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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.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Using Our Class Twitter Account To Learn About Surveys and Graphing

I love using Twitter in my classroom.  If you ask my students what the purpose of Twitter is for them, they will likely respond with, "To build relationships, learn from peers and to teach others."  I have done my best to model for my students that Twitter is a tool for learning and I hope that my students continue with this mindset as they grow older.  This past Tuesday, during math we used Twitter to extend our learning about surveys and graphing.  We have been working on the entire process of how to conduct a survey, asking a question, using tallies to record the results and then creating a graph to show the results.  Here is our anchor chart that we co-created this past week.

I felt that my students had a good grasp on the concept so I had them formulate a survey question about what foods their survey group would like best.  My students created a question with three choices, then tweeted it from our class Twitter account.  I was ecstatic with how many classes, and people responded to our questions.  The following day, we had enough responses for my students to gather to create their graphs.

When we connect with people outside of our school walls, it creates excitement and engagement.  My students couldn't wait until math class the following day to see how many people responded to all of their surveys.  Students created their graphs on chart paper and now have decided that they would like to create their graphs on the iPads so they can tweet their results to their audience.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Inquiry Overload - Ideas, Resources and Tips to Start Your Own Classroom Inquiry

At the beginning of the school year my Principal, James Cowper  asked the staff what they would like to do with some of the PD time the school is given.  So, the staff filled out their ideas and who they might like to work with and my Principal did his best to make it happen.  (How great is that? A principal that actually asks you what You want to learn about and then follows through with your ideas!)  One of the things that I wrote down, was being able to facilitate a book talk and be able to have planning time to implement the ideas from the book.  When James told me that I would be given  4 full days with coverage in the month of January for the book talk, I knew exactly what book to use.
I read Inquiry Circles last year, with a group of colleagues from Twitter and I loved the book.  Also, Inquiry is a hot topic in our school board and even if you don't end up going through with Inquiry learning there are some fantastic ideas on how to teach comprehension and collaboration in the book.
Nine teachers at my school signed up for the book talk.  They received the books before the Winter break and our first meeting was the first week back in January.  I didn't want this to be a traditional book talk.  After talking to the teachers that signed up, we agreed that this was a fantastic time to look at our curriculum and create some Curricular Inquiries that we could do in our classes.  We had coverage for the teachers to be able to get from half a day to a full day out of the class to meet as a group each week in the month of January.  We also had teachers that had never done inquiry in their classes before and some that have done many inquiries in the past year.
My teaching partner, Sarah Watson-Jones and I have had time to create a Social Studies Inquiry on Early Settlers and First Nation People and a Science Inquiry on Soil and Plants.  We have created or found resources that have become very important in our set up and execution of our Inquiries that I wanted to share with you.
First, Kristin Ziemke is a friend, colleague and an awesome teacher that has answered my questions and helped me out with my own Inquiry questions.  She also has co-written a fantastic resource Connecting Comprehension and Technology that is a must read if you are looking for ways to connect inquiry and comprehension with technology.

How To Find Resources For Your Students

One of the things that takes up a lot of time when doing Inquiry with younger students is finding resources that are at their reading level.  I already had made a research folder on my students' iPads that has links, apps and search engines that are suitable for my grade 2/3 classroom.
Idea from Kristin Ziemke in her book Connecting Comprehension and Technology

A great way to curate articles from the web for your students is to use Readlists.  Readlists is a group of web pages and or articles that you can send to pretty much any device. For education purposes, my teaching partner Sarah and I each created a readlist for our students.  She curated a list of articles and websites about First Nation people and I created a readlist on Pioneers.  Depending on what question our students come up with will depend on what readlist they will need.  We then created a QR code for each list so all they have to do is scan the QR code and it will take them to a list of websites with information on either First Nation People or Pioneers.
The Readlist I created on Pioneers

Of course there are other ways to find information.  Here is a list that we made up in class:

Another great resource is your students!  When you begin your inquiry, have each child find an article or website on the topic and bring it to school.  You can look through all of the information your students have brought in and share the information with the inquiry groups.  This past week, some of my students used Twitter to ask some of their questions about pioneers.  Karen Lirenman's class answered some of our questions within a day.

How Long Will A Curricular Inquiry Take?

This was a question that came up many times during our planning time.  I know, for me, some inquiries seem to last forever! This was a question that I brought to Kristin and she broke it up as follows:

The average inquiry will run approximately 5 weeks.

5-7 days of front loading.  (Students can't ask good questions if they don't know anything about the topic)  Sarah and I learned this first hand....We asked our students to write down their schema about Pioneers on a padlet wall before doing any front loading.  It was a great moment for Sarah and I because we realized in 1 minute that our 40 students really knew nothing on the topic! 

After the week or so of front loading, you then spend approximately 2 weeks on creating a question, putting the children in their inquiry circles and having them research the topic.  
Then a week for creating their sharing piece.  The sharing piece might be anything from a media presentation on Explain Everything to a poster, an art piece, a presentation or anything else your students can think of.  Finally, a week of sharing and covering any curriculum that may not have been covered through the inquiry.  Due to your students having so much more knowledge on the topic, you will now zip through any other pertinent information your students need to know.

How Do I Begin?

The following explanation is how Sarah and I are doing a curricular inquiry in our room and so far it seems to be working....

After the debacle padlet wall, Sarah and I knew that we needed to do a lot of front loading.  Sarah began reading a chapter book about living in the Pioneer days.  We then started modeling many of the comprehension lessons that are in the Inquiry Circles book.  By doing this we were teaching the concepts they needed, to be able to read with a question in mind, annotate their thinking while reading etc. and we used articles that were about Early Settlers and First Nation People.
A modeled lesson about reading with a question in mind

Last week we taught a lesson about using the iPads to stop, think and react to information.  We read aloud a book about how it was back in the pioneer days and the students needed to compare it to how things are now.  I loved seeing their thinking on the iPads and how excited they were to post it onto their blogs.

We had another chart up that students would place sticky notes on while Sarah read her read aloud each day.  Students would write down if they made a connection, if they thought something was interesting or if they had a question.  

Our chart doesn't have any Questions left on it because Sarah took the questions off and with the students, started grouping the questions into categories.

Students now have many questions to choose from and are beginning to form inquiry circles based on their interests.

What Do I Do With All Of The Projects?

Our wonderful 5/6 teachers, Amanda Mundy and Sandra Deters were discussing with me how hard it is to keep track of all of their students' inquiry projects.  Some were digital, others were posters, and some were written projects.  I gave them the idea of creating a padlet wall for their students to upload their projects to.  They flew with the idea and after talking to them about it this week they had a couple of great points to share.
First, there are two ways to set up a padlet wall layout.  Free form is the first option where posts can be put anywhere.  The second layout is a stream, where posts are placed one below the other.  Sandra told me that their students prefer the stream layout for displaying their work because it is easier to read and the posts are not on top of each other.  
The second point was that Amanda and Sandra tweet out the padlet to their class Twitter feed so students can easily find the padlet wall to upload their projects to.

Here is an example of one of their stream layouts:

Here is an example of the free form layout:

Using a padlet wall also encourages feedback from peers on their projects.

I can't wait to see where this inquiry takes us,  I love that with inquiry, the teacher doesn't need to know all of the answers.  We get to discover the answers and form new questions together!

Friday, January 3, 2014

A Letter To My Husband

Today, January 3rd, 2014 is my 8th wedding anniversary.  My husband and I have decided not to do gifts this year because frankly, if we really want something we will go out and buy it.  Truthfully, is it nice to get gifts, but the moments shared between the two of us and the little ways we show each other we care are far more meaningful.   Life is made up of memories not things.  This is the reason that we have decided that we will be spending the day together (thanks mom for watching the kids) and going to a nice place for dinner instead of gifts.  This year, instead of buying a card from Hallmark and signing my name to it,  I wanted to write him a letter instead.
My husband is also a teacher @mrwideen and is the tech junkie in our family.  If you have a question about anything tech related he will find the answer for you.  He is my go to guy for everything about my blog, how to set up anything tech related in my classroom, and my trouble shooting guy all rolled up into one. He is the expert at the tech, I am the expert on implementing it into the classroom. Whenever I ask him to help me out (which is ALL of the time) he jokes to give him a footnote at the end of, my blog post, my website, when I author something, etc.  So honey, this is your GIANT footnote.

Dear Eric,

Can you believe it has been 8 years since we exchanged our wedding vows on that little beach in Grand Cayman?  A lot has changed from when we met teaching at the same school in Inkster, MI.  Somethings have not changed though, my heart still skips a beat when you walk into a room or when I see that you have texted me during the day to tell me you are thinking of me.   I think back about when we met, and how we overcame a lot of obstacles and hurdles to be together.   Thank you for sticking through it and not giving up on me.
We now have 2 beautiful children, a beautiful family, content in our careers and our relationship is stronger than ever.  I know that our fantastic life is because of you.  When I am stressed out, you are my calm.  When I need help, you are always there to lend an ear, a hand or a reassuring hug.  When I leave you with our two little ones because I am at a conference speaking or on my computer for hours at a time, you never complain.  You are an amazing father, husband, colleague, teacher and friend.  The success I have had in my career is because you have encouraged, supported and said, "Yes, I can help" every step of the way.  I would not be half the person I am if it weren't for you.  I take full responsibility and ownership for all of my mistakes and failures and I share all of my success with you.  You are my constant calm and keep me grounded.  I feel loved and cherished by you each and everyday.  Without a doubt, you are my soul mate.
I hope that I fulfill your life as much as you fulfill mine.  I now realize that my life was incomplete before I met you, and now, everyday, I wake up excited to continue our journey together, because with you by my side, anything is possible.

I love you today, tomorrow and always.

Happy Anniversary,