Open House

Open House

Here’s a copy of the slideshow that I played at Open House tonight:

I hope that you can watch it with your child and discuss what your child is learning at school. What does your child enjoy the most? Why? Please leave a comment here to share your thoughts.

Aviva

Not Always About The Right Answer

Not Always About The Right Answer

In math right now, we’re working on probability. In Grades 1 and 2, a large portion of the probability unit focuses on the language of probability. Already students have been writing about situations that are likely or unlikely to happen. Today, I created a chart with 30 scenarios. Students could work by themselves or with a partner, and they had to read each scenario and sort it accordingly: as highly likely, somewhat likely, or highly unlikely to happen. Some of the scenarios were straightforward, but other ones were more complex, and it took some thinking to determine where they belonged. When students finished, they could add their own scenarios to the list.

As the students were working together, I took some video footage of them explaining their thinking.

When we were done, I had all of the students leave their completed papers on their desks. Students walked around and discussed how other students sorted the scenarios. Then for our Math Congress, we discussed the various answers and why people thought differently.

This activity was a great reminder that there isn’t always one right answer. Sometimes it’s less about the answer and more about the explanation. This activity reminded me that I need to take even more time to have students discuss their thinking and explain why they made the choices that they did. It’s through this discussion that I really did learn so much.

Have you had a similar situation before? How do you balance your quest for the right answer with your focus on a good explanation? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

Aviva

Getting A Chance To Improve

Getting A Chance To Improve

Our school is part of a self-assessment process this year, and as part of this process, the whole school is focusing on big ideas, learning goals, success criteria, and descriptive feedback. Last week, my class was fortunate enough to work with Jared Bennett (@mrjarbenne) on Claymation videos related to our school’s eco focus and our science curriculum. These Claymation videos also connected to our current TLCP (Teaching Learning Critical Pathway). As part of this process, the students reflected on their work, and I reflected on the process as well.

In the past with a project of this size, the reflection piece would have been the conclusion of the work. I would have possibly used my own “next steps” if I were to do this activity again, but really at this point, we would be moving on. During our last staff meeting though, the principal and vice principal spoke about the importance of getting students to apply their suggestions and even redo some of their work. I wanted to give students this chance for improvement with this project as well.

I knew that it was unreasonable for all of the groups to redo their entire Claymation videos though, so I had each group select one scene in their video, decide what they wanted to add or change, and then take up to 10 still shots (with a digital camera, iPod Touch, or iPad) to show how they would have improved this part of their project. While planning for this activity, I started to think that it would be good for me to address my own “next steps” as well.

Here’s what I chose to do today:

1) I admitted to the students that I made some mistakes last week as well. I started with the fact that I didn’t have a Learning Goal or Success Criteria for this activity. Even though this usually happens before we do the activity, I decided to back track, and together, we recreated a Learning Goal and Success Criteria. Students even gave me the ideas for the anchor charts that we used for today’s activity as well.

Learning Goal and Success Criteria

Techniques Anchor Chart

Audience Anchor Chart

2) Before students worked in their individual groups, we brainstormed some scene changes as a class. Many of the Grade 1 students realized that it was difficult to tell what was happening in their video. Students quickly figured out that bigger, clearer pictures on the construction paper would help with this.

3) I encouraged the students to join in on the Twitter chat (#claymation2012) throughout the process. While I took some photographs and recorded some videos this morning, a few students also tweeted what they were doing and why they were doing it.



4) After the students took their photographs, I had them choose a tool and reflect on what they did today. They had to explain what they chose to change, and why they chose to make this change. Most importantly, their reason why had to relate back to the Success Criteria. This forced the students to look closely at the Success Criteria. It had them talking about what they were doing and why they were doing it. Students were also regularly referring to the anchor charts, which is something that they should be doing more often as well. And the quality of their reflections was so much better, as the students really realized the link between their assessments and the Success Criteria.

After a very busy three periods, here is a digital collection of all of the photographs that the seven groups took today:

Linked with their reflections on the class blog, it’s clear that all of the groups made important changes to their scenes: adding clarity to their work and helping the audience better understand their topic. I’m glad that the students got this chance to improve, and I know that I need to do similar activities more frequently as well.

How do you give your students the chance to improve? What are the results? I’d love to hear about your experiences as well!

Aviva

 

Talking Time

Talking Time

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!

Aviva

Live Learning

Live Learning

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!

Aviva

When To Talk And When To Listen

When To Talk And When To Listen

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!
Aviva

They Really Do Get It!

They Really Do Get It!

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!

Aviva

Unexpected Character Education

Unexpected Character Education

This week, my Grade 1 and 2 students have been working in groups of seven to plan, practice, and produce the Reader’s Theatre production of Sheila Rae, The Brave. We’ve been performing many plays in class, but this was one of the hardest ones yet. There was a lot of text, and many of the words were difficult to read. The students really needed to use what they’ve learned about spelling patterns to sound out the new words. Many of the students have also been working on fluency in reading, and they practised their lines a lot to improve fluency and add expression.

Yesterday, the groups decided how they wanted to perform the play — be it acting it out, doing a puppet play, making a Common Craft video, or any combination of the above — and then they recorded their performances as well. It was great watching again what they did as I uploaded the videos last night.

Embedded in each performance, you can see and hear character education. You see students taking responsibility as they learn the lines and review the difficult words so that they all perform well. Students also accept the strengths and weaknesses of each of their group members, as they encourage them throughout the process and assist them with difficult words. You can also hear the students that take initiative to ensure that their group reads at the same time, when necessary, and keeps up the pace throughout the process.

These are great examples of where the process is more important than the product. Students will get a chance to reflect on their performances and set new learning goals as a result, but regardless of this reflection, the fact that they all worked together to perform such a difficult play is incredibly admirable!

Have you had any experiences like this before? I’d love to hear about them!

Aviva

Making Writing Meaningful

Making Writing Meaningful

As part of our Grade 2 TLCP (Teaching Learning Critical Pathways), my students are learning about procedural writing. Our big idea for this cycle is, “How might routines and procedures be important for everyday life?” I’ve really been trying to use this big idea to guide our writing activities.

This TLCP is all about learning a specific writing form. Weeks ago, we generated the Success Criteria for this writing form, and since then, the students have used the success criteria well to become successful at writing procedures. The big problems seem to be that they forget to include an introduction or conclusion and that they do not expand enough on each of the steps.

I can have the students write procedures again and again and again for me, but eventually it gets boring. I want the students to see the value in this type of writing. It’s important that they know there’s a reason for procedural writing. This was the reason behind yesterday’s writing activity. (You can see the finished procedures on the individual student blogs.)

As a class, we generated this list of different procedural writing topics:

When one student mentioned writing how to use the Livescribe Pen, I got excited! I told the class that many teachers and students at the school are using the Livescribe Pen, but this tool is new to them. I explained that if some people wanted to write how to use this tool, I would share their post in Memos to All Staff. Then maybe their procedure could be used to teach others how to use the Livescribe Pen. At this point, the students were sold! 🙂

Then a student spoke to me about writing a procedure for how to use Gamestar Mechanic. When I showed the class this website earlier in the new year, I mentioned that I learned about it on Twitter. This student remembered what I said. He asked me if I would tweet out his post on how to use Gamestar Mechanic, and then maybe he could teach other people on Twitter how to use this website. Wow! Awesome!

This started the conversation. Students were talking about the best audience to share their work with and the best way to share their procedures too. This was no longer just a writing activity for me. The engagement factor increased when the students had a real audience for their work, and they had control over the topic and the tool that they used. Students really got excited today though when I showed the class the comment on the Livescribe Pen post that two of my students published yesterday. Everyone was so happy to see that Miss Barton, one of our wonderful Grade 3 teachers, left a comment.

My students couldn’t believe that a teacher wanted their help. Just to make things even more exciting, Ms. Stretton, one of the amazing Grade 2 teachers, came by today and asked if these students would help her out as well. With these two requests, the students finally saw the value in procedural writing: others were reading what they wrote, trying out new ideas, and asking for help to clarify their thinking.

Other students wanted to get this same response to their writing too. They were really looking at what they wrote and how they explained their thinking. The students were trying to be more specific as they elaborated on the main idea in each step. Yes, many of the students can still continue to work on adding more details to their introduction and conclusion, but they are getting better.

In a tweet this afternoon, Jean-Louis Bontront, a high school chemistry teacher in Windsor, Ontario, made this suggestion:

Thanks Jean-Louis! This is exactly what I did here, and I’m so glad that you suggested that I do so too. Watching the students writing yesterday and today showed me the value in giving students choice in their writing and giving them a real audience for their work. Our big idea for this TLCP is not just writing on paper — it’s really happening, and this week proved that to me!

How do you get students to see the purpose in writing? What difference does this make to their writing skills? I would love to hear about your experiences!

Aviva

 

What do you notice?

What do you notice?

In class, we’re working on identifying three-dimensional solids and describing the properties of them. On Monday, our wonderful math facilitator, Kelly McCrory, came into our classroom to do an activity on three-dimensional solids. Below is an Animoto Slideshow of many of the three-dimensional solids that the students made out of playdough:

What do you notice about these solids? Describe their faces. How are they similar to each other? How are they different? It would be great if you could leave us a comment and help us with our learning. Students in the class are encouraged to leave a comment too and share what they’ve learned as we start this new math unit.

Thank you, Mrs. McCrory, for getting us thinking and talking about math!

Aviva