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!