Tuesday, June 26, 2018

What Went Right

I had a post planned about my year, but I scrapped it. Instead, I am going to reflect on what went right. After all, if I don't write this down, it won't be written down at all.

English as an Additional Language
All EAL students improved and 3 of the 5 from the beginning of the year are ready to exit. This was a big jump since they came with no English at all. They are now included in the group of students I need to tell to be quiet (a good thing).

Collaborative Projects
We did a few collaborative writing projects this year through Traveling Tales and Traveling Teddy. These are two awesome projects that I can recommend to anyone.

Here is one of the stories we helped write.

Writing skills
It has been amazing to look back at some of the writing pieces students did in August and compare them to recent writings. Yes, it was Grade 1 so of course there would be progress, but it was a long journey to get to where we ended.

I introduced my students to the concept of making. I guess that is a bold statement. I should say that I introduced them to making something when they are not occupied with another activity. I set up a table in the room with a bag of bottle caps, cardboard, and toilet paper rolls. They ended up making some interesting things and I [re]found a new tool for my classroom.

Ganesha and the Curse on the Moon
I remember sitting in a restaurant with a former coworker in October or November and asking what I could do for a fairy tales unit. She suggested a readers theater, but that scared me off with this crew, so I opted to try to produce a movie with them. 

Learning my own limitations
I tried to take too much on my shoulders this year. I don't know if it was me thinking back on my previous homeroom experience, or if I was arrogant, but I learned I need to lean on the parents more when I have difficulties with students.

Next year I will be working towards this ...

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Waiting for them to Be Ready

Our current unit in Where We are in Time and Place has us looking at innovations and discovery.

This unit I held back the poster with the central idea, instead, wanting to see if my teaching was leading them to their own conclusions. This is not revolutionary, but I haven't done it much this year.

I have been waiting for them to be ready.

The first week of the unit saw us making and testing paper airplanes, looking at the history of different things (cars, airplanes, bicycles, toys - we started with airplanes), trying to make sense of data we collected, and making tops.

Note: I happened to use the airplane video because there were many questions about how airplanes worked. I fell into the trap of misleading students and then having it snowball by students becoming interested and asking questions, eventually ending up off track. This reminds me to be more careful with provocations -- or at least to do a more thorough reflection afterward. Still, part of me thinks it is OK to be off track as long as the students are thinking and wondering.

I thought making LEGO tops was the best activity of the week. It was an activity that was accessible to all students. 

After about 10 minutes, I had them stop to reflect on the steps they were taking, they came up with the following ...

find parts 

The list had to be boiled down to this list, but they mostly used the words in their explanations. One thing I should try next time is to record (video or audio) these discussions we have.

We met to do a short reflection at the end of the activity where I wrote what they said on the board. I think my prompt was, "what did you learn?"

I am glad that one student picked up on my use of the word improve.

Using Google Keep as a Writer's Idea Book

I am in the thick of a course about teaching writing. 

One suggestion I learned from this course, and I've heard it before in a workshop on the Readers and Writers Workshop Models, is to have students keep a notebook of ideas for future writings. These ideas, or seeds as I first heard them referred, are just that -- seeds for future stories to grow out of. It's another way of saying curation.

While reading, I thought of what I would do if I were keeping a notebook. In fact, I am keeping a notebook, it's just in the form of this blog. So understanding that I am more digital than paper, got me to think about how I curate content from around the web.

I use Twitter and have an IFTTT recipe set up so my "favorites" on Twitter are saved to a separate blog I keep for me or anyone who is looking for interesting teaching ideas.

That got me thinking about students. I would prefer that students use a notebook. But what if I had students who were able to curate content from the internet? This year in Grade One, it seems like a far-off dream, but I will be teaching Grade Four next year, so teaching curation is on my list.

Two tools came to mind - Google Bookmarks and Google Keep. I don't bookmark much, so aside from messing around with it a little, I don't have much experience with Google Bookmarks. I wonder if bookmarks can be shared.

I do use Google Keep regularly, however. I like how notes can be tagged and colored. I was thinking for a seed journal to introduce students to the Google Keep Chrome Extension that allows you save web content with a click of a button. 

Once content, or seeds, are collected in Keep, they can be tagged and color coded. If students are already using Keep, maybe they could choose a color to use for their writing notes since you can filter notes by color in Keep.

Diigo could be another option. It also allows for tagging and sharing. In Diigo, you can make groups.