Friday, July 29, 2011

Reform Symposium

As most of you know, ten days ago I joined Twitter, mainly for professional learning purposes.  It's become a bit of an obsession of mine and with the lack of summer weather here in Vancouver it's certainly helping me pass the time.  At first I struggled with trying to read everything that was posted in a variety of forums, but with time I've learned to pick and chose a little more carefully.

One thing that has been promoted over the past week or so is the Reform Symposium (#RSCON3).  It was being billed as a GLOBAL on line education conference FREE to anyone interested in attending.  Sort of like a conference you can attend, in your own home, while wearing your pajamas (if you'd like).  There is a clear, easy to follow schedule that tells you what the seminars are about.  There is even an option to chose your correct time zone schedule since this conference is GLOBAL and being attended (and presented) by people all over the world so seminars are happening at all times of the day (like tomorrow morning at 1:00 am my time).

This morning I logged onto the symposium (in my pajamas) and caught some of the first keynote speaker about the Finnish School System.  I then had to leave for yoga before returning again briefly for the panel discussion Collaboration Between Leadership and Teachers.  I was out most of the afternoon (hey it was one of our first sunny afternoons all summer long) but returned for the evening sessions.  I arrived late to Kimberley Rivett's presentation on Literacy in the Digital Age.  Then I caught Kathleen Morris' talk on Connecting with Global Blogging Buddies and ended the evening with Chuck Sandy's presentation Critical Thinking 2.0: Thinking, Doing, Changing.  These three afternoon conferences were amazing and have me so inspired. I bookmarked more links, saved their slides, and I am now following them on Twitter.  They made me feel that little me, probably the biggest geek in my school, can do some amazing things with my grade one students.  I don't know if I'll change anyone around me but I will certainly do what I can to inspire those in my classroom.

I can't wait for tomorrow!

Monday, July 25, 2011

My First Experiences with Twitter Educational Chats

Over the past week or so I've spent most of my days fumbling around the internet following links and blogs I've discovered on Twitter. I've been obsessively reading the #edchat, #elemchat, #bced, #sd36,  and #1stchat.  I narrowed it down to these five because they are nearest and dearest to my heart.  I check in on  #daily5 too.  My education bookmark folder is growing, and continues to grow.  I'm now following several educators that I've never met but have impressed me with what they have to say.

Yesterday and today I took part in two twitter chats - #1stchat (Grade One) and #bced (BC Education).  The topic of the Grade One chat was IPod/IPad use in the classroom.  It was so exciting to see the links and apps that were being shared amongst like minded individuals.  I tried to contribute to the chat too, but since I have neither an IPod nor IPad and my school doesn't have any either it was tough.  But I still followed along and book marked links provided.  I'm glad I stuck around because now I have resources I can turn to to provide information to the parents of my students that DO have the technology.  Plus if and when my school gets IPads or IPods I'll be able to use them right away.  The chat  has me wondering if anyone knows any grants I can apply for so I can get them into my classroom NOW?  You can read the transcript of this chat here.

Today I followed the #BCed chat about personalized learning.  It was an interesting discussion and the variety of opinions added to the discussion.  I'm someone that really believes in personalized learning so to me it's a no brainer.  But it wasn't for everyone.   If you're curious you can read the transcript here.

So... what do I think of these Twitter Educational Chats?

The great:

- I love that like minded individuals take the time to share what they know with complete strangers - I LOVE IT!
- I love that people I don't know and more than likely will never know take the time to moderate these chats
- I love that Wikis have been set up so that I can refer back to these chats, even when I miss them completely
- I love that I'm sitting on my couch, with my favourite shows on in the back ground and I'm professionally learning
- I love that I can ask questions
- I love that I can answer questions

The not as great:

- I can't read, process, and respond quickly enough
- I've been using Tweetdeck to follow these chats and I'm not sure if it's the best way to go
- I keep having to scroll up to see what I'm missing, then I miss more
- Some responses make me angry and I can't do much about it
- Some responses make me super excited and I can't do something fast enough
- I want to say more than what the 140 characters allow me
- I would love to have real conversations with some of these people but I'm not sure if it could/would ever happen

Will I be back for more?  Definitely!!!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Things I'm Happy I Do in My Classroom (that is until I find a better way to do them)

As I've been exploring all the great ideas available on the internet, jumping from blog to blog and website to website I am very well aware that there is a lot of good stuff out there.  One of the problems with seeing such great stuff is that it makes me feel like I'm not doing enough.  Obviously I'm here learning so that I can continue to improve my teaching,  but I also need to acknowledge that there already is a lot that I do that I'm happy about, at least for now.

Feeling over whelmed I felt it was important for me to actually document things I do in my classroom that I'm happy with.  Things that I feel make  a positive impact to my teaching and the learning of my students.  But as you'll see as you read, even things that I do that I'm happy with are still being constantly tweaked.

Community Read - two mornings a week when the children are dropped off for school  I  invite their parents/caregivers/siblings into my classroom to read with their children. I began it with much doubt of success from my colleagues, but it has been nothing but successful.  For those that don't have visitors to read with they either double up with other children and their families, or they read with one another.  During community read the children typically read from their just right book boxes (see below for details on those).  This takes place for the first 15 minutes of the day although I'm considering starting it five minutes earlier (before the first bell) to encourage those parents that need to rush off to work to arrive a bit earlier so they have the extra time to read with their children.  I'm also thinking that I will once again invite older siblings, or big buddies to come and join those children with no one to read with.

Free Write - three mornings a week (soon to be changed to two with the addition of Free Talk one morning a week in  the 2011/12 school year) I allow the children to "Free Write". Obviously I provide mini lessons on what "Free Write" looks like in the classroom but once it's up and running the children are free to write what they want, how they want - eg on computer, using stamps, using stickers,  on the giant white board, in mini books, in their free write notebooks etc.  What I found this year is that their desire to write increased and so too did their ability to write.  Free write is above and beyond the writing we do in the literacy part of my program.  It's been  a great way to start the day and get everyone settled and it encourages children to arrive on time.

Just Right Book Boxes - each student in my class has their very own Just Right Book Box. In it they keep their guided reading books (and if they go for extra reading support those books too), their poetry books, their chosen just right books, and their literacy conferences book (more about that below).  I help my class figure out what a just right book for them is.  The books in the boxes are always changing as interests and reading levels change.  These book boxes are used all the time and the children love having their own book boxes.  The parents love them too because they can easily see what their children are reading and they can snoop in their literacy conferences book to see what goals they are working on (again more on these below).

Just Right Book Boxes

Home Reading Book Cart - A few years back one of my fellow teaching colleagues pushed our administration for money to create a k/1 home reading book cart.  Over time our cart grew from one to two and our collection of books continues to grow.  Our home reading book cart is kept in the k/1 hallway and is shared by three grade one classes and three kindergarten classes (plus the odd grade two or three student that can benefit from our lower levelled books).  It gets a lot of use.  The books on the cart are sorted into the Fountas and Pinnel reading levels and are a pretty equal balance of fiction and non fiction.  The students know what their just right level is  so they take appropriate levelled books home to read.  As their reading levels increase they change the tub the chose from (never really getting bored at any one level). Each child has a library pocket on a class chart and each book has a card in it.  Each night the children leave their book card in their library pocket on the class chart.  They return the book the next morning, put the card back into the book and chose a new book for that night.  I find that by sharing all the books we have a much larger variety of books. It's been a real success and relatively easy to maintain.  It's something that makes me happy.

Home Reading Book Cart

Literacy Conference Books - for the 2010/11 school year I created individual literacy conferences books for the students in my class.  I found in the past I was setting individual goals with my students but had no real specific place where the goals were being recorded - they were being recorded but just in a whole bunch of different places.  This frustrated me so last year I created the Literacy Conferences Book.  It is a small notebook that is written in from both sides at the same time.

For the first side of the notebook I created a simple cover which says, "Literacy Conferences - Writing". On the inside cover I glue in a goal setting sheet.  It's the same sheet for everyone but obviously the goals are different for each student.  I created the sheet by looking at the goals I set with my students the year before, then I tried to organize them into a way that would work for me.  I put all writing conference notes into this side of the notebook.  I also write any things I notice about their writing but don't have a chance (or I just don't find the time) to tell them. The students can add their own notes too to help them remember the goal(s) they are working on.  The parents can "snoop" into this notebook too when they come for community read (or any other time they are able to get into our classroom).  Maybe next year I may even invite the parents to write their own comments in the book too.  We'll see.

The simple cover I glue on the front of the writing side of the notebook.

The form I glue into the inside cover of the writing side of the notebook.

The flip side of the same notebook is the Literacy Conferences Reading side.  It operates similarly to the writing side in that I glue a cover on the front (which is actually the back of the same notebook as the writing one) and on the inside cover I glue in a list of reading goals.  But... that's what I did last year.  The goals I set up really had me frustrated and didn't work for me.  So, at the end of the school year I created a different sheet.  Instead of it being a list of reading goals, it's a list of reading strategies.  The list has come from a variety of sources but most credit has to go to The Cafe Book by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser.  I haven't used this sheet yet so I'm excited to give it a try this September.  On this side of the notebook I record all reading based comments.  I'll do informal running records in the book, I'll glue in reading strategies to work on, I'll make comments about their oral reading and reading comprehension etc.  This book is brought to all guided reading sessions, and individual conferences.  Again this book is kept in each child's just right book box so it's easily accessible by me and by parents.

The simple cover I glue on the front of the reading side of the notebook.

The form I glue into the inside cover of the reading side of the notebook.

This year I didn't finish any notebooks although I did come close.  However if one side met the other side  it would just be time for a second notebook set up the exact same way.

So these are a few things I'm doing in my classroom that I'm really happy with.  Maybe you've got something you're doing that you'd like to share with me?  I'm always willing to try new things (that is if they pass my critical analyzing first).

New to Google+

New to Google+, check out this article.  I found it helpful, maybe you will too.

What's Really Going on in Cyberspace...

Over the past week I have purchased a new laptop; worked on my first photo book; joined Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+; and started this blog.  All this use of technology has me thinking and wondering about what's really going on out in cyberspace.  I found this You Tube video as a good starting point. Check it out.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Twittering for Educational Purposes is Making My Mind Explode!

I'm a generalist, and not a specialist.  I have interests in way too many areas to ever settle down and focus on just one. When I was in university I'm certain I was the only sociology major taking higher level inorganic chemistry classes too - just for fun.  Heck I think I took classes in almost every faculty out there just to make sure I didn't miss out on anything. I always took more classes than I was required and I've never stopped learning.  I read, research, ask questions, and question pretty much everything.  I rarely take things just as they are.  Which, perhaps, is why twittering for an educational purpose is making my mind explode.  Sometimes this constant questioning on my part may come across as me thinking I know it all.  That is furthest from the truth.  I usually feel like I don't know anything even though I spend so much time trying to learn everything. Of course I know I'll never know it all, and the moment I think I do is the moment I need to leave the profession.

Back to twittering for educational purposes. So far I've stumbled across some great blogs.  I've found help with twittering; advice on teaching reading, writing, math; differentiating, integrating technology; and so on and so on.  As a generalist my head is exploding.  I want to learn it all, and I want to learn it all right now.  How do I deal with this information over load???

A Beginning

Yesterday I joined twitter after curiously watching someone talk about it.  What I discovered is a huge network of professional people sharing resources, great blog sites, and tons of ideas.  I also discovered that I need a place to put, discuss, and share the ideas that I'm discovering.  Hence, this blog was born.  Come a long on a journey with me as I discover how to be a better teacher.