Heart of a Teacher

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ever since I started this blog last June, I have been overwhelmed with the positive feedback, responses, and connections I've made to other educators around the world. It's truly incredible how technology has given us the opportunity to share, collaborate, and celebrate our learning beyond the walls of our classroom! I am honoured to receive emails from parents, colleagues, friends and family informing me that this blog is inspirational - I too continue to feel inspired every day by my students, colleagues and their families and I'm so proud to be in this profession and to be a part of such an incredible teaching team!

The following poem was sent to me from a friend and truly encapsulates the heart of being a teacher:

A teacher takes a hand, opens a mind, and touches a heart. 
- Anonymous

Thank you to everyone who has and continues to support, encourage, challenge, and push me to be the best that I can be. 
Here's to new learning and a wonderful journey! 

Part 3: "What Can You See?" and Google Earth!

Monday, November 26, 2012

The "What Can You See?" project has reached new and exciting heights in our classroom! With the project extending beyond our class and Mrs. Harrison's, other educators and their Kindergarten and Grade 1 classes have jumped on board and produced their own "What Can You See?" digital books! From Keswick and Newmarket to Richmond Hill, Markham and even Surrey, British Columbia, our class continues to enjoy such an authentic audience for learning about the world around them and making those meaningful connections!

After such an overwhelming response and interest from our students after our Skype session with Mrs. Harrison's class, we have embraced every moment to talk about, make connections and share ideas throughout our class meetings and daily discussions. Our Comparison Charts have made for engaging conversations with our whole class as well as during small group instruction and also act as a visual reminder of our learning.

Our introduction to Google Earth and this project actually came from students' connections to the fact that our Earth is a sphere! Having been inquiring about 2D shapes and 3D figures in the recent weeks, we wanted to make this notion even more visible to our students so we decided to show them the Earth with this program! This even led to our class extending our connections to one of our students who happens to be away in Egypt and Google Earth gave us the opportunity to see just how far away Egypt really was from Woodbridge! This initial exploration with such a dynamic teaching and learning tool led to robust thinking and authentic conversations throughout our classroom!

After dialoguing with our Administrator, Mr. Collins, we left with a "spark" on how we could use Google Earth to support our "What Can You See?" project! With this idea, we used our students connections to shed light on how close and how far the schools in our project really are from us and each other. "3...2...1...Blast off!" filled our room and the "flying in" to each destination truly captivated our learners and we were able to not only connect the project to the world, but we were also able to use this opportunity to discuss perspective, "birds-eye view" and the shapes we see! Talk about cross-curricular integration!

Not only has Google Earth given us the chance to see each school from a different perspective, but it has more importantly captured the thinking of our students whereby they feel inspired to explore where they live, the community, and the world around them! We have had students excitement lead them to finding their house, a friend's house, a park, the grocery store, Canada's Wonderland, and other destinations outside of our community like the CN Tower, Rogers Centre, Statue of Liberty and Niagara Falls! With each day that passes, our students grow more and more excited to embrace technology to enhance their learning and this project is authentic learning at its finest!

We noticed that Bond Lake Public School wasn't built yet - this image provoked lots of interesting questions and theories! 

We encourage you to check out the other amazing videos that have been shared with our class throughout our exploration and involvement with this project. As you watch, talk with your child about any connections they have and by asking prompting questions like "What do you see?," "Tell me more" and "What are you thinking?" will help elicit some wonderful dialogue at home! If possible, we kindly ask that you take a minute to share your families comments here on our blog for our class to read!

- Mrs. Jelley and her Kindergarten team  from Keswick, Ontario created an inspiring video found on their class blog:

- Mrs. Harrison's Kindergarten class is also from Keswick, Ontario and you can watch their video on their blog:  Scroll down to the "What Can You See" post.

- Ms. Babalis' Kindergarten class from Richmond Hill, Ontario created a different kind of "What Can You See?" book and used a program called "Comic Life" to tell their story! Check it out on their blog:

- Ms. Lirenman's Grade 1 class from Surrey, British Columbia was a great surprise! Check out their book on their class blog:

Thank you again to Angie Harrison for the time and effort it has taken you to organize this incredible project! We hope to have more schools from around our community, region and even the world join in on this incredible journey! 

Making A Cloud

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The quote by Mandy Budan noted during my own exploration with clouds through art at Paintlounge has stuck with me and trickled into our class' Cloud Inquiry...

With her painting she said, "I'm exploring the way clouds interact with the sky. Sometimes the cloud seems separate from the sky and sometimes it is clearly just an extension of it."

As a way of bringing this quote to life in our classroom, we have been using our knowledge and observations about clouds to be the inspiration for creating our very own cloud in our classroom! 

It's safe to say that construction is underway! 

After brainstorming what materials we will need in order to make our cloud, our students have taken an active role in sculpting, weaving, knotting, and wrapping various materials into our installation! Take a look as our learning collages bring to life the "cloud construction" in our classroom! 

Our students have also decided to make raindrops that will fall from our cloud installation! With beads and wire, they have not only been building their fine motor skills, but we were ecstatic to see them showcasing their knowledge about patterns, shapes, lines and the water cycle! 

It's truly incredible to see the power of inquiry in our classroom and our students are a true testament to how their natural curiousity can be the driving force behind their learning! To honour the process behind our cloud inquiry journey, we have showcased our learning through a documentation panel again in our hallway! Similar to our Tree Timeline last year, we decided to take it one step further ! In addition to the photographs, we have used our pedagogical documentation, captured quotes, and observations to highlight our journey so far! This also makes for an interactive experience for not only our class since they can connect to their initial theories/observations, but it allows anyone who walks by a chance to dive into our inquiry and become a part of it! 

If you get a chance to "walk our walls," we would love to hear about what you see! 

Stay tuned as we plan to post more about our Cloud installation as it unfolds in our classroom as well as how our Cloud Inquiry Panel grows!

Our Peace Book

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Take a look at how Todd Parr's book entitled "The Peace Book" inspired our class to create their own!

Since we've taken this leap with technology in our program, we decided what better tool to use when creating our very own Peace Book than the iPads! Over the course of the week, some students were interested in contributing a picture, others were interested in sharing a comment and some were eager to do both! As a result, we ended up with student participation from a multifaceted level and those interested in the actual creation of the book worked in a small group using an app called Pictello. As the company's description outlines, Pictello is a simple tool for creating talking photo albums and talking books. Each page in a Pictello story can contain a picture, up to five lines of text, and a recorded sound or text-to-speech using high-quality voices. Pictello is developed for all ages and skill levels, so it is easy to use and requires no reading skills to locate and read stories! 

Our original book contains recorded voices of each student involved in the project as they state what peace means to them. However, the Pictello file on the iPad could not be transferred to create a movie file. Instead, my DECE and I took the screen shots of each page in the book and turned it into an iMovie for you all to see! We also look forward to sharing Our Peace Book with our school at our Remembrance Day Assembly. We even had one student create their very own Peace Book with sentences about what peace means to them at home and share it with the class! Below are pictures of this student's book with captions of his words.

Peace is sharing. Peace is keeping the water blue. Peace is taking turns. Peace is keeping friends and family. Peace is no fighting. Peace is loving each other. Peace is reading a new book. Peace is saying sorry to a friend. Peace is just having fun.

Peace is planting a tree. Peace is staying in a house to be warm. Peace is treating new things properly. Peace is fixing things. Peace is playing games properly. Peace is playing with friends!

We hope you feel inspired by our younger generation and embrace their knowledge about peace to help make the world a better place!

Reporter of the Day

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

To give a context for this post, I thought it'd be neat to share a snapshot of the thinking involved "behind the scenes" of our teaching team! So here it goes...

Our Professional Provocation: How can we make technology meaningful for our students? 
In other words, how can we get them to take ownership of their journey by showcasing what they are learning, what is important to them, and giving them the opportunity to share with the class through the means of technology?

My DECE and I had many conversations around how this could be possible and perhaps steer the learning within our program in a new and exciting direction! We are fortunate to have several pieces of technology in our classroom which made it a little difficult to decide how we were planning to put this thinking into practice (e.g. iRover SmartBoard, iPads, desktop computer, digital camera). So we decided to narrow our focus and in doing so, we chose to utilize the iPads as means for this professional inquiry. 
So, we chose the iPads as our teaching and learning tool...
but the question remained with where to go from here? 

My DECE and I found ourselves talking about the difference between having the students just "using the iPads freely" versus getting them to "use the technology for a learning purpose." At first, one may see these new devices as being just a "quick fix" to engage students with the technology. However, this inquiry has helped us realize that there is potential within the technology for giving students the chance to make meaning behind it that is purposeful, authentic, and connected to a learning task.  

Our Learning Curve:
To start small, we decided to have our SK's be the guinea pigs for this professional learning curve since we as a teaching team plan to learn alongside them. We chose a wonderful app called Kids Journal to be the focus for our "new wave" of journal writing! This app gives students the opportunity to self-reflect on their day whether it be something they learned, felt, celebrated, shared, etc. It also gives them the option to post a photo in their journal and has plenty of room for lots of detail! Each of our SK's is beginning with an individual journal to which we facilitate through guided writing. We encourage our students to write their words in their Drawing and Writing Book to help them when typing in their digital journal. We have found that they are not only engaged, but eager to record the happenings throughout their day! Talk about motivation?

Our Class Journal & Reporter of the Day:
To often we dismiss the very important question: "What did you learn today?" a way of celebrating this very question and our learning each day, we decided to create a class journal using the same app! Each day a student is selected to be the "Reporter of the Day." This special job means this student is responsible for reporting on one or two special moments from throughout the day that they witnessed or that another student shared with them at our class' final meeting! The thoughts shared and presented by our Reporter are documented in our class journal and their photo is taken alongside their entry. By the end of the year, we will have a daily record of all of the happenings and learning moments within our classroom! 

Our students immediately jumped on this learning opportunity and one student even asked if they could make a special "sign" for the Reporter to wear when it's their turn. Everyday upon entry, our students are already asking who the Reporter of the Day is and every day they continue to get excited to share their learning with us and most importantly each other. What more could we ask for as educators?

Some possible conclusions:
It's safe to say, that this use of technology has shown to not only be meaningful for our students but it is also meaningful for us as educators! Our open-mindedness as a teaching team as well as our courage to take a risk has led to some wonderful learning in our classroom and throughout our program! Our students have used this format as a backbone for exploring the iPads and we find them to be able to naturally connect pre-selected apps to learning tasks within the classroom. From Puppetpals and Sock Puppets to Pictello and more, our students are now capable of purposefully utilizing the technology in our room for their own thinking and as a way of capturing their learning. We plan to continue to explore other apps through our professional networking (e.g. consulting with other board staff - Angie Harrison and her blog, Heather Jelley and her blog to name a few) and our own exploration!

Stay tuned as we continue to document where this professional inquiry can take us! 
More posts to follow. 

Part 2: "What Can You See?" and Skype!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

There has been a lot of excitement this past week with regards to our "What can you see?" digital book project! From mentioning Mrs. Harrison's class in our daily discussions and recounting what we saw in her class' video book, our students have been asking great questions which we thought were worth exploring!

In order to take our learning one step further, and value the opportunity for our class to talk about, listen, and learn from other students in another community, we thought what better way to do this than to connect our classes via Skype!

In preparation for our Skype session, we wanted our students to come up with three questions that they would like Mrs. Harrison's class to answer so that we could gain a deeper understanding of their school and where they live! Here is what we came up with:

1. We can't see a pond in our school yard. What animals have you seen living in your pond?
2. We don't have any farms near us but we saw you have farms near your schoolyard. What do you think the farmers grow?
3. What are bull rushes and milkweeds? 

On Thursday, our students came in after lunch extremely excited knowing that it was after attendance whereby we would have our first ever Skype session with Mrs. Harrison's class from Lake Simcoe Public School. "Oooo's" and "ahh's" filled our classroom as we launched our session and our classes were amazed with how they could see each other and hear each other's voices including Mrs. Harrison's! 

Here is what we learned about Mrs. Harrison's class and schoolyard:  

1. Ducks, Canada geese, and frogs live in their pond. They also see "sparkles" and "shimmers."
2. The farmers grow pumpkins at the farm and lots of vegetables like cabbage and carrots.
3. Milk weeds are "little fuzzy things" at the pond. One student even went as far as to explain to us in detail how they change in the season. "They are plants and in the fall they turn brown and fall off and there is fluff inside which are seeds!"

Here are the three great questions Mrs. Harrison's class asked us about our class and schoolyard:

1. Where is your school? What is your school called?
2. What is in your "box?"
3. What is the "pink thing" on top of the box?

We had a lot of fun answering them and teaching our new Kindergarten friends all about our school and where we live!

To conclude our Skype session, Mrs. Harrison's class came up with "compliments" for our schoolyard (what a nice touch!). Here are what some of her students had to say:

"I want to compliment your class for your questions."
"We like your playground."

As a way of consolidating our new learning about Lake Simcoe P.S. and our first Skype session, we asked our students what they enjoyed about this experience! Here are their thoughts:

"I liked how we talked to Mrs. Harrison and they talked to us - It was cool!" - I.D. (SK)
"I liked when they talked to us. We could hear them." - A.M. (JK)
"I liked when I got to ask them our Question because they speaked back and answered and taught us something new." - L.D. (SK)
"I liked when they were talking with you and Ms. Theis." - A.C. (SK)

All in all, this experience gave our students the opportunity to not only connect with other students, but it allowed them to gain an understanding and appreciation for different communities and how these communities can be different than their own. We truly look forward to exploring other "What can you see?" videos and reconnecting again over Skype with Mrs. Harrison's class as a forum for discussing similarities and differences between what we see and our own schoolyards!

A sincere thank you to Mrs. Harrison, her DECE, students and school for opening up their classroom and schoolyard to us and teaching us something new about the world around us! From our class to yours, we look forward to growing and learning together this year and reconnecting very soon!

Ms. Schmidt, Ms. Theis, and our students

"Look! It sticks!"

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Today's learning can be summed up with three words: invigorating, authentic, and exciting! 
(And those words just scratch the surface for what was an incredible day of discoveries and learning!) 

Take a look at what two of our students were curiously investigating during our morning! With just a few magnets, they were able to creatively discover and experiment some scientific principles behind how magnets work!

Not only did the excitement from these two students inspire others in our class to join in, but it ended up being approximately half the class by recess learning through this problem solving approach. Fascinating! 
"Look, the two magnets won't go together! They are pushing one another." - J.S. (SK)
"I wonder why?" - Ms. Schmidt
"I don't know but maybe it's because there's a ball between them but it's invisible." - J.K. (SK)

"E.S., what are you discovering?" - Ms. Schmidt
"Metal only sticks to other metal like the SmartBoard - look! I found out that it doesn't stick to the tables though because the tables are wood." - E.S. (JK)

"The letter sticks to the green thing Ms. Schmidt!" - T.B. (JK)
"Why do you think that happens?" - Ms. Schmidt
"It sticks because the blue letter is a magnet and the green thing is a magnet." - V.D. (JK)

One of the originators of this provocation decided to make a list on a clipboard about his findings. In particular, what the magnets stick to and what they don't stick to. In doing so, he again inspired others who were part of the investigation to record their own ideas in words! Talk about peer learning!

This learning moment captured throughout our morning truly exemplifies the beauty of learning and problem-solving through play. Our students were not only able to feel inspired by their peers, but they were able to learn together through trial and error and celebrate their learning as it happened! Moreover, it's incredible how literacy was naturally embedded in their thinking and we can't wait to see where it takes them! Stay tuned for more on this developing inquiry!
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