Learning something new everyday!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Following the student's direction....

.... even if you don't know where it will lead.

I was at professional development last night as part of my district's digital learning series. Shelley Wright of Wright's Room was the guest speaker and challenged me to "rethink" my teaching practice.  She shared her experience as she transformed her teaching from that of traditional lecture approach to project based learning.  What I took away last night was the challenge to follow the student's interests. To allow them to learn to learn, make mistakes, and do something meaningful in the real world.

To some extent, I think I already do this. As a grade one teacher, I do have time in the day for student choice of activity and much of my teaching is close to a project based learning style, however I am not sure how much I truly follow the interests of my students. Yes, they do have choices within my overall theme, but how many times have I asked, "What do you want to learn about?" or "What is important for you to know about?"....  not often!

Some have said to me today "...but they are just 6 (yrs old) and don't know what there is to learn. You must teach them first."   hmmmmm

I asked my 6yr old students today what they would like to learn about and let me tell you, they were full of ideas!  (Sorry Mrs. Brett, we will be altering our year plans slightly.) Here's what they had to say...

  • I want to learn about lego.
  • I want to learn about tarantulas.
  • I want to learn how cook.
  • I want to learn about black widows.  (times 4)
  • I want to learn how to take care of animals.
  • I want to learn how to grow plants (poppies).
  • I want to learn about flowers.
  • I want to learn how to make flower pots.
  • I wonder what these electrical wires do? 
  • I wonder about dinosaurs. (times 3)
  • I want to learn how to make pancakes.
  • I want to learn about trees and leaves. We could go outside and experiment!

  • Myself, "I wonder who will learn more, me or my students?"
I think it can work. I'm not sure exactly what it will look like, it will likely be chaotic (I mean more chaotic than it already is), it might not all work, but we will learn.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Yes, right, it is past Thanksgiving! At least the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday, but since I'm choosing to think of Thanksgiving as more of an attitude than a day, it does not matter a bit. Am I right?

So here are my TOP PICKS

  1. Family.  The whole, ever changing group that includes 3 children, hubby, 4 parents, 3 grandparents, 1 brother and family, 1sister-in-law and family, 1 nephew, 4 nieces, aunts, uncles cousins.... You always know you are a part of something greater in a family.
  2. Home. I am realizing more and more the importance of a quiet, comfortable space filled with loved ones and treasured objects.
  3. A job I love!  It is a privilege to share in the learning of precious young students.
  4. Sleep
  5. Great neighbours that drive my kids to school everyday!
  6. Friends that will go beyond all expectations to dig up a GIANT sunflower from the grandparents and drive it to my house late one night because she knows how I love doing a sunflower unit with my students and she knows my sunflowers are not blooming!
  7. Colleagues that are also your good friends.
  8. A principal that both supports and challenges.
  9. A husband who is beyond measure.  He will build a bench because my students can't reach the smartboard or make a portable pool to race our class boats in.
  10. Technology that makes this world smaller.  (I must admit to a love/hate relationship to this)
  11. My faith that gives me hope.
  12. Health. I appreciate the things I am able to do. 

I am truly Blessed!

What are you thankful for?

Connections Part 2

It is now October and Thanksgiving is behind me (that will be the next post), I am remembering my "word" CONNECTIONS! While I am happy to have made some organized thoughts regarding this in August when life was still a little quieter and I had time to think and plan, I am regretting my haste in putting it out here! Do you know what I mean? Not because I think differently, but because I feel the pressure to be true to my plans in a day when there is so little time and so many things to do. Sooooo.....


The steps that I've taken so far with my students and myself professionally have had very positive results. This has not come without a fair amount of stress in stepping outside my comfort zone and trying new things that I don't know how to do.

  1. Quad Blogging has been a very exciting experience for us so far.  My class was matched with 3 other classes http://blog.st-barts.bolton.sch.uk/reception , http://kidblog.org/PhoenixKidsK-2/ and http://room10waihibeachschool.wikispaces.com/ .  We began by visiting the Waihi Beach School blog is Sept. and making comments to them about their learning (They were looking at heart, lungs etc. from a dead calf that a parent had brought to school. My students were intrigued to say the least!) I mentioned this in my class newsletter and got an immediate reply from a parent of one of my students whose family is from Waihi Beach, NZ!  So, the next week we get an email from the school in Waihi Beach that my student, Ollie's grandfather had stopped in for a visit!  My students (and I) were amazed!  These places and people were suddenly real to them.
Ollie's grandad  visiting our quad blog partner school
image courtesy of Jess Hardley, Waihi Beach School

    2.   Our class also joined a Primary Blogging Community that we partner with in a similar way.                      We have only just begun connecting with this group, but I feel confident we will learn from them,   too.

     3.    We joined the Global Read Aloud
We joined with Mrs. LirenmanMs. Leech and Mrs. Wideen for a google hangout to read one of the chapters together each week. In this way our classes are connecting and hearing the story being read by different teachers to 4 classes at once. We see all 4 classes on the screen at the same time. We can take turns sharing predictions and listening to each other.  While I had practised at home first with Karen and Niki, our first scheduled Hangout with our classes at school came with a little technical difficulty on my end. The three other classes were on line waiting for me and I was unable to join in. The frustration was mounting (students were beginning to lose patience), fortunately Niki across the hall remembered that I needed to switch the wireless access to our school guest access in order for this to work. So, after a few tense minutes on my end we were able to join in the fun.  This was my turn to read the chapter and my students first time seeing themselves on the screen which lead to much waving and head bobbing.  I have to say that it was well worth the stress of that first time.  My students want to know each time we read now, "are we going to 'hangout'?"

4.    Making connections within my district is happening via our school's team participating in the Engaging The Digital Learner dinner series.  The first of the series was a couple weeks ago when we had guest speaker Dean Shareski sharing about telling our stories (very inspiring).  While there, though we met some teachers at our table who are interested in visiting our classes and and sharing practical ideas about managing technology  in the classroom which is a big issue for us.  We also got the opportunity to meet some of the  amazing IT people in our district that help make these things possible. Since then we have had them visit our school to see our needs and how we could improve the finer details for our students (apple TV/ air play).  The Primary Teacher's Association in my district also has exciting plans which I a looking forward to.

5.    Positive calls home was on my list as well.  I have to say I have not done this, YET.  I still think it is important, but simply have not got there yet.  Soon.  I have heard though, from parents that the implementation of the class blog has been beneficial in connecting our classroom to student's home life.

6.    Collaboration within my school is happening!  We are fortunate to have collaboration time built into our schedules in the way of buddy time.  Next week our big buddy classes take the students to do an activity together while the primary teachers meet to collaborate. The next week we switch roles and the intermediate teachers get the opportunity to meet.  I must admit though, that otherwise, I don't get into other classrooms in my school as much as I would like.

Ok, I think that I am making improvements in my teaching practices through connecting, but I still have much to do.

Monday, August 27, 2012

My word....

As I'm sitting here (6am, coffee in hand) anticipating returning to the classroom today to set up and get ready for the new year, I'm thinking "What is one thing I'm going to do better this year?"

My word came quickly, almost too quickly that I brushed it off thinking its too obvious, but I kept coming back to it soooo....
Yes, I told you, obvious right?  Sometimes you just have to go with it! So here it is, my plan to get connected!

  1. Be a Connected Educator. This is where the obvious comes from because I just signed up to join this site a couple of weeks ago to continue making global connections with teachers and classrooms. I believe in sharing and learning from each other within your class, school, district, country and around the world. Twitter and this blog have been a large part of my quest to connect and I have learned much, but now I want to make this experience "real" for my students. It must improve student learning, not just my own.
  2. To connect with each student everyday. Maybe it will be an organized, purposeful method as Amy mentions here or something else, but to connect with each student everyday in a meaningful way letting them know I value them and they are important.
  3. To connect with parents. I plan to make use of the phone! I have read about the power of the positive call home here and from Matt here. I can imagine as a mom what that would feel like. Ultimately it gets back to the child. It is empowering for students! Yes, I will use the class blog, Twitter, and face to face interactions before and after school, but calling home is purposeful, individual, and I will reach every parent regardless of work schedule.
  4. My school is full of talented, wonderful teachers who do great things with kids. I need to connect with my own staff better. I am a busy mom as well as teacher and when my students go home my thoughts starting turning to my own kids and the pressure to get home in a timely manner is great, however, I would like to visit the rooms of my colleagues on a regular basis. I mean physically walk down the hall or down the stairs, or up the stairs to enter their rooms. I would like to see what they are doing, talk to them, encourage them, or get encouragement. I haven't been good at this, room for BIG improvement here!
  5. I want to make some new connections in my district too. I have trouble with this because I am comfortable watching and listening. I do these well! I was a quiet introverted child as I continue to be as an adult. I believe though, that I will benefit from stepping out to make face to face connections. Maybe at district workshops, sporting events or meetings. If I will encourage my students to do this, so should I!
Ok, it is in B&W so hold me accountable!


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Preparing for a new year....

As our first day (Sept. 4) quickly approaches I've been asked many times, "Are you ready for a new year?" and "What do you do to get ready?".  The short answers are "No" and "Lots".

No, I'm not ready for a new year quite yet! While it is true that autumn is one of my favourite seasons, (as much for the fresh start and new relationships the start of school provides as for the weather, food, and clothing that comes with it),  I'm so enjoying carefree, flexible days of summer with my own kids. We do live in Canada after all so let's celebrate the seasons! During the school year I find myself pulled in so many directions I have a hard time maintaining a balance between my personal and professional life. I love teaching young children and feel passionate about being the best teacher I can be (as I do about being the best mom, wife, friend, daughter, Christian...I can be). For me, this means much reading, time to think, conversing with my PLN, more time to think, writing, and relaxing. When school ended this past June, it took me a couple of weeks to truly unwind. More than two full weeks of family vacation at the beach never felt so good! The faces of my students from this past year still seam so fresh in my mind however, I am beginning to feel that spark of anticipation and excitement  for Sepember and the new little faces.
Each is an original, never two the same.

Yes, I do lots in preparation for a new year!  I spent lots of time at the beginning of summer reading. I read both for pleasure  and for my profession. I have a large stack of great professional books I've collected recently. I read in the backyard with my kids, at the beach with my family and on the pool deck. My iPad has more books and articles as well.  The most engaging and applicable information I have found though, is via Twitter. Although I still consider myself a newbie to social media and to technology in general, I have jumped in and embraced a steep learning curve alongside my students. Here are some of the things I've been working on besides reading:

  • Signed up for Global Read Aloud.  We will be reading Charlotte's Web and collaborating with classes around the world in many ways. I have to familiarize myself with Edmodo and Skype.
  • Applied for and was accepted for a Flat Classrooms Project and opted to do a spring project.
  • Created a new "class" blog where I will be sharing with families and others as an extension  of the learning we do in class.
  • Worked on creating some Smartboard lessons as my Smartboard is new to me as of December this past year.
  • Collected supplies for my classroom.
  • Designed a new floor plan to make better use of the space and accommodate the new technology we have purchased.
  • Planned a couple of field trips.
  • I will be doing a few summer ProD sessions. One with my school on digital portfolios as well as Dr. Stuart Shanker's Self Regulation  and Fun Friends.
  • I enrolled in Fins Friends for the 2012/13 school year.
While I have done much in the way of preparation for the new year, most beneficial for me has been to relax and enjoy time with my family. I believe I can be a better teacher and more "in the moment" if I am relaxed and refreshed as only a summer vacation will do. So I will be making the most of the next couple of weeks (yes, I will go in to set up my classroom too)!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A year of learning...

Ok, this is inspired by many Karen, Niki, Michelle, and others so I strive to do it justice.

This has been one of the biggest years of learning in my life (behind becoming a wife and parenting my children). Although I have been teaching for 20 years, this has been the greatest. I returned to the classroom full-time since becoming a mom 14 yrs ago and embraced using technology with my students.  As I have mentioned before, this was way outside my comfort zone, much like what I imagine my students feel like at various times in our day.

So here it is, my year 2011/12...

  • Sept. began, after a summer of preparing by reading The Daily 5 and The Daily Cafe which brought about creating more student choice in my reading and writing program and improvements in individual conferencing (a work in progress)
  • Late fall I saw Adrienne Gear speak about her Writing Power book and several strategies to improve students writing. I'm thinking about how to help my young writers develop their own "voice".
  • Dec. saw my Smartboard finally installed. Amidst great excitement I began learning to use it with my students (who learn faster than I at times)! It quickly became a favourite teaching/learning tool for students and teacher.
  • Feb. I went to my first Ed Camp in Surrey, where I met Karen for the first time. She convinced of the power of Twitter, and blogging!
  • I set up a Twitter account and "lurked"
  • March, I began this blog.
  • I also set my grade 1 students up with their own kidblog account. I am so happy to see them continue to blog and comment through the summer.
  • I took part in Surrey's Digital Dinner series to learn more about using the iPad in my classroom and was amazed at the possibilities....
  • I helped write our school's proposal for the Innovative Learning Designs grant where we were successful in gaining funds to purchase mobile technology for next year.
  • I attended another Primary Teacher's Association mtg where I met Sarah who again encouraged me to jump-in with both feet and be more active on Twitter.
  • I tried "I Wonder..." statements with my students where they investigate their own inquiry. Powerful learning was the result.
  • I began learning from and with my students, and not fear the mistakes or problems along the way. Yes, the dongle to the Smartboard sometimes has a mind of it's own!
  • The last few months (and George Couros) have convinced me of the power of Twitter in my own Pro D. The connections are simply amazing!
  • I attended a workshop given by Robyn on blogging in Primary which further cemented my commitment to writing to learn. I am still learning.....
Here is what I am currently working on
I have another stack from last year I intend to review this summer as well. I love being challenged by so many. My effort right now is to write to make sense of what I am learning. I aim to be more purposeful in developing my own voice right here.

I am thankful to all these talented teachers (and so many more) who encourage on my journey. Thanks also to Shelley Brett for supporting and believing in Niki and I!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Bitter Sweet....

....describes my emotions right now. It is June and all around plans are being made. Plans to celebrate the learning and achievements of this past year, plans to relax and unwind for the summer and plans to get ready for the coming year. I love summer and anticipate warm days at the beach, playing with my kids, reading, sleeping, running (hmmmm?) relaxing as much or more than the students, but I'm not ready yet.

Is it that there are too many unfinished projects? Well no, but there are a few. Is it that I'm not good with change? Well maybe, but I don't think so (my husband would argue this). Perhaps it is saying farewell to a wonderful group of kids?

I have been thinking about this for a little while now as the feeling builds. I do love September for the fresh starts and new relationships, but I am not finished this year yet. I think it is that simple. I am not finished. There are so many things that I would like to do with my students that I don't feel ready to make other plans.  It is true that we have made a leap into technology this year and will continue next year as well, but I feel like we are just getting started.

I love reading my student's blogs and learning new things about them, seeing them grow and learn. I love seeing their expressions when they come in and hurry to look at their little plant, or their caterpillar, or their egg experiment. I love trying new technology with them and learning alongside them. It is the gift of teaching.

So, while I continue to make plans for winding up this year and celebrating with my students, it is with a certain amount of bitter sweet feeling. How are you feeling, I would love to hear!

Monday, April 9, 2012


Inspiration: stimulation or arousal of the mind, feelings, etc, to special or unusual activity or creativity. I love it!  The word suggests such beautiful possibilities.

I find myself continually inspired by the smallest and most unlikely things all the time (my son's Beyblades, pots of dye, worms in the garden...) more so now than ever before.  I'm wondering why it is that today, when available time seems scarce, that there are so many things I want to do and try (both in my personal life and in my classroom)?

I was reminded of this when sitting in a fantastic workshop this past Monday night listening to Adrienne Gear speaking about her Writing Power book and how she teaches writing in her classroom. I was thinking of ways to improve my teaching the students to become better writers (triple scoop words, similes, personification...). I also came away with a list of great new children's lit titles, I have a weakness for great books!  All in all, a great and practical workshop and I am inspired to write more myself and help my students write more. Through the rest of the week though, I kept coming back to my problem with time. There is such a short period of time to do so many things, something I know we all battle with.

Lately, I have been working on incorporating technology in the classroom and starting my students on their individual blogs. What I have decided for me right now is to continue with what I am already doing in the classroom and use Adriennne's suggestions as my "mini lessons" that precede my student's writing time. I know, earth shattering, right?  I mean, when I'm inspired with great ideas, I'm tempted to throw out the old and in with the new, but I need a little more continuity being there is already many things we are trying with the new technology this year.  So, hopefully we will see improvement in student writing on their blogs....

In the meantime here is what is inspiring me....

Allowing students to direct and test their own inquiry.  I need to do more of this. The learning involved is fantastic.

Watching my son and wondering....

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Student Blogging

Happy April 1st, and yes, it is... SNOWING!  No Fooling!

So, on Friday this past week I experienced two very different and conflicting emotions. One was great frustration and had nothing to do with students (I will not go there .... here).  The other was great pleasure, and this I will share :)

My students (and I) have been so excited to begin their blogs that waiting for their turn on our classroom computer or the few laptops we share during the writing component of the day was frustrating for them. So I decided that we would all venture out to use our old lab of computers (some don't work or have other problems). We found a working computer for each student and began. It was......chaos!  If I could have changed course right then without a mutiny on my hands, I would have!

Picture 19  six and seven year old students all trying to access kidblog and begin a writing for the first time (3 students had posted their first blog the day before) with 1 teacher!

But wait, yes,  I was the only adult in the room, but soon the students began stepping up and teaching each other. Within 5 minutes the tone in the room went from chaotic to engaged, active learning.  2 students walking around ensuring everyone was on the right site, a couple more finding the colour button for their fonts and soon many students were typing rainbow colours.  Someone calling out "How do you do a period?" and  "How do you do a capital letter?" again students to the rescue.

When the recess bell rang 45 minutes later groans from around the room were heard. "Can I stay and finish my writing" was the common request. I answered "No, let's take a break, but we'll come back right after recess" !  One beauty of a small school is the access to equipment.  So, straight after recess we were right back at it, finishing our first posts.  There was no "I'm done, now what?" only "Can I write another one?".

A teacher's great joy is to see her students actively involved in their own learning and helping one another. I am eager to see if the novelty of blogging wares off, or if the desire to communicate their own ideas with a larger audience maintains the initial enthusiasm.  Either way, I am very pleased with our new venture into the world of blogging.  I am continually amazed at how quickly my students learn when they are truly interested and engaged in what they are doing.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Don't you just love it when your planned lessons are enhanced by a little "spontaneous combustion" so to speak?  As I have mentioned before, I am being challenged to keep up with technology in the classroom and so far love (with a little hate here and there) the experience. I am learning to let go of idea of the perfect lesson in place of the I will make mistakes and learn along with, or from, my students. I do find this giving up a little of the control in the class very difficult, but when things start to fall into place and everyone in the room begins to adjust to their new roles fluctuating between instructor and learner, the results are amazing!

Just before the break I had an art lesson planned using plasticine in the style of Barbara Reid. While my supplies and books to get ideas from were organized and the students were excited, I was still missing something.  Enter my fabulous colleague from across the hall, Ms. Leech, who is also doing the same activity only she is showing her students a youtube clip of Barbara Reid modelling her techniques. So, with the ease of having the Smartboard already setup my students too were benefitting from Ms. Reid's expertise within minutes. Here was the missing link to enrich my students experience with this activity.  In opening our doors and allowing others to see in and interact (teach, share and learn) with us, we all may benefit.  Yes, I do find the thought of others seeing me teach and make mistakes in the classroom  humbling to say the least, but isn't that what I'm asking of my students?  I'm trying!

I am beginning to see the possibilities of further allowing my students the opportunity to share their learning on a more global platform and interact with others around the world.  Exciting! I would love some ideas for direction and opportunities.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring Break and Looking back on the Year!

This spring break has brought a much needed opportunity to relax and reenergize. I was fortunate enough to trade our wacky and unpredictable BC weather for the 90+ degree Arizona climate for a few days (thanks mom!).  It felt great to put the worries of the day (current job action stresses, family & household chores, homework - my own as well as my grade 8, 6 & 4 kids to help) aside and spend some time by the pool with my iPad, visit and shop!

Now that I'm back home, I'm continuing with the goal of improving my teaching! In the course of this past year achieving this has morphed into a more dedicated focus on technology.  This is a challenge for me as I am not  a "techie"!  In preparing to return to the classroom full time this year, I spent last summer covering related blogs and Pinterest for ideas. I was challenged in my thinking and gained many lesson ideas from talented professionals. I jumped into full-time teaching as I tried to keep up with my own professional development on line as well as opportunities through my district.  It was at our district ed-camp that my plans to use technology to a greater extent in the classroom really took root. I had just got a Smartboard installed in the classroom and my students and I love using it, but can my grade ones do more?

The short answer is - Yes!  My friend, Niki and I met fellow grade 1 educator Karen Lirenman, also from our district, who is using technology in so many other ways with her 6 year olds! After some great discussion we made arrangements to meet again where she graciously helped set me up in the world of blogging and showed me how she gives her students a greater voice with their own blogs. Soooooo, here I am jumping out of my comfort zone with this blog as well as preparing to start my students with individual blogs. I have also been introduced to Twitter which is fast becoming another valuable professional development tool and yes, using iPads in the classroom!

This has been a fantastic year in so many ways for me as a teacher and I have never before been so excited about learning.  The more I learn, the opportunities I can see......!