) Students can set their own goals. In preparation for the conference, I had all of my students pick two of their favourite blog posts. They needed to write about what they liked most about these two posts, and what they would add or change the next time. I was so impressed! The students were very reflective, and they even set their own writing goals based on these posts. Some students feel like they need to concentrate on conventions, while other students want to concentrate on generating more ideas. All students now have a focus for their writing.

3) Students and parents both need talking time. Students wanted to talk about what they're doing and learning in class, but parents also wanted to talk and ask some questions about their children too. I completely understand the need for both. I think that a small interview component of these conferences is important, and I'm glad that we were able to balance student talking time and parent talking time.

4) Fifteen minutes is not long enough for this conference format. I set each time slot for 15 minutes, and I was pretty good at sticking to this time limit too, but it was a challenge. There isn't enough time for students to show everything, talk about what they want, and answer questions all in 15 minutes. Next year, I definitely need to give more time.

5) Student led conferences could be done in larger groups. After I got home from my "marathon conference night" on Thursday (15 conferences back-to-back), I tweeted about my timing concerns. Both Angie Harrison (@techieang) and Heather Jelley (@team_jellybean) shared that they do multiple conferences at the same time. Angie mentioned that she sets her conferences for 30 minutes, but staggers how many students attend based on student needs. I like this differentiated approach. Heather teaches Kindergarten, and she said that she does two conferences at a time. This seems very doable too. I would need a slightly different set-up than this year, but I think this is definitely worth exploring for next year.

6) Sometimes there also needs to be an interview. I speak to the parents in my class regularly -- once a week or once every couple of weeks -- so there were no surprises on the progress reports. I think that this is important. If a student is struggling, I also think that I need more time to sit down and talk to the parents about what we can do. Student led conferences are fantastic, but sometimes interviews are needed as well, and that's okay. There's no reason that we can't do both. Angie Harrison (@techieang) has tweeted about this before too, and I love how she schedules interviews in advance of the student led conferences if they are necessary.

7) Put out centres. Have different activities or tools on different tables, and even have signs with them that have some guiding questions for both the student and the parent. Try to balance literacy and math activities, so that the parents get a good understanding of everything that's happening in the classroom. On the signs, be explicit about the expectations met at these different centres and when using these different tools. My students know this information, but when they shared different activities with their parents, they weren't always explicit about the purpose of the activity. Before the Thursday conferences, the class made a list of 23 different things they could show their parents in the classroom. They were able to identify the tool (e.g., an iPad) versus the activity (e.g., using Word Wizard for making words), but we didn't identify the subject area on this list. This is definitely something to do differently for next year.

8) Incorporate student choice. Given time restrictions, students probably aren't going to be able to show their parents everything, so let them choose what they'd like to show. That being said, maybe have students show at least one literacy activity and one math activity. Most of my students did this, but not all of them. Having this requirement in place will ensure that parents get some variety in what they see.

9) Have something for parents to bring home at the end of the conference. I put together a collection of work that parents could bring home with them. They can then look at this work with their child and discuss some more goals for the rest of the year. Including a list of some guiding questions with this package of work would have probably been a good idea, as then the parents and the students can get the most out of it.

10) Incorporate an opportunity for feedback. I think that it's always good to hear positive feedback about the experience, as well as any suggested changes too. Much of what I have on this list here comes out of the feedback that parents and students contributed on this Lino Wall:

Thank you to everyone that helped me reflect on this process and think of ways that I can make the student led conferences even better for next year.

For those of you that do student led conferences, what have you learned from these experiences? What do you like about the format, and what would you change about it? For parents and students that have been part of the process, is there anything else that you would include on this list of mine? I would love to hear your ideas!


Friday, November 11, 2011

Why I Love The Flipcam

I teach a 1/2 split. Sometimes this means that my Grade 1's are involved in activities that my Grade 2's aren't and vice versa. Today was one of those days. My Grade 2's joined one of the other Grade 2 classes for a special Reptile Party while my Grade 1's stayed back with me for a special seasons activity. These were both science activities, but the students weren't doing them together.

As a last minute decision, I had my Grade 2's bring the flipcam to the Reptile Party. I'm so glad that I did! When my Grade 2's returned, they were so excited to share with the Grade 1's what they did. While they described a lot, it's not the same as seeing the events themselves. The Grade 2's took over 15 videos of this special activity though, and all afternoon, we downloaded them onto my computer.

Thanks to the flipcam and an awesome group of Grade 2 students that know how to use this technology independently, the Grade 1's can now participate in this activity virtually by viewing the videos here. Parents can also see what the students did this afternoon, and the students can talk about what they learned. With the blog, other students from around the world can learn what these Grade 2's learned, all by watching short video clips as well. The power of the flipcam is really quite remarkable!

A special thank you to Mrs. Ryan for hosting this Reptile Party today. My students loved joining yours for an hour of learning and fun! For those that went to the Reptile Party and those that watched the videos, what did you enjoy the most? Why? What did you learn? I'd love to hear your thoughts!


Click here for the rest of the video links, including videos of Flat Stanley interacting with the reptiles.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Time To Reflect and Connect

As a teacher, I know the importance of reflecting, but I also know that sometimes I run out of time with my students to do so. I'm determined to have more of this "reflection" time though.

In class today, we started a new math topic: money. This is usually a difficult math concept for students. Many of them know the names of the coins, or can at least match the names of the coins with the values, but making different amounts of money is challenging. Students sometimes confuse dollars and cents. They have difficulty counting by fives and tens while also adding on by ones. They also have more real-world experience dealing with dollar amounts than coin amounts, so each year, it's like starting the money concept all over again.

With this being a more difficult math topic, I know that the reflection piece is so important. Students need to see how other students are solving money problems. They need to compare solutions, and they need to start thinking in new ways too.

Today, my Grade 1 students worked with a partner to try and come up with different ways of making 10 cents and 20 cents. My Grade 2 students worked with a partner to try and come up with different ways of making 50 cents and 100 cents. They counted together. They helped each other "count on," and they reminded each other how to count by 5's, 10's, and 25's. They applied what they just learned in our unit on counting.

I made sure to end the activity early enough though that students could see what other students did. On one group of desks I laid out the Grade 1 work, and on the other group of desks, I laid out the Grade 2 work. Students walked around and looked at the work. They counted with each other to see if the answers were correct. They compared what they did to what other students did. Then they came back to the carpet, and they discussed with the class what they observed.

Here is a Livescribe Pencast of our discussion with a screenshot of the notes that I took (I couldn't post the page and the audio from Livescribe because I had other notes written on the page too):

11.04.2011 1141a
brought to you by Livescribe

It's great to hear the students talking about the solutions that they saw and thinking of new ways to solve the problem for next time. I'm interested in seeing how this impacts on our math activities next week.

How do students reflect in your class? What impact does reflecting have on performance? I would love to hear about your experiences!


Friday, October 28, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Today was our Halloween celebration in class since Monday is a PA Day. Students love Halloween: it's all about candy and costumes, and fun. I wanted everyone to have fun at school today too, but I wanted them to learn as well. I really thought that we could do both. Last year, I planned some special literacy and math centres for Halloween, and I thought that I would plan some new ones for this year too.

Below is an Animoto slideshow of our day and some videos that the students recorded during one of our math centres too.

With our tweeting and blogging centre, students were writing using different forms, practicing their various spelling strategies in a meaningful context, and reading with meaning as they replied to comments from other students and teachers too. With our Toontastic centre, students were developing their oral language skills as they created their own oral stories. They were also working on drama, as they gave their characters voices and personalities, while creating their own exciting plot lines too. With our Halloween Reading Centre, students were practicing their decoding and reading comprehension skills, as they worked together to read different Halloween stories. They were using various strategies to read difficult words, and they were doing a fantastic job retelling the stories and making connections to them too. With our Halloween Candy Problem, students were developing their one-to-one correspondence skills, developing beginning addition skills, and explaining strategies they used during problem-solving activities. With our Oreo Stacking Problem, the students were practicing their graphing skills, and interpreting graphs too. Throughout all of the centres, students were continuing to practice their learning skills, as they worked cooperatively with others, and developed their own independent work habits too.

I saw learning happening all day long. Best of all, even though the students worked hard today, they went home happy and eager to tell their parents about the great day that they had. I love days like today!

For parents reading this blog post, what did your child enjoy the most about today? Why? For educators reading this blog post, how are your going to celebrate Halloween with your class? How do you mix both fun and learning too?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Friday, October 21, 2011

What Does This Mean For The Students?

For the past two days, I've been at ECOO: a conference in Richmond Hill, Ontario. This was a fantastic professional development opportunity for me, where I not only got a chance to share what I'm doing in the classroom, but I also got to hear what others are doing in their classrooms too.

As much as I love conferences, I always find it hard to be away from the students, so after arriving home today, I really started to think about the past two days. Was it worth it? Absolutely, positively, yes! How will this conference make a difference for my students?

Here is my Top 5 list (in no particular order) of new ideas/activities to try out in the classroom based on what I learned at ECOO:

1) Create "thinking books" for students for math. Students can only use marker in these books. The idea is that if they make a mistake, you can still see what they were thinking at the time, as they may be able to cross out their work, but they can't erase it. This thinking book is not marked, but just a safe place for students to share their thinking and pose their questions. What a fantastic idea! (A special thank you to @team_jellybean, and the amazing teacher sitting with us at lunch, whose Twitter name I don't recall, that taught me all about thinking books.)

2) Add captions to photographs of students demonstrating skills. Use these photographs in the classroom as anchor charts to help the students remember what to do at different activities or in different situations. For example, take a photograph of students listening to each other. Add text bubbles to show which student is the listener, and which one is the talker. Highlight what the talker and listener are both doing in the photograph. (A special thank you to @rajalingam for sharing this idea during his fantastic workshop!)

3) Have students put their writing through Wordle to see what words they use the most often. Have them make changes to their writing based on the Wordle results. What an easy activity, but what a great one too for word choice! This could really help the students add more variety to their writing and make them more aware of what words they're using too. (A special thank you to @shadiyazdan for this great idea during her Pecha Kucha presentation yesterday.)

4) Have students add an audio comment over their glogs to explain their thinking on why they chose the images and videos that they did. I love this metacognitive addition to Glogster, and I think that this would help take a great media literacy activity and make it even better. Some of my students remember how to use Glogster from last year and are already using it, and others will be introduced in the coming months. I'm going to have my students try this out for sure! (A special thank you to @misterpuley that shared this wonderful idea during his presentation today with @faulkneronline.)

5) Use Twitter to help students summarize the books that they're reading. They can summarize various amounts of the books based on they reading level and comfort. I was also thinking that, if necessary, they could use other tools (e.g., video or the Livescribe Pen) to record their summary and tweet out this recording too. What a great way to get students to really focus in on the main idea of texts and to engage in conversations about the books that they're reading too. (A special thank you to @shadiyazdan for suggesting this idea during her Pecha Kucha presentation.)

I know that I could add many more ideas to this list, but these are the ones that come immediately to mind. I can't wait to try them out in the classroom! What would your "top 5" list be? I'd love to hear about your learning at ECOO too!


Friday, October 14, 2011

Allow Them To Be Responsible

I was at an inservice all morning today, and just before heading back to class, I happened to check my mailbox. I was excited to see that the Flat Stanley from Mrs. Kolis' class in Ohio had arrived. But there was a problem: Mrs. Kolis really wanted the Flat Stanley mailed back out to her class within a week, and I'm away presenting at ECOO next Thursday and Friday. How was I going to get photographs taken, blog posts written, and the Flat Stanley returned quickly? To add to my concerns, our class also has a Flat Stanley from a Grade 1 class in Atlanta Georgia, and we haven't taken any photographs with him yet. It was time to get things started!

My initial thought was to take the class around the school and snap some photographs together. I really didn't have time to do this though, and how beneficial would this really be anyway? I'd end up policing the students all afternoon as I shushed them in the hallways, and we would take unnecessary time gathering for group photographs too. There had to be a better way!

That's when I thought of another plan: why not give a group of three students the iPod Touch, and let them take the two Flat Stanley's on a tour around the school? They could take the photographs themselves, and then come back and blog about where they went and what they did. On the upcoming progress report, one of the learning skills that I'll be evaluating is "responsibility," so why not give my students the chance to be responsible?

I went back to class and told my students the plan. As a class, we thought that we should try to keep to around 10 photographs. We brainstormed some good places to include in the pictures. We spoke about safety, and since the students wanted to go outside, we talked about where they could go and where they couldn't go. The iPod Touch also has a clock on it, so the students were told that they had 20 minutes to take the photographs. The class thought it would be fun to get some other teachers and students in the photographs, so we also spoke about the importance of manners. Students practiced how to ask others to take part. Then all of the students that wanted to go, put their names in a basket, and three names were pulled out. We had our group ready to go!

The three photographers/actors left at 2:10 and returned with seconds to spare at 2:29. They got a great variety of pictures, and they even figured out how to take a photograph including all three of them in it too. Talk about a good problem-solving opportunity. When the students returned, they started blogging. One student chose to work alone, and two others, chose to work together. They helped each other generate ideas, and they edited each other's work too. By 3:19, their posts were done, and I just added in the photographs for them tonight.

The Two Flat Stanley's Visit Our School on PhotoPeach

I love how when given the opportunity to be responsible, the students met and/or exceeded every one of my expectations. I'll definitely be thinking of other ways to continue to give students even more responsibility in the classroom and school community.

How have you helped your students become more responsible? What were the results? I would love to hear your thoughts!


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Our Week In Pictures

Sometimes it's difficult to capture the week in words, so this week, I decided to highlight our week in the classroom through pictures. Below is an Animoto slideshow all about our exciting week.

I hope that you'll look at this slideshow with your child. What did your child enjoy the most? What did your child enjoy the least? What did your child learn in class this week? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Have a great long weekend!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Does It Matter?

Today gave me reason to ask myself a question that I've never really asked myself before: does it matter? My students today were preparing for a Skype call with a Grade 1 class in Atlanta Georgia. This is a two-part Skype call: students in both Ancaster and Atlanta have researched different aspects of their school community and local community, and they are comparing them through their presentations over Skype. Not only was this a great way to connect with another class involved in the Global Read Aloud Project, but it also met Social Studies expectations for both Grade 1 and Grade 2. Perfect! :)

Drawing A Visual To Accompany Research

As a class today, we went over the different topics for the call, and we discussed different options for research, from a Google search to books from the library. Students also had some previous knowledge that they could add to their part of the presentation too. Each group had to record at least three facts to share, and they needed to create a visual to share too.

Researching Their Topic And Writing Down Information

I'll admit, when I planned this research project, I had one basic format in mind: students would research their topic, write down their three facts, and draw a picture to go with their topic. And this is basically how things started, but then a Grade 2 partner group that were researching on the SMART Board, asked me if they could make a presentation in GoogleDocs. I'll admit that my initial instinct was to say, "no." Hey, I love using different tools, but this wasn't what I had in mind for this project. Then I stopped to think though: does it matter? The truth is that in this case, it doesn't. I wasn't evaluating the students on artistic skill. I wasn't marking their printing skills or seeing if they could organize ideas on a page. I was assessing them on their ability to research with a group, gain facts on a topic, write notes about these facts, and later present these ideas to a group. Students could do this just as well on GoogleDocs as on paper, so why say no?

Animal Image Created In DoodleBuddy After Researching On Google Images

Just as I said, "yes," to this, another group asked me if they could use the iPad and the iPod Touches to search for images of animals in Ancaster and Ontario, and then draw these images in DoodleBuddy to share with the other class. My initial instinct was to direct them to the paper, crayons, and markers, but again, does it matter? The students are researching the animals, and they are applying what they learned to create their own. They saved their images to upload to the computer, so that we could share them with the class in Georgia. They met the expectations, so the choice of tool was irrelevant!

Today reminded me that it's important to constantly ask myself, does it matter? I want to build creative thinkers and problem-solvers, and today showed me that in less than a month, this has already happened. It's amazing to watch, and I'm so glad that I resisted the urge to say, "no," and instead went with, "go for it!"

Have you ever stopped and asked yourself, "does it matter?" What were the results? I'd love to hear about your experiences too!


Friday, September 30, 2011

Videos From The Terry Fox Run

We had a lot of fun today taking part in the Terry Fox Run! See and hear what some people had to say about this run. We hope you enjoy our videos!

Miss Dunsiger's Class

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Experience The Trip With Us!

At the end of last year, I wrote a post on my professional blog about "giving the students control," and how amazed I was by what one student did when he wrote about our whole trip during the field trip itself. Through some replies by others, I commented about how great it would be if the students had iPod Touches or cameras to record their learning on the trip. I thought that I would give this a try on our first field trip of the year to the Ancaster Fair. I'm so glad that I did!

My class was divided into three groups of six with two parent volunteers in each group. I gave each group an iPod Touch or a flipcam to take pictures and record videos showing what they saw, did, and learned throughout the trip. I was amazed by the results! When we got back to the school, I realized that I received over 200 photographs and over 60 videos throughout our four hour field trip. Incredible!

What I love the most is that the majority of these photographs and videos were recorded by students. They were documenting their own learning. They were watching closely, reflecting on what they were seeing, and engaging in meaningful discussions with others. As I watched the videos, I heard students inferring and I saw students problem-solving. I love that! It's not about the quality of the video, but what that video captured. I only wish that I tried an activity like this one a long time ago.

For other educators reading this post, have you ever tried this before? What were the results? For parents and students reading this post, what do you think looks like the most exciting activity? Why?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on our trip to the fair!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Our First Week At School

Meet the Teacher Night is tomorrow evening, and I wanted to put together a slideshow to play tomorrow night showing what the students have already done in Grades 1 and 2. For those that can't make it tomorrow night, below is our Animoto Slideshow of our exciting first week at school. Watch this slideshow with your child. What did your child enjoy doing the most? What has your child already learned at school? Please leave us a comment and let us know!

Have a great night!
Miss Dunsiger and Her Grade 1/2 Class

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Down By The Bay

For Shared Reading this week, we read Down By The Bay. The students got to create additional verses to this song, orally first and then in writing. As a class, we developed Success Criteria for good sentences and questions, and all of the students had to check that their questions started with a capital, that they left spaces in between their words, and that they ended their questions with a question mark. The Grade 2 students also created some more complex verses, adding in adjectives to make their writing more interesting. Students were given a choice of using the sentence starter provided or writing their own complete question. Many of the students independently made use of their copy of the poem to find the words that they needed as they wrote their questions.

Below is a digital copy of our Down By The Bay Class Book:

Please read this book with your child and leave a comment with more possible verses that we could add here. We'd love to hear all of your ideas!


A Down By The Bay Update

Today (Friday, September 9th), my students recorded themselves singing Down By The Bay using AudioBoo. They read the words as they sang the song, tracking the words as they went along. I hope that you enjoy our singing debut!:)

Miss Dunsiger"s Class Singing Down By The Bay (mp3)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Students Saying Goodbye

On my professional blog, I posted today about our school principal retiring at the end of the month. Bev Laporte is a fantastic principal that has really made a positive impact on all of the students at the school. When I told my class that Ms. Laporte was retiring, they wanted to do something for her to say, "goodbye." Below are the common craft videos that the students created in partners today. The children drew the pictures, wrote the script, practiced the lines, and recorded the videos too. This was a reading, writing, and media literacy activity, but also a thank you to somebody special.

Ms. Laporte, we're all going to miss you!
Miss Dunsiger and her Grade 1/2 Class

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Happy Father's Day!

On Mother's Day weekend, I was inspired by Angie Harrison (@techieang). Angie's a Grade 2/3 teacher for the York Region District School Board, and even though I've never met her in person, I am constantly learning from her online thanks to Twitter. In May, Angie wrote about a special Mother's Day gift that her students made for their moms: they created padcasts using the Garage Band app. I thought that this was such a fantastic idea, and I commented on Angie's post right away saying that I wanted to give this a try another year. Angie then said that maybe I could do this for Father's Day instead. She also shared with me some other Father's Day gift ideas.

I was so excited to try something new! I vacillated over different choices, but eventually, I decided to have my students collaborate to make a Father's Day gift. During literacy centres, they worked on GoogleDocs to make a presentation about their dads. Children contributed slides to one of three different presentations. They had to share ideas in complete sentences, check their spelling and grammar, and find appropriate images to match their thoughts. Here is what they created:

All of the dads and step-dads in my class now have a CD with these three presentations on them. Hopefully they'll enjoy watching these presentations and seeing just how much they mean to their children. Angie, it's thanks to you that this year I tried something different other than the ubiquitous tie. Now my mind is reeling with new gift possibilities for next year!

Happy Father's Day to all of the dads, step-dads, and grandfathers in my class and from around the world! I wish you all the best on your special day!


Friday, June 10, 2011

What A Week!

It's been a very busy week in our classroom. Between the car experiment, the Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Blowdryer activity, the ladybug research, and the Prezi lesson (see the completed Prezis on the individual student blogs), the students have been reading, writing, talking, and learning all day long. Below is a short video highlighting some of the exciting activities from this week. What did your children enjoy the most? Why? What did they learn from these activities too? I would love to hear their thoughts!


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Learning Prezi: Students Teaching Students

A couple of months ago, I was speaking to Mrs. Faux (@mrsfaux), and she mentioned that she was using Prezi with her Grade 7 students. I said that it would be great if her students could teach mine how to use Prezi too. I thought that we could use the screen share feature in Skype to do this. The two of us spoke more about this plan, and even though Mrs. Faux had never used Skype before, she was willing to give this a try. We thought that June would be the perfect time!

Mrs. Faux worked with her students to create six Prezis -- each a separate mini-lesson -- on how to use Prezi. The students ordered the Prezi lessons according to what skills they thought needed to be taught when, and then they grouped them, so that they could teach two skills at a time. Today was our first of three Skype call Prezi lessons.

Last night, Mrs. Faux and I worked together via FirstClass (our email system) to set-up Skype on her laptop computer, and this morning, we did a practice call at 8:30 to make sure that everything was working well. Once I realized that I needed to turn on my microphone for her to hear me (oops!!), we were good to go!

My students were so excited for the call, and her students were fantastic teachers. They went step-by-step, explaining what to do, and they made sure to answer students questions at the end to clarify what they explained as well. I think that the sign of a great lesson is when every student is able to accomplish what is expected, and in this case, that is exactly what happened!

Thank you so much to all of the Grade 7's and Mrs. Faux too for teaching us something new, and giving us a great way to create media texts and practice our writing skills while having a lot of fun as well! We can't wait for our next set of mini-lessons on Friday.

For the students in my class, what did you think about using Prezi? What are you excited to learn next? For other educators that have used Prezi with their students before, how have you used this tool? What did your students think about using Prezi? I would love to hear your thoughts!


Monday, May 30, 2011

How We Use Technology In Class

On Friday morning, I got an email from Teresa Nickell (@tnickell) asking if my class could help her with a presentation she's doing on Thursday. Teresa teaches in Texas, and she wanted my students to Skype into a session she's doing on using Web 2.0 tools in the classroom. The problem is that I'm not in class on Thursday. I offered to have my students create a video showing what tools we use in the classroom and how we use them. Teresa was excited by this idea, and I was too! Today my students created these two videos:

As a class, we brainstormed a list of six different tools that we frequently use in the classroom -- a SMART Board, computers, PALM Treos, Livescribe Pens, iPod Touches, and iPads -- and we listed some ways that we use these tools. Students then got into partners and decided what they were going to talk about. The groups had about 20 minutes to prepare, and then the filming started.

It was great to see what the students did, and even more exciting to hear what they said. They really understand how to use these tools, and more importantly, they understand why they are using these tools too. I also learned a lot about myself too, and about what I need to work on in future videos:

1) I say, "excellent," way too much. I was so thrilled with what the students shared that I think I got caught up in the excitement of the moment. I need to think about exactly what I'm going to say and make my words count.

2) I sometimes forget to give enough "waiting time." I know about the importance of waiting time, but when the minutes count and the responses seem to be delayed, I often follow-up with more questions than I need to. I need to remember to give students lots of time to think.

3) I do not multi-task well. I find it hard to control the camera, ask the questions, and see everything that's happening around me too. I need to hand the camera off to students. Usually the children are the ones that do the filming in the classroom, but since I wanted to create a seamless video and not short little segments, I thought it would be easier for me to do the filming. The next time, I will give up this role to the people that do it better: the students.

I hope that you enjoy these videos, and a special "thank you" to Teresa for pushing me out of my comfort zone and trying something new with my class. This was a great oral language opportunity, a fun media literacy activity, and a wonderful way to give students leadership in the classroom. I feel confident in saying that this is only just the beginning in more videos to come ...

What are some videos that you've made in the classroom with your students? What are some things that you've noticed about students and about yourself when creating these videos? I would love to hear your thoughts!


Thursday, May 26, 2011

What would you want your students to write?

In math right now, my Grade 1 students are reviewing probability. For one of our math centres today, some of the students completed this always, sometimes, and never writing activity, and it was all on me: their teacher. Reading their answers had me smiling all day long!

My teacher always is nice to me.

My teacher always makes fun days for us at school.

My teacher always is very nice.

I got to thinking tonight though: if you're a teacher, what would you want your students to write about you? What do you think they'd say? It really is amazing how a kind word or a thoughtful sentence can inspire us!


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Imagine The Possibilities

Tuesday night, the Primary Choir had a special performance at our school in the library. Many of my students are in the choir, and I wanted to be there to hear them sing. I'm so glad that I went back to the school to watch! I was amazed by how many people were there. The room was packed!

As I sat and watched the performance, I was moved by both the singing and the environment. Music connects us! Watching what was happening around me made me realize just how much things have changed since I was in school. I remember singing in the Primary Choir when I was in school, and often parents came with their cameras to take photographs, and some parents even took videos too, but these photographs and videos were really just meant for personal use. No one was going to share them with a larger audience, but now, thanks to the tools we have, we can do just that!

The whole back row of the library was full of parents with their smart phones taking photographs and videos. With a click of a button and the wonders of social media, this evening performance could be shared with the world. Imagine if there were multiple schools from around the world, singing on one night, and maybe even singing together thanks to a tool such as Skype. Consider this: we could all have a global audience for our performances. The possibilities really are endless!

On Tuesday night, families came together: the listened, they sang, they connected. And with the tools of today, others from around the world can listen, sing, and connect with us too. I think that this is really incredible, and I think that our two wonderful choir directors, Mrs. Ledroit and Mr. Mitchison, deserve a big thank you for making a night like this such a memorable one for so many people. Congratulations to you and the Primary Choir for an evening to remember!


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Imagination and Creativity

Over the past six months, I've had the pleasure of learning from Ian Chia (@ianchia) as part of my Twitter PLN. Ian is incredibly creative, and really pushes me to think and try things that I never did in the past. Ian also lives and works in Australia, and learning as much as I do from Ian, continually reminds me that with the use of Web 2.0 tools, the world is definitely a lot smaller.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a Skype call with Ian early one morning (late one night for him), and he invited my class to do something special. He wanted my students to think about something small that captures their attention, but that adults often ignore (e.g., the ants crawling around on the floor), and write about it. Ian didn't care if the final product was perfect, but what he was really interested in was the "process." How did the students develop their ideas? What did they discuss? What interested them?

Creative Writing on PhotoPeach

For our Friday Journal this week, my students worked in partners on this writing activity. They were so excited! I gave them the use of any tool and topic that they wanted. All that I required was that they were creative, and allowed themselves to just let go and write. The results were amazing! The students planned their written pieces -- making a list of characters, setting, problems, and solutions -- and then started writing. For over two hours, our room was a real writers' workshop. I was sitting with groups, hearing their ideas, watching them write, and seeing them have fun too. Not all of the groups are finished yet, but they will have some more opportunities in the coming weeks to finish their writing then. Have a look though at what they did create.

Ian's invitation really pushed my students to step out of their comfort zone, experiment with different tools, and try different writing forms, all while having fun writing too. Thanks Ian for helping my students work through the creative writing process while completing some finished pieces that they feel proud of as well.

Have you ever tried a similar writing activity before? What were the results? I would love to hear about your experiences as well!


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Open House Slideshow: Our Class Identity

This year, May 5th was both Open House and Identity Day. To keep with the "Identity Day" theme, my Open House slideshow helps define what's important to us as a class. I used information from our class discussions throughout the year to add meaningful text to this compilation of photographs. Please watch this slideshow with your children and discuss what they have learned throughout the year. Did I miss anything in this slideshow? Is there anything that they would like me to add or change? I would love to know their thoughts and yours too! Thanks for your help with this!


Friday, May 6, 2011

Not A Traditional Classroom

This afternoon a teacher candidate came into observe my class. At the time, my students were working in small groups to make dinosaur models: the final task in our Newspapers In Education project that we have been working on all week. The groups had to create their own dinosaur. They needed to name it, design it, and then create a three-dimensional model of it. Students had tons of choice in the materials that they used, but the one requirement was that the newspaper needed to be used in their model.

Both the Grade 1 and Grade 2 students have been learning about three-dimensional solids in class, so what a great way to apply their knowledge of these solids. Those that know me know that I am not artistic in the least, so trust me when I say that I gave very little direction or assistance for this activity. Students used the books in the classroom, online resources, and the newspaper to research dinosaurs and create their own unique dinosaur. Then they problem-solved together to build their model. They used everything: some just used newspapers and glue; others used bristol board, newspapers, glue, and tape; and still others added paper bags, staples, and elastics to the mix. They not only helped their group members, but they helped each other. They were offering suggestions, problem-solving, and persevering. Students were everywhere, supplies were everywhere, the room was buzzing, and everyone was learning something new.

This was a difficult task. Truthfully, I was hesitant if the students could create these models, but I was so pleasantly surprised with what they did and what they learned. They showed me that they understand the properties of three-dimensional solids, and what they need to consider when building with these solids. Even the students that created the two models that didn't work were able to reflect on what went wrong and what they would do differently the next time. They didn't learn this because I told them the information, but they learned this because they figured it out for themselves. This was learning by doing, and the students will definitely remember what they learned today. I couldn't be happier!

And it was when we were tidying up that this teacher candidate started to talk to me, and she mentioned how much she enjoyed the visit. She then said to me something that I will remember for a while: "This is definitely not a traditional classroom!" You're right. My room isn't traditional, and looking back on what my students learned today, I feel confident when I say, "I'm good with that!"


We Love You, Mom!

Sunday is Mother's Day, and my students wanted to do something special for their mothers as a thank you for all they do for them! Here is a Mother's Day VoiceThread and screencast (and Wordle) wishing all of our moms the very happiest Mother's Day ever!


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Building And Reflecting On Park Structures

My Grade 1 students got to join Mrs. Howe's class today for a special building experiment. Students used a variety of recyclable materials to construct their own park structure that could hold a small teddy bear. The students had to plan this structure first, and then build it today. After building it, the students reflected on their work: what worked well, and what would they add or change the next time?

My students took turns recording these reflections using our classroom flipcam. Below are some of the reflections. It was interesting to hear what each of them had to say, as well as hear what information they provided on their own, and what information they shared after some guiding questions.

What feedback do you have for my students? I'm sure they would love to hear what you have to say! Thanks for your help, and a special "thank you" to Mrs. Howe for organizing and facilitating such a great activity!