A blog dedicated to pursue my passion for writing. Stories of teaching and anything else that fills my head.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Currently...June


Here is my first currently thanks to Runde's Room and Oh Boy, Fourth Grade

I was writing report cards. In fact I already plugged at them for 15 hours. This time I thought I count how long it takes me to complete my report cards, and these are the hours actually logged into eTeacher (report card writing program), I'm not even going to count the hours I spend marking. Technically I am logged on right now but I am not counting the time since I got sidetracked with completing my first "Currently" and with this I learned how to use Picasa. I see some fun things ahead of my blogging days.

So as I soak in the Dixie Chicks, Wide Open Spaces, I am loving the summer weather. I am thinking how I will survive the last 3 weeks of school. Report cards are due in 1 week.
I do want to go on vacation and luckily I have a flight booked to Calgary in July.
I so need a massage. My last massage was in October. I usually spoil myself a lot more than this.
This summer, I plan on just having a great break with my son. I'm sad that my husband will have to work the entire summer since he just started a new job. But we plan to do some cottaging and camping. Going to the beach, aquarium, zoo and just spending a lot of time outside.

The Ontario elections are coming up on Thursday, June 12th. At first, I was confident in the decision on which party I was going to vote for. If you follow me on Twitter, it's evident that I am on the #stophudak bus. I am trying to be informed during this election and I read the PC platform. I am trying to understand why anyone would vote PC. I asked my husband who worked for the private sector and now for the public sector. He feels a lot of money has been wasted, which is true since Ontario is in debt. Taxpayers are upset and they feel the PC party is going to fix it. As a teacher, I just can't imagine what those cuts will do to the education system. This year I have 29 students, if class sizes increase, does that mean more students next year? I had no educational assistants in my class and I know for sure 3 of my students needed EA support and at least 5 more can use some extra Special Education support. I didn't have it so I sucked it up and did my job. All I want to do is do my job and do it well without all this political bullshit. I may be dreaming, but a girl can dream.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Genius Hour from Start to Finish

5 weeks ago I asked the class, "What if you can learn anything you want in this classroom?" After giving a right amount of think time, my first response was "AWESOME!" And that's how I got the Genius Hour ball rolling in my grade 4 classroom. And they were hooked, they wanted to know more.

The next day, I showed them this classic Kid President video. I just love this kid. He is so inspirational and I wanted my students to know that they can be awesome if they wanted to and all they had to do was try.


 Then I showed them www.geniushour.com and explained where this idea came from and how I did this with my class last year and everyone loved it.

In my class, there are 3 rules to Genius Hour:
1) You must start with an inquiry question (a really good question)
2) You must do research (if you can find the answer within a minute of searching, you'll need to find a better question)
3) You must share what you learned to the rest of the class.

I told them they will have four 60 minute classes to complete their project and it will happen the same time each week. Each week they looked forward to Day 2 (we are on a 5 day cycle) period 5/6.

There was a wide range of questions. Some students knew immediately and some needed a couple days to think about it. Some even had to change their question a few times after realizing they found the answer in 1 Google search or they couldn't find an answer. Most of my students decided to pair up.

Here are our questions/topics:

- How is the orbit made?
- What is the first sport invented?
- How do you survive in the wild? 
- How do you build a self-reloading trap on Minecraft?
- What can I build with Lego?
- What is the first panda?
- How old do sharks live?
- What is the Blue Mosque?
- Learn more about Selena Gomez
- Learn about Medieval Times
- What's the fastest car?
- What is the first video game?
- How do you make Minecraft with rainbow loom?
- How do I teach my dog how to sit?
- How to make a website? 

During the rest of the Genius Hour sessions, I had students researching, creating, planning, and collaborating. Learning became natural to them. There was accountable talk and they problem solved together. I was facilitating instead of teaching. Some students were off task because they needed help to organize and plan out how they will share what they learned. A few students didn't have anything to share because they spent most of their time researching. All these hiccups were just teachable moments for me to discuss time management and discuss what they could do differently next time. Failure is part of the learning process and I embrace it.

Finally it was time to share what they learned. Most students made Power Points. I tried encouraging some groups to think outside of the box to share their work but the technology was not really reliable on some days.

The sharing is still going on, everyone is proud of their work. The project that had the best student reaction so far is the one with the self-reloading trap for Minecraft. This student, who is an aspie, usually keeps to himself and needs help with self-regulation. But when he presented, every student in my class was captivated by his work and I could tell he loved every moment of it. I don't think I could have planned for this, even if I tried.

I can't wait to do another Genius Hour session with my class.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

PBL Wrapped Up

It's been a while since I last posted. December was filled with holiday fun at school and at home. My teaching partner and I took part in the Humbug Challenge by handing out treats, nog and hot chocolate in the staff room on random days. My class took part in the holiday concert, singing in French. We went sledding, made snow forts and got creative making Christmas cards and gifts for loved ones. Then it was the holidays, 2 weeks off to spend with my family and friends.  Time to relax, rejuvenate and reflect.

We wrapped up our Canada PBL in November and here is what I learned:

First mistake, I needed to dedicate more time to integrate PBL into all subject areas and not worry about the "schedule" for the day. I was still trying to follow the expected 100 minutes of literacy and 60 minutes of numeracy and with all the other subjects, I haven't quite learned how to go with the flow.

Second, I don't think my guiding question was effective. I realized half way through students were focusing more on the project rather than inquiring and researching. I had one student finish making a Power Point but couldn't answer the initial question. My guiding question was, imagine you were to travel to a province or territory, what would you want to see and do? Many students only provided basic information and facts when I wanted them to think like a tourist. But then again, I also think many of my students have not stepped foot outside of their community and do not have the experience of traveling.

The ones who struggled the most were my reluctant readers, they couldn't read the information and had difficulty finding the information. Then there were the ones who didn't know where to start or kept losing their research. Also I feel there are more passive learners emerging. They rather find an answer and not question if it's a good one instead of digging deeper, and asking more questions. On the flip side, they are only 9 and they may lack the experiences to inquire so now I know what I need to provide next time.

On a more positive note, this was an eye-opening experience for me as a teacher. I stepped out of my comfort zone of controlling their thinking and actions for the project. There was authentic learning happening. Overall they were all engaged and those who created a project, were proud of their work. My most reluctant reader was able to create simple Power Point with pictures. Many of them learned basic computer skills about copying, pasting and saving - seeing their faces light up when they found out how to save on their very own USB stick was priceless.

Now January brings on a fresh start at the end of term resulting in report card writing. It's like I never left.

Monday, November 25, 2013

#NoHumbug Challenge - 31 Days to Spread some Christmas Cheer

This week I took on the #NoHumbug Challenge. You can read more about it on http://blog.lululemon.com/no-humbug-this-holiday-season/?cid=TWNoHumbugBlog

Day 1 started on Sunday, Nov. 24th and I made breakfast for my hubby.
Day 2 I am to share this #NoHumbug challenge

There are 31 days to this challenge and it will lead us right up to Christmas. As a teacher, I feel the energy of the students getting excited about Christmas. Today during community circle, everyone talked about the Santa Claus Parade that took place in their community this past weekend. At home, the Christmas spirit has not arrived yet. I have not exposed my 22 month old too much Christmasy stuff quite yet, but I think Grandma and Grandad have already. We haven't decorated or even started shopping, because we are trying to get our basement finished. And this year we decided that we will host my husband's family so the countdown is on to get it done, decorated, gifts wrapped and turkey roasting in the oven. We will take our lil' guy to see Santa and quite possibly this year we will get the baby crying on Santa's lap picture.

In the classroom, I will spread some cheer starting December. The students don't know it yet, but they will soon take part in the #NoHumbug challenge and help spread some cheer throughout the school. I hope to take more breaks during the school day to go play in the snow with them(yes, we have snow...in fact, I thought today was going to be a snow day).

Our school is taking part in collecting food items, toiletries and warm clothing to help those in need in our own community. This year our goal is to raise 3000+ items. Our school has been fabulous each year so far in donations, and this year I'm sure we'll reach our goal. The collection starts next Monday with us donating a dollar to wear our pj's to school.

So as I take on this challenge, I will be changing it a bit to make it work in my own classroom and school. Or do you think I can mix a few eggnog cocktails for the staff?
 
As for all the other things I am doing in the classroom, that's still happening. I'll make sure I post how my PBL ended next time. We are wrapping things up, no pun intended.
NoHumbug Challenge

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Uncertainty of PBL

So I have been trying project-based learning (PBL) and the focus is on Canada's provinces and territories. I've read many articles on edutopia.org and follow discussions on Twitter to get my head wrapped around PBL.

I understand PBL is open-ended, inquiry-based, and ongoing. I realize it's not about the project and should be less teacher-driven. I am really having a hard time with that. I took a PBL planner from this website http://wvde.state.wv.us/instruction/pbltemplate.html and it seemed like I had the right idea. But now as we are approaching the third week I feel like they are just doing a project.

I started with this idea from Pinterest, where students made their own suitcase to prepare for the trek across Canada.


Then we brainstormed a list of things they wanted to see and what they would need to travel. And here I start swaying away from PBL. I had each student pick a province or territory to travel to. Some chose to work in pairs and there is one group of 3. So far, a few individuals are having difficulty with the driving question, what do I plan to see and do? The students that are striving have the basic skills to do research. I gave them a graphic organizer to guide their research, and provided books and a link to get them started.


The ones who are struggling either don't know how to ask the right questions or don't know how to find the answers. They are also my struggling readers. To accommodate I am letting them watch videos and getting them to use ReadPlease (a software that converts text to speech). I am also going to need to pull them aside and teach researching skills.
In the meantime, other students are starting to think about how they will present their information. At first most students wanted to make a poster, but then I prompted them to think beyond what they've done in the past and to think how they can share with technology. I suggest blogging because that's my push this year, and I also showed them how to do a PowerPoint - and they were amazed. I now recognize how little they know about using technology in the classroom.
Almost all my students have computers at home and most of them have iPods or some kind of tablet. They all use their technology for entertainment but don't know how to use them for educational purposes. After some discussion, students realized they could take pictures, make notes, and videos from their devices, but they were still all wanting to do a PowerPoint.


I was hoping while they were doing their research, they would ask more questions and dig deeper. I wanted to show students how to find their location on Google maps or even try a new food that we don't normally eat. How do I get them to think beyond the project?
I realize the learning I am seeing is still useful. Students are learning how to find images, copying and pasting onto PowerPoint. They are learning how to save. They are collaborating and teaching each other the computer skills that I take advantage of knowing. Most of them are engaged and they are excited so I guess this is where I have to let go of my preconceptions and see where it goes.

Monday, October 28, 2013

My Many Attempts to the First Post...

This blog was set up back in August and I had this vision that I would blog each week about my teaching life. My first attempt was about the first week of school, the start-up activities, and how I set up my classroom this year. By the way, I started with their desks turned around in groups so they cannot go in their desks. I wanted to approach my classroom with the "table group" method. That lasted 1 day and the groups eventually became rows because my students were really having a hard time focusing.

Then a few weeks later I tried to post again. I started talking about how busy the beginning of the school year was and how I was coping. Then I read a few more blogs and thought to myself that my posts are just not good enough.

Now it's the end of October. I will attempt to hit the publish button after this. I've met my students and my parents. We've had student-led conferences and I just handed in my progress reports. It has been a busy 2 months. My programming still needs work. I haven't quite introduced the Daily 5 but I do have a nice daily 3 during Literacy. Math involves a bit more worksheets than I like, but soon I hope to get into more collaborative problem solving questions.

I've hooked up my parents to Remind101. What a great tool to communicate my messages to their phones or emails. Just go to remind101.com or download the app. It's free and very easy to use. A parent has already commented on how she likes the messages popping up on her phone on days she forgets to check the agenda.

My husband spoiled me with my own personal SMART board and projector to use in the classroom. My goal is to have it as a center in math and literacy so I can teach smaller groups. But I find my students are not used to touching the board and need more time to just "play" with it.

This year I am using kidblog.org for my blogging purposes in the classroom. The vision is seeing all my students having their own blogs and they are blogging during Daily 5 and at home.

My love for technology has made me a tech. geek wannabe. I find myself really good at trying new programs and apps, but not good enough to be an expert.

Last week, I attended the ECOO conference in Niagara Falls. It was my kinda place with my kinda people. All of us with multiple devices in hand, tweeting out as we listened to the keynote speakers. All tweets can be read with #ecoo13. A few key messages kept popping into conversations throughout the 2 days I was there. First, it's not about the technology! The teacher is still very valuable to students. In the end, the students will remember the relationship with their teacher, not the technology they used. I remember my Grade 3 teacher fondly, her warm smile and generous heart.  "It is emotion that cements learning!" as Kevin Honeycutt expressed in his closing keynote message.  Second, we need to ADAPT. Every child is entering school with a greater knowledge of technology than us, adults. They are natural tech. geeks, where we are learned tech. geeks. We are teaching the web generation. We need to teach them to be critical thinkers and good researchers. They need opportunities to be creative and be inventors because we are preparing these students to a fast-paced changing society and to jobs that haven't even existed.

So with a renewed sense of awe in teaching, I am going to attempt my first project-based learning in grade 4. We are going to focus in on Canada's province and territories. I'll let you know how it goes. I think the hardest part for me is letting go of the reigns and letting it be messy.

I am also going to incorporate a few more 3 part lessons with focus on consolidation where I use technology to help share students' work.

Wish me luck!!

Follow me @treelau on Twitter. I am always looking to build my PLN.