Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Google Slides, Learning Stories & The Revised Kindergarten Curriculum

Over the summer, I spent a lot of time familiarizing myself with the newly revised Ontario Kindergarten Curriculum and digging deeper into my own understandings around the big ideas, conceptual understandings and how they fit into the newly designed Four Frames model: 
Self Regulation and Well-Being
Belonging and Contributing
Demonstrating Literacy and Mathematics Behaviours
Problem Solving and Innovating. 

After working closely with a few inspiring friends and colleagues since last year and over the summer who always seem to push my thinking, I didn't waste any time diving into the new document and begin reflecting around how I could develop a system that would help capture student thinking and learning in an authentic, purposeful and meaningful way for myself, my students and their families. 

Building off of those conversations and my own personal reflections, I took time to debrief and brainstorm ways to extend on our ideas and my own thinking. As a result, and rather than scrapping all of the previous hard work I had done last year, I came up with building upon my latest idea of using Google Slides as a "digital portfolio" (please see my previous post below that elaborates more on where this idea originated: "Google Drive: An Innovative and Collaborative Tool in our Classroom"). To challenge myself and take my own learning one step further, I wanted to integrate the Four Frames into an easy-to-use, reflective template that could be accessed and used by both myself and with my teaching partner in the classroom, while at the same time, acting as a medium of transparency for parents that showcases their child's learning journey throughout the year in our classroom! 

In doing so, I landed on creating an individual "Learning Story" design for each of my students. The purpose is to capture, document and celebrate the many learning moments that occur for them as a learner and connect their play experience(s) directly to the curriculum and within the most dominant frame. I need to stress that this is just one way we document learning in our classroom. It is complimentary to other formative assessment approaches we conduct on a daily basis to support our program planning and responsive instruction.   

Each child's Learning Story can be "Shared" with families over Google Drive and the slides themselves can be downloaded as .pdf files and printed to be placed in their physical binder portfolios for easy tracking and celebration. Work smart not hard right?

Below are blank samples that I have created to showcase how I set up each Learning Story. Each "Frame" has been designed and designated with it's corresponding colour (as seen in the revised document) and outlines the Overall Expectations found under that frame. This is to allow for easy accessibility and tracking to ensure that there is enough collected evidence for each student under each frame. My hope is that this way of documentation can help support authentic, organic, meaningful and personalized comments when it's time for reporting on student learning using the new "Learning Templates" (previously known as Report Cards). 

Below, you will see that there is also a space available for me to add any photo(s) and/or video(s) that support that student's play experience. My teaching partner and I can track who documented the learning by using the space "Documented by:" to include either of our names as well as the date:

Self Regulation and Well-Being
Belonging and Contributing
Demonstrating Literacy and Mathematics Behaviours
Problem Solving and Innovating
The next set of examples showcase how the slides themselves are used to document student learning. Photo(s)/Video(s) are captured in the moment and then I can narrow down the Overall Expectations that support that particular learning experience. The "Demonstration of Learning" title sets the context for the learning and is filled in with either a student quote, explanation of student work and/or describing a particular observed behaviour or experience. Lastly, we consolidate the learning by connecting it to the specific expectations to support what the student is saying, doing and/or representing during that captured experience. This is the most valuable part since, as a team, we can use this information to plan purposeful next steps for each learner.   
Self Regulation and Well-Being: This example shows how I've embedded both a photo and a video to celebrate this particular learning experience. I've narrowed down the Overall Expectations that this student demonstrated and explained in more specific detail what makes this learning moment special as it relates to those overalls. 
Belonging and Contributing: This example shows how a student quote was used to title this particular experience. 
Demonstrating Literacy and Mathematics Behaviours: This example shows how this particular learning experience was significant under the "Mathematics Connections" lens and thus, the "Literacy Connections" box has been deleted. Similarly, the image below showcases a literacy experience and thus, the mathematics box has been deleted.  
Problem Solving and Innovating: Lastly, this final example shows how multiple pictures can be used and resized to fit the one space.

I kindly ask that my intellectual property be respected and act as a mode of inspiration for you and not a recipe to be copied. An extensive amount of thought, reflection and time went in to making this documentation format, changing it and finding something that worked for myself and my partner. I strongly encourage you to engage in dialogue with your educator teams and partners because the conversation itself is incredibly powerful and impactful on your practice; especially as you gain familiarity and confidence when using the revised curriculum document. 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Google Drive: A Innovative and Collaborative Tool in our Classroom

"Modern learning is about doing authentic work in the world that can be amplified by technology." (Will Richardson)

Technology is just one way we enhance our pedagogy and provide flexible structures for ourselves as a teaching team to capture what our students are saying, doing and representing as part of our assessment practices and daily programming. As an active explorer of different types of technology and through a lot of trial and error and much reflection over the years, I feel that this year has been pivotal for me in developing a collaborative system between myself and my teaching partner that capitalizes on the use of Google Apps for Education as an assessment tool. 

This post will highlight a few examples of how I have organized my Google platform and used it as a catalyst for collaboration when capturing our ongoing observations, conversations and products of student learning. 

In previous years, a clipboard, a digital camera and my favourite pen would be attached to my hip throughout the school day because I didn't want to miss an opportunity to capture learning in action. While this way of assessing was great at the time for us as a teaching team, it also involved a lot of paper, extra steps for digital downloading (e.g. of images, organizing them, etc), and then doubling up with the notes and photos captured by my partner. We didn't really have an effective and efficient organizational system that allowed us to correlate, collaborate and/or coordinate our paper assessments. This is where Google Apps has been incredible for my practice because it has taken all the "pros" and "cons" of my past assessment tools and combined them into one online, collaborative, and innovative space!  

On our Google Drive, my teaching partner and I have a "Class Folder" that is our main "hub" for all of our assessment folders. These subfolders are easily organized by content area and accessible across any of our classroom devices (iPad, iPhone, iMac):

If we click on "FDK: Mathematics" for example, we again have subfolders set up based on the strand to allow for easy organization and tracking:

Presently, my teaching partner and I use Google Docs as a collaborative way to capture observations and anecdotal notes of student learning throughout our day and with the focus on various curriculum areas. Since we can both be "online" and on the same document at the same time, it has allowed us to be incredibly proficient, organized, and reflective on the observations we're making, what student needs are evident and where we can take the learning next. I have set up the Google Doc to resemble what I used to have on my clipboard whereby the paper included the area of focus at the top, curriculum expectations linked to our "look for's" and squares for each student. However, Google Docs can eliminate multiple photocopies if you run out of room, and can be easily manipulated and duplicated since you're not restricted on space. 

Using the example from above, here is what one of our Google Docs looks like for capturing student learning:

As you can see, we have included the dates for observation at the top, the curriculum strand and overall and specific expectations for reference, as well as our "look for's" and guiding prompts to support our interactions with students. The same template is used for other curriculum areas. Below is an example of our Grade 1 and SK Print Awareness template:

In addition to Google Docs, I was inspired by a colleague, Ashley Michaud, a Grade 1 teacher in York Region, who uses Google Forms as a formative assessment tool. She was generous enough to share with me all the wonderful ways she uses this Google App in her practice. Since I've been learning as I "tinker," I decided to create my own Google Forms specifically for Math to start small and see how I can use this app to support my understandings of what my students can do. Here is an example of one of my forms:

Lastly, and as part of our Learning@School Collaborative Inquiry, my teaching partner and I decided to challenge ourselves to use Google Slides as a "digital portfolio" of sorts to capture the learning of our small focus groups. The spark for this idea came from my wonderful friend and inspiring colleague, Angie Harrison, who showed me how she uses Google Slides over one of our lovely coffee dates! 

Each slide leaves room for us to capture our observations, refer to question prompts and include a photo(s) of the student in action.

I hope that this post leaves you feeling inspired and I'd love to hear how you may be using Google Apps in your classrooms! Please leave a comment below!

For those of you that may not be familiar with Google Apps, here are two short videos that highlight the purpose and practicality of how they can be utilized in the classroom:

Saturday, January 23, 2016

"Forest Friday's": A Natural Recipe for Fun!

This past Friday marked the start of a new and exciting chapter in our program: "Forest Friday's!" After the incredible learning experience last Spring as part of the Ministry of Education's Pilot Project entitled "A Week in the Forest," (click here if you have yet to read that post), I couldn't help but get excited to launch this part of our program every Friday! 

Our students' love for the outdoors is contagious and we are so fortunate to have our magical forest within walking distance from our school. It truly has become a "magical" place for learning and one that our students have a genuine love and care for! 

As a teaching team, we want our "Forest Friday's" to be an opportunity that extends on the learning happening within the walls of our classroom while at the same time, help our students foster a loving connection with nature. From "Sit Spots" and experiments to exploration and more, our "Forest Friday's" continues to be a natural recipe for fun! 

Using our outdoor space as a canvas for learning, the rich dialogue, discoveries and natural curiosity helps bring our forest space to life! The following images are only a snapshot of the incredible moments captured from our first Forest Friday! 

Our "Sit Spots" are always how we begin our walk to our magical forest. This activity is one that we find most valuable for our students as they develop a connection to nature and particular surroundings since we return to the same place each time. They were able to notice changes both in nature as well as in our surrounding environment that made for a wonderful start to our "Forest Friday!"

Having not done "Sit Spots" in the winter yet this year, our students had lots of observations and conversations around what was different and what was the same in comparison to the Fall season. 

In connection to our wonderings about animals in winter, one student decided that making bird feeders would be a lovely gift to leave for our forest friends! So...we didn't waste any time gathering the materials we needed and getting to work! Most recipes called for peanut butter, but since we are a nut-free school, we made sure to purchase bird seed that didn't contain any traces of nuts and used shortening to make the feed stick. 

Below, our students enjoyed exploring some simple artistic experiences that involved food colouring in water. From painting the snow to colour mixing, our students definitely made their mark in our forest! 

Our students even conducted their own experiment as scientists by painting collected pieces of ice that they found around our forest space and began to notice changes as the colours absorbed into the ice. This experience lent itself perfectly for one of our other scientist provocations in the forest that invited students to explore what material would melt the ice the fastest; salt or sugar! 

Students then began hunting for "hidden" pieces of ice and became quite observant in how the materials were reacting. This group of scientists didn't hesitate to get close enough to hear the ice making "cracking" sounds as the sugar and salt got to work. 

Some students noticed that there were animal footprints around our magical forest and began to make predictions around what animal they came from! Rabbits? Squirrels? Chipmunks? We will continue to research back in our classroom to see if we can answer our wondering...

Some students also looked for magical "forest fairies" - their excitement was contagious as they checked every hole in every tree, looked closely in empty logs and even examined the ice for the "evil ice fairies." One student thinks that there was a bear hibernating across the creek and his job is to protect our "forest fairies." - We can't wait to bring materials into our magical forest next week to continue exploring their interests! 

Until next week...stay tuned!