What A Wonderful Surprise: Bump It Up Wall Success

Success Criteria and Bump It Up Walls are two big buzz words in education right now. Since September, I’ve been using “success criteria” for each of our TLCP (Teaching Learning Critical Pathways) Cycles, and I have definitely seen the benefit of this. Students understand this criteria, and they can use this criteria to do better. All students are capable of learning — I really believe this — and in its own way, I almost feel as though the Success Criteria gives the recipe for being successful. Success Criteria is also great for me as a teacher because I can see where the students are still struggling, and I can design my lessons accordingly. We all benefit!

Then there’s the Bump It Up Walls. Up until a week ago, I never had one of these walls. Over the March Break, this changed! I was out for lunch with an amazing new administrator, Dale Hill (@MrDHill), and we started to talk about “bump it up walls.” Dale spent lots of time with his staff explaining these walls, and talking to him, gave me some good ideas. I initially thought that these walls were much like the Performance Walls from last year, and while my students eventually started using these walls, I found that much of the information on them were more for educators than for students. I have limited space in my classroom, and due to some student needs, I try to reduce visual distractions too, so I only wanted to put something up that would be meaningful. Dale helped me realize that these walls really are for the students, and after our lunch that day, I went home and started creating mine. I used work the students already made, I created simple arrows to help explain how students could “bump up their work” from one level to the next, and I went with a minimalist approach, so that the Bump It Up Wall would not become too visually distracting. On the last Friday of March Break, I went into the classroom, and I spent an hour putting up these walls: one for my Grade 1 students and one for my Grade 2 students.

On Monday morning, the students immediately noticed the Bump It Up Walls. They went up to them, they started talking about what was on them, and they asked me a few questions about them. It was then teaching time for me: I took the students over to the walls, and we talked about what was on them. We spoke about what we could do to “bump up our work.” Real student work was included on these walls — just with the names removed — and I wanted the students to realize that it didn’t matter what level they were at, as long as they did their best. Students almost realized this on their own though. When we were looking at the Grade 2 Wall on Letter Writing, one boy in my class realized that his letter was the Level 2 Example, just with his name removed. He told the rest of the class this, and then said, “It’s okay though, Miss Dunsiger. This was when I was just learning how to write a letter. Now I can do better!” And that was exactly the point!

Now that the students had an interest in these Bump It Up Walls, I needed to give them opportunities to use them. Every morning, my students come into the classroom and write on their Palm Treos in response to questions that I put on the SMART Board. These questions are different for Grade 1 students and Grade 2 students, and they almost always relate to a Science or Social Studies topic that we are studying in class. I try to get students thinking deeply about what they’re learning, and I encourage them to use different forms when writing. To help encourage them to use the Bump It Up Walls now too, I put a note at the bottom of the questions that reminded them to use the Success Criteria and Bump It Up Walls too. This is exactly what they did! Students got up off the carpet, they went to look at the walls, and they came back and made changes to their work. They even discussed with the class how they would assess and evaluate their own work, and what they could do to improve. It was awesome!

Then Friday came, and I had two different writing activities for the Grade 1 and Grade 2 students to complete: both of which matched up to the different TLCPs (Teaching Learning Critical Pathways). As the students were writing, I watched a number of them take their work, go over to the Bump It Up Walls, look at the examples, and assess and evaluate their own work. I was so excited that I just had to record some of these student reflections. You can see these video recordings on this glog.

Watching these videos made me very thankful that I listened to Dale and tried something new. What a wonderful surprise! For those of you using Success Criteria and Bump It Up Walls in your classrooms, what are your thoughts on them? How are your students responding to them? I would love to hear your thoughts! I’m very excited that my two great administrators, Ms. Laporte and Mrs. McLaughlin, are going to use time during our next PA Day to discuss Success Criteria and Bump It Up Walls. I can’t wait to figure out where to go next with this!


My Top 10 Ways To Use Evernote

Last year, I saw a tweet from Zoe Branigan-Pipe (@zbpipe) talking about Evernote, and based on her recommendation, I signed up for an account. Since then, I’ve been using Evernote in a variety of different ways, and it’s definitely become one of my favourite tools to use.

During Elementary Chat (#elemchat) tonight on Twitter, I replied to a tweet by @NancyTeaches about Evernote, and shortly after that, @NancyTeaches, @BarbaraDay, and @mbfxc asked me to blog about how I use this tool. So this blog post is for all of them, and for all of you too, that might be interested in different ways to use this wonderful tool! In the style of @whatedsaid and her “top 10 list,” here’s the list of my Top 10 Ways to Use Evernote:

1. Use it for anecdotal records. I have a Notebook on each of my students, and in it, I can insert my observations throughout the day. There is a fantastic iPad App for Evernote, and you can even send what you write with the Livescribe Pen to Evernote too, so there’s all kinds of ways to update these records.

2. Use it for evaluation. When I give students marks, I insert these marks into my Evernote Notebooks. This is a great way for me to keep all of my marks in one place to easily access for report card purposes too!

3. Use it for sharing feedback with students. As part of our TLCP (Teaching Learning Critical Pathways) process, we have been encouraged to tell students what they are doing well and a way for them to improve. Many teachers write these “stars and wishes” right on the submitted work, but I often find that the students cannot always read what I wrote, which means that they are not using my suggestions either. In addition to writing the feedback on student work, I orally record this feedback in a separate Notebook — one for each child — that I then share with that child. The students can then go to the classroom computer and listen to this feedback. I can also share this Notebook with parents, and they can reinforce these concepts at home too.

4. Use it for sharing data with teachers or administrators. Earlier in the year, I had an in-school meeting on one of the students in my class. I was asked to bring my notes on this student to the meeting, but in order to give the Learning Resource Teacher and the administrators a chance to really look at the notes, I shared this student’s Notebook with them in advance of the meeting. This proved incredibly useful, as all of us then came to the meeting prepared to talk about the child and what we could do to support him.

5. Use it for student self-reflection. This year, I have started using my iPad to record some guided reading sessions. The AudioMemos app on the iPad allows you to upload recordings to Evernote. This has been great, as I’ve uploaded recordings of students reading and talking about reading, and I’ve let these students listen to the recordings in these Notebooks. These students are then reflecting on their decoding skills and their reading comprehension skills too. Hearing themselves read and hearing themselves talk about reading has really helped these students become better readers!

6. Use it to expand on ideas. While I will record many little notes in Evernote, I am not one that likes to write paragraphs on each of the students. I do have lots of thoughts that I like to share though, and I’m an auditory learner, so sharing these notes in a way that I can listen to them later, makes a difference for me. Evernote allows you to easily make an audio comment to accompany any written notes too. I tend to do just this. Then I have something written down to trigger my memory on what I was thinking, but then when time permits, I can listen to my audio thoughts too.

7. Use it for brainstorming. Last year, I created some Notebooks for my students to use. They used these Notebooks to brainstorm ideas about a text or brainstorm ideas on a particular subject, and then they took these ideas to later complete different writing activities. I could easily share these Notebooks through email with either the students or the parents, so that they could continue these writing activities at home as well. I never got to this point last year, but we’ll see what this year brings.

8. Use it to keep your work at your fingertips. This weekend I found out that you can upload Adobe files to Evernote. I have some files on my computer associated with the TLCP (Teaching Learning Critical Pathways) that I want to have access to on a regular basis. It’s not always convenient to pull up this information on my laptop, but it is on my iPad. With Evernote, I can upload all of these files into one Notebook, and then easily access any of them on my iPad with just the click of a button. Fantastic!

9. Use it to store and organize photographs for formative assessment. I think that photographs can show you a lot about what students know, and I often take photographs in the classroom to show student learning. These photographs can be uploaded to a Notebook, and I can then look at them, see what the students already know and what they still need to learn, and adjust my teaching accordingly. This has definitely helped make me a better teacher!

10. Maybe the best reason of all: use it to avoid the “paper problem.” I do not do well with paper. I don’t think that I’ve ever done well with paper. I am constantly losing paper notes, or adding them to a never-ending pile, from which I can never seem to find the paper again anyway. Evernote is fantastic though, as instead of having a bunch of paper anecdotal notes or marks, I can keep everything online, in one safe location, where I can find it later. This is the tool for me!

So why do you use Evernote? How are some different ways that you have used it too? I would love to hear what you have to say!


Redefining “Teachers”

Explaining Glogster To The Grade 8 Class

I know that my students usually still see the adults in the school as the only “teachers” there. It’s hard to make a change. Way back in the summer, I read various blog posts by George Couros (@gcouros) and Shawn Ram (@sram_socrates), and both of them showed me the value in giving students the chance to lead. This year, more than any other year, I’ve tried to make a change in my teaching style, and I’ve tried to make the class a real “community of learners.”

Now the students are the ones that review the literacy and math centres each day, they teach each other how to use new tools in the classroom exploring the tool on their own and sharing with each other what they’ve learned — and they push my thinking by coming up with new and creative ways to share their learning with the class, with the school, and with the world. I’m so proud of them!

On Friday though, I think that my students really started to see themselves as “teachers.” On Thursday night, there was an email in our Memos To All Staff section from a Grade 8 teacher at the school. She wanted to teach her students how to use Glogster on Friday, but this tool was still new to her, and she asked for some help. I wrote her back and said that my students have used Glogster a lot, and they’d love the opportunity to assist her. This teacher immediately jumped at the offer, and we arranged for her Grade 8 class to come down to our classroom after phys-ed on Friday morning. My students would use the SMART Board to “teach” her class.

Since this was a last minute plan, I never got the opportunity to tell my students about it until minutes before they were going to “teach.” When I met them in the hallway after gym and filled them in on the plan, one student said, “How can we teach the Grade 8’s? We’re only Grade 1’s and 2’s.” Before I could even reply, one of our amazing phys-ed teachers, Mr. Baillie (@coachbaillie) jumped in with, “Age doesn’t matter. You know how to use this tool, and the Grade 8’s don’t. You just need to show them what you know.” Thanks Mr. Baillie! My students really took to heart the power of your words.

When we got back to class, the students took turns showing the Grade 8’s how to create a glog, add text to a glog, rotate and resize objects on a glog, and save their finished work. Our principal even joined the Grade 8 class for this demonstration, and despite the number of people in the classroom, my students were amazing. They were teachers!

I think that we’re going to try to do some more Glogster lessons with the Grade 8’s, and I look forward to having the students plan exactly what they’re going to say and do. Then I won’t need to even need to interrupt with follow-up questions, as the students will really be in charge. They can help the Grade 8’s see the value of this tool, not just as a “tool,” but as a real “tool for learning.” I’m so excited about the possibilities!

For all of you that have given students the opportunity to “lead,” how did it go? I hope that we can all share our experiences here!


The Value Of Having Multiple Tools

Researching Ideas For Animal Puppets For Our Play

Today my students were performing our Readers’ Theatre production of Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type. They were so excited! They even created puppets for their characters, and they couldn’t wait for me to record the performance. My digital camera got a lot of use today though, and in the middle of the performance, it died.

I felt terribly telling the students that we couldn’t record their Readers’ Theatre production, but just as I gave up, one student said to me, “Miss Dunsiger, why don’t you just use the iPod Touch to videotape us?” Amazing! I would never have considered this option, but this child was absolutely right, and the iPod Touch worked perfectly!

At times like these, there’s definitely value in having multiple tools that perform the same function. Even more so, it’s great to have students that understand the many functions of these different tools, and can pick and choose when to use them too. I cannot thank my student enough for leading the class with his great idea!

Have you ever had an experience like this one? What do you see as the value in having multiple tools that perform the same function? I would love to hear your ideas!


Trying Something New …

Today I decided to try something new: I used the iPad during guided reading. I have recently purchased a second iPad — as a birthday present to myself — and this means that my students have more options with the iPad during literacy and math centres. I happened to have access to one during my guided reading time this morning, and I thought that it would be interesting to use it with my group.

The students read a version of The Frog Prince, and I wanted them to work on retelling the story and inferring how different characters felt. We used the Audio Memos app to record part of our discussion:

2011-03-08 10-00

The amazing part happened after the recording. It was time to clean up from the centres and regroup, and while I went to help facilitate this, I noticed that my students listened to their recording. Then they started to add more to the discussion. They spoke about how other characters might have felt, and they used the text to help support their answer. Adding in the listening component with the speaking one, made a difference.

I will definitely be using the iPad again during guided reading, and I have to thank @techieang for giving me the idea in the first place. I only wish that I tried this earlier.

Have you used an iPad during guided reading before? How have you used it? I would love to hear your ideas too!