Raising The Bar

Working On Their Friday Journals

I have always believed in setting high expectations for my students and for myself, and doing everything I can to ensure that we meet these expectations, but Twitter has helped me bring these expectations to a whole new level. When I first signed up for Twitter back in August, I was amazed by what other educators were doing with their classes. I started to follow @zbpipe and @kathycassidy, and both of them were doing incredible things in their classrooms and both with very different age groups too. I always thought that I ran a strong program, but I was beginning to think that I could do so much more.

I used Twitter to keep up-to-date with the tools that these educators were using with their classes, and I started to follow even more educators from Canada, the United States, Australia, and England to see what they were doing too. Every time I heard about a new resource, I investigated it, and thought about how I might be able to use it in my classroom. I then slowly started to weave these tools into my program. It started with Skype, then Google Docs, then Wallwisher, then VoiceThread, then Diigo, then Evernote, and then Crocodoc. Finally I started using Posterous and Kidblog to blog with my students, and Audacity to record podcasts.

Every time that I try something new, I am fearful that it won’t work, and sometimes it doesn’t, but then I make changes to my plan and try again. This has not just been a great learning opportunity for me, but also for my students. They are seeing the value in persevering, being willing to make mistakes, and learning from these mistakes. When the year started, I would use the SMART Board and the computers down in my classroom and up in the lab, and when things did not go as planned, there was constantly a chorus of, “Miss Dunsiger, I need help!” This is not the case any more though. Now the students are starting to help each other and have learned some troubleshooting options to even help themselves when things do not go as planned. Incorporating technology into the classroom has been an incredible transformation for all of us!

This learning curve has also helped me further increase my expectations for my students. A couple of weeks ago, I wanted to have my students complete a Wordle for their Friday Journal, but I knew that I would not get all of the Wordles printed and to the students before the end of the school day. I decided that I was going to have my students embed their Wordles on their blogs. Was I crazy? Possibly. To help make this activity more successful though, I took screenshots of the steps and photocopied these screenshots for each of my students. I put the screenshots on the SMART Board, and we went through the process one step at a time. The students helped read the instructions and complete the steps. There was a lot to do, but my class was excited to try something new. Being that this was the first time completing this activity, I did have to help some students and one student had to try hers again, but before the children left on the Friday, all of them had a Wordle embedded in their blog and I didn’t do any of them. Success!

My students continued to amaze me though. Towards the end of the following week, I had some students blogging on the computers again, and two of them wanted to make another Wordle to embed in their blog. A parent volunteer was working out in the pod, and she was as wide-mouthed as me when one child leaned over to another one and said, “All you need to do is save your Wordle, copy the code, right-click, choose Copy, open up your Kidblog, click on the HMTL Tab (okay, it should have been HTML Tab), right-click, and choose Paste. Then give your post a Title.” Are you kidding me?!?! This child knew all of the steps, knew the terminology, and used his knowledge to help another child: team-work at its finest! I have never been so proud.

Then this Friday, I wanted my students to use the adjectives that they came up with earlier in the week to write a description of their monsters. I set-up GoogleDocs for them to use. Their descriptions were incredible! The students use their dictionaries and the adjective list to check their work for spelling, self-edited and peer-edited to check their work for punctuation, and used amazing adjectives to really make their work the best that it could be. I know that the students discussed their ideas before writing their descriptions, and I know that some of the students used the same ideas too, but oral language is the backbone of writing, and I want to encourage this meaningful talk and exchange of ideas. Children learn from each other, and when I watch my students use these tools in the classroom, I know that they are developing their skills thanks to help from their peers.

Based on what my students wrote me this week, I know that they are ready to start Storybird next week. @kathycassidy showed me the incredible things that Grade 1’s can do on Storybird through her blog post, and I plan on sharing her student examples to encourage my students to do their best work too. I can’t wait to see what they produce! I know that they will produce amazing stories too, as with high expectations, there is nothing that these students can’t do!

I realize that all of the examples that I included here are of writing using technology, but I also know that there are great examples of teachers having high expectations for their students and never using technology with them. Please share your greatest success story where you set the bar high and the students delivered, as I think that it is these success stories that continue to motivate us.

Looking forward to reading about your experiences too!

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