Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Special Goodbye

Last night, I went out for a special "goodbye dinner" for Janet Adler. Janet is our Vice Principal, and on Monday, she'll be leaving Ancaster Meadow to become a principal of another school. I got to the dinner a little bit late last night, and when I arrived, I was speechless. Almost our entire staff came out for this special goodbye. As I started to converse with the people there, I realized what an incredible impact Janet's had on our entire school.

Thank you, Janet, for all of your help and support. You always put students first, and I applaud you for all that you do for them! You are kind and compassionate, and you help inspire all of us to always do our best. I wish you all the best in your new position, and I will definitely miss you!


Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Actors In All Of Us: Thanks Robert Munsch!

I love Robert Munsch stories. I have always loved Robert Munsch stories. There's something about his characters and the extreme situations that always make me giggle, and I've read most of his books so many times, that I have them memorized now. One of my favourite Robert Munsch books is Mortimer.

This week for a read aloud, we read Mortimer, and then my students worked in groups of four and five to retell the story and create their own puppet plays. They're going to practice and perform their plays early next week, but in lead-up to that, we retold the story today (with a few small changes) in Readers' Theatre style. One of my students suggested that we videotape the performance so that we could look back at it later and see how we did, and I thought it was such a good idea, that I was happy to oblige!

While I think that I'll need to continue to work on my videotaping skills, I'm so glad that we did videotape this. Even my most reluctant actor was eager to participate here. Everyone chimed in with the different lines from the book, and all of my students acted their parts. We then watched the video afterwards, and I was amazed at the feedback the students provided. They reflected on ways that they could stay more in character, and they even reflected on ways to make for a smoother ending too. All of us are excited to perform Mortimer again next week. We hope to email Robert Munsch a link to our performance too: he inspired this after all.

We hope that you enjoy this video. Please share some of your Readers' Theatre success stories here too. We'd love to hear what you do!

Miss Dunsiger And The Grade 1/2 Class

Our First Mortimer Performance

An Update

Today (January 24th) we performed Mortimer again as a class. The students watched their other performance first and reflected on ways that they could improve their acting. They tried to stay in character, perform their lines with loud clear voices, and quiet down when necessary at the end so that we could have the final scene with Mortimer fast asleep. The children were so proud of their performance that they emailed Robert Munsch with a link to their video. They are hoping that he might come for a visit. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

The students are definitely excited for our next big drama activity. Do you have any great drama activity suggestions to share? I'd love to hear them!


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Trying Something New: Skype Literature Circles

This blog post is actually a very big "thank you" to @jgriffith2 (JamieLynn): an amazing Grade 2 teacher that has taught me so many innovative ways to use technology in the classroom to really further learning. A couple of weeks ago, we spoke via Skype to set-up a "Global Literature Circle." With JamieLynn's encouragement, we decided to have a group of her Grade 2 students read the same book as a group of my Grade 2 students, and then discuss this book over Skype. After messaging each other a number of different book titles, we decided to use Where the Wild Things Are for our first literature circle.

I'll admit that I was a bit skeptical about doing this. While I loved the idea, I wondered if the students would be independent enough to have a Skype call while the other students in the classroom are working on a different literacy activity. Everything is worth a try though, and I'm so glad that we decided to give this a try.

Today was fantastic! The students were thrilled to introduce themselves to each other over Skype and share some of their thoughts on reading. They also loved making predictions about the book, and they can't wait to read the book too!

Sharing Thoughts On Reading

Making Predictions

Making More Predictions

Both groups of students are going to read Where the Wild Things Are now, and then share questions about the book, summarize the book, and share some some pictures that show different events that happened in the book as well. We are going to continue to work on building good conversation skills: responding to what the other students said, and moving the conversation forward.

This is meaningful book talk, and I can't wait to see the progression in the students' reading and oral language skills over the coming months. For those of you that have done literature circles before, what advice do you have to share? What are some of your success stories? I would love to hear your thoughts!


An Update

Participating In The Skype Literature Circle

On Friday, January 21st, this group of students met again to discuss the book. It was great to see them engaging in a meaningful discussion on this fantastic book: Where the Wild Things Are. While the students still needed some support, by the end of the Skype call, they were getting better at responding to each other's questions and really talking to each other. They are going to meet again in a couple of weeks, and as these students continue to meet and discuss books, I think it will be great to see how independent they become at this.

As something different, on Friday I also had my other students completing centres at the time of the call. These were special literacy centres for our Experiment Day, but even so, it was wonderful to observe how engaged the rest of the class could be in their own activities while this was happening at the same time. This was one of my biggest concerns about these Skype Literature Circles, and watching the students on Friday proved to me that this can work!


Friday, January 14, 2011

Sharing Learning About Science

During our last round of literacy centres, the Grade 1 and Grade 2 students shared what they learned in Science by adding sticky notes to these Lino Walls (Grade 1 Wall and Grade 2 Wall). Both of these walls are embedded below as well. Please read what the students had to say, and see if your child can add any more sticky notes to these walls sharing their learning on Living Things (Grade 1) and Liquids and Solids (Grade 2). If other classes from different schools are studying these topics too, please feel free to share your learning on these walls as well. It would be great if we could all learn together!

Thanks for your help with this!

Author's Chair

For our Friday Journal Activity this week, I decided to try something new. I had my Grade 1's write a letter on any topic of their choice, and I had my Grade 2's write a procedure for doing anything that they wished. For those students that were interested, I invited them to read their letter or procedure in the Author's Chair. I recorded these readings and have shared four of them with you here. I love how excited these students got to share their work with an audience.

Both of my Grade 2 students wrote procedures for making a snowman. They would love if you try out their procedures and see if they work. Please leave a comment here and let us know.

Thanks for your help with this!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Perfect End To Our Perfect Pajama Day

During Reading Buddy time today, my students worked together with their Grade 4 buddies to record their reading using the Palm Treos. I used the document camera to demonstrate how to do this recording, and then the students had to problem-solve together, while also reading and having fun. Below is an Animoto slideshow of this activity in action. It's great to see all of the students so engaged. It was definitely the perfect end to our Perfect Pajama Day!


Monday, January 10, 2011

Verb Videos

Since we got back to school after the Winter Break, the students have been learning about verbs (action words). To help them demonstrate what they learned, my Grade 1 and 2 students worked in partners to create their own videos. They made plasticine creatures to use in their videos, and they even designed their own sets too. Some students decided to take turns saying sentences that included nouns, verbs, and sometimes even adjectives too, and some students decided to create a story that included the use of verbs. We're going to watch these videos tomorrow, and the children are going to use them to create their own Verb Wordles to embed in their individual blogs. To help them with this activity, please add a comment here with some verbs that you either heard or saw demonstrated in these short movies. The children would love to add some of your verbs to their Wordles.

Thanks for your help with this activity!

P.S. Reflecting on these videos, the students learned about the importance of using clear, loud voices and including actions to accompany their dialogue. I was really pleased with their first attempt at these mini-movies!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Puppet Pals: Drama and Technology

This week, my students got to participate in a very special drama activity. Thanks to @techieang and @davelanovaz, I learned about Puppet Pals: an app for the iPod Touch and iPad where students can create their own puppet shows/puppet videos using a variety of characters and settings. Since we've been learning about nouns, verbs, and adjectives in class, I thought that it would be great if the students could apply what they learned by creating a puppet show that included nouns, verbs, and adjectives as well as some exciting dialogue too.

The students worked in groups of five to make this puppet show. Three groups used the Puppet Pals app on the iPod Touches and one group used the Puppet Pals app on the iPad. The groups had to plan their show and figure out which group member would play which character. They all needed to have a speaking role, but this speaking role could vary depending on what the group decided.

The students loved this activity, and they reflected well after completing it too. The groups agreed that they did a good job following their plan and completing a final puppet show/movie, but that they needed to continue to improve on working well as part of a team. They knew that they couldn't always do what they wanted to do, and they needed to be willing to compromise. Some groups said that they worked better after recording the play/movie a couple of times, as then they had a better idea of what worked well and what didn't. One group said that they worked better out in the pod (attached to our classroom), as they could then have a bigger and quieter area to work, and this helped.

Below is a video of one of the puppet shows/movies (sorry, I started recording just a few seconds late). The children in this group definitely enjoyed manipulating the characters on the iPad as well as coming up with some creative dialogue too. I hope you enjoy their show! If you have used Puppet Pals before, I'd love to hear about your experiences too. What worked well, and what didn't? I look forward to using this app again with my class!


An Update -- Sunday, January 9, 2011

Here's a link to another Puppet Pals video that a second group produced. This group used an iPod Touch to record the video, but it's an older iPod Touch, so I was not able to export their video to YouTube. I apologize for my "finger shot," but I wanted to be able to record the video to share with you here. I love how this group used both a narrator and dialogue, and their story even has a happy ending too. It took this group a number of times to record the video the way that they wanted it to be, but when they were done, all of them were pleased with what they produced. I think that this activity taught all of these group members the value of perseverance. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Why "Free Write Time" Is Important

Once a week, my students go up to the computer lab for a period. For the last couple of months, I have given my students "free write time" during this period. They can write on any topic that they choose and they can use any tool that they choose too. My only requirement is that they need to "write."

My class loves this time. They get excited about writing, and all of the students are highly engaged in this writing activity too. They are all so creative. I even have students conducting interviews and recording the questions and answers in a chart. They continue to surprise me with what they can do.

I loved what I saw yesterday though. One student opened up the Notebook software and decided to write a poem. She then exported this poem as a jpeg image and uploaded it to her blog. Her poem was full of rich description and fantastic ideas!

I could have given the students a topic and had them write a poem, but would I have gotten the same results? This student got to write about a topic that interested her, and she got to choose the form that she wanted to use too. Giving students control over their writing produces some amazing results.

For the parents reading this post, I would love to hear what you think of "free write time." How does your child respond to this time? For the teachers reading this post, do you give regular "free write time?" What are your thoughts on this? Thanks for sharing!