What Role Should “Curriculum” Play?

This is a blog post that I’ve been thinking a lot about writing in the past couple of weeks. It’s not an easy post to write as I still continue to work through my thinking on this topic. There are many blog posts and Twitter discussions that centre on topics that are currently big ones in education:

  • Gaming (And Minecraft)
  • Coding
  • Maker Ed (Making)
  • Inquiry

I’m sure that there are many more, but these are the ones that have populated my streams lately.

  • I think that everything on this list can engage students in learning.
  • I think that everything on this list has the potential to help with developing critical thinking skills.
  • I think that everything on this list can help address many — if not all – of the learning skills that we assess on our report cards.
  • I think that everything on this list can help students meet curriculum expectations.
  • But I think that even when exploring the topics on this list, the expectations still need to be at the forefront.

I understand the argument that many curriculum documents are outdated. I completely agree that we should never treat the curriculum like a checklist with the need to cover every expectation: we want to go deep. There is a lot of value in looking to the overall expectations and the big ideas. The process expectations — in subjects like Math and The Arts – also provide ways to deal with bigger concepts and greater learning. I know that there is the argument that in our changing world, students need to know more than what’s addressed in the curriculum documents. In many ways, I agree with this statement. But how can these other skills be addressed under the umbrella of curriculum expectations?

I thought about this topic during a planning meeting this morning. On Wednesday, I’m presenting at the Rewired Conference with Jo-Ann Corbin-Harper and Kristi Keery-Bishop. We’re talking about inquiry in the classroom from three different perspectives: a classroom teacher’s perspective, an instructional coach’s perspective, and an administrator’s perspective. As we were planning, we looked at how often inquiry is mentioned in the curriculum documents: from FDK-Grade 12. It’s in all of them! And that got me thinking that even my list of topics can still connect to the expectations, no matter how outdated the curriculum documents may be. Maybe gaming, coding, making, and inquiry can all be vehicles for addressing expectations instead of learning in their own right. I can’t help but think back to a conversation I had with our Arts Consultant, Karen, a couple of years ago. She spoke about, “using The Arts an as instructional strategy.” Could this hold true for areas beyond The Arts?

I think that this is often how these topics are being addressed in schools. And I love that! Yes, we need to give students a chance to explore these areas and/or initially teach some skills or concepts so that students can use these “vehicles” effectively. Hopefully soon though, the topic of discussion will not be as much about gaming, coding, making, and/or inquiry, but instead more about the linked curriculum area. Plus, if we do see these topics as vehicles for learning instead of the learning itself, then the students can start to choose the vehicle that works best for them and/or works best for the subject area. I think there’s a lot of value in this student choice. 

Is there additional learning that can be done around the “vehicles” themselves? Absolutely! But does this learning have to happen at school? Not necessarily. Maybe interested students can pursue these topics more at home, through clubs, or with friends. Or maybe this learning does happen at school, but is connected to applicable Language, Math, Science, Social Studies, Physical Education, and/or The Arts expectations. Maybe the more that we know the curriculum, the more that we can make connections between expectations and topics of interest.

I love the changing face of education. I know that the more that it changes, the more that educators are reconsidering what they’ve done before and what else they can do to support and engage students. I also think that’s wonderful. At the same time, I’m believing more and more that all of this can be done while looking at student needs and curriculum expectations first. Am I missing something though? What do you believe? How do you consider both curriculum and tools/programs when planning for students? I would love to hear more about what you do and the reasons behind your choices.

Aviva

All I Really Need To Know About How To Be A Better Teacher, I Learned From Teaching Students With Autism: Version 2

Next week is World Autism Awareness Day: a day that means a lot to me. This year is the first year, in many years, that I have not taught a student with autism. Last year, I rewrote one of my favourite texts,  All I Really Need To Know, I Learned In Kindergarten, to share how teaching students with autism have made me a better teacher. This year I’m going to do something different. I realized this year that many strategies that I used when teaching students with autism, really benefit all students. So here’s the updated version of my take on All I Really Need To Know, I Learned In Kindergarten.

All I Really Need To Know About How To Be A Better Teacher, I Learned From Teaching Students With Autism: Version 2

All I really need to know about how to be a better teacher, I learned from teaching students with autism. Even though I don’t teach any students with autism this year, here are the things that I learned that continue to influence my teaching:

  • Routines matters.
  • Preparing for changes in routine helps reduce stress.
  • A visual schedule helps students better understand and take control of their day.
  • Talk less.
  • Use visuals more.
  • Have clear, consistent expectations.
  • Respond to the students. Some days are harder than others. Accept this. Make changes to still make these hard days, successful ones.
  • We all need independent work areas.
  • Take a deep breath. Use a quiet voice. It’s amazing how our volume influences the volume of others.
  • Have high, but realistic, expectations for all students. All students need us to believe in them, and they need to know that we do.
  • Work as a team. We can learn a lot from each other.
  • Differentiate. It’s hard, but it’s possible. All students deserve the right to experience success. 
  • Teach compassion. 
  • Demonstrate the importance of acceptance. Help students see that every child matters.
  • Reflect a lot. Try something, make changes, reflect on it, and try again. 
  • Work with parents. They know their children best. The insights that they can share will definitely help.
  • Persevere. Embrace the saying, “Let’s start fresh.”
  • Avoid labels. Gifted. Learning disabled. Autistic. The list goes on. Regardless of the label, children are children first.

Everything you need to know about teaching and learning is in here: classroom management, differentiated instruction, self-regulation, and most of all, putting students first. I’m a better teacher because of what I’ve learned from teaching students with autism. On World Autism Awareness Day, let’s remember what makes all of our students unique and wonderful, and how sometimes, looking closely at the needs of one student may really benefit all of them.

How has working with children with autism influenced how and what you do? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Aviva

Space For Independence

“For all of the opportunities to collaborate (and learn together), maybe every student also needs his/her own independent work station.” This is a comment that I heard the other day that really got me thinking. You see, we don’t have any desks in our Grade 1 classroom: there are three circular tables, a couple of smaller rectangular tables, and a guided reading table. I never considered this an issue, but this conversation really intrigued me because we also started talking about Stuart Shanker‘s work on self-regulation as part of it. Last year, I was involved in a Book Club for our Board, and we read Stuart Shanker‘s Calm, Alert, and Learning. I’ve blogged about this book many times before, and Shanker’s work has probably influenced me the most in my teaching. So I couldn’t help but pause after overhearing these words about an “independent work station” because I thought about how important this would be for students as they try to self-regulate. I began to wonder, do we need to reconsider our classroom arrangement?

It was the day after this conversation that the students began to transform our classroom into a library. I watched the students very closely both yesterday and today, as I wanted to see if they could work both independently as well as collaboratively during this process. And that’s when I noticed that they do have “independent work stations.” I think that I overlooked them initially because I had one view of what these stations should look like, and the reality was actually much different.

  • These stations are not necessarily individual desks.
  • They are also not necessarily the same for everyone.

Sometimes these work stations are comfy chairs in the middle of the classroom or in a quiet area. Sometimes these work stations are floor spaces in the corner, beside the wall, or on the carpet. Sometimes these work stations are behind the guided reading table (if it’s not being used), by the doorway, or on the little table in the book nook. Sometimes these work stations are on the big table by our Wonder Window or at one of the circular tables that are not being used. Sometimes these work stations are almost underneath a table — not quite fully under, but definitely close – because these secluded spots provide the needed quiet.

The amazing — and surprising — thing was that every student figured out when he/she needed this independent work area, and found an area that worked for his/her needs. Despite the messiness of learning — with books, papers, markers, tape, scissors, and glue everywhere — both students (and teachers :) ) were able to find the “calm” they needed to work, to learn, to be. Even in the midst of a collaborative learning environment, we still need our space for independence. How do you help create these spaces for yourself and your students? 

Aviva

Hugs … And The Words That Followed Them!

I had a wonderful March Break.

  • I loved taking the time to relax.
  • I loved reading some good books (including a wonderful mystery that I’m really hoping to finish in the coming weeks).
  • I loved meeting with friends and connecting with family members.
  • I loved planning for upcoming workshops and organizing some work for school.
  • I loved sleeping in … and I even loved a few afternoon naps. :)

For some reason, the March Break always seems to go by fast: you feel like you just started it and then it’s over. One of the first questions that people ask you after the Break is, “How was your holiday?” And I know that over the years, my reply has included phrases such as, “Not long enough,” or “Too short.” Vacations are wonderful, and while I do love school, that 4:30 alarm clock can be a hard adjustment after a week off.

Today was a little different. Before I got into any big conversations with colleagues about the Break, I saw one of my students. He came up and gave me a very unexpected hug. (In fact, he gave me a couple of them today.) At one point, I asked him why I got the hugs, and he said, “Because I missed you, Miss Dunsiger, and I’m happy to be back.” Simple words. Incredibly heart-felt. And why I will be resisting the urge from now on to say, “Not long enough,” “Too short,” or any other similar variation of this. 

Our words are powerful, and if this student that hugged me heard me say that my holiday was, “Not long enough,” I wonder what impact this would have on him. I wonder how he would view my thoughts on school, and I worry that it’s not the impression that I would want to give him. Because I do believe that school is a “wonderful place to be,” and it’s nice to know that after a week away, the students want to come back. How big an impact do you think our words have on students? Does this change how you respond to questions such as, “How was your holiday?”

Aviva

 

 

Continuing To Contemplate Coding

Yesterday, I got involved in a great Twitter discussion with Brian Aspinall, Jonathan So, and Enzo Ciardelli about coding in the classroom. Yes, I’ve used coding many times with my Grade 1 students. Yes, many of my Grade 1’s are using various coding apps at home (particularly Scratch Jr., LightBot, and Kodable) to create and/or problem solve. Yes, I’ve tried to connect coding to curriculum expectations, particularly those in Math. Yes, we’ve even coded without the use of apps, and with objects in the classroom, to help students understand one-to-one correspondence, directional language, and skip counting. Yes, my students are excited about coding possibilities, and in many ways, so am I, but I also have many questions and concerns.

  • Many of the math concepts that connect the most with coding go beyond the Grade 1 curriculum expectations (e.g., exploring the quadrants on a grid and negative numbers). I know that there’s nothing wrong in extending learning beyond the given requirements, but how much time should be devoted to concepts that do not align with the grade-specific curriculum expectations? 
  • Coding definitely gets students thinking and problem solving, but is this thinking and problem solving connected to the content areas or to the coding? I can’t help but think more about a book that I just finished reading called, Succeeding With Inquiry In Science And Math ClassroomsIn the book, the author, Jeff C. Marshall, talks about a possible activity to do in a middle-school classroom: making mouse trap cars. He mentions the importance of spending the time talking about the Science and Math learning, and not the creation of the cars. When I reflect on our classroom coding experiences, my concern is that we’re not talking enough about the math concepts, and we’re talking way too much about the program. How could we change this? While I try to ask questions geared towards the curriculum expectations, and while our full-class discussions align with the Math learning, I still wonder if this is enough.
  • Students need time to play, but how much play time is too much? Are the benefits worth the time invested? I know that there is “curriculum learning” that will happen as the students play with coding. Math and Language expectations will be met, even if only incidentally. But as the students continue to play with programs, the expectations addressed aren’t changing that much. This could end up being a lot of time addressing the same expectations, and knowing the needs of my students, I worry if this is the best way to spend our time.
  • Students can create the most with programs such as Hopscotch and Scratch, but these are also the most challenging ones to use. How do you decide which programs to use with your students? Do you let students struggle through challenging programs to hopefully learn how to do more, or do you choose different programs, but then have less creation options? I’m a big believer in creating a culture of high expectations for students, but I worry about what might be too high, and how to balance enough failure with enough success.
  • I wonder about those students that struggle with coding. Maybe some students don’t understand the language of coding. Maybe some students can’t read the words. Maybe some students need to manipulate the physical model instead of working with the items on a screen. How do we decide when to provide choices and when to make it a requirement? 
  • I’ve heard the line before that, “All students need to learn how to code,” but when do they need to learn? Prior to this year, I taught Grades 5 and 6 for the past couple of years. Looking at the geometry expectations alone, I could see how coding could be used well in these junior grades. But then again, if coding is almost like a language of its own, should we be waiting until these junior grades to help our students become literate in it? What could the long-term impact be if we started earlier?

It’s these last questions that have me continuing to waiver in my beliefs. I want what’s best for kids, and if knowing how to code at an earlier age might benefit them in the long run, then maybe it’s best to begin in primary. I can’t help but think back to my last blog post on 3-D printers: maybe the time to begin is in Full-Day Kindergarten. The program document expectations are more open-ended, so more time could be invested playing with coding. A teacher or DECE could facilitate small group learning in this area. Coding activities could also align with topics of interest and current inquiries. And if students are exposed to coding at an earlier age, their knowledge of programs would be stronger (even in Grade 1), and maybe more discussion time could be invested in the “academic learning” and not the “coding learning.”

This coding discussion is a challenging one. I facilitate our Junior/Intermediate Coding Club. I continue to play with many coding apps and computer programs on my own. My dad was a computer programmer. I follow and learn from many amazing educators in my Twitter PLN that use coding in their classrooms and code their own programs. I know coding has value, but how should it be used? When should it be used? Is it always a good option? How do you decide? Please help me “crack the code!”

Aviva

Thinking And Learning In 3-D

3-D printers interest me. I follow many educators on Twitter that do amazing things with them in the classroom. They have their students thinking. They have their students problem solving. They have their students creating. And they have their students “making” in the most incredible of ways. The thing is that almost every tweet and blog post that I see about 3-D printers contain examples from junior and intermediate classes. As someone that’s taught Grades 5 and 6 before, I can see the overlap with Geometry and Spatial Sense expectations. I just wonder if the same could be true in primary.

Last night, I read a wonderful blog post by Jared Bennett about 3-D printers and the question of their use in classrooms. Jared regularly gets me thinking, and this post of his is no exception. Earlier this year, I actually had many Twitter discussions about maybe using a 3-D printer with my Grade 1’s as part of our learning about structures. Our school was borrowing one at the time, and the timing seemed great. We never did use the 3-D printer though. Why? I think that there were many reasons, all of which are highlighted in the following comments and questions:

  • The software was very difficult to use. Struggling can be a good thing. I talk to my Grade 1’s about this all the time, and they’re always up for a challenge. I also like a good one. But when tweeting with David Hann about using a 3-D printer with my Grade 1’s, he shared his experience with his young child. He said that his son gave him the ideas, but he was the one that worked the software. That’s when I thought about pairing up with a Grade 7/8 class at our school, but I had some concerns. If the Grade 7 and 8 students are doing all of the work with the software, are they also doing all of the thinking? If so, are they the ones that are really doing the learning?
  • I wondered if the Grade 1’s had the schema to be successful with using a 3-D printer. We can build schema, but that takes time. In this case, is the time invested worth it? Would the requirements really align with the Geometry and Spatial Sense skills that the students need to know at this age?
  • I wondered how 3-D printing aligned with curriculum expectations. Yes, in Grade 1, I could see the links to Structures and Materials. I saw the overlaps with 2-D shapes and 3-D figures. But from my vantage point, much of the learning went beyond the curriculum expectations for Grade 1. Based on the curriculum expectations for Grade 1 students, would more time be spent learning the tool/technology instead of learning the curriculum? Would this time be worth it? 

I don’t think that there are easy answers to any of these questions. I also think that the answers may vary based on the students and their needs. Schools always have limited budgets.

  • If money’s being spent of 3-D printers, what’s it not being spent on?
  • Would all teachers and students feel comfortable using 3-D printers?
  • If not, what conditions would need to be in place for them to feel more comfortable?
  • How would students and/or teachers with visual spatial needs do using 3-D printers? What supports could be in place to possibly make them more successful at using this type of technology? 

As I continue to think about 3-D printer use in primary grades, I wonder what would happen if they were purchased for Kindergarten classrooms. 

  • The Full-Day Early Learning Kindergarten Program Document is more open-ended than curriculum expectations for other grades. As such, more time could be invested in learning about the tool as well as the learning that comes as a result of this tool.
  • The play-based learning environment would be an ideal one for incorporating the use of a 3-D printer. When it comes to 3-D printing, I think that students need a chance to play, create, print, test, make changes, and play again. If students are used to a more structured learning environment, I question how they’d do with the playing and creation time needed for 3-D printer success. 
  • There is more than one adult in a Full-Day Kindergarten classroom. Yes, there are often more students than there are in other primary classrooms, but with the additional adult, I see the potential for more small group learning around 3-D printing and various inquiry topics of interest. The 3-D printer would be an extension of a current inquiry, as well as a possible inquiry in itself. 
  • If students started learning about 3-D printing in Kindergarten, the long-term benefits extend from there. Students that know how to use this tool in Kindergarten, could then create even more with it in future grades. The time could be spent though linking to the curriculum expectations and not just learning how to use the tool. 

I see some exciting possibilities. A 3-D printer is an amazing creation device, but where and how do we get students to “create?” What conditions need to exist in a classroom for this to be a successful tool for student learning? Could a Full-Day Kindergarten classroom be the place to start? I’d love to learn more about a tool that intrigues me, but still has me asking a lot of questions.

Aviva

What Do You See?

Have a look. What do you see?

2015-03-12_19-02-20

I could say …

  • lots of paint.
  • blobs of colour.
  • many handprints.
  • swirly lines.
  • tons of plates.
  • dirty brushes.
  • a container of water.
  • upright and knocked over bottles.
  • a self-regulation nightmare. :)
  • a big mess.

Or, after looking closely at our day today, I could say …

  • collaboration.
  • reflective practice.
  • problem solving.
  • responsibility.
  • creativity.
  • artistic license.
  • compromise.
  • sharing.
  • perseverance.
  • meeting goals.
  • metacognition.
  • student leadership.
  • student ownership.
  • student voice and choice.
  • fun, thinking, communication, application, learning.

When we only look at the final product, what learning are we missing? How do you acknowledge and celebrate the messy “process” of learning? After today, maybe I finally understand what “evaluating the process” really means.

Aviva

 

Making Changes; Learning From Changes

Last week, I went to visit a Full-Day Kindergarten class at Rousseau School as part of the NTIP Program. When we were there, the Kindergarteners showed me a piece of art work that they created together after being inspired by Aelita Andre’s work.

I was so impressed by what they did, that I really wanted to try something similar with my students. Today, we started exploring and planning for our artistic piece that we are going to collaboratively create tomorrow.

As I was getting ready to leave school at the end of the day, I realized how my approach to this activity really highlights my changes as an educator.

  • In the past, I would have set everything up for painting. Now, I let the students get organized. When we watched a segment of Miss Fanjoy and Mrs. Raymond’s collaborative art video, my students noticed that the FDK class taped a tablecloth to the floor. I didn’t have a tablecloth, but I had two full bags of newspaper. Students thought that taping it would ensure that it didn‘t slip as we painted. So we decided on the size of our painting, and then the students did the taping. They filled in any gaps. They ensured that the newspaper was secure (with the help of our awesome EA, Mrs. Wedgewood). The students took ownership of getting prepared.
  • In the past, I would have mixed the paint, got it out on the plates, laid out all of the materials to use, and ensured that everything was placed around the paper. Now, I put together a pile of some possible materials, and I let the students decide what to do. The students developed the plan today. They came up with ideas that I never even considered. They had me searching for supplies that I didn’t even realize I had. They’re going to mix the paint. They’re going to set-up. And they’re going to help clean-up. They’re the ones creating the art work, and it’s important for them to own the process.
  • In the past, I would have directed the discussion. Now, the students worked in small groups to watch and discuss the Aelita Andre video. I listened in to what they said. I asked some questions. I let them decide how they wanted to reflect and share, and I tried to be comfortable with many different options (from drawing to writing to just talking). I thought back to my blog post from the other day, and the value in this small group learning versus full class sharing.
  • In the past, the small things would have bothered me. Now I ask more, does this really matterI think back to taping the newspapers on the floor. Yes, we have some newspapers there that are probably not needed. And yes, the area taped was slightly bigger than I expected. But tomorrow, when we roll out the paper, the students can reflect on the area of the newspaper versus the area of the paper. The students can see what’s needed, and what’s maybe not needed. The students can experience this instead of me telling it to them. Maybe then, this new learning will make even more sense to them.
  • In the past, an art activity like this one would have me worried and considering questions such as, what will the final product look like and will this project work? Now, I’m just REALLY excited to see what tomorrow brings. I don’t know if our collaborative painting will work. I don’t know if the paper is thick enough. I don’t know if the tools will rip the “canvass.” I don’t know if we’re going to have too much paint. I don’t know how the colours will work together. I don’t know if our final work will even come close to resembling what the FDK class did. I do know though that the process matters, and working collaboratively, solving problems, and experimenting with the elements of design, all have tremendous value regardless of what becomes of our final product. 

I wonder what would happen if we all thought about something that we did in the classroom, in the school, or at home. How would we approach a similar situation in the past? How do we approach it now? What’s the impact of any changes on kids? Change is good, but the learning that happens as a result of these changes, I think is even better. I’d love to hear about your learning: new, old, and everything in between!

Aviva

 

What I Learned After The “Pop!”

Pop! That was the sound that I heard almost two weeks ago when I was in the midst of my last Progress Monitoring for Dibels. Everybody was reading independently around the classroom, and the sound stopped all of us. What happened? I quickly figured out that the bulb blew in our projector. This wouldn’t have been a huge problem, as we had another one, but for some reason, the screw on the projector was stripped. Nobody could get the case open to replace the bulb. And trust me, our amazing librarian, really, really tried. With no luck, he put in for a work order, and we needed to wait (hopefully patiently).

I’ll admit that this was hard for me to do. I use my SMART Board, and even more so, the projector, a lot. What would our classroom be like without it? In the end, I actually made some good changes, that I probably wouldn’t have made, if our projector was still working.

  • There were even more small group discussions. Instead of sharing a media piece with the whole class and having us reflect together as a group, students watched and listened to these media pieces in small groups. They talked more in small groups, and I talked more with all of them. Sometimes students that are reluctant to share as part of a full class, almost became leaders in this different environment. We still exchanged ideas with the class, but these discussions were shorter ones, and I think, more productive. 
  • Students did more. At the end of the day, I would often pull students together to watch and listen to a short story on the SMART Board. This would connect to our learning from the day, and often end with a reflection. I don’t think that this was wasted time, but I do think that the students were more passive observers during this time. With the SMART Board out of service, I decided to extend our time working, talking, and “playing” with Math and Science. We then came together as a group to reflect and connect. I think that the additional time off of the carpet and learning with each other, has benefitted the students, and it’s something that I wouldn’t have considered doing before. 
  • I got more creative. I’m used to using the SMART Board. I feel comfortable doing so, and I often plan lessons and follow-up activities accordingly. Not having access to this tool made me reconsider my approach. It made me think of new alternatives … even looking at paper in a different way than I did before. :) My students and I often problem-solved together, and we looked at how we could still share digitally with each other, even without this tool. Without a doubt, I got uncomfortable, and I think that this was a good thing.

I will admit that we all cheered today when the technician came in to fix our projector. But even with this tool working again, I’ll still keep some of the changes that I made when it wasn’t. Who knows? We may still need them. This afternoon, I figured out that while the projector is working, the touch feature on the SMART Board, isn’t. I wonder what new learning this problem will bring. What have you learned when technology doesn’t work? How does this learning impact on your teaching practices? I’d love to hear your stories!

Aviva

Being “Ready”

Around the middle of January, I wrote a blog post that I didn’t think that I’d write. It spoke about changes that I’ve made to the use of technology in the classroom. It spoke about the number of times that we use low-tech tools instead of high-tech ones, and why these options work for us. It even spoke about the fact that my Grade 1 students aren’t blogging this year, and why I made this choice. But then the past couple of weeks happened, and I’ve reconsidered the use of technology for writing

First, I noticed that my students were incredibly interested in drama, so we turned our class into a drama studio, and students have been creating their own plays and musicals. They’ve been writing lines, planning actions, considering sets, and looking at how to make their story lines richer and more meaningful. All students are writing more than I’ve ever seen before! To help inspire these plays and musicals, I showed the class how to use the microphone on Google to help with Google searches. Students took to this immediately, and they realized that the words appear in the search bar, so they can actually use these words to help with their writing. Now they’ve figured out that Google can be a wonderful spelling resource.

Then the other day, as part of Math, students created “time stories” to reflect on our visit to Lee Academy. Students loved creating digital stories using Scratch, and that’s when I reconsidered iPads for writing, and looked at introducing the students to the My Story app. I did so yesterday. The results were amazing! Students were expanding on their ideas by orally recording their stories. They were leaving spaces between their words because now they didn’t have to worry about the size of their letters and how they might overlap with other letters and words … they could just use the spacebar. Instead of a focus on printing, students were really focusing on generating and sharing their ideas through their writing, and they couldn’t stop writing. Many of them even chose to do so during indoor recess. Struggling writers were using the resources in the classroom (e.g., the word wall and the list of colour words on our Math Wall) as well as letter-sounds to label the pictures in their stories and add captions. Then they expanded on their ideas orally. The potential for differentiation was huge, and all of the students were feeling like successful writers!

2015-03-07_12-17-13

I still don’t think that these digital storybooks would have been good options for my class back in September. The students weren’t using resources in the classroom for writing yet. They didn’t know all of their letter-sounds. They weren’t sharing their ideas in writing, and they needed opportunities to do so. I think that a keyboard of letters would have just led to long rows of random letter combinations instead of meaningful sentences and statements to share ideas. It’s the latter that I’m seeing now. So I will definitely continue looking at digital storytelling options now because not only are my students benefitting from them, but as some students shared in their reflections, these options actually work better for them. Maybe we will start blogging before the end of the year, or maybe some students will start publishing guest posts on our class blogI think that some of them are ready for this now.

Maybe it’s this idea of “ready” that’s key.

  • All of our students are different.
  • All of their needs are different.
  • All students may not be ready for the same options at the same time.

That’s okay. This is where our professional judgement is key. Continuing to reflect and change based on our students and their needs are also key. And so, I see the potential of technology in helping students succeed, but even “best practices,” may not be best for everyone at the same time. How do you respond to your students and their needs? What changes have you made throughout the year, and why did you make these changes? What impact have you seen? I’d love to hear about your experiences!

Aviva