Monday, January 19, 2015

Animal Research in a Primary Classroom

I'm pretty excited to announce that my iTunes U course "Animal Research in a Primary Classroom"  has been highlighted  in the Apple Distinguished Educator section of iTunes U. If your students are in grades one through three and  do independent animal research (or you'd love for them to) this course is just for you!  Please check it out here. And of course, it is FREE!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Playing with Measurement

This past week my class has been playing with measurement and since I have a third of my class for a second year I wanted to make sure they were exploring measurement in a different way then before.  Here are a few of the activities they were taking part in this week.

1. Bigger or Smaller

These students are taking pictures of different parts of their body. They are uploading them to the Book Creator app where they are creating a book with sentences such as my eye is bigger than a baby's eye or My nose is smaller than an elephant's nose. Everything is being compared to either an elephant, or a baby.

Here are some blog posts showing their final products.

2.  Measurement Tools

Another group used  the pic collage app web image search to find for various tools used for measurement.  They did have some measurement word wall words to help them with their search.

Here are a few samples.

3. Measuring with My Hand

This group traced and cut out two of their hands . They then measured objects around the room with their two hands and recorded what they discovered. For the second part of this activity the children found objects bigger, smaller, and the same size as their hands. They created a movie in iMovie to document this information.

Here are some of their final movies.

4. How Big is My Footstep?

The last group was to figure out how big their foot step was by measuring their step with a variety of  objects.  Some students also created an iMovie with the different things they measured their footstep with.

Here is a sample final video.

How are you introducing measurement into your classroom?

Saturday, January 3, 2015

A Pretty Exciting Way to Wake Up Jan 1, 2015

Nothing like waking up on New Years Day to the following tweet...

I'm truly honoured to have my blog mentioned with the likes of Vicki Davis, Joe Bower, Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano, Craig Kemp and so many others on the list.  I will admit that I have followed most of those blogs closely and I have learned so much from them.  They have pushed my thinking and have helped transform my teaching.  So to be included with these inspiring educators is a pretty incredible feeling.

If you haven't yet checked out the article I highly recommend you do.  And of course check out all the great blogs that are mentioned.

I'm still a little shell shocked that mine is there, but so very thankful for the recognition.  My goal is to change the world one six year old at a time (or via their teacher) and this type of exposure really helps my mission. Truly honoured and humbled once again. Thank you!

Friday, January 2, 2015

My One Little Word for 2015

For the past three years I have chosen a single word to help focus me for the coming year. In 2012 my word was CAN. In 2013 my word was BALANCE.  In 2014 my word was LIVE.    (click the links if you'd like to read why I chose those words).

So how did I do with my 2014 word?

There were so many sides to 2014 for me, some great and some not so great.  What is unfortunate is that what stands out most when I reflect back on 2014 is how my best was never good enough . You can read more about my 2014 year here.  This had a huge impact on me January - June, and continued during our teacher strike in September.   I actually think some people started to see me differently in 2014 because of the choices I had to make for myself just to keep moving forward. It bothered me when people excluded me from events because they felt I was too busy. I can assure you I was not busy at all,  I was broken.    And the way I was, and how I was feeling was so out of character for me.  I'm a fighter, a survivor. I can see the good in all situations. As my mother was dying from Cancer I focussed on what she could do and not what she couldn't. I'm the half full type of person but for so much of 2014 I was not that person at all.   I can't say LIVE was at the front of my mind.

Thankfully July and August brought a nice change of pace for me with the stress of work on the back burner. I did my best to take all the opportunities that came my way.  There were many highlights and samples of living during those months.  My 2014/15 school year is also very different than 2013/14 year so the year ended with my ability to LIVE. But overall I'd say LIVE was not how I'd describe 2014.

So what about 2015?

If you know me at all you'll know that as often as I get knocked down, after a bit of healing, I come back stronger and more determined.  2014 sucked a lot of happiness out of me.  I clearly remember walking the picket line in June with my new colleagues and being free of my classroom stress and saying "look, see, I'm actually a happy person".   So, after coming off one of my most challenging teaching years in a very long time my focus word for 2015 is JOY.

I want to see JOY in the actions of my students and celebrate it.
I want to see JOY in the interactions I have with the people in my life (near and far) and celebrate it.
I want to see JOY in the little things in life such as sharing a meal with a friend and celebrate it.
I want to see JOY in the natural beauty that I am surrounded by and celebrate it.
I want to see JOY in the changes I make in my classroom and celebrate it.
I want to see JOY in working hard in what ever I do and celebrate it.
I want to see JOY during my most challenging times and celebrate it.

I know longer want to feel broken, I want to feel joyful.

I'm excited to see what JOY is in store for me in 2015.

What is your focus word for 2015?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2014 My Year in Review

2014 is one of those years that I have so much to remember and so much to forget.  After coming off a career high 2013 I knew it would be a tough year to follow.  What I didn't realize was how low my lows were going to be and how high my highs were going to be.  It was a year of complete contrast.

Many of my lows focused around my job and the BC teachers' strike.  It was the first year in a very long time that I felt like no matter what I did with my students it was not  enough.  Most days all I did was crisis manage and despite many calls for help little support was available for me or my students. Yet  I still welcomed countless visitors through my room, apologizing to each of them for the chaos that often occurred during their visits.  Despite having 20+ years of teaching experience, the willingness to do what ever I could for my students, it was never enough. The 2013/14 school year affected me physically and emotionally.  There were days that I barely had the strength to get out of bed. I missed workout after workout, filled my body with food in an attempt to comfort myself, and I barely slept.  Most weekends I spent in my PJs away from any interaction with people.  There is so much that people don't know about my 2013/14 school year. Then add a teachers' strike on top of that. I have never felt as devalued as I did during all of that mess.  Despite being on strike for over a month nothing has changed in our schools.  While my 2014/15 class is so different from my 2013/14 class, there is a large piece of me that is still healing from everything I went through.  While I spent most of my time taking care of others, I failed miserably when it came to taking care of myself.  This will change in 2015.

In sadness there is always good, if you look hard enough.
A student came to show off his reading while I was walking the picket line.
But 2014 was not all sadness and challenges. There was a lot of good in 2014 too! Where do I begin?

Opportunities to Share

Despite the fact that I stress way too much over submitting presentation proposals, preparing presentations, and presenting I really love to share.  In 2013 I was fortunate to present outside my district in Calgary, and Niagara Falls but in 2014 my reach was even larger.  I was fortunate to present in a local school district,  the Apple Leadership Institute in Vancouver,  the Ed Tech Teacher iPad Summit in San Diego,  my district EdCamp and STA Convention,  the Vancouver GAFE Summit, ISTE in Atlanta,  the Apple Global Institute, SFU, CUEBC, the Discovery Education Ignite Vancouver, and the ERAC conference. Each time I presented I took a step closer to accomplishing my mission of changing the world one six year old at a time (or via their teachers). But more than anything, every time I presented  I learned more about me.   My goal is to get better at sharing what I'm doing to help inspire others to try new things too.  It's a constant journey of course but the more I present the more I enjoy it.   It's been exciting and I look forward to sharing more in 2015.

My ISTE Poster Session with Kathy Cassidy
Presenting to over 300 fellow ADEs at the 2014 Global Institute

Opportunties to Connect

2014 allowed me to continue my mission to meet my online PLN face to face. At every opportunity I was given I went out of my way to have face to face meetings with people.  Here are just a few of the incredible far away friends  I was able to spend face to face time with.

Opportunities to Learn

In 2014 I had many opportunities to learn. Within my district I was able to attend the Engaging the Digital Learning Series  featuring keynote presentations from Will Richardson, Suzie Boss,  Silvia Martinez,  and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach.  In addition I took part in a differentiation series, a formative assessment series, a formative assessment focus group, and the Making Learning Visible pilot.  I remained an active member of the Making Thinking Visible pilot too as I continued to explore being in a 1:1 iPad classroom.  Top all that off with my school and district PD days and I had many opportunities to learn within my school district.

Within my local community I was fortunate to attend (in my personal time)  EdCamp Delta, EdCamp Langley,  SFU Education Symposium, GAFE Summit, Tedx Education West Vancouver, and Tedx Renfrew Collingwood.  

Outside of my local community I attended  the iPad Summit and ISTE.  ISTE was my highlight conference for certain as it's such an incredible gather of ed tech friends form around the world.  

I also read tons and tons of blog posts, participated in twitter chats, was a part of Voxer groups, and would talk education to anyone who was interested.  2014 was another great year for learning.

But two opportunities for learning that can not go unnoticed include my time at the Apple Global Institute in San Diego California, and the Google Teacher Academy in Mountain View California. Apple and Google are very different companies yet both have managed to connect me with some incredible people and opportunities.  While attending a Google Teacher Academy is a once in a lifetime opportunity, as an Apple Distinguished Educator I am fortunate to have the opportunity to attend many more Apple Institutes.  

Opportunities to be Published

Because of the stress I was under daily in my classroom I will admit that my blog was a lot quieter than it has been in the past.  I was able to write a few guest blog posts some of which have been published already and some that are still waiting to be published.

I also had my first official digital book published as part of the Apple Distinguished Educator ONE BEST THING collection.  My book, available for free download here, is called Starting with Choice: Primary Classroom Implementations. 

I also wrote a chapter which will be included in a book that will be out one day :-).  I'll share more once it's officially published but I will admit when I found my name on Corwin's website I was pretty stoked.

Other Unique Opportunities

While presenting at the iPad Summit in San Diego I met some of the key people behind the Osmo product.  Through our discussions  my students ended up beta testing the product.  The people at Tangible Play (the makers of Osmo) are really great people and I'm thankful to be associated with them.  My students were also the lucky ones. What a great tool for them to learn with.

By attending the Google Teacher Academy in Mountain View California, I was able to run around the Google Complex which was a very cool experience.  Here are a couple photos from Google.

Just one of many spots around the Google Campus to think and share ideas.

Of course while in Mountain View I had to take the time to explore other technology hubs. I think my heart may have skipped a beat when I was outside Apple Head Quarters.

I also loved spending time at the offices of Koodable, Draw and Tell, Tangible Play, Tynker, and Motion Math. It was so great to have real, in person conversations with these much admired app developers.

So well 2014 was one of my toughest years professionally, there was still a lot to celebrate! Here's to 2015!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Using Minecraft as a Tool to Show Learning

For the past little while I have been looking at Minecraft as a tool for learning. I recognize that many children love to play with Minecraft.  They are creating environments and sharing them with others. Minecraft has opened up a wonderful avenue for exploration and creativity.

Last school year I was reading how some early years teachers were using Minecraft to spark learning.  One teacher was letting her students play on Minecraft as a way to ignite writing ideas as soon as their Minecraft time was over.  Another teacher was sharing about how her students were building important buildings they were studying about such as the parliament .  Most recently I read Kimberly Moran's post on integrating technology where she talks about having her students create a book setting in Minecraft.

One of my goals it to make school and home more alike then less alike.  I know many of my students go home and enjoy creating with Minecraft.  I want them to know that I value this creativity so I am thinking about ways to do just that.

This past fall my grade one students were expected to understand what school as a community is while my grade two students needed to understand what we have in the community.  What better way to show me this knowledge then by creating in Minecraft.  My reality however is that I  only one copy of Minecraft in my classroom but far more students interested in Minecraft.  This wasn't necessarily going to be as easy as I had hoped.  So what did I do instead?

I sent a letter home to families explaining my Minecraft vision. I explained that I'd love for my interested students to go home and either create our school (and the rooms in it) or our community (and the buildings in it) in Minecraft. It was not a required assignment but it was a way for me to link their passions at home with school.

Many of my students went home that night and started creating.  One parent was telling me how her child  was using Google Earth to look  at our school so that he could create it to scale.  Another was building through their TV console.  Those students interested in Minecraft were creating in Minecraft. I couldn't be happier.

Presenting their creations was a bit more complicated.  A couple students sent in images of their creations and shared them with our class. Images were uploaded to their blogs and shared with the world.

Overall though while many students created in Minecraft far fewer shared their creations with me or the rest of the class.  So was the idea a failure because so few shared with  their classmates? I'd say no.  Learning is learning whether it gets to the presentation stage or not. My students were engaged in creating their schools or communities, at home, in their own time.  They were learning. We had those same discussions in class it was clear that they understood what I needed them to understand.

Will I invite the use of Minecraft into my classroom again? Of course!  I really love Kimberley's idea of using Minecraft to share settings from stories shared.  How are you using Minecraft with your students?

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Lessons Learned from a Hanukkah Candle

Being Jewish I like to teach my students some of the costumes and traditions associated with Hanukkah. We read books about Hanukkah (Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric Kimmel is a repeat favourite), look at a menorah and play with dreidels.  Last Wednesday morning we also lit my personal menorah.

As I struck the first candle, and used it to light the second candle something happened.  The second candle was not fully lighting.  We watched it for what felt like a long time and while it wasn't going out, it certainly wasn't shining bright.  Some students suggested that we light is again, while others suggested that we just give it a little more time.

This year,  I am fortunate to have a third of my class from last year for a second year in a row.  If you were in contact with me at all last year you'll know while I taught the most incredible children it was an extremely challenging year for me. Many struggled to shine in ways that I normally see in a grade one classroom.

As we watched the menorah candle try to burn more brightly I asked my students to be patient.  It was clear that the candle had not actually burnt out, but it was also obvious that is was not shining as brightly as the other candle.  We needed to be patient.

This patience reminded me so much of my year last year, and the changes I'm seeing in my students this year.  Last year it was tough for many to shine brightly amongst some of the needs and challenges in my room .  Many candles, while lit, were not as bright as would be expected.  Yet despite all the needs and challenges my students and I were struggling with, my students were in fact developing their own brightness.

As we watched the  slightly burning candle a little longer (and I'm sure we were all praying for it to stay lit), all of a sudden the tiny flame shot up into a full sized brightly burning flame.

As I reflect on the year I am having this year (which is so different than the year I had last year) many of the students I am teaching for a second year remind me so much of that little Hanukkah candle.  These students are  shining brightly.  They have stepped into leadership roles that would make anyone proud.  They are confident with themselves as learners and are willing to take risks.  They are finding their place in their learning journey. They are shining lights!

Last year I worried so much about so many of them yet I never gave up on any of them a lot like what happened with our little Hanukkah candle.  The little candle reminded me that I can't rush my students and I need to accept them as who they are.  It reminded me that I need to be patient and supportive and that I need to be the champion for my students.  It reminded me that despite challenging situations good things can and do happen.  It reminded me of how lucky I truly am to see these children blossoming as strongly as they are.

We have a lot to celebrate.

Wishing you a Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas or what every holiday you celebrate at this time of the year.  My 2015 bring you peace, joy, and happiness.