In Science, my Grade 1 students are learning about structures and my Grade 2 students are learning about simple machines. As part of this unit, I’ve borrowed some kits through our Board Media Library and through ASCY Resource Library. It’s great watching the students as they work together to read the directions, figure out how things work, problem solve, and communicate their thoughts with others.
Two groups today decided to use the video camera to record their thinking, and in a way, create their own media works, sharing their learning with others.
Listening to these videos today and seeing the students explore structures and simple machines together, reminded me of the importance of giving students “talking time.” They need lots of these oral language opportunities to really formulate their thoughts and show what they know. How do you give students “talking time” in your classroom? What benefits do you see? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!
Wow! What an incredible day today! My students are fortunate enough to be involved in a Butterfly Garden Project as part of our eco-schools initiative. We are going to watch a butterfly grow from the caterpillar stage until it emerges from its chrysalis. We’re also going to help design and plant a garden for the butterflies in the back of our school. This is such an exciting project, and even though my gardening skills are limited to none, I’m thrilled that my class can be involved in this!
To help my students share what they’ve learned about butterflies and ask questions about our Butterfly Garden initiative, I coordinated a Twitter chat today (#butterflies2012). Classes from around the world could share their butterfly knowledge with others and ask questions as well. I was just thrilled with the results! We got classes from the States, Canada, and even Indonesia sharing their butterfly knowledge and asking questions about butterflies too.
One incredibly exciting part of this discussion is that a school trustee in Saskatchewan chimed in. Not only is Colleen Cote a trustee, but she’s also an entomologist. She answered lots of our questions and provided some fantastic resources as well. She’s also agreed to Skype with my class next week to answer more of our butterfly questions. This is what makes Twitter so fantastic! This is “live learning.” The students can now Skype with an expert and learn far more than I can teach them.
Connections are amazing, and today allowed my students to connect with so many fantastic teachers, students, parents, and experts that helped them share and consolidate their learning and learn more as well. Have you had any experiences like this before? I’d love to hear about them!
Both my Grade 1 and 2 students have been learning about maps in social studies. Today a small group of students decided that they were going to try and find Hamilton on a map. Listen here as the students begin their exploration:
When this activity started, I just handed over the camera and let the students talk. As I looked and listened more closely though, I decided to get involved in the conversation. My thought was that I wanted to push the learning forward, and that if I simply listened, the students would continue looking for a place on the wrong map. As you could hear in the video, through our discussion the students figured out the problem (something they were close to doing beforehand), and from there, they chose a new tool.
First they started looking on a different map, and then they tried Google Earth on the iPad. They were running into difficulties, so here’s what the group did next:
Again, I waited for a bit, but when I realized what the students were trying to do, I made a choice to stop them, question again, and help them problem solve. I really struggle with this! As teachers, I think that there’s times that we need to talk and times that we need to listen. As I interact more with educators like Angie Harrison (@techieang) and Carmel Crevola (@carmelcrevola), I see such tremendous value in these talking opportunities among students. I love having students problem solve together, but at what point should I be making the choice to talk instead of listen?How can I help students problem solve without solving the problem for them?
At one point in this second video, I took the iPad, and I was going to do the search for the students. I stopped myself though — and that was very hard for me to do — and I got the students to do the searching instead. Yes, I helped direct the conversation, but I wanted the students to do the work. Was I guiding too much though? What would you have done?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this! Thanks for your help!
Yesterday afternoon ended in a way that I did not expect. As the students went outside for their last recess of the day, and I was getting organized for the end-of-the-day activities, I received a tweet from Aaron Puley (@bloggucation). The night before, Aaron and his wife Jennifer (@learninghood) had emailed me a My Story iPad Story that their daughter in Grade 1 wrote. I was having difficulties downloading it, but Aaron worked with me through FirstClass and Twitter, and during the nutrition break, we were able to get it to work. Minutes before the bell rang, I tweeted Aaron this,
“The book’s adorable. I’m going to share it with my students before we go home today.”
Since it’s an ePub file, and I didn’t have the right software to play it on my computer, I made use of my iPad, the Snowball Microphone, the Document Camera, and the SMART Board to share the story with the class. Some of my students have met Aaron before, and they all met Jennifer when she loaned us some technology for our classroom, so they were thrilled to see and hear this story by Aaron and Jennifer’s daughter.
I thought that we could tweet the author, Medea, a comment after we read the book, but the students thought that a video comment would be even better. Then we could tweet her the link. Fantastic! Since we’re working on providing descriptive feedback to each other, and since story writing aligns with my Grade 1’s current T.L.C.P. (Teaching Learning Critical Pathways), this provided the perfect opportunity to give Medea some descriptive feedback.
The interesting part came when I mentioned this descriptive feedback idea to the class. After I told them, one student said to me, “What if Medea isn’t used to getting a next step? Will she feel hurt? Will she think that we didn’t like her story, even though we did?” You see, since September my students have been used to hearing about what they do well and ways that they can improve. They know that everyone — even the teacher — can always set goals and have next steps. The students realize that these suggestions don’t mean that we don’t like their work, and they’ve learned different ways to share their suggestions with their peers without hurting their feelings. The students didn’t know about Medea’s experiences with descriptive feedback though. This student comment made all of us pause.
After some class discussion, we decided that we would share specific things that we liked about Medea’s story, and then we would give her a general next step to, “keep on writing.” With this problem solved, we read the story together and recorded this video:
As a class, we didn’t plan what we were going to say in this video. After reading the story, I gave the students a few minutes to think of some comments, and then we started recording. With this being said, what surprised me the most, and what I just loved, was when one of the students mentioned that Medea used many of our “Success Criteria” in her story. The students get it! They can make connections between using Success Criteria and being successful, and by sharing this Success Criteria with Medea, we can continue to help her as she writes more stories as well.
Thank you so much Aaron and Jennifer for giving my students this amazing opportunity to reflect on a story written by a child of their age, and for allowing me to see that the students really can apply what they’ve learned in class even when this learning is out of context. Wow! The power of connections!
Have other teachers had similar experiences before? What happened? I’d love to hear your stories too!