Sunday, 5 January 2014

Sunshine Award

This was sent to my via a teacher, Sarah, who I met last February at the conference on Helping Vulnerable Readers Thrive.  I admire Sarah and had been reading her blog long before I met her.  It was so great to meet her face to face.

Here is a description of this blogging, twitter-generated, meme type task:

The Sunshine Award gives others an opportunity to learn about me as a blogger and then, in turn, I will send sunshine the way of 11 (or so) other fine bloggers for you to get to know! Although I know that everyone is busy at this time of the year, I hope that the bloggers that I nominate will be able to share a few interesting things about themselves.  They can then highlight bloggers that they have enjoyed following.

Here are the rules:

Acknowledge the nominating blogger.  Share 11 random facts about yourself.  Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.  List 11 bloggers.  They should be bloggers that you believe deserve some recognition! Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know that they have been nominated.  You can't nominate the blogger who nominated you.

11 Random Facts about Me

1. I grew up in Richmond and my parents still live in the same house that I grew up in.

2. I am the oldest of 4 and my little brother is 11 years younger than me.

3. In elementary school I was always the last picked for any sports.

4. I have an excellent memory and I very rarely use a calendar to record activities and appointments.

5. I am a fast reader and can finish a book in a day.

6. I dated my husband for 10 years before we married (we started dating at age 15).

7. I have a family cabin on the beach.  Last year we took our old cabin down and built a new one.  Now we can use it year round.

8. I love the ocean.  I love to sit on the beach and reflect, read and listen to the waves.  I love the crashing waves and salty smell in the air.

9. I have 2 boys and two crazy dogs.

10. When I was younger I wanted to be a jockey.

11. I am not a very good cook but luckily I have a husband who is a great cook and enjoys cooking most days.  

Now the questions that Sarah had for me:

1. What is your middle name and why do you have it? 
My middle name is Elizabeth.  I was named after both of my grandmothers.

2. Who is your favourite family member and why?
That is hard to answer as I have 2 sisters, a niece and a mother.  I would have to say that I loved and miss my grandmother.  I spent a lot of time with her as a child and teen and she was very influential in my life.

3. What do you do that you wish that you didn't?
I wish that I was more of a home body.  I have trouble sitting still for too long.

4. What is your secret addiction? or confession that you are willing to make?
I like watching Hallmark Movies and cheesy Christmas movies.  My favourite cheesy movie to watch is the Brady Bunch Christmas.

5. If you could do any other job what would it be?
I really enjoy teaching and can't think of any other job that I would want to do.  I guess maybe be a famous actress.

6.What is your favourite breakfast meal?
My favourite breakfast is called the Gumboot Hash from this great restaurant called the Gumboot.  It is hashbrowns, aged cheddar, avocado, and over easy eggs.

7.What sport would you love to be good at?
Ice hockey and then I could coach my son's hockey team.

8. Do you watch the Olympics on TV? Why or why not? 
I try to watch them but often have to drive my boys to various activities.

9. What is in your freezer right now?
Ice, bread and left over appetizers from holiday entertaining.

10. What were you afraid of as a child?
I was afraid of bees as a child because I was swarmed by them and remember feeling them crawl on my eyes, lips, cheeks, and not being able to do anything but stand in fear.  They eventually stung me.

11. What is your favourite colour? Why?
I love blue because it is calming and the colour of the ocean.  I don't tend to wear much blue though.  I wear mostly black and grey.

Post 11 questions for the bloggers that I nominate:

1. What is your favourite season and why?

2. Where is the farthest that you have travelled?

3. What is your favourite time of the day?

4. What is your favourite TV show?

5. Do you have a favourite movie?

6. What was your most memorable vacation?

7. What kind of genre do you enjoy reading?

8. What is one of the scariest things you have ever done?

9. What is your favourite childhood memory?

10. What makes you happiest?

11. If you could go anywhere tomorrow where would you go?

As I try to figure out who to acknowledge and encourage ( share some sunshine with) as their blogs inspire in various ways I am hitting a road block.  I am realizing that most people have already done this so I am going to highlight their blogs and if they have already done this homework I don't expect them to do it again.

Carrie Gelson

Iram Khan

Tia Henriksen

Tracey Bowers

Beverly Bunker

Deirdre Bailey

Gallit Zvi

Anne-Marie  Middleton

Michelle Hiebert

Jenni van Rees

Diana Williams

Wednesday, 1 May 2013


Using TodaysMeet to make predictions about the character Little Green.

 The past couple of weeks I have been trying out the web tool I really enjoy using this web tool. I have used it to have my students share their ideas about Flat Stanley, to predict what was in the bucket (worms) and to share their learning about worms.

Flat Stanley TodaysMeet

TodaysMeet sharing what we have learned about worms.

Today I used Todays Meet to have the students make predictions about who Little Green in the story Little Green is.
QR Code takes us to the room in TodaysMeet.

First I created the room in TodaysMeet and then I generated a QR code so that the students could scan and easily find the web site. They love using the QR Reader to scan codes. Then I read 3 pages of the story, encouraging the students to visualize the words and to use these visualizations to figure out who Little Green is. They then recorded their ideas in TodaysMeet. I then read more pages and encouraged them to listen carefully to the words and to see if they needed to change their prediction. They then recorded their new ideas in the room. I observed my students making predictions, changing predictions based on new information, and reading their classmates predictions. During this activity, I saw my students making a great effort to contribute their own ideas.

Have you ever used TodaysMeet before?  Next I am going to use it during a math discussion.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Genius Hour in Grade One and Two

I have really enjoyed hearing about Genius Hour and was thinking about how to implement it in a primary classroom when I realized, with the help of Lora Sarchet, that we already do our own version of Genius Hour every time that we have Centres. The only thing that is missing is the students presenting their creations/learning to their classmates. After discussing this with my teaching partner, Lora, we decided to start making time for the students to share their work.

Centres is a great time for students to explore, create, plan, problem solve, and collaborate.

Bring Your Own Device

Blogging with his personal device.
Should students be able to bring their own devices to school or should they be left at home?  It is a question that is always coming up.

I like having my students bring their own devices.  I see the benefits to watching them complete their assigned tasks on their own devices.  They take ownership of the device as well as show engagement in the activity.  It is very powerful for them to be able to express their thinking and learning on their own tool of choice.

I know that there is a fear with opening the classroom up to students bringing their own devices.  Many questions come up and procedures need to be in place.  Some of these questions are:

Are they allowed to play games?
Will their device distract them from paying attention and finishing work?
How do you keep their device safe?
How do you protect them from seeing inappropriate material?
Will they spend their day texting their friends?
How will their device help them in their school work?
Who will be responsible for their device?
Will they stop doing paper and pencil work?

Before we allowed devices to be brought to school we came up with a Personal Device Protocol.  We sent home this protocol for parents and students to read and sign.  Then we allowed personal devices to come to school.  It was a learning experience as the devices started arriving.  I had to figure out what grade ones and twos could do with their own devices.  Did they have the same apps as I had on our iPads? Would they be able to use their own device to show their learning?  Would their device be a distraction?  Would they just want to play games during class time?  In the beginning, the first devices that came to school, spent quite a bit of time in the cupboard while we learned how to use the iPads and figured out classroom expectations and rules.  As I got more used to the devices coming they started to stay out more and more and soon became part of the students classroom tools.

Some of the devices that come to school have the favourite apps Draw and Tell, Scribble Press, QR Reader and KidBlog on them.  That makes it easier when they are working on their blogs.  My students, who bring their own devices can read books on them, take pictures, make blog posts, participate in TodaysMeet, and do research.  Yes, I noticed that some do text during class time.  But they are texting their classmates about school work.  The first time I saw the texting I was about to stop it when I realized that they are writing.  Why stop them from writing.  They are practising their writing skills and they don't even know it so I didn't put an end to it.  My students take good care of their own devices.  We have a laptop cart in our room that also holds the classroom iPads.  The students can also put their devices in the cart.  Their devices are locked up at lunch and recess.

Using the personal device to look at flowers and draw them.

How do you feel about students bringing their own devices to school?

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

IPads and Literacy

This year I have been on a mission to use technology in my classroom. I am making efforts to use technology, not as a seperate subject, but rather as a part of our daily teaching and learning. I am also trying to make an effort to not use the iPads as expensive pencils.
Throughout this journey I have discovered that the iPad is a tool that helps to engage the students in their own learning. I have seen their creativity, imagination, writing skills, problem solving skills, and oral language skills increase with the use of iPads.

My class does a lot of listening to stories and reading on the iPads.  They are often reading stories, TodaysMeet discussions, or blogs. We read stories together (projected on the SMARTBoard), in small groups, with partners and sometimes by themselves.  We have favourite stories on the iPads, such as The Monster at the End of the Book and Cinderella.  We also like reading TumbleBooks.


My students can easily access their blogs through the KidBlog app. They are able to create stories and pictures and embed them on their blogs. They are able to comment on other students' blogs both from our classroom and from other classes. Many of my students are showing more and more interest in blogging. Some even blog from home.

There are several apps to help them practise their spelling words. I like to use the ones that encourage the students to create rather than drill and practise. Some that are often used are Touch and Write, Word Wizard, Doodle Buddy, and Draw and Tell. My students create their own spelling word lists, practise them and save their word work to their blogs.

Story Making
Story Buddy 2
Felt Board
During writing times, I always give my students choice on whether they write on paper, journals, laptops, or iPads. A favourite tool for story telling is the iPad. There are many great apps for them to use, such as Book Creator, Story Buddy, Scribble Press, Felt Board (then import the picture into Draw and Tell or Explain Everything). They often upload their work onto their blog once they are finished. My students enjoy using their blogs as portfolios.

Technology has increased my students' ability and interest in writing.  Whether it is on their blog, commenting on other blogs, writing stories, or using TodaysMeet.  TodaysMeet is a web tool that allows people to share their ideas.  My students love using TodaysMeet during discussions.


Oral Language Skills
I believe that the iPads also encourage the development of oral language skills.  Draw and Tell is a great app for explaining learning.  The students often write, draw, plan etc.. and then explain their learning on the iPad.  They also communicate with each other while they are working.  My classroom is not a quiet place but rather it is a place full of active learning. Students are working together, sharing ideas, and helping each other.  Quiet students can record their ideas on the iPad and then upload it to their blog.

Google Hangouts and Skype are also ways to encourage the students to talk to each other.  This year we have hung out with other classrooms in Canada.  Some of them we even got to meet face to face.  My students were so excited when they met the students in person.  This year, we have also skyped with an author, Kate Messner.  We took turns asking her questions and listening to her answers.

Technology has become part of our classroom and I can't imagine not using it in our daily learning and teaching.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Teaching Math using iPads

A student using the app Draw and Tell to make an equation.
Using cuisenaire rods and the app Popplet to make equations for 12

This year I have been on a journey to include more technology in my teaching.  I have learned along the way that it is not about the iPad but rather it is about the learning.  It is not about using technology for the sake of using iPads but it is about making it a part of the daily learning.  Technology is another tool just like paper and pencils.  It is another way for students to consolidate and explain their learning.  Technology gives students choice in how they show their learning.  For this reason, we should focus less on fancy drill and practise apps and more on creation based apps.  I look for apps where students can show their creativity as well as explain their thinking.

This year, I have 5 iPads in my classroom.  I have been working on using the apps during math as a way to enhance my students' learning and to give them choice on how to explain their learning.  My favourite apps to use during math are Draw and Tell, Popplet, Explain Everything, iMovie, and Kidblog.  Next I would like to introduce the students to Educreations.  After we work on a math concept my students choose how to show their learning.  Some choose to create using manipulatives, some use paper and pencil, some use manipulatives and iPads, and some just use iPads.
My students often put their work on their individual blogs.  Here is one of the students using her blog to show her learning.

This is a student using cuisenaire rods and the app Draw and Tell to make an addition equation.  She then uploaded it onto her blog.

 Technology is a great tool for teaching but we have to remember that it is only one of the tools and that what is really important is the teaching and learning.  Technology gives students more choice on how they learn and gives them opportunities to explain their learning to a wider audience.  It also helps them to make more connections with their learning and with people.  At the end of the day it is not about the fancy apps but rather how the students can use the apps to help them with their learning.

How do you use iPads in your classroom?

Monday, 11 February 2013


Over the years I feel as if I have grown as a teacher and grown in my understanding of assessment for learning.  I do ongoing daily assessment as well as formal assessments in reading, writing and math.  I use my assessments to differentiate my instruction to meet the needs of all of my students.  I know which students need to be challenged and which need extra support and  encouragement.  Which students need more teacher time, visuals, different working environments, etc...  I take every child from where they are and encourage them to strive for their own personal best.  But this is all me.  I am doing the encouraging, reminding and they are doing the listening.  They are not actively participating in using their assessment to decide their learning pathway.  At the end of the day, I am still in charge of deciding their program.  I realized upon self reflection that all of this assessment was me in control.  Although I reminded the students of the criteria before writing and reminded them to edit their work before turning it in it was still me doing the reminding, being in control.  What we want is our students to be in control of their own learning.

I thought that by having student led conferences after every report card  and that by making the criteria known to the students that my students were taking ownership of their own learning but I was missing something.  My students were doing two stars and one wish but it wasn't effective.  Something was still missing.  It was still me reminding them of the criteria and organizing the student led conferences.

Last week I heard Anne Davies, Ph.D speak at the Kelowna Reading Summit When Vulnerable Readers Thrive and I realized what I was missing.  I was missing having the students self assess.  After hearing Anne Davies speak, I went back to school on the Monday and started teaching my students how to self assess.

First we brainstormed criteria for "what makes a good reader".  My students gave me the criteria in their own words which I wrote up on the SMART Board.  All of their ideas were included in the criteria.  As  I wrote we discussed the ideas and then I printed out copies for each of them.  Then before reading they looked at the criteria.  After reading, they again looked at the criteria and decided which things they did during reading and came up with a plan for the next reading time which they then wrote on their own sheet.  The next day, after reading I could hear them telling each other what they worked on and what they were going to work on next time.  I conferenced with a couple and could tell that they were very excited about using the criteria to assess their own reading.

So then I tried it with writing.  We brainstormed our writing criteria and then sat down to write.  For the first time, when they were finished I didn't have to remind them to use capitals correctly or periods.  They were editing their own work without me asking them to.  Next week, we are going to learn about creating a writing continuum.  I am excited to see how this writing continuum comes together.

I have only just started using self assessment and I am seeing how the students are taking more ownership of their learning.  I do believe that it is important to use teacher assessments as well as self assessment.

How do you use assessment in your classroom?