photo slide website innovate with ipad book_zpsqyi3gooq.png

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.

 photo slide2websitekristen_zps6b0197d1.png

Connect, Collaborate and Create with Twitter in the Classroom

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

photo 3d geometry blog slide image mrswideen_zpsxs99jzaa.png

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.

 photo slidewebsitebook_zps9c1fe84d.png

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.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Connecting The Curriculum to an Authentic Audience

Yesterday was a very busy day in my grade 2/3 classroom.  We had joined Jen Wagner's Pumpkin Seed Project.  If you have not visited her site, I highly suggest you do.  She hosts a variety of online projects that involve many classes from around the world and that tie into the curriculum seamlessly.  We asked parents to donate a pumpkin in the name of math, literacy and science for this project.  My teaching partner and I were hoping for at least 1 pumpkin per table (we have 9 tables of students) so each table could do their own measuring, weighing, scooping and counting.  We were excited to have received 9 pumpkins exactly and 1 gourd that looked like a pumpkin.

I started the day off with a KWL chart on pumpkins.  I used Padlet and QR codes to easily navigate the students to the correct wall.  We completed the first 2 walls before heading to the tables to do the activities.

I then handed out a sheet that I found on Kristen Smith's Blog that was perfect for the activity.

Now, this is when my students' started to wow me.  You can imagine what our room looked like and sounded like with 40 students measuring, weighing, dropping their pumpkins into buckets of water and scooping the guts out of pumpkins.  It was loud and bursting with excitement.  With all of this going on, I had many students that came up to me and asked if they could post what they were doing on Twitter.  They wanted to poll their peers about if they thought their pumpkins would float or sink, how many seeds were in their pumpkins and we had one pumpkin that they were not sure if it was a pumpkin.  I LOVED the idea, and I loved it even more because it came from my students!  I heard one of my students say that it was the best day ever and they wanted to share it with all their friends on Twitter.  Instead of me standing in front of the class asking, "How many seeds do you think are in this pumpkin?" They were taking the lead and asking their peers on Twitter!  How empowering for my 7 and 8 year old students.  Can you tell how excited I am?  One of my goals was to have my students experience the magnitude of having a PLN like I do each and everyday.  Yesterday, they accomplished that goal!   
Here are a few of their tweets:

At the end of this wonderful day, we read a fantastic book that I have to mention, that went perfectly with the day.  It is titled "how many seeds in a pumpkin?"  When we finished the story, children filled out our final padlet wall and then to my surprise some of the students asked if they could blog about their day before they went home.  Again, tying in that authentic audience increased engagement, excitement and a willingness to write!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Why Introducing Young Students To Social Media Is So Important

Last year my grade 1 students were uploading videos to their personal blogs and to youtube, tweeting from our classroom Twitter feed, face timing, skyping and participating in Google Hangouts with peers, soon to be teachers, teachers, experts in a certain field, and the class down the hall.  We participated in global projects like the Global Read Aloud and created our own global projects.


There are many great reasons why we have embeded social media into our daily classroom routines.  The two most important to me are, the increased excitement and engagement I have experienced in my students and because I think it is imperative that we model appropriate digital citizenship at a young age.

I am in charge of a Primary Blogging Network that started this past Monday.  There are approximately 80 classes, grades K-3 from around the world participating in this project.  The classes are put into groups and they are currently visiting and commenting on classroom blogs that will eventually turn into visiting and commenting on student's individual blogs in a few weeks.

Yesterday I received information from a teacher that a child was writing inappropriate content on her class blog.  Luckily, she moderates the comments before anyone sees them so there was no harm done.  At first, I was mortified.  Many times we jump to conclusions and put blame on the teacher.  "Well, if the teacher had been paying more attention...." or "Didn't they go over blogging etiquette?"

First, we all have had a child in our class that pushes the boundaries and is always curious on how far he or she can get without getting caught.  Think about it in a positive light.   This is a wonderful teaching moment!  This 2nd grade child that was writing inapprorpriate words in all of his comments needs a refresher in digital citizenship.  Luckily, he is 7 years old and this is a minor issue that resulted in no harm done.  We know exactly who it was and he will learn a valuable lesson.  One that will hopefully remind him in the future to think before he posts something online.  We all know a story about a teenager, posting a picture or video or writing something inappropriate on a Facebook page, or texting someone something that they can't erase.  The ramifications of those mistakes are far worse as you get older.  I want my students to learn about these things now, in our classroom with my guidance, so they don't make those mistakes when it could seriously hurt someone or themselves.

My students use Twitter almost everyday.  They see Twitter as an educational tool that enriches our learning environment.  My students don't see it as a place to follow teen idols or to post garbage to their friends.  I hope that as my students get older they will continue to use Twitter for a significant purpose because they have only been exposed to it in that way.  My students already have created a wonderful personal learning network where they share their learning and use social media as a way to answer questions.

Last week during a lesson on where to find information my students came up with this list:

Look at how my students view social media as a TOOL.  I am so proud of them for how they view it.  Would this list look different if I didn't model and let my students use social media?  You bet it would.  Would there be a higher risk of them getting into "online trouble" when they are older.  We can't be sure about that but it would be a very interesting action research project.....

Monday, October 7, 2013

Teaching Procedural Writing Through Art

Last week, my teaching partner Sarah and I decided that we would start our procedural writing unit.  I always love to teach procedural writing because there are so many fun lessons to do with procedural writing.  Last year students took pictures of each other eating gingerbread cookies and they had to write out how they ate their gingerbread cookie.  They completed the assignment with using the pictures that were taken and the text that they wrote to create a procedural writing video.  Here is one from last year:

Another great activity is to conduct an experiment.  Tomorrow we will be reading a recipe on how to grow crystals.  We will then create a "How To" piece about how we conducted the experiment.

Last Friday, we had an art project planned.  I had found a beautiful art project titled, "Birch Tress Art Lesson" on this fantastic site deepspacesparkle.  I wanted to incorporate the art lesson with what our students were learning about in writing.  

So, last Friday while Sarah modeled the art lesson, I used the Apple T.V to project my iPad onto the screen and the class and I wrote a procedure on how to create the birch trees scene.  I was able to take pictures as Sarah modeled the art and when she was finished we not only had an example of the art, we also had a completed procedural piece of writing that the students helped to create.  An added bonus was that I was able to immediately print it out and had a few copies floating around the room for children that needed to reread the procedure.  Here is our co-constructed "How To" piece:

Today, the children completed their art and they turned out beautifully.     

Sunday, October 6, 2013

YOU Must Try This App!

If you teach primary children you know how long it takes for a child to type in a website.  At all costs I try not to have my children do this.  Imagine, twenty 7 year olds trying to type in a 30 character  URL on their iPads all at the same time.  It is true madness, "It's not working," "I need help!" "Is that an i or a l?" and this is why the app that I am about to tell you about is pure genius.

A couple of weeks ago a colleague of mine asked me to participate in "Talk Like A Pirate Day."  Of course the catch was that Pirate Day was the following day.  It took me two seconds to respond with a yes.  I quickly drafted up a letter and sent it home.  We decided we would use todaysmeet to connect the classes.  Sarah's class would pretend to be pirates and my class would ask them questions.  The following day my pirates walked in and it dawned on me that I had not made QR codes for my students to scan to go to the todaysmeet site, nor did I put the website on their home screen of their iPads.  From my description above, you knew that I was not going to put the website on the board for them to type out....I would rather walk the plank.

This is when the must try app comes into place.  The app is called chirp.  Don't go looking for it in the iPad apps, it is an iPhone app.  This app shares links using sound.  All you need to do is download it to all of your devices (it is free!) and turn it on.  You type in the website you want to share and press the chirp button.  It sends out a noise that all of the devices will hear and it goes to that link.  GENIUS!  I am not classroom is a NOISY place and Chirp is designed to cope with music, speech, TVs blaring in the background, and so on!  It can share pictures too. 
Here is video showing you how it works:

This app has made my life so much easier in sharing information with my students.  I would love to hear how you use it in your classroom!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Ready To Use Fact Family iPad Station

My students have been working on fact families the past couple of days.  To reinforce what has been taught in class, I try to incorporate a math station that practices the skill and incorporate it into our math stations the following week.  I modeled the station today and had them give it a go to make sure they would be able to do it independently next week.  I was pleasantly surprised how my grade 2 students did the station independently.

To prepare this station, first download  and print the station here.  Then cut out the slips of paper with the numbers on it (the fact families).

Next, download the app - Draw and Tell by Duck Duck Goose.

Finally, go over the station directions sheet.

Your station is ready to go!  

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Classroom For Discovery And Curiosity - Part 1

One of my goals this year was to weave a wonder and curiosity theme into our classroom.  I wanted to put the choice in the students hands this year.   We will learn through inquiry and discovery.  We will question and be information seekers.  We will be wonder experts.

The next few blog posts will be about my journey, first starting with the space, second with a few of the key lessons that were delivered and finally a reflection of how it is going from my point of view and from my students point of view.

Before the students even stepped foot into our classroom, I wanted a space where my students curiosity would be peaked instead of flattened.
 I wanted a classroom that would encourage my students to learn, explore and investigate. Now don't get me wrong, I know the space is not the only factor in the equation.  However, through modeling and explicit teaching I knew that my students were already asking questions and seeking answers to those questions.

I began with the furniture.  I was able to replace the desks in the classroom with tables.  Some are round and others are rectangle.  I also made a few crates into stools and brought a large ottoman in that I had donated.  Other furniture additions were two high stools that sit in front of the observation window  (a place where children can sit and write about their observations of the outside world) and a new carpet for the students to gather on to work alone, with a partner or a group.

The next thing I added was a science table where I invited my students to bring in things they found that they may have questions about or natural treasures they have at home they wanted to share.  Currently, we have an assortment of bugs in bug jars that the students have found outside at recess, 2 different bird nests that were found around their homes and a strawberry/blueberry bush that I brought in to model my inquiry question.   We also are growing crystals in a jar (One of my students found a crystal making recipe in a book from the library that he wanted to try). There is also a science notebook for the students to write their predictions, questions, observations and answers in.

Another thing that I brought in was various potted plants for the children to take care of.  Our window sills now have plants growing on all of them and it is a favourite job of many of my students to be in charge of pruning and watering them for the week.

On the first day of school, instead of a large pillar in the middle of the classroom there is now a large tree with branches stretching throughout the classroom.  The bulletin boards are all a chocolate brown with green borders to give the space a more calming and "green" feeling.

From the first day of school we started wondering.  Some students brought in their wonder jars I had given them as an end of school token with treasures from the summer in them (one student even brought in a toad!)

I aslo picked many read a louds at the beginning of the year that would inspire my students to wonder.  A few of my favourite are:

 A story that encourages children to put down the TV remotes
and video-game controllers and take a look at the wonder of
the world around them.

On a Beam of Light:  A Story of Albert Einstein

Me...Jane - A Story of Jane Goodall

Finally, our first completed bulletin board was our "Wonder Wall"  where students wrote their wonders on with dry erase marker so they may change their wonder as frequent as they wish.

Please stay tuned for my next blog post on "Lessons That Spark A Sense Of Wonder".