What Worked? What Didn’t? Where I’ll Go From Here!

I think that reflection is so important. I always try to relook at what I taught, and figure out what worked, what didn’t, and what I’ll do next. Today was no different.

Thanks to a great suggestion from our curriculum consultant, Kristi Bishop (@kkeerybi), and our Arts Consultant, Karen Wilkins (@ArtsHWDSB), my teaching partner and I decided to host a Hot Seat Radio Show on 105 the Hive, where students could discuss the points of view of different characters in the books we’re reading in class. Students are focusing on point of view for our current TLCP (Teaching Learning Critical Pathways), and next week, we want to have students use The Arts to share points of view. Kristi and Karen helped us see that this would be a good segue.

So how did it go? There were lots of positive points, but also some good next steps. First, the positives:

1) The radio show “characters” used the point of view graphic organizers well to share their ideas and support their thoughts with specific evidence from the text. When hearing their discussion, you could see the link between the proof and their conclusions.

2) The radio show people used vocal expression and information about the characters to share their thoughts. The information that they shared aligned well with the text.

3) The summarizers gave a detailed overview of the books. They helped those people that did not know about the books, so that everybody could appreciate the radio conversation.

4) Having various characters from the book present, helped the entire class gain a better appreciation for the multiple points of view. Students could see how these points of view were similar and how they were different. This led to great discussions that happened even after the radio show was over.

5) The radio show “characters” understood the text well enough to answer questions from various listeners. Their answers connected well to the evidence in the text, and all of their answers made sense. To answer many of these questions, students needed to infer based on clues from the books, and it was clear, that students were able to do this easily and support their thoughts.

And now comes the next steps:

1) I needed to spend more time modelling how to write from the point of view of the different characters in the Today’sMeet Room. While students asked many questions about the characters and events, most of them did not “play” these character roles in their written contributions. From their writing in the classroom, I know that the students could do this, but I don’t think that I demonstrated enough of what I wanted them to do. Tomorrow though, I am going to go back and relook at some of the online conversations with the students. We’re going to write together from the point of view of the different characters, and then I’m going to give students an opportunity to write with a partner and individually from various points of view. I think that additional time modelling will help “bump up” these written contributions.

2) I needed to spend more time modelling the types of questions to ask to these characters. Many of the questions in the Today’sMeet Room were about the books themselves, but they were not point of view questions. Tomorrow I am going to address this as well. Together we will look at the types of questions that students asked, and if or how these questions allowed for point of view answers. Then we’ll generate some new questions as a class before writing questions in small groups and individually. I think that this “gradual release of responsibility model” will work well.

3) There were so many characters on the radio show that it was difficult to have them all participating enough. I want to make sure that all students have a chance to fully engage in the drama aspect of this activity. As Kristi initially suggested on Twitter, I’m going to try a “corridor of voices” exercise with the students. Now that they heard and participated in the radio show, they should have lots of ideas to share during this other drama activity. To help increase individual student participation, I’m going to break the students into two smaller groups for this drama exercise before we debrief as a large group. I think that if the students brainstorm their ideas aloud first, and can orally communicate their thoughts, then it will be easier to transfer these ideas to writing. Tomorrow then, I will begin with this drama activity before moving to the writing ones.

These are just my initial reflections after today’s activity. Here’s the link to the radio show and backchannel contributions. What do you think worked well? What are your suggestions for improvements? I would love to hear your thoughts!


Why EdCamp?


I’m very excited to be on the EdCamp Hamilton Planning Committee. On Saturday, May 4th, a group of educators, parents, administrators, and students will be meeting to discuss topics in education that are important to them. This professional development is being driven by the people there. It’s an opportunity for collaboration amongst all stakeholders in education, and I love this!

In the past couple of years, I’ve attended and presented at numerous conferences, and while I always enjoy the sessions that I go to, what I often enjoy the most is the conversations I have outside of these sessions. It’s these informal conversations that often bring about the most change. EdCamp allows for a full day of these informal conversations.

So I hope that all of you reading this post will consider attending EdCamp Hamilton on May 4th. Let’s share ideas and learn together! This will be my first EdCamp, and I can’t wait to go.

Why do you think others should attend an EdCamp? What advice do you have for first-time EdCamp participants? Why are you attending? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


Re-Exploring The Arts In Kindergarten

While I teach Grade 6, 0.2 of my position is Kindergarten prep coverage. I was a Kindergarten teacher for eight years, and I love going back to Kindergarten and exploring The Arts with them, as I teach all of the Kindergarten students Drama and Dance. While re-looking at how I can use The Arts in Grade 6, I tweeted back and forth with Karen (@ArtsHWDSB), our wonderful Arts Consultant. She offered to come into the school and meet with me about Arts integration for Grade 6, but also about Arts integration for JK/SK. I met with her today.

Karen has an incredible wealth of knowledge on The Arts, and if you’re a teacher in the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, I would definitely suggest contacting her to discuss classroom activity possibilities. I’m so glad that I did! I’m also really happy that I wrote down so many notes on the Livescribe Pen during our discussion. While there isn’t an audio file here, below is a written pencast of Karen’s ideas and various resource suggestions.

brought to you by Livescribe

I hope that others can use these notes as well. When I started doing Kindergarten prep coverage this year, I was excited to attempt the Full Day Kindergarten Program mentality of exploring student interests. Since we’re not a Full Day Kindergarten school yet though, I’ve really been struggling with how to do this well, as I only see the Kindergarten students once a week or sometimes once every couple of weeks (due to the A/B schedule). Karen gave me some great suggestions for ways that I can use The Arts and student interests to reinforce what students are learning in the classroom and to create a rich Drama and Dance program for the students too. I can’t wait to try some new activity options next week.

How do you integrate The Arts in your classroom? How do you use Drama, Dance, and student interest to create a rich program for students of all ages? I’d love to hear your ideas!


Tweeting In Class

It all started with a tweet. This morning, I saw a tweet from Pernille Ripp, an amazing educator from Wisconsin, asking about how others use Twitter in the classroom.


I just had to respond, as for the past four years, I’ve been using Twitter regularly with my students. While I’ve taught everything from Grade 1 to Grade 1/2 to Grade 6 now, tweeting has been a constant in my classroom.

As I started to tweet back some options to Pernille, I realized that I had too much to say for 140 character messages, so I mentioned that I would blog about this topic. Then others chimed in on wanting to hear how I tweet with my students, so here you go! 🙂 Let me first begin with my overall words of wisdom before I share my individual ideas:

  • Start with the expectations, and then create activities based on those expectations. This will help you create richer activities that meet learning outcomes and support what you’re already doing in the classroom.

With this being said, I think you’ll find that I actually use Twitter with my Grade 6’s in many of the same general ways that I used it with my Grade 1’s and 2’s. What they share though varies because of their age and abilities.

  • Have students use Twitter to reflect on what they learned throughout the day. You can have daily “tweeters” that tweet regularly about what is happening in the class and what they are learning. These students can also reply to questions and comments from other people that tweet back. Use your classroom Twitter account to make connections with other class tweeters, so that students can interact with these students and teachers as they tweet about their learning. (Please note that when I started tweeting with my younger students, I had them work in partners to tweet. This helped the students edit each other’s work, and formulate ideas aloud before writing them down.)
  • Have students use Twitter to share what they’re learning in different subject areas. I do this a lot with my Grade 6’s this year, especially in math. Students tweet out their answers to different problem solving questions, or share their math explorations with others on Twitter. Students have become pros at creating their own hashtags, so a student sets the hashtag and then shares it with other students. Then all of the tweets are organized to share later on one of our classroom blogs.
  • Use Twitter as a backchannel. I did this with my Grade 1’s and 2’s, and I do this now with my Grade 6’s. Students regularly use our classroom accounts to tweet about what they’re learning as they’re listening to their peers (like when we have radio broadcasts on 105 the Hive), listening to a read aloud, watching an educational movie, or listening to a speaker (either live or on Skype). This lets them reflect on what they’re hearing, ask questions, and respond to others.
  • Play Twitter Games to review key math and language concepts. Twitter is social, so it’s great for games. Students of all ages love playing games too. When I taught primary, I used to have students tweet out clues about different toys, books, or concepts that they were learning about in class, and others would tweet back the answers. In Grade 6, students tweet out riddles in math, and others reply with the answers.
  • Use Twitter for 140 character stories or book reviews. I did this last year with my Grade 1’s and 2’s as well as this year with my Grade 6’s. This is a great way to get students reflecting on what they’re reading, and focusing on word choice and voice in their tweets. For students that struggle with summary writing, the 140 character book reviews are perfect, as students really need to limit their writing to the main ideas.
  • Use Twitter to converse with other classes, teachers, and experts. Last year, this was best shown in our Butterfly Twitter Chat, where students tweeted their knowledge and questions about butterflies (related to our Science unit at the time). A “butterfly expert” read our tweets, replied to them, and then agreed to Skype to share more. Oh, the power of social media! 🙂 This year, we’ve conversed a lot through the projects we’ve done in class and with other classes. When we decided to do the Duct Tape Challenge, we used Twitter to share our flying devices with others, and other students and teachers used Twitter to share their creations with us.
  • Use Twitter for standardized test (a.k.a. EQAO) review. Yes, I know that people feel many different ways on standardized testing and EQAO, but the bottom line is that my students need to write this test at the end of May. I want them to feel confident in showing what they know, and I want to give them practice on answering the types of questions that they need to answer. With the use of #mcmondays, students are happy to do a little EQAO Review, and ultimately, review what they’re learning in class. Instead of just tweeting out the answer to the multiple choice questions, students are encouraged to share how they know that their answer is correct. This gets them communicating more in math and language, which is an area of need for many of the students. Posting the Storify Stories on the website, also allows parents to see what we’re doing in class and even review some of these questions at home with their child.

Just when I think that I’ve used Twitter in every possible way, a student comes up with a new idea, and we try something else. With the ability to share pictures and videos easily with others, as well as the small character limit (that really appeals to struggling writers), Twitter is a social medium that works well for many students. How do you use Twitter in the classroom? What benefits and/or drawbacks do you see to tweeting in class? Please share your ideas here so that we can continue the conversation!