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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.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Registration is Open for The Primary Blogging Community September Session

The Primary Blogging Community is currently accepting classes that blog for the September rotation.  The last rotation was a huge success with over 80 classes participating from all over the world.  I have made a few changes for this rotation.  I have changed the rotation schedule from 8 weeks to 5 weeks.  I've done this because I feel that the most important part of this community is to have students commenting on each others blogs to generate excitement to write!  Instead of taking 4 weeks to read and comment on the class blog, I have shortened it to 1 week.  Here is a brief description of what the blogging community is:

What is the Primary Blogging Community?

The PBC is a community of primary teachers 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 5 weeks long.  The first week will concentrate on the classroom blogs only.  During this week, you will visit the other classes class blog.  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 a good comment.  After the first  week, we switch the focus from your classroom blog and concentrate on student blogs.  The second week, one class will will be the focus class with the other 3 classes commenting on the first class' individual blogs.  The cycle continues for 3 more weeks.   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!  

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  we concentrate on your student's personal blogs, not your classroom blog.

What do I need to have to begin?

You need to have a classroom blog and your students need their own personal blogs.  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 link for our group is here.  The code to our group is 2n9zci.  We also communicate frequently on twitter, use #PrimaryBC on twitter and follow me on twitter for news and updates @mrswideen.

Where do I sign up?

Please fill in the google doc here.

When do we begin?

I will be closing registration September 15 and we will begin September 22nd.  

Monday, June 16, 2014

Why I Abandoned Genius Hour

Genius hour is an amazing concept that children respond to because they get to learn about any topic they choose.  I had a few rounds of Genius Hour last year and the kids thought it was awesome.  On Fridays, the question was always, "Are we doing Genius Hour today?"

With a grade 1/2 classroom last year, it got difficult to keep up with Genius Hour for a few reasons.

1.  My students were very young, so they still needed a lot of teacher direction and guidance.

2.  The range of projects was huge!  There were students learning to knit, creating paper mache animals, learning magic, painting on canvas, making wedding cakes and cooking pizza to just name a few.

3.  We asked my principal for a small budget to cover the costs of all of these projects.  My principal was very supportive and agreed.  (In reality, how many times do you ask for money for Genius Hour)

The Knitting Group
These were all minor issues, my major issue was that my students did not know how to properly research and I as their teacher did not effectively model this.  I let my students basically do whatever they wanted and helped as much as I could to direct them to resources in the library and online.  My students craved Genius Hour and I dreaded it.  It was me running around like a chicken with its head cut off.  Think of 40 students, 2 teachers and as many people that I could rope into to help out during that hour and a half of time.  There was glue, paint, flour, sugar, yarn, knitting needles, magic wands and pizza dough flying around the classroom.  (And you think your classroom looks like a circus on somedays!)

I needed a better plan, I needed to be better prepared and I needed my students to have the skills needed to research an idea or topic, produce not only a product but also be able to share the information they learned from researching the topic.

This year, Genius Hour turned into Wonder Workshop.

This year I began the year teaching the skills needed for an inquiry based classroom.  I modeled my own inquiry and taught and retaught the skills needed for my students to be successful researchers and wonderers.
From a modeled lesson on "Reading with a question in mind."

My students completed curriculum based Inquiry projects on Early Settlers where they created the question that they answered.  They also did an Inquiry on a creature of their choice.

My students learned different ways to show their learning.  That it didn't have to be a book created on the iPad.  That it could be a poster, an artifact, a presentation or a video.  When my students chose to create an artifact they new that there would be questions from their peers on the topic that they would need to know before presenting their artifact to others.

When my students had gone through the inquiry process, with how to create a deeper question, how to effectively take notes,  how to collaborate with others, this is when I introduced open inquiries.

Open inquiries is a form of Genius Hour.  EVERYDAY we have Wonder Workshop.  Students come into the classroom at 8:30 and from 8:30-9:00 each day they can work on their open inquiries.  They can work alone, with a partner or with a group.  I have students that are working on commercials to bring more students to the school, I have students that are creating non fiction books on the iPads about a topic they wanted to research.  I had a student share their paper book on healthy eating this morning.

Because, I took the time to explicitly teach and reteach the tools my students needed, Wonder Workshop goes much more smoothly.  Yes, I still have the child that has been creating the same book for the past 3 months and yes I do have children that have changed their question more frequently than they brush their teeth.  I have to keep reminding myself that this is a process and that the process is more important than the product.

My students still have that excitement like they did last year on every Friday.  Now they are excited everyday because they get to start their morning learning about something they have chosen to learn about.  They are just as excited to share their learning with their peers and families.

If you too have abandoned Genius Hour, don't give up, a great place to start is to read Inquiry Circles in Action.  It has changed the way I teach and has fantastic lessons to get you on your way to a wonderful Wonder Workshop.