They Did It!

I’ve really wanted to try Literature Circles in the classroom. While I know that my students are young — especially the Grade 1 students — I think that it’s important for them to gain a real appreciation of books, and that’s only going to happen when they have the chance to truly converse about them.

After trying out a Skype Literature Circle with @jgriffith2, I gained a little more confidence in using this same format with the rest of the class. During the last round of literacy centres, my students worked in groups to prepare for their Literature Circle. They all took on different roles: from the artist, to the summarizer, to the discussion director.

Since this was something new for the majority of students, I decided to start simply. All of the groups used Mortimer by Robert Munsch as their first Literature Circle book. We used this book for a number of different drama and language activities already, so the students were familiar with it, and they were excited to talk about it too.

This week was the true test: the Literature Circles started. To help with accountable talk, I had my students record their discussion using the Audio Memos App on the iPad. I was thrilled with what I heard. Below are two examples of our first Literature Circles:

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I love how the students are interacting with each other, and starting to respond to what others are saying too. I can’t wait to see how these discussions develop with more Literature Circle opportunities. Yippee!! The class did it!

Have you tried Literature Circles with your class? How have they gone? How did you set them up? It would be great if we could share our ideas here!


It Starts With Sharing

I learn from a lot of people, both online and in person, and one person that really sticks out is Dean Shareski. Dean talks a lot about “sharing,” and during the K-12 Online Conference, I watched his incredible presentation on Sharing: The Moral Imperative.

I thought about this presentation a lot this week, as I saw in numerous ways, the value of sharing. A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about how sharing my class’ Today’sMeet Reading Buddy Activity through a tweet led to an amazing connection with @mthornton78, @pammoran, and @irasocol. This week, my students participated in a Today’sMeet chat conversation with these three people and Mr. Thornton’s class. While they’re in the United States and we’re in Canada, we were all able to learn together. The students were able to help each other define community, and they were able to create their own learning too. It all started with sharing …

Participating In Today'sMeet

Then there was the small group literature circle Skype call with @jgriffith2‘s class. On Twitter, JamieLynn shared about the connections that she made with classrooms last year, and together, we connected to make another connection this year. When we first spoke about trying this Skype Literature Circle, JamieLynn shared with me a format that she’s used before. Together we used this same format again, and we’ve both seen the success. We just finished our second small group Skype Literature Circle, and already, the students are taking ownership over leading the discussion and discussing their learning with each other. Again, it all started with sharing …

Participating In Small Group Skype Call

Finally, the week ends with a visit from David Kidney from McMaster University. Thanks to what my students have shared online, and what a professor shared with him about our classroom, David came to see if our classroom would be a good final keynote address for the CNIE: Cascades of Innovation Conference on May 18th. David got a chance to see the students using technology in the classroom and discussing how they use the various tools and what they learn from using these tools. They shared their learning with him, and now David’s invited all of us to share what we do with the conference attendees. Once again, it all started with sharing …

Engaged In Using Technology During Math Centres

I hope that we can all share here what we’ve learned from “sharing” with others. I know that I’ve become a better teacher because of what others have shared with me. A special thank you to all of the amazing educators that I work with and learn from everyday — whether at the school, in the Board, or half-way around the world — that inspire me to continue to learn and grow!


It’s Okay To Make Mistakes

stand & grow

This photo belongs to Denise Carbonell.

Yesterday was a PA Day, and in the morning, the teachers met to discuss the three part math problem that all of us completed throughout the week. Before meeting as smaller teams, our Math Facilitator explained to us what a three part math problem should look like. We should have a quick 10 minute introductory lesson, followed by the 20 minute problem, followed by the final 20 minute reflection. As I was sitting there listening, I thought to myself, “Oh no, I did this wrong.”

That’s when the learning started. Right away, I thought about my introductory lesson. I loved the Smartie Book that my teaching partner and I created, and I would use this book again. I wouldn’t have had the children solve the entire Smartie Problem though. Next time, I would just read the book, and get a few students to come up to the SMART Board to share some various solutions. I would let them explain their thinking, while also getting the rest of the class thinking about other possibilities.

Then I would do the Fish Problem. I wouldn’t worry about all of the students completing the problem. I would likely give them closer to 30 minutes, as they are younger, and the writing part does take a longer time to complete. In 30 minutes though, many of the students would finish, or at least get enough done to share their ideas with the class. Finished or not, it’s the learning that matters.

As for the reflection, I enjoyed using the Livescribe Pen for this, and students definitely responded well to sharing their ideas orally. Instead of having one student at a time record their reflections though, I might ask a question, then draw a dot on the page, and just let the students converse to share their ideas as a group. Capturing this conversation would be wonderful! I would also like to try out a Lino It wall for this reflection piece. My students love using these online sticky notes to share their thoughts, and they could work in their partner groups to add these sticky notes to the wall. Coupling the visual of the Lino It Wall with the auditory of the Livescribe Pen could be neat too. Now I have lots to think about!

I always tell my students that it’s okay to make mistakes, but it’s what we learn from these mistakes that matter. I did make a mistake when I did this lesson, but I learned a lot from this mistake too. I look forward to trying a three part lesson again, and knowing what I know now, seeing what happens when I do it correctly!

When have you made a mistake? What did you learn from this experience? I’d love for all of us to be able to celebrate in our mistakes, and more importantly, in what we learned and how we changed!


Making Connections

Using Today'sMeet With Our Reading Buddies

For Reading Buddies this week, my Grade 1/2 students showed the Grade 4 students how to use Today’sMeet. The students all watched Robert Munsch’s recording of Moira’s Birthday on TumbleBooks, and then they worked together to pose questions, make connections, and respond to others about the topics addressed in this book. From the quiet students to the more verbal ones, they were all engaged, they were all participating, and they were all sharing what they learned. This Today’sMeet activity was meaningful reading and writing, and definitely a huge success!

The amazing part though came afterwards. At the end of the day, I tweeted out the link to our Today’sMeet discussion. @mthornton78, a third grade teacher in Charlottsville, Virginia, saw this tweet, and he replied. He wondered if we wanted to try a Today’sMeet room to connect our two classes. Through some discussion, we figured out that both of our classes study “communities,” so Michael is going to have his students pose questions to mine in an online discussion on February 16th. His students are going to look at our curriculum expectations, and link the questions to the expectations. This will be a meaningful reading, writing, and social studies activity that all started because of one tweet.

Then, just to make things even better, @irasocol is going to join the discussion too. If we’re lucky, @pammoran will also be able to join this online talk. I can’t wait! There’s a real excitement in making new connections and learning on a global level, and one Today’sMeet room and one tweet has allowed us to do both.

I’d love to hear about some of the great connections you’ve made before too. Isn’t that what social media is all about?!?!


The Best Surprises

After second nutrition break today, my students needed to clean out their desks, and when they were done, I gave them some reading time. Two children went to grab an Owly book from the buddy reading area. These wordless picture books are really popular in the class, as the students love telling their own stories.

These two girls surprised me though when they came up to me and asked, “Can we borrow your iPad so that we can record our stories?” What a great idea! I was happy to hand off the iPad, and I’m so glad I did! The students came back to me about 20 minutes later and said, “We did five recordings, but we listened to them, and we like the first one the best. Can you publish it for us?” Absolutely! Below is the link to their auditory story for you to enjoy (external speakers will help with the volume).


Not only did these students think of the perfect tool to use to share their story with an audience, but they listened to their finished works, reflected on what they did, and chose their best work to share too. I’m delighted!

Just when I thought that the day couldn’t get any better, two boys came up to me and asked if they could record their storytelling too. I said that two other students were already using my iPad, to which they replied, “That’s okay. We can just use our Palms instead.” Wow! Seeing this great problem-solving in action was the perfect surprise to end the perfect day!

When have your students surprised and delighted you? I would love to hear your stories too!