Although learning never stops, there are 194 days of learning in the 2015-16 calendar for the Simcoe County District School Board. Our fantastic team of resource teachers see so many amazing things across the county, we are going to use this space to document and share some of them with the world!
I have the opportunity to be part of an amazing inquiry in SCDSB that is looking at the learning environment as the ‘Third Teacher’. We are looking at how well-designed innovative spaces can be harnessed to help students optimize their learning potential.
I am particularly interested in how library and classroom design enhances literacy and math proficiency. However, especially reading.
The ability for students to be able to read is perhaps the most important thing that students need to be able to do. Reading is the foundation of all other literacies. If students are not able to read, then they will not able to demonstrate literacy in multiple areas that will lead to real choice and the ability to think critically within the world. I tried to show that in this diagram – with reading as the foundation for other literacies, and the ability to think critically, make good choices, and achieve personal success.
I believe that the physical set-up of the classroom can have a significant impact on how we implement strategies that promote reading success. Based on the new document from the Ministry of Ontario: The Third Teacher:
According to this document, there are 4 roles of the Literate Learner:
With these 4 roles in mind, I want to know how my learning environment can support literate behaviours? How can the Third Teacher help students to effectively manage texts in appropriate ways and help students to become literate learners?
Based on this document, I created a checklist of some of the things that we need to think of to support our existing instructional strategies that create literate learners. In this checklist, I also added culturally relevant symbols to this checklist. Culturally relevant symbols (without cultural appropriation) that help reinforce the mandates of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and promote FNMI perspectives on literacy and learning.
Further, I would ask questions pertaining to how this environment provides effective feedback toward our learners. I would want this feedback to promote literacy skills for my students. If students don't have reading proficiency, then this will affect everything.
I am very curious to see and learn about examples of learning spaces that promote literate learners, and that can also be created on a lean budget.
What design features have you found to work well in your learning space?
To start the day with her Grade 7 & 8 students on Thursday, Elaine Vodarek showed this one-minute video:
Wow! That video is so powerful on many different levels. Elaine asked her students to think about what the video makes them feel and be ready to share what they noticed. After watching they discussed as a class and came up with for main questions to emphasize what they were wondering. The students were given writing time to express in their own words what happened.
I was visiting Elaine's class that morning with an Occasional Teacher named Dan. He and I were there to gain support from Elaine as we observed her excellent teaching. The experience was rich and powerful for all the learners in the room!
Today a group of passionate students and teachers came together to share their learning. The goal of our day was to understand more about how the engaging game of Minecraft can be used in the classroom. The students were showing teachers and administrators how to play the game as they worked on a challenge to build their dream learning environment. Soon they were not only showing all the adults how to play but they were guiding them through the game! The students were the Minecraft experts and the educators were asking lots of questions. Knowing how Minecraft works helps to understand what is possible in the game and how it can be used for creation and making thinking visible.
By the end of the day, educators were inspired to use Minecraft for learning. Lots of resources were shared that have been created by other educators to be used in the classroom. We also started talking about and designing our own engaging learning experiences that explored mathematics, social studies, character, collaboration, critical thinking and digital citizenship.
The students and the educators all took risks today and that made all the difference in the world. We were co-learners and together our learning was much deeper. Teachers were experiencing being a learner alongside their students and how this can transform the learning culture in the classroom.
Thank you to all of the students - you made a big impact today! The educators who participated today were given the opportunity to use the MinecraftEdu program in their classrooms. We will be working closely with the IT department to set MinecraftEdu up in their schools and test how the server will work. We will update you as we learn more!
Mrs. Boate is the Innovation Resource Teacher for Numeracy K-8 with the SCDSB.
I invited her to join our class so she might demonstrate a creative and inquisitive approach to math concepts.
Math is typically an area that is seen as procedural, methodical and 'by the book'.
When most people think of math class in school, they think of following a set of pre-ordained steps, finding out the answer, and practicing questions over and over.
And yet...that does not have to be the case!
Our topic today was an introduction to graphing and data management.
To get our 'minds on' this new topic, and to access previous knowledge, Mrs. Boate posted a bar graph that had just bars and asked: what could this be about? Student brainstormed ideas, recalling previous graphs and survey subjects.
Then she asked: what is missing? Students remembered that graphs needs labels and scales and titles.
Last week I was lucky enough to attend a workshop facilitated by Usha James of The
Critical Thinking Consortium (TC2) focused on Planning, Supporting and Assessing Inquiry. Usha is a skilled facilitator and I was eager to spend the morning learning with her. She did not disappoint! Usha pushed us to think hard about our practice and the ways that we support critical inquiry in the classroom.
Nurturing an Inquiry Stance
Usha described the inquiry approach or stance we want to nurture in a way that really resonated with me. She talked about the importance of framing good inquiry questions but also providing students with more specific, smaller inquiry challenges to help build or encourage inquiry dispositions. She likened inquiry challenges to climbing a mountain, where once you reach the summit and achieve that specific challenge, you want to carry on further, towards the horizon.
As a facilitator, Usha was engaging and clearly read her audience. Instead of front loading all of the instruction and possibly cutting off possibilities for learners, Usha started her workshop with a broad inquiry based task and then intentionally interrupted us to force us to slow down and think more deeply about our work. For example, she provided us with an image and time to discuss what we think we saw. After some initial discussion, she interrupted briefly with some direct instruction. She then gave us the more specific challenge of not inferring what we thought was happening in the picture, but of only articulating facts/details/observations. This is harder than you might think. It forced us to slow down. She later noticed the group was focused on the central image in the photo. Once again she interrupted; this time pointing out that good thinkers also pay attention to the peripheral details. She gave us a concrete thinking strategy, asking us to make observations and inferences across a 5-Ws chart. Finally, she interrupted the conversation once again and gave us the next step. She wanted an informative explanation - but she didn't give us the success criteria up front, she allowed conversation to happen first, for possibilities to be explored and then success criteria was shared.
Usha reinforced the idea that the teacher plays such a critical role in inquiry based learning especially through supporting and sustaining student inquiry.
Join us throughout the day today at Nottawa Public School as we explore artbots, coding Spheros to complete tasks and collaborative art pieces...and a whole lot of STEAM fun with grades 1 -6!
Block 1 : Artbots- Gr.4/5/6 - 50+students
With a quick lesson on simple circuits, and a reminder about forces causing movement, these Grade 4,5&6's were ready to rock and roll with their artbot prototypes. Iteration was key and embraced whole-heartedly as they worked through the design cycle / creative process to solve problems and step up to their challenge.
I find it essential to not show a prototype or exemplar of what an artbot could look like. We're not looking for replication, but rather inspiring creativity and innovation by presenting a challenge and the tools required to create it. It never ceases to amaze me how different each and every artbot can be when left to the creative genius of the group. Cue #theartoflettinggo
Some vibrate, some squirm, some spin...but they all dance and make their mark on the world. It is a great reminder for students that we can all be so different, yet accomplish tasks in our own way and leave a positive and unique mark on the world...just like our artbots. Teachable moments make the most of any design challenge as students are directed to think and extend upon their own schema in math, science, technology, engineering and the arts.
What's an artbot without a dance battle? #bettertogether has never been truer!
After prototyping, students were invited to create a collaborative art piece, contemplating the concepts of colour, balance and line while composing the collective piece. A masterpiece was born!
Block 2: Coding Spheros with the 'Tickle' App- Grade 3&4
If you're going to learn to code, let's add some movement! None of these kids had coded before, but before long they were coding like pros and make their Sphero's perform planned tasks! These kids were fully engaged in learning how to use the technology as a tool and not just a toy...although that doesn't mean that a whole lot of fun wasn't to be had as well! What we did:
Step 1- visual intro to scratch/blockly style coding ( it's just like Lego!)
Step 2- mini lessons on degrees and speed vs. time variables
Step 3- Code the teacher! Be silly and have them recognize how precise commands need to be to execute a simple task, like walking a straight line 90 degrees to your right that is 5 meters long.
Step 4- predict what some sample lines of code will allow their Spheros to do by 'acting it out'. It's a drama technique, a math strategy, a kinesthetic learning technique and yep...a STEAM strategy too.
Can you act out this code? Try it! A lot of body awareness and geometry was happening to determine that this code makes a square.
Step 6: Code your sphero to follow a line or shape in the tile on the floor! How fun! And all in 50mins ;)
Block 3: Jackson Pollock inspired art created by coding Spheros to colour mix- Grade 1/2
This may have been the highlight of my day. I'll be honest with you, I have grandiose ideas at times and tend to trust that something amazing will happen...even and especially if it doesn't all go according to plan. But a plan I had. Where it goes is up to the students... and that is always the best part of the adventure!
Grade 1's, non readers, never coded before, paint, end of the day and robots. What could be more exciting to take a leap of faith into!!!
What we did:
1. Leaving our mark: write your name and draw a picture that represents who you are anywhere on the paper with markers- 5mins.
2. Learn to code- act it out.
The pinnacle highlight of my day was when a little girl who recognized me from when I had worked with her in summer school this past summer (great difficulty with reading, writing and paper/pencil tasks in general), explained that if we had to code our teacher to walk a square, 'they need to take 4 steps because the other side was 4 steps and all the sides of a square have to be the same number of steps". I almost cried. Amazing right! If we hadn't given that child the opportunity to express their mathematical learning in a different way, we would never have known how much they really knew and understood. Yay for movement integration in all that we do!
3. Use the Tickle app code template and change the variables of time or speed or rotation to change the trajectory of your sphero.
Next...add paint of course!
I must thank my husband for suggesting the garden hose as a sphero fence...brilliant! And a BIG thanks to Chris Gilewicz for picking up a drop sheet and dropping in to play with us at Nottawa this afternoon!
As I sit here wrapping up this blog and tidying up for home this evening, I can hear the kids in YMCA homeport showing their parents the art that they made today just down the hall. I'm pretty sure mini motors and Spheros are on a few Christmas wish lists in Nottawa this year. ;)
Today I joined a grade 7 class at Orchard Park PS as they continued their learning about the Seven Grandfather Teachings.
Conversations were generated from the book SevenSacredTeachings - Niizhwaaswigagiikwewinby DavidBouchard,Dr.JosephMartin, paintings by Kristy Cameron.
The book provides students with the message of traditional values and hope for the future represented among First Nations, Metis and Inuit. The teachings honour the seven basic values (humility, honesty, respect, courage, wisdom, truth, love) which are the foundations for a full and healthy life. Today's class discussion focused on the Eagle that represents love and the students could easily relate this moral truth to their own lives.
It was amazing to see the students responding to the reading through writing, sketching, poster creation and digital formats to showcase their personal connections and insights into how this teaching impacts on their daily choices and decisions.
Thank you to Lynn for welcoming me into your classroom to spend some time with you and your wonderful students!
Today an educator asked me to explain why he should join Twitter. I took a few minutes to gather my thoughts before responding with my reasons and a few resources for getting started. I thought I would share my response for those who have wondered what the hype is all about...
Recently Marci Duncan posted an excellent blog entry
encouraging the use of Twitter. Someone suggested in one of her links that
Twitter is a great source of professional learning. While I agree with this,
the flip side of the coin is that Twitter can sometimes be a little
overwhelming. Marci touched on TweetDeck as a useful Twitter feed organizer and
I’d like to expand on that idea just a little bit.
I had the privilege of attending Web 2.0 Boot Camp a few
years ago in Philadelphia with Will Richardson, @willrich45, author of Blogs,
Wikis, Podcasts and other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. Will suggested
that a great way to get started with Twitter was to follow personal interests.
So in addition to my education and math related feeds I added some of my sports
gurus and entertainment heroes as well as some friends. All good fun! Except as
I expanded my network of follows, and as they became increasingly prolific, my
Twitter feed blew up. Too many feeds on too many topics! I had to stop the
Enter TweetDeck. Thanks to David Petro, @davidpetro314,
fellow math educator and technology enthusiast whose session I attended at the
annual OAME Conference, I now use TweetDeck to organize my feeds into
personalized categories that make sense just for me. TweetDeck lets you
organize your feeds in multiple ways. Here are a few of my favourite
allows me to group feeds by person. My Education
List includes math gurus such as Dan Meyer, @ddmeyer, as well as SCDSB
shining stars such as Mike MacAlpine, @MichaelMac151. To see what members of my
Program and Innovation team are saying I scan my P and I List.
it is beneficial to collect tweets by topic, rather than person. Usinghashtags, I can follow all tweets that
include key words such as #growthmindset
This interesting feed column shows me all the activity of the people whom I
follow: their favourites, mentions, new follows and retweets.
about who your new followers are, or who is retweeting your tweets? This column
shows you all activity directly related to your Twitter account.
a great idea for a tweet in the middle of the night, but worried that it will
be missed? Tweetdeck lets you easily set a scheduled tweet that goes out during
prime time or on any time and date of your choosing.
Activity are where I often find
intriguing new people or topics to follow. TweetDeck automatically sets up these
and other default columns, including Home,
which is your running feed of everything you follow, as it would appear in
Twitter. List and Keyword columns are just some of the
types of columns you set up yourself.
So now I have my work-related feeds set apart from my more
personal ones. Some power users actually have multiple Twitter accounts to
further this separation. But I don’t roll that way: I like to have ready access
to all information all the time from one simple platform. One feature I really
like about Tweetdeck is that it allows me to easily change the order of my
columns. That way, when I am at work, I can focus on education and math related
tweets, and when I am on vacation I can switch things around so that I get my
Habs updates and entertainment scuttlebutt first and foremost.
There are various ways to access TweetDeck. I currently recommend
downloading the TweetDeck Google App from the Chrome Web Store. For more
information about setting up TweetDeck to organize your Twitter feeds, check
out the following links:
What a great first week back to school. You could feel the excitement from teachers and students about the new learning that was going to happen this year. I spent some time in different classrooms and in different conversations talking about the interesting opportunities and challenges that teachers were creating and participating in.
But connected to that excitement was some nervousness and anxiety. Educators who are also parents were worried about their children - starting JK, starting high school, going away to university, changing schools, make friends, getting to know new teachers and peers. All educators were thinking about their new students, wondering what they could do to ease anxiety and support the mental well-being of their students. SERTs were checking on classes making sure that teachers and students were feeling supported. Principals and Vice-Principals were using different strategies to keep everyone calm.
When people are feeling anxious, or over-whelmed, this often comes out in their behaviour. The way we speak and act is affected by our ability to maintain a sense of calmness and control. Behaviour is communication. So as the school year progress, it will be important to maintain a sense of compassion for the educators, students and families with whom you interact. The more we can support well-being and mental health, the better we can support learning and growth.
It didn’t take long before these curious kinders were wondering… How fast does he go? Will he dance? How far will he go? Using the Go App to drive Dunk, they tested his speed. Then they decided to guess how far Dunk would go by estimating and then counting the number of steps he moved from the iPad. The laughter could be heard down the hallway as they used the Blockly coding app to teach Dunk how to dance!
If you’re intersted in learning more about coding or how to get started in your classroom, check out our SCDSB coding blog: http://scdsbcode.blogspot.ca/.
Thank you to Elodie, Charmaine and Melisa for welcoming Dunk and I into your classroom!
Today I did not learn something new; I relearned lessons from 36 years ago in my grade 1 class. After our School Support Visits ended today in Orillia I took a valuable detour to visit my favourite teacher of all time and first ever crush -Mrs. Badger. This is not something I would normally have done but I often think of the impact she had on me and the lessons I learned from her.
I wasn't sure of she would remember me so admittedly I was nervous as I knocked on her door.......... our conversation lasted for over an hour. It was incredible to learn about her life as a teacher, mother, grandmother and great grandmother. Every story she told me was about kids.
During our conversation Mrs. Badger said, "Oh I thought I was too strict with the class!" I reminded her that she was the same teacher who:
pulled out our loose teeth
bought winter jackets for kids in need of warmth
gave us hugs when we were hurt or upset
told us she loved us
kept a bar of soap by the class sink in case of any "bad words"( Although I don't recommend this technique- I don't remember her actually using it and I also don't remember anyone using "bad language")
played floor hockey during gym class
danced with us during the Health Hustle
came to my 7th birthday party and brought a present!!
She reminded me that although our pedagogy changes, there are some teaching fundamentals that will hopefully never change. The easiest path to learning is through our genuine care and concern for the children we serve. I still love you Mrs. Badger!!