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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, February 24, 2014

Where Does Your School Fall on the Lego Movie Continuum?

Last week, my husband and I took our two children to see the “Lego Movie.”  I can’t praise the movie enough.  It was funny for the whole family, clean, very entertaining and it had some great messages.  Believe in yourself (and your students); everyone is special; there’s a time to follow the rules and a time to break them.

As I was talking to my Principal, James Cowper, this past Friday about the movie, he told me he was writing a blog post about the movie from a principal's point of view and invited me to write one from a Teacher’s point of view.  This blog post could have gone many ways with this movie and as my husband Eric, and I brainstormed all of the themes this movie had that were symbolic to the teaching profession we settled on the following.

In the Lego Movie, there were 3 distinct levels of hierarchy:

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The Evil Lord Business – “The Man upstairs” When Lord Business rose to power, he began capturing master builders because of his disapproval of them being innovative and building things that were not made with instructions. Lord Business planned to use the Kragle (a tube of Krazy Glue with some of the logo's letters rubbed out) to freeze the universe perfectly in place.

I believe that the “Man Upstairs” in a building definitely sets the tone of a school and can make or break a staff.  Is your principal like Lord Business, where he or she has to be in complete control?  Does it need to be their way or the highway? If you push the boundaries will you be Kraglized? 

On the other end of the spectrum is “Vitruvius.”  In the movie, he is the heroic wizard.  He tries to teach Emmet, the main character, that the key to true building is to believe in yourself and follow your own set of instructions inside of your head. 

A great leader needs to value the uniqueness of each individual on his staff.  A great principal realizes that “everything is awesome when we work as a team” and that everyone on staff can rise up to be a leader. School leaders also need to play an active role in planning and supporting instruction instead of demanding how it needs to look like and sound like.  Most of all, great principals need to lead by example.

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The Micro Managers – In the Lego Movie, the "Micro Managers" were a type of robot used by Lord Business to pose and prepare civilians to be Kraglized (In a frozen perfect state). Micro Managers also put all of the blocks back together following the instruction manual.

I see these “Micro Managers” as teachers.  On the one end of the continuum, you have teachers that micro manage their classrooms and students.  These Micro Managers offer no choice, engagement or creativity.  The teacher “manual” is the “Bible” and they don’t deviate from it.  There are only lectures, worksheets and textbooks to deliver curriculum, and paper- pencil tests to measure student achievement.  This is an environment where students do not value the tasks and the only form of feedback is a grade on the top of a paper.

On the other end of the continuum is when teachers are like “Wyldstyle.”   Wyldstyle is a free spirit who loves pushing boundaries and being creative. She has a strong, independent streak that makes her question when things are wrong and makes the main character, “Emmet” feel special.  She is the encouragement Emmet needs to give him the confidence to stand up to Lord Business.

Innovative teachers are constantly pushing the boundaries in their classrooms; they are creative in their thinking and approach.  Great teachers know their students, build trusted relationships with them, and create an environment where their students feel comfortable to take risks.  Great teachers are not micro managers; they embrace student curiosity and empower their students to learn about topics that are important to them through inquiry.  They also give students choice on how they show and share their learning to the audience of their choice.

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The Master Builders - Master Builders are creative free spirits that can instinctively build anything without instruction manuals. 

The “Master Builders” are our children.  When children come to us beginning in Kindergarten, they are full of questions, curiosity and excitement.  They have the attitude that they can do and be anything that they want. Just ask a kindergarten student what they want to be when they grow up. 

We can foster this attitude, by encouraging personal interests through inquiry, letting students follow their passions and teaching them collaboration skills.  This way, they can have positive working relationships with their classmates, their community and the world through face to face interactions and through social media.   As educators we  have a choice to make every child feel that they are the most special person in the world.   Or we can stifle them, with rigid routines, boring lessons and isolation from working with others.  We can have quiet, neat classrooms that produce robot like children that cannot create any original ideas and cannot think independently.

At the end of the movie, Emmet convinces Lord Business that creativity is not messy or weird, and that it is okay for people to build brand-new ideas from all the things Business himself had made, which makes him special, too.

Hopefully you are part of a school on the winning side of the Lego Continuum.  If not, take a stand.  It's time for a change at your school.  You ARE the “Special One.”

If you would like to see James Cowper's take on the Lego Movie, read it here.


Monday, February 17, 2014

Different Ways To Share Your Students' Work From The Book Creator App

A common question I have, is "How do I share students' work from the Book Creator App?"  This is a fabulous app for students to share their learning, however, when it comes to embedding on a blog or sharing it with parents, it can get a bit tricky.  I have taken one of my students Book Creator creations and will show you a handful of ways to share it with parents, embed it onto their blogs or the classroom blog and where you can store it online for easy access for parents.

The first way to share a completed book is to export it to Dropbox, Evernote, or Google Drive.   Once you have saved it in your preferred application, you can email the link to whomever you wish.  All your recipient needs to do is to open it in their iBooks App.

I personally do not email my students' parents, so this option is not one that I can use.  Another option is to save the book as a PDF.  Note, if you save it as a PDF and you have video or voice recordings in the book, it will not transfer.  The website, Flipsnackedu is a special web too for educators.  You can create a flipping book from your students' PDFs and it has its own private and safe learning environment.
Click Here to view the book

Flipsnack does have an embed feature, however you need to purchase the premium account for that option and I only have the free account.

Another option is to have your students take screen shots of their book, upload the pictures in iMovie then add voice over to the movie.  This option takes a lot of extra time but if you really want to share their books on their blog or on Youtube then this is another option. 

My favourite option is to export your bookcreator creation as a PDF.

Then, choose to open the PDF in another app.

The last step is to choose to open it in Explain Everything.  

Once you have opened the PDF in Explain Everything, you will notice that your book is laid out the same way as it had been in the Book Creator App.  You now have the option to add video, audio and the ability to annotate on the page.  How about having your students record their voice while pointing to the words with one of the cursor options?  Or add a video on top of a video?  How about using one of the pages as a background and use Tellagami to read the page or describe the picture?  The options are endless! 
 Instead of your students doing all of their work in Book Creator, have them create the pages without audio and video.  After they have created the pages have your students add the video, voice and anything else they want to add in the Explain Everything app.  The best part is that you can export the completed project to just about anywhere!  Youtube, the camera roll (so they can add it to their blog), Dropbox, Google Drive or Evernote to name a few!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

When Inquiry Groups Don't Get Along

Can you think of a job that does not work in some kind of team, partnership, group, or staff?  Collaboration skills are so important to ensure that our students can work effectively together.  I don't mean, find a partner and work, I mean that children have the skills to work together in a variety of groups (teacher created, student created, inquiry driven, or interest driven.)

Collaboration skills need to be explicitly taught and modeled.  Just like reading, writing and math strategies, students need to learn a repertoire of social skills, like active listening, how to take turns in a conversation and how to receive others' ideas respectfully.

While our students have been working on their latest curricular inquiry circles, my teaching partner, Sarah and I had started to notice that we were putting out a lot of fires and devoting a lot of time to refereeing battles between group members.  Here are some of the mini lessons we delivered to help remind our students of their collaboration skills.

At the beginning of our Inquiry students created "Ground Rules" with their new groups.

I love rule #3!

We took all of the rules students created and made an anchor chart for the whole class.  We decided that it would be a good idea to create a looks like, sounds like chart to remind our kiddies about what effective small group discussion looks like and sounds like in our classroom.

The next day, Sarah showed this youtube clip

After discussing the clip, Sarah had our students role play in their inquiry groups what it looks like when students are listening carefully, taking turns and monitoring their own participation.  They also role played what it looks like when they do not work effectively.  Students discussed both ways and it made them realize the mistakes they were making in the group that was sabotaging their learning.

Sarah also found a great book titled "Sorry" by Jean Van Leewen that is about two brothers that get into a silly argument and never speak again, nor do their children or grandchildren until one day their great-grandchildren meet and one says he's sorry.  From that one magical word the silly feud is finally over.

We also thought it would help our groups work more smoothly if they had a plan and a reflection area where they could reflect on how they thought they worked with their group that day.  Our fabulous special assignment teacher Lisa Galvan created the following student planning and reflection sheet

Download here
This sheet really helped students make a plan, stay on track and were for the most part very honest with the reflection part.  Everyday, we stop 5 minutes early to give the students that reflection time and it is their ticket out the door when they leave for recess.

Let's not forget a very important piece of the  We also are collaborators.  We collaborate with other members of our team everyday, we have to model what we teach and be there to facilitate, coach and teach our students how to effectively use those social strategies and try to figure out the problem before the group goes completely off track.  

Is there still problems with group members in our classroom?  Of course, we are working everyday to teach and reteach those skills that students will need for the rest of their lives.  

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Indoor Recess Survival Kit

I don't know about you, but the weather where we are has NOT been cooperating! I can think of only a handful of times my kiddies have been outside for recess in the past month.  This creates a HUGE problem.  My kids need to move!  I wanted to share some of my students' favourite activities to do to get the wiggles out.  Hopefully you can use them to make the upcoming week of school go more smoothly.

Our favourite brain break in my class is any of the "Just Dance Videos" on Youtube.  @MauiMickey and the fabulous people at #kinderchat have created many Symbaloos using Safeshare.  Safeshare is a website that you can use to take out almost all of the advertisements and commercials of your Youtube videos.  You never know what could pop up after showing a video on Youtube.  This ensures that the video is safe to show to your kids.  The following symbaloos have already been converted to Safeshare.
Just Dance 1 Smbaloo

Just Dance 2 Symbaloo

Another great set of videos to get the kids' blood pumping is Adventures To Fitness.  Adventures To Fitness are free physical activity videos that incorporate the common core and have the feel of  a video game.  If you have boys in your class that don't like to dance, these videos will be a hit with them.  Thank you to my husband @mrwideen for creating the following Symbaloo with Safeshare.     

Yoga anyone?  How about yoga for kids with Cosmic Kids Yoga?  Grab a mat and try this Symbaloo created by Cosmic Kids.

                                                                  Cosmic Kids Yoga

If you don't have a projector or screen to show videos on, how about a couple of fun activities for your students to do during indoor recess?

I love this idea I found on Pinterest.  Arrange the classroom with lasers!  All day have students avoid the "laser beams."  Lots of climbing throughout the day!

I also love the idea of using red solo cups to build structures.  Put a few packs of cups in a box and voila, you have a fun building center that can be taken or knocked down in seconds!

I hope some of these ideas have inspired you and arm you with some tricks up your sleeves for the next indoor recess!