Sunday 15 February 2015

Students Want Choice and Voice

This blog post started out going to be a blog about cross-curricular connections and how my students, myself, and our awesome gym teacher worked together to connect gym and math. It all began with me thinking that it would neat if we could integrate some of our measurement outcomes from our math into the gym outcomes. Our gym teacher was all for it so I shared the outcomes that I thought he could do something with in gym and it led to the start of our cross-curricular learning. Gym class has become a place to reinforce and practice what we've talked about in math class. The students are enjoying it and can't wait for more. A few of them were even disappointed that they will have to wait awhile to finish an activity because they earned a free time play in gym.

The switch in the focus on this blog post happened when I decided to have my students reflect on what they liked and didn't like about Part 1 of our activities of measuring the gym using non-standard units of measurement. Without me asking they brought up the word choice. They liked that they could pick what to do and who to do it with once they had come up with the guidelines for the activity. My students were happy that their gym teacher let them come up with and share what  non-standard units of measurement they would use to measure the gym. We talked about how this was what is know as student voice-where students have a voice in their learning or how they show their learning. Also, they loved that they could practice their math learning in gym. Almost all of the students enjoyed this activity but I asked for feedback on what they didn't like and it had nothing to do with the activity or the math. It was the fact that they didn't have their own sheet. They found that the sign up and recording sheet being one sheet  wasn't ideal as some students were pushing them others of the way. We talked about how that really isn't something against the lesson but was students not showing sportsmanship which is tied into the gym teacher's awesome classroom management system. We then discussed how we could solve these "cons" of the activity. They decided that if they asked the other student to stop and they didn't they could tell their gym teacher-Mr. Elmore. I passed on this information to Mr. Elmore who informed me that he had already decided that for the next activity they would record their results on their own paper and created one. At the start of their next gym class he took the time to talk to them about how he loved their feedback as well as the fact that they liked having a voice. Then he explained how they would get voice as well as their own personal recording sheet in their next math based gym activity.

I am glad that I took the initiative to reach out to our gym teacher as it ended up being an awesome cross-curricular experience which led to a valuable discovery of student choice, voice, and feedback with an amazing gym teacher. Mr. Elmore  took the time to show them that he cared about their feelings and their voice. As their classroom teacher, this really made me happy as it showed me that he valued them as students as well as learners and was making sure he had positive relationships with them. What an amazing quality to see in this new teacher. I can't wait to explore further cross-curricular connections between math and gym as our students are truly enjoying it.

Saturday 14 February 2015

Things I Learned The Other Day

On Wednesday, I had the pleasure of hearing George Couros speak at our annual district PD. I am glad I gave the push for him to come up. It was awesome having somebody of his caliber up hear as we don't have often have that chance up here so it was great to hear him for the first time (and not the last time I hope). One of his sessions was on blogging as a portfolio and although it got off task it got me think about some things and I started reflecting throughout the day on what I was learning content wise and about myself as well.

These are things that I had swirling around my head that day and for a few more days afterwards.

1. Supposedly I can be funny when I am really nervous and speaking in front of all of my district. Who knew? Not me! It was very interesting to hear from my colleagues that I was funny and looked like I had it under control (boy did I fool them).

2. I started realizing how far I've come in the 6.5 years that I've been teaching. My first year or two I wouldn't have struck up a conversation with somebody I didn't know unless necessary. So,  it is shocking to think about how  now I present at tech conversations in my province and even introduced George in front of a crowd. Until the last few years I wouldn't have joked around with people that weren't my family or close friends unlike I've started to do recently. At the PD day, I even found myself joking with George in person and on Twitter and I only met him face to face that day. I am starting to thing Twitter has played a role in this change in how I interact and take bigger risks in my day to day life. On Twitter I am able to share my thoughts and views as well as make connections with people from all over Canada and the world. I think being able to have those conversations online makes them easier in person with that same person when you meet them or with someone you already know. Perhaps, this is just another powerful reason to use Twitter.

3. Seeing George present allowed me to realize that I am on the right track in using social media to promote innovation in teaching and learning in my classroom. I know I need to continue on the path I am already on. I, also, learned that George is just a normal guy (albeit he does have some interesting tastes in music and movies) who promote and help others learn to do what I am already doing and trying to further implement in my classroom.

4. In reference to George's latest blog post on Feedback or Noise, if I understood it correctly,  I believe I am bringing up what is important to be pushed and I am working on making sure it isn't just noise as change is needed and our voices need to be heard.

5. I need to stop worrying about others thing. When it comes to PD planning not everybody will be happy and I just need to go with the words of Taylor Swift (right, George?) and Shake it Off. Haters are gonna hate!

6. Keep on sharing! I need to keep on share the amazing thing my students are doing so people can see how we are doing innovate and creative things in our class.

As I reflect back on the day, I can honestly say I made the best decision ever PD wise by bringing up George Couros as so much was learned by all. I was inspired to keep on doing what I am doing innovation wise.  I'll leave you with some gems and questions George posed that I related to. :

1. "I want to inspire students so they inspire me in return."
2. "Just in time learning doesn't make sense."
3. Would you want to spend the whole day learning in your own classroom?" To which I would yes, as we have a great learning environment where we can take risks.
4. "Isolation is a choice."
5. "Change is the opportunity to do something amazing!"
6. "Relationships are everything."

Thursday 12 February 2015

Technology and Student Engagment

As you know I love integrating technology into my classroom and recently I've been thinking about how this technology use improves student engagement in our classroom.  Having this student engagement allows for smoother classroom management. I don't have to get after my students to be on task as often as they are engaging in the task at hand or the discussion going on. Having this engagement allows for students to be more successful when it comes to assessment.

There are many different ways we use technology in my classroom that leads to student engagement. I'll start with blogging. I am a big promoter of the use of blogging in the classroom for various reasons. Other teachers ask me why it is better than blogging and besides the fact that I don't have to bring home 20 notebooks to mark, it allows for student engagement. The students are engaged because they for some reason find it fun. I am not sure the exact reason for their higher level of engagement when blogging compared to writing in their journals. Maybe it is because they to get to share their writing with their classmates and classes around the world as well as their with their parents or maybe it is because they can easily fix up mistakes and don't have to worry about the neatness of their writing. What I do know is that students can be in different spots in writers workshop and on different writing topics but, all be working in silence (well other than the tapping of the keyboard keys). They can flow from stage to stage without interruption. If this doesn't show student engagement, then I don't know what would.

Another technology tool that we use that allows for student learning and engagement is using Skype or Google Hangout.  These video-conferencing technologies allow for my students to interact with students from all parts of North America and even the world. It is a great way to talk about our learning. Last week my students had the opportunity too; have the author of our read aloud Skype in and be our guest reader, teach some teachers how to do mystery number Skype, teach a class at another school in our district how to do #ilovetoreadbingo as well as how to do mystery number Skype, and sit in on a Skype call our grade 2 class made to Dettah, Northwest Territories. It is pretty easy to see their high level of engagement by the way their eyes are glued to the screen and with their big smiles. The Skype with the author John Spencer was the biggest success at student engagement through technology as they were smiling through the whole thing and silent.

Another hit with my 3BBBees was #mathphotoaday-you can check it out here. The students would come in the the morning and have the math prompt board on most groups would be done creating their mathphotoaday concept before the announcements finished-such engagement!

Tweeting as a class provides engagement too as students are excited to connect to classes from other places so they can learn. They, also, love tweeting with their favourite book character-Wendell the World's Worst Wizard. The author of the book is amazing and does a great job connecting with my students which engages and in turn inspires them. This alone could be one blog topic-maybe next time.

Monday 2 February 2015


This month is I Love to Read Month. My class and Tara Mclauchlan created an awesome photo challenge for this month. The challenge involves taking photos of the prompts on the READ bingo card seen at the bottom of the blog post. The students pick a prompt from the bingo card, take a photo of something that matches the prompt, and then as a class you share it with the hashtag #ilovetoreadbingo and the photo prompt (eg: #book-selfie). You can share it on Instagram or Twitter or both. Then you can go and search the hashtag #ilovetoreadbingo on Instagram or Twitter to see what other classes are sharing. It should be a fun photo challenge. Are you in?

Sunday 1 February 2015

Pause and Rethink

 I was all prepared to publish  a blogpost in which I was going to talk about how I felt my passion for technology integration wasn't being well received and I wanted a change as I didn't feel I was reaching my potential. I was going to write about how my passion felt diminished and how something gave me a chance to temporarily make it better. Then a few things that my admin, online colleagues, students, and a teacher-author said made me pause and re-think through my feelings.

I started realizing that I needed to stop worrying about the sometimes struggles I have to do what I want with technology as well as not having complete acceptance from my colleagues and focus on what I've achieved and what my students and online colleagues think and share.

Here are some things I thought about that really reflect the success centred around my passion of technology integration into the classroom.

1. My students: Last week one of my students said they wished that I could be their teacher for grade 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 because they liked me. I thanked him and he said he was just telling the truth because I was a fun teacher because they got to do cool things with technology. It got me thinking that perhaps the fact that my students love how we learn should be a major factor in my passion and the push in my continuing to do it. My students will remember Grade 3 as the year they did cool things with technology and that should be enough for me to keep doing what I love to.

2. My grade 2/3 colleague: This winter I started collaborating with our term grade 2/3 teacher and she has been open to trying out some new ways to integrate technology into her classroom. She joined Twitter and started learning from an online PLN. We started her class using instagram for #mathphotoaday. My students taught hers how to blog. She will be participating in our #ilovetoreadbingo. Her class has participated with mine in Skyping sessions with a grade 4/5 class at the Maple Grove Colony in southern Manitoba. She will be trying out mystery number Skype with  her class. I just wish I had reached out to her when she first started at our school in September. We will just have to make up for lost time.

3. My admin: My principal and vice principal are quite supportive. They've allowed me to successfully push to get Twitter and Instagram open all day. They seem to see the value of using social media as a learning tool. This past month they participated in our #mathphotoaday. Here's hoping they try our #ilovetoreadbingo photo challenge. They have, also, given me some release time to do tech based learning and creating in other classrooms.

4. My online PLN: My PLN especially the members in my #plngelato have always been supportive and accepting of my passion as they share it. They encourage me and provide feedback that is always appreciated.

5. Feedback on My Students: I am always sharing and tweeting what my students are doing and we get a lot of positive from other teachers online and classes.  I have to say seeing John Spencer,  teacher and author of our read aloud book, Instagraming a screen shot of a picture I tweeted of my students doing their work made me realize "Wow, I have awesome students who are doing amazing things because I let them." I'm giving my awesome students the chance to create things with technological tools and non-technological tools. That is all that matters.

Sunday 11 January 2015

Photo Challenges and How They Inspire The 3Cs: Collaborating, Connecting, and Creating

I love social media based photo challenges. My students just started doing our #mathphotoaday challenge and they are loving it! Their love for this challenge has only reinforced my believe in the power of the simple yet so effective #mathphotoaday.

Before I share why I love photo challenges like #mathphotoaday and how they inspire the 3Cs (Collaborating, Connecting and  Creating) I thought I'd share the more important viewpoint; my students. In education we need to be more focused on the students learning and their views so here's their point of view. I've asked them why they love it and for them it comes down to a few things:

1. It's fun.
2. They get to take photos that they can share and ask questions about the math in the photo.
3. They get to look at other classes photos and answer their questions about math.
4. Oh and did I mention it's fun.

The more I think about the reasons why I love photo challenges are very similar to my students. I love how they get enthusiastic by math. We do the photo challenge as our bell work in the morning in their groups and most groups are done and ready to share on Instagram by the time announcements come on. They are truly finding it fun and this love of it has transferred into our new Daily 3 Math program. The students are excited for the daily math photo challenge. Also, I love how the photo challenge (and other photo challenges like #eduphotoaday) allows for the 3Cs.

The students collaborate in their groups to come up with a way to show the photos. They are actively  engaging in a math conversation on what ways they can do show the math prompt. They work together and try different ways to do it.  It has been the best collaboration they have done this year.

Photo challenges like #mathphotoday allow students to connect with students outside of our community to see how they interpret the math concepts as well as ask them questions and answer theirs. It is just another great way to connect using social media.

Another amazing outcome of the challenge is the creativity that comes with it. We talked about boring ways to show some of the math photo prompts and they started coming up with creative ways to create and show a math concept instead. For example, we showed skip-counting by using people. We had a row of 3 people, a row of 6 people, and a row of 9 people. Even our principal and vice principal got in on the skip-counting #mathphotoaday.

It is my belief as a teacher that student engagement is crucial for learning to happen and #mathphotoaday and other photo challenges are a great way to do while also; collaborating, connecting, and creating.

Sunday 7 December 2014

Coming Out of a Slump

I started out this school year in some kind of a funk. I was wanting a change in my grade level but, that didn't happen. The teacher of a grade 3/4 class that my grade 3s usually collaborated with moved to a higher grade so our collaboration hasn't been the same. Other issues had made the start of the year not as smooth as it usually is.

Awhile ago, I started thinking about what I liked doing the best with  my students and obviously the answer was collaborating using technology. I thought abo8t how I could do this on a more regular basis than just with  my online #plngelato (a great group of teachers that I connect with-perhaps a blog on them in the future). I made the decision to connect with our new term grade 2/3 teacher who was teaching the same social studies unit as I was. We get along great and my love of technology integration didn't seem to scare her off. This was a new territory for me because for various reasons  all of my collaboration had been online based. I hadn't collaborated with my grade partner. I, also, realized I need to stop worrying about this and other things I had no control over and work with what I can control. I knew I need to do something that would let my passion come back out.  I decided to go for it and asked her if she was willing to try doing some technology based collaboration. She willingly decided to join me in my technology collaboration madness. I am not sure she knew what she was getting herself into but, I am sure glad I got her involved. Our students have loved collaborating with each other as we use technology to learn about our friends at the Maple Grove Hutterite Colony. The experience of success in school based collaboration has been amazing. It has proven to me that using what I love to revamp my teaching practices is what I needed. Next term, will find us having our students create iMovies centred around the continents and oceans. My students will show her students how to blog as there is nothing better than students teaching other students how to do something. I'll be sharing the power of Twitter with her this week too! Things are so much better know that I have the ability to collaborate with another teacher on staff. Our students are better off for it as they are learning together and bonding through this collaborative learning adventure. This is really all that one can wish for as nothing beats learning with and from each other. Their learning experiences are much more enriched because of our use of technology. Not many students in grade 2 or 3 can say they are learning in real time from other students especially students living on a colony. In the end, I am glad I stuck where I am.

I, also, need to say thank you to my #plngelato for starting my passion for collaboration. The things I've learned from you have allowed me to succesfully collaborate within  my own building. It is because of you that my students are having such enriched learning experiences with fellow students at our own school and at others. Thank you for everything!