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Available for Purchase Now!

In “Innovate with iPad: Lessons to Transform Learning in the Classroom” primary teachers Karen Lirenman and Kristen Wideen provide a complete selection of clearly laid out engaging open-ended lessons to change the way you use iPad in the classroom.

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Connect, Collaborate and Create with Twitter in the Classroom

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of ETFO Voice.

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Course Description

In this grade two 3-D Geometry iTunes U Course, students will explore attributes of 3-D objects using concrete materials and drawings. Students will also build and construct 3-D objects and models as well as develop language to describe geometric concepts.

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One Best Thing

Discover how to keep parents informed, connect globally and link to your curriculum. This One Best Thing leads your primary classroom students through the creation of a learning network on Twitter.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Join The Primary Blogging Community Now!

With the Primary Blogging Community beginning its second year, I wanted to do a little explaining on how this little project has become a bigger project.... At the end of August last year, I was partaking in my usual Sunday night ritual (participating in #1st chat on Twitter) when the conversation went to blogging.  Many teachers wanted to connect their classrooms with other classrooms from our 1st chat community. I volunteered to do some thinking about it and to start something.  I put out a Google Doc and asked for interested primary teachers to sign up.  The response was fantastic!  There were over 20 primary classrooms that wanted to participate.   I organized another rotation last February and we had almost 40 classes participate.

What is the Primary Blogging Community?

The PBC is a community of primary teachers (children aged 5-10) that want to share their students' learning via their classroom blog and their students' personal blogs.  Classrooms will be grouped with 3 or 4 other classrooms from around the globe.  The program is 8 weeks long.  The first 4 weeks will concentrate on the classroom blogs only.  Each week, one of the classes will be the focus class and the other 3 classes will be visiting and commenting on the focus class blog.  The following week, the second class will be the focus class, and so on.   This is a chance for the other classes to see what is happening in your school and class, to discover where in the world you are located and to learn about how to write a good blog post and to watch how you model and work together to write good comments.  After the first 4 weeks, we switch the focus from your classroom blog and concentrate on student blogs.  The same rotations occur but the focus is solely on your student's individual blogs. 

Why join the Primary Blogging Community?

1.  You will be collaborating with other like minded educators on this project and in return will build your PLN.
2.  PBC creates enthusiasm in reading and writing.
3.  It gives your students a voice and lets them be the teacher to their peers.
4.  Your students will have a built in audience that will provide authentic feedback to what they are writing about on their blogs.
5.  On some days in the last rotation, my students had over 100 comments on their blogs!  The excitement and engagement piece to this blogging community is huge!  

I created an Edmodo teacher group for us where we could collaborate on ideas and I could start putting a schedule together.  
We will be beginning again this October.

What Does The Schedule Look Like?


Each week one class' blog will be the centre of attention. The other 3 or 4 classrooms will be exploring and commenting on that one particular blog.  The following week, class 2 will be the centre of attention where the other classes will comment and explore on class 2's blog and so on.


We will do the same rotation schedule and the same blogging buddies as we did in October, however, this time we will be focusing on our students' personal blogs instead of the class blog.  This will create more comments, more traffic and more enthusiasm for your students' blogs.  I can tell you from personal experience that on the week that my class was the "focus week"   it was not unusual for my students to have up to 100 comments collectively on their blogs in one day.

What is the difference between the Primary Blogging Community and Quadblogging?

Quadblogging -  Each week one blog is the focus blog with the other three blogs visiting and commenting during that week. In week two, another school/class blog is the focus with the other three visiting and commenting. This is repeated until each of the classes/schools has had their week in the spotlight. The cycle is then repeated. (from

Primary Blogging Community - Is the exact same as above except the second 4 week cycle we concentrate on your student's personal blogs, not your classroom blog.

What do I need to begin?

You need to have a classroom blog and your students need their own personal blogs.  If your students do not have personal blogs, I suggest you create them or sign up for instead.  If you do not have an edmodo account, I highly suggest you sign up for one and join our blogging community.  This is where you can ask questions and collaborate with the other teachers in the group.  The code to our group is nqsisy.  We also communicate frequently on twitter, use #PrimaryBC on twitter and follow me on twitter for news and updates @mrswideen.

If you would like to participate in the October rotation, please sign your class up below.  I will contact you in September with further details. The October registration is now closed.  We will be having another rotation in January.  Please fill in the form below if you are interested.

Monday, July 22, 2013

What I Am Cooking Up For The First Day Of School

As July slips away quickly and August is around the corner, I start to ponder about what the first day of school will look like this year.  In past years, I have always had a similar plan for the first day of school.  We would do our usual read alouds - Chrysanthemum or No David No, depending on if we were going to co construct the classroom rules the first day or not.  We would do some community building activities and possibly do a scavenger hunt around the school.  This is NOT what I will be doing this year.

I will be having my exact class from last year, so I will be in the same room teaching grade 2/3.  My school is open concept, which means that there are no walls between myself and the 2 other classes in my pod.  For the past 2 years, I have team taught with the same teacher.  We taught 40 students in what looked liked 2 rooms side by side with no doors.  We had a very large meeting carpet in the centre of the room and had our desks on either side.  We team taught but there was still a distinction between my class and the other class.  This is NOT what I will be doing this year.

Although my students had choice with whom they worked with and where they sat during work time, they all had their own desk and spot where they called their own.  This is NOT what I will be doing this year.

This year, I am planning on sending home invitations to my students and their families to join us the first hour of the first day of school.  These are families that have been with me for up to 3 years.  I want to connect with them the very first day of school.  I want to send them a positive message that I want them to be a part of our room and our program.  I want to know how their summer was and what new adventures took place.  I also want them to meet their new teacher and to see how different their classroom looks.  I will be team teaching with Sarah Watson Jones this year.  We have decided to recreate our space.  We are getting rid of all of the desks and have asked for various size tables.  We will have quiet spaces, collaborative spaces, spaces for building, reading, recording, designing and a few open spaces left for the children to create.  There will be no distinction between the 2 classes.  They will all be "our students", this year instead of "mine" and "yours".

I am aiming for a "cafe" kinda feel, so on the first day of school, we will have coffee, tea, juice and goodies for the students and their guests.  I am going to go to my local Starbucks and Tim Hortons to see if they will donate some cups and coffee for the event.  I will also be asking families to bring in a framed picture of their family to hang in our room.  I found this idea on Pinterest and thought this would be perfect for our new space.  Instead of putting them on a book shelf, we have a large rectangular post in our room that I will hang all of the pictures on.

Something that I did last year that I will be repeating this year is, I will be sending home magnets with the class blog and twitter handle and school phone number on them.  I bought Avery Personal Creations Inkjet Magnet sheets at Walmart for around $12.00 for 5 sheets.  You print right onto the magnet sheets and cut them to the size you want.  My husband, Eric Wideen created the image on Photoshop, we printed them, cut them out with a paper cutter and voila, they were done!

I will read a few read alouds the first day.  I think I will pick a few of my students favorites from last year.  We will also be doing some team building and collaboration activities for the classroom that I learned at the ADE Institute with the talented Rebecca Stockley.  Here is a website with many of the activities she used at the Institute

My boards are empty in anticipation for student work and co constructed anchor charts.  I have changed all of the bulletin boards and have a common theme.  The predominate colours in my room are chocolate brown, lime green, yellow and green and white polka dots.  Sarah and I choose to do the entire space the same colours so our 2 spaces would look more like one giant space.

Lastly,  technology has a large role in my classroom and I know my students will want to jump right in.  I am going to ask them to create "My Most Memorable Moment This Summer" project.  They may choose anyway to create or show their most memorable moment.  If they decide not to use technology and use art supplies, legos or anything else they think of that is alway acceptable too.  I can't wait to see what they create because they always surprise me with their creativity and their individual talents always shine through when given choice.

What are your plans for the first day of school?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

My ADE Institute 2013 Reflection

It has been 2 days since I was in Austin for the Apple Distinguished Educators Institute and I am still mentally and physically tired. I was going to start my reflection on my 3 hour plane ride home but instead I sat and tried to absorb all the amazing things that I experienced in the past 6 days.

We all know that Apple is a world class company and their reputation is flawless.  Apple definitely did not disappoint for the ADE Institute.   From bringing in the best photographers (Bill Frakes) to some of the best app developers, to the unbelievable Duarte Team.  The professional development was top notch.  So was the never-ending amount of food.  (The extra 5 pounds I brought home can attest to the previous statement.) 

It all started last December when I began my application to become an ADE.  After encouragement, and help from my husband, my friends and my PLN.  I submitted the day before it was due.  I waited patiently for a response.  I knew that there was only a small chance that I would be chosen because Apple was only picking 50 educators in Canada.  I remember that I found out in the car on the way home from work that I had been chosen.  My husband Eric Wideen was driving and I was checking my email on my phone.  I was ecstatic! I immediately called my principal James Cowper and sent a text message to my friend Karen Lirenman who also applied to be an ADE.  I learned later that she had gotten in also.

Weeks later, I  found out that Kyle Pearce a high school teacher in my district was also chosen for the ADE program.  Kyle was the first person from the institute I made a connection with.  My husband and 2 children drove Kyle and I to the airport.  While we waited for our plane we talked about the things that we were doing in our classrooms and made connections between each other's classrooms even though our students are 7 and 8 years apart.  Hopefully we will be doing some projects together in the upcoming school year.

When we arrived in Austin, we received our rooms, I was rooming with my friend Karen.  We then got  our pictures taken for security reasons, a golf shirt, a passport, and a roll of stickers with our names on them.  The stickers and the passport were created for us to exchange stickers with everyone you met.  This was the first North American ADE Institute that involved Canada, the United States and Mexico all in attendance.  There were also ADE alumni, ADE staff and developers present.  The total number of attendees was around 400 people.  Before finishing the registration process, I received 6 workshops on various topics to take in the next couple of days.  I also had the opportunity to change the workshops if I felt there was something else I wanted to learn about more.  I went to many workshops and break out sessions during the week:  Keynote, authoring your own iBook, Final Cut Pro, digital storytelling and learning how to take quality pictures to name a few.

We officially began at 5:00 Sunday night with a Canadian Orientation Session.  We then moved into a larger room and joined the whole North American Team where we met  Rebecca Stockley.  Rebecca is a improvisation guru.  She helps people in organizations and businesses learn to enhance creativity and team work.  Whenever she was on stage we knew that we would meet someone new and have fun doing it!  I will definitely be using some of her strategies and games in my classroom this year.

The next few days were filled with team building, whole group learning sessions, breakout sessions and Social time.  The days were filled to the brim with activities.  We had breakfast from 6:30 to 7:45 A.M then learned, networked and were inspired until dinner at 7:30 P.M.

Here is an inspiring video that was shown at the institute.

I learned so much from the workshops and breakout sessions that it left my head hurting.  I tried to go to as many sessions as I could because I knew this was an opportunity to learn from the best.  There is a project due for Apple and the due date is just around the corner, however I wanted to use my time to learn absolutely everything I could before going home, and I would worry about my project later.

My most memorable memories involve the people I got to meet and collaborate with.  This institute was special.  It was special because everyone treated everyone else on an equal playing field.  There were many "rockstars" at the institute but you couldn't pick them out because everyone was treated as an equal.  Everyone was willing to share and help each other at this institute, there wasn't a hidden agenda like so many other conferences I have been to, where the "cool people" hang out together and exclude the common folk.  I felt and did go to any table during lunch and dinner and sat with complete strangers that welcomed me to the table and instantly brought me into their conversations.

Karen, Me, Kristin and Kathy
I have made friendships and connections that will last a lifetime.  I got to hang out with my #1st chat crew for 6 days!  Kristin Ziemke, Karen Lirenman, Kathy Cassidy and I have been part of each other's PLN's for a while now and were so excited to find out that we would be meeting face to face at the ADE institute.  Karen made shirts for us with our twitter handle and hashtag on them that we wore proudly on the second day of the institute.  These women I now call my friends.  They are people that I laughed with, worked hard with, accepted feedback and gave feedback to, and most of all were inspired by during this wonderful week.  And for that I will be eternally thankful to the Apple Team for bringing us together and providing us the time, tools and space to grow and learn from each other.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Getting Parents On Your Side

I use to be that teacher that would phone you if your child was misbehaving in class, or go outside after school to speak to you if your child was not getting their work done.  I knew that parents would cringe when they saw the school’s phone number pop up on their caller id or they would see me walking towards them after school.  Then, 6 years ago I had a child of my own and knew that I needed to change the relationship (if you can call it that) I had with the parents of my students. 

This past year has been the best year for parent support in my classroom.  I have done a few simple things this year that I had not done in previous years that I think has contributed to having the immense amount of support in my room.  

     1.  I have yard duty every morning outside for 20 minutes before school.  I take this opportunity to greet every parent that comes onto our school ground.  A simple good morning and a warm smile is all it takes.  For the parents of my students, I may have a short conversation with them.  I never speak about their child’s progress or behavior during these morning conversations.  This is about them getting to know me and me getting to know them.  No pressure, and no cringing when I walk towards them.

    2.  Every Tuesday and Thursday I invite my student’s parents into our classroom and learning commons for the first half an hour of school to read, learn to do something on the iPad, look at the work their child has created using the iPads, or even play a board game.  I had 21 students last year in my class and I would have at least 10 parents on any given day come in to support their child.  I would also take this opportunity to invite the parents to stay on occasion to watch a video we had created or talk about a project we were beginning.  I also tried to schedule Skype calls with authors or other classes at this time so parents could get a glimpse of some of the things we were doing in our class.  The last day of school this year was a Thursday and I had 12 parents at school wanting to read with their children.
Having tea and cookies during the Mother's Day Tea

3.  During the year I had several occasions that I invited the parents in to celebrate their children and them as parents.  During our Cultures Unit we had a pot luck where the parents were invited to bring in a traditional dish from their heritage and were invited to stay for lunch.  We had a Mother’s Day Tea where the students showered their mom’s with love and attention.  On Father’s Day we had a similar day for Dad’s, where we played outside and provided snacks and quiet time with their Dad’s.  I have taught most of my students for 2 years and had met fathers that day that I had never met before.  There were Dad’s
Some quiet time during our Father's Day Celebration
skipping with their daughters and finding quiet benches outside to sit and talk with each other.  It was a fantastic day!

      4.  I tried very hard to call parents this year for good news items and if a student in my class was away for more than a couple of days, I would call to see if they were ok.
       5.  I also think it is wonderful that I have taught these children for 2 years and will be their teacher again next year.  On the last day of school, I asked the parents that were reading with their kids to come into the classroom a couple minutes early and I told the class and the parents that I would be teaching them again next year.  I was a bit nervous about the reaction from both the parents and the children. (3 years with the same teacher!!!)  The smiles and cheers confirmed that I had nothing to worry about.  

      I am part of these families.   I am helping to raise these children.  Their parents and I are on the same team.  They know that I would do anything for these children and in return they have supported me in the classroom and for that I am truly thankful.