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!