I was in the fifth and final course of my COETAIL certification when a cohort member in Korea invited me to join her and another teacher in the U.S. to make a collaborative book using the iPad app, Book Creator. It was such a great experience that I decided to use Book Creator again to have my students make books about their own communities. This was a challenging task for some of the first graders. We had our pictures saved in Dropbox, and moving pictures between the apps is not obvious and takes some thinking. Fortunately, the students were all very excited to help each other.

Students learn from each other. 
Technology should not get in the way of the learning.

While students were working on their books, I wondered if this project was too much for them. I wondered if they were learning what they should, or if they were just learning about the iPads. My fears were put to rest when, as the students were working together, they were talking about their own communities, using the vocabulary we had talked about.

At the end of the project, the student had a chance to share their books with each other. They talked about their communities and I could feel a sense of pride coming from them. They made connections to other communities and we were able to talk about similarities and differences between them.

Learning is complex and cannot always be seen. 
Learning should be celebrated.

I run an inquiry-based classroom focusing on critical thinking. When we were learning about natural resources I set up a learning engagement with a fictional map on a bulletin board. The students populated the map with trees, mountains, and animals they colored and cut out. They spent a lot of time working on it and felt like they were a part of the fictional area.

Students are more interested in things they are invested in.

Finally, we added houses. Everyone had a time when they could place their own house on the map (sometimes I had to put it up because they could not reach) and explain why they had placed them where they did. The students used all sorts of reasoning to explain themselves. Then came the lesson. For each house, I deducted five trees. I purposefully cut them in half so we could see where the trees had been, and how many we used. Soon after a flood of questions came and we had a lively discussion about what had transpired.

Concepts are best learned when students can make connections.

Another time we were learning grammar. Teaching grammar to lower elementary can become tedious if you are not careful, and the students can become lost in the rules. With my Grade 1-2 class, we were exploring different types of punctuation we found in books. One girl asked what one mark was. I explained it was an apostrophe -- and I explained what it did. I had the students repeat the word “apostrophe” and we went about our studies.

The next day we were writing and the girl who asked about apostrophes was asking how to use them, but she could not remember the word for them. She instead used the term “sky comma”. For the rest of the year, that was the class’ name for apostrophes.

No two classes are the same. 

Students will define their own learning.

I know I do not know all about education there is to know; I am learning every day. I believe we learn and grow from our mistakes. This is something I instill in my students. Making mistakes is alright. You need to learn from them though.

Mistakes help you grow.

December 2014

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