Let Them Play!

Here’s a quick summary of my day: two indoor recesses followed by two assemblies. Need I say more? ūüôā My students were fantastic, but it was a lot of sitting time with not enough outdoor time included, so when the second assembly ended with 15 minutes until we had to get ready for home, I had a decision to make. It’s my scheduled computer lab period: do I skip my trip to the lab, go up to the lab and explain an activity for the students to do, or go up to the lab and give the students some “free choice time?” I decided on the last option. I knew how hard it would be for me to sit and listen to instructions at the time, so I figured that my students were feeling the same way.

I’ve put all kinds of activities in Desk Tools, so I thought that I would let the students login, go into Desk Tools, and make their choice. I’m so glad that I did! It was incredible!

Some students logged into our Commons Blog and wrote new posts. One Grade 1 student even managed to publish his post. Another couple of students commented on blog posts. A group of students went to the Starfall Website and started reading books. They decided to read them in a little group and help each other with the difficult words: it was almost like a mini-guided reading group led by the students.

The majority of the students decided to go onto Google Earth. I don’t know which person is responsible for putting Google Earth on our new Board image, but I can’t thank you enough! The students were problem-solving like I’ve never seen them do before:

  • Students were reading off of each other’s uniform shirts to spell the school name, and then looking for the school together. With each other’s help, they all found it too.
  • Students were typing their addresses into the search bar and finding their houses and the houses of their friends. They were figuring out how to get from their house to their friends’ houses and to the school. They were even giving each other directions, using directional language in a meaningful context.
  • Students were searching places where they visited on vacation. They were helping each other spell the names of the different locations, and watching as they traveled around the world.

As far as the students were concerned, they were playing, but as the teacher watching them working, they were definitely learning.¬†This made me realize that as many times as I let the students investigate and explore on their own, I need to continue to give them the opportunities to “play.” I love when they surprise me by coming up with even better activities than I could have planned on my own!

When have you let your students just “play?” What were the results? I’d love to hear your experiences too!



The 21st Century Classroom … Today!

At ECOO today, I ran a workshop on the 21st Century Classroom … Today. Our Board has adopted the 21st Century Fluencies, and I was interested in taking these fluencies and showing what they would look like in a classroom environment. People worked in groups to help create a “manual” showcasing their collective version of the 21st Century Fluencies. The initial plan was to make a book of ideas that we could share online, and then others could download and share too. I planned on having the groups add Creative Commons images to highlight their points. This was going to be great!

And it still is great … but I learned that an hour is not enough time to create “a book.” It is enough time to create the start of one though, and as I tell my students, “the process is just as important as the product.” So here is our process¬†from today:

Copy of the 21st Century Classroom

This is a compilation of what all groups contributed. I tried to organize the ideas into sections, but some work in multiple sections, and some were harder to group. This is supposed to be a collaborative piece though, so please go back into the GoogleDoc, add more ideas, move others around, and see what you can do with what’s here. I can’t wait to see exactly what this becomes!


Budding Bloggers #ecoo11 Presentation

I’m minutes away from presenting at ECOO on Budding Bloggers: what blogging looks like in the primary grades. Below is the Prezi that I created for this presentation, which includes a link to a Today’sMeet Room that will stay active for a year. Please feel free to add your own resources, questions, comments, or concerns to this room. I’m hoping that we can all use it to learn together.


Taking The Time To Listen


What Listening Looks Like

During the first nutrition break today, the primary students had choir practice. I only have a small number of students that don’t go to choir, so they stayed back to eat their lunch and chat. I was doing a little work in the room while they were eating, and I happened to overhear their conversation.

They were trying to arrange a game to play together during recess time. Two of the boys asked the other six to participate, and four out of the six of them decided that they wanted to play. The two boys were trying to figure out how many people were playing. They started by counting the boys that wanted to play, but they thought that they missed someone. They kept on getting “six” as their answer though. Just as one of the boys was going to count again, the other boy jumped in and said, “You don’t need to count again! Six is the right answer. There are eight of us, and two of us don’t want to play. Eight take away two is six, and you counted six. You’re right!”

I had to commit this exchange to memory because I thought to myself, wow! During a random lunch discussion, these students saw the value of math.¬†This made me think a lot about formative assessment, and the power of observation. It’s amazing what we can see and hear when we take the time to do both. I’m glad that I was in class during this lunch discussion today. After hearing this conversation, it reminded me that I need to take the time to listen more. What might I be missing if I don’t?

How has “listening” benefited you as a teacher? I’d love to hear your stories too!


Making It Work!

A couple of days ago, I blogged about a backchanneling activity that I did with my Grade 1/2 students. I got some fantastic comments on this post and some wonderful tweets about it too — thanks everyone¬†— but one discussion that surfaced on Twitter about it was not having access to the same number of devices.

This is a common concern, and it’s one that I hear about often. Just on Monday, I saw this tweet from Stephen Ransom (@ransomtech)¬†connected to this very issue too:

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It’s a topic that I’m definitely passionate about, so I decided to reply:

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I was thrilled this morning when I visited this student’s blog, and saw her reply:

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This student’s response inspired me to blog this morning! I love when others see value in the tools that they do have. Many times we focus on what’s missing. It’s true: some schools do have more than others, and I am in a very fortunate position, but even if I wasn’t, I would try to make what I do have, work.

As you watch the Animoto Slideshow about our class’ backchannel, you’ll notice that more than half of the students are using regular whiteboards. I even purchased most of these whiteboards at the Dollar Store¬†for just over $1.

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With the use of an inexpensive digital camera, the students using these whiteboards could contribute to the conversation too. Yes, there discussion is not in real-time, and if I wanted to, I could do what Bianca Pecora (@bmp84) suggested and complete this activity in the computer lab, but the current set-up worked for me. Students were able to listen, think, and respond all at the same time, and then they were able to apply what they learned later, as they wrote blog posts on a similar topic.

My class enjoys using¬†both high tech tools¬†and low tech tools, and by having them use both and making choices on what ones they use and when, they see the value in using both types tools too. If you’re teaching at a school that has less access to technology, maybe incorporating what you have with with some “low tech options,” will still provide lots of possibilities for your students.

What are your thoughts on this topic though? How do you make the most out of the tools that you have access to in your classroom and at the school? I would love to hear more!