I am a new primary teacher with the Vancouver School District after over 26 years as a K-3 teacher with Surrey Schools in British Columbia, Canada. With 25+ years of experience and a bunch of improvements along the way, I still have so much more to learn. This blog is a way to help me process and share all that I'm discovering on my quest to be the best educator I can be.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I have trouble sitting still. It's not just a physical thing, it's a mental thing too. As the 2011/2012 school year start comes near I'm trying to figure out how I'm going to fit it all in. Here are some things I'm contemplating.
Obviously as a grade one teacher my job is to get my students reading and writing. Reading Twitter the latest buzz program is The Daily 5. I have read both The Daily 5 and The Cafe Book. I like what they have to say, and much of what the books are saying were already part of my literacy program. But I'm not sold on the actual structure of the program. From reading the books I think it's okay that I don't use their structure.
In recent years I have set reading and writing goals with my students - sometimes directed by me, sometimes in collaboration with my students, and sometimes directed by my students. Each student has individual needs, and their learning goals reflect that. This year I once again want to use my literacy blocks as efficiently as possible. I want to continue my guided reading groups but I also want to have strategy reading groups. I want to continue my one on one conferencing too. I want to continue my community read. I want to continue to allow my students to do their reading and writing where ever they want in the room, and in most cases with whom ever they would like. I want to continue Reader's Chair where students share their reading with the class. I want to continue using my literacy conference books to document their learning and have that documentation open to parents - instead of in a private binder for my eyes only.
In writing I want to implement a lot of what I've read in No More "I'm Done!" Fostering Independent Writers in the Primary Grades. I want to have guided writing groups based on need and I want those groups to be fluid. I want to do more writing mini lessons and give my student more choice in what they write about. I'll be moving away from theme based writing.
Social Emotional Learning
Last year I was a School Advisor for a Teacher Candidate in the Bachelor of Education Program of UBC. She was part of the Social Emotional Cohort which allowed me to attend a Mind Up training session. I was also trained in the Fun Friends program, another social emotional program. While I don't yet know who will be in my class this school year I have been told that I have a few students with anxiety issues. I also know that I will have a selective mute in my classroom. I would really like to utilize both of these programs in my class this year.
This year I'll take another stab at having open ended math lessons when ever possible. I'll continue to do stations/centres approach. I have a few units that I'd like to continue to tweak too.
If there is one thing that I learned this summer on Twitter is that technology is the bomb. I want to be able to provide my students with as much access to technology as I'm able. I want it to be integrated into everything we do. Now, I only have one some what decent, and one only sort of decent computer in my classroom. We do have a full computer lab, and last year there were open blocks throughout the week. We also have laptop carts which can be signed out to individual teachers. I've always kept the laptops out of my room until term three, but this year I want them in sooner, much, much sooner. I want to get my class blog up and running as quickly as possible, and I want to use the blog as a way of sharing with the world what's happening in our classroom. I also want to find ways to get even more technology into my classroom, and into my school. I'm hoping I can get other primary teachers on board. There is a lot I want to do with technology.
Daily Physical Education
As a retired Ironman Athlete I strongly believe in physical education. Thankfully I teach with another grade one teacher who feels the same way. In addition to our two gym classes a week, she and I take our students on a 1.2 km walk/run twice a week. Our goal is to accumulate enough kilometres to walk/run us all the way across Canada - Run Across Canada. We always seem to make it just outside of Ontario, but it would be great if we could make it even further.
I returned from my trip to NYC a few days ago and I'm right back into following educational tweets on Twitter. While I was I away I did work on a couple of my goals by exploring new (to me) Web 2.0 tools; and by checking out, reading, and leaving comments on other peoples blogs. I didn't post much while I was away except I did manage to be at my computer during the #1stchat on Sunday evening. Now that I'm home I've been doing a bit more research about the class blog I'm wanting to set up this school year. I must confess that I'm REALLY excited about this class blog. There are so many incredible AUTHENTIC learning opportunities just waiting to be tapped into.
Yesterday I saw a link on Twitter recommending "we" check out two grade one class blogs from Adelaide, South Australia. How perfect for me. I immediately checked them both out and commented too. What great blogs they were. They didn't intimidate me and it seemed that everything (or almost everything) they did on their blog I could do on mine. The two classes were also excited to see someone from Vancouver, Canada checking their blogs out. They went as far as to google earth my school in Surrey, BC and then asked me questions about what they saw. It's times like this that I actually wish I was in the middle of the school year instead of being on summer vacation - don't get me wrong I LOVE my summer vacation and I truly LOVE the LUXURY OF TIME that it brings me. I am so excited for my class to meet these two classes, even though we are close to 18,000 km apart with a 16.5 hour time difference, I know they will be just as excited as I am. Here are the two blogs I've been communicating with Year 1 @ Craigburn PS and Mrs. K's Class.
I also asked on Twitter for links to other grade one class blogs. The links are coming in and I'm checking them out, book marking them, and adding them to my diigo account for later reference. Along the way I met Kathy Cassidy and she shared the link to her class blog. I asked her a question about her blogging platform (I'm still not sure which platform I'm going to be using for my class blog) and she shared this excellent google document explaining the features of the different blog platforms.
So yah, Twitter is still having a huge impact on my professional growth, even though it's my summer vacation. I can't thank the amazing people I've met on Twitter enough. I'm hoping one day in the not too distance future, I'll be able to help others too. In the meantime, please feel free to share your grade one class blogs or other great tips with me. If you know of any grants out there for Canadian (or BC) schools to apply for to get more technology into my classroom (or school) please feel free to share them too. Since I've been following Twitter I have been made very away of how poor technology is represented in my school. Obviously I'm NOT going to let that stop me from doing what I want to do, but it sure would be nice to have more technology to turn to.
This past week I spent time with two of my three precious nieces in New York. One of my nieces has just finished Kindegarten and will be entering grade one this September. Who better than to work with me on some new on line technology tools. We played around with Voki and Storybird and she loved them both. I'm sure the students in my class will love them too, and hopefully we'll be able to add them to our class blog (and if we get this far their student blogs). Here are a couple of her creations.
We had trouble getting her voice to record so we went the old fashion route of text to voice.
I’m still talking about the Reform Symposium to anyone that will listen. I am so thankful to the people that took the time to organize, and present at the RSCON3. Any one who will listen can’t believe that something like that was offered to educators for free. I explain how I could be an active participant by adding to the chat feed, or putting my hand up and getting mike privileges if I had a question I wanted to ask with my voice instead of my keystrokes. I think being new to Twitter in the past couple of weeks made me appreciate the amazing educators that are out there. It is because of Twitter that I was aware that the conference existed. I learned so much this weekend.
What I love about the conference is that every session was recorded and will soon be posted on I tunes. I am so eager to re-listen to those that totally inspired me, and listen to those that I had to miss due to time differences or prior commitments. I also love that most of the presentations can be found online. I like how everyone shared their Twitter names so I could quickly add them to my growing list of people I follow. I liked a lot about the conference.
My two issues with the conference have nothing to do with the amazing organizers and presenters. I didn’t like that the conference was on the first sunny weekend that we Vancouverites have had all summer. But the conference was so good that I for went the sunshine for learning. I also didn’t like that the conference was right in the middle of my summer vacation. I’m not back at work until Sept 1 so while I have all these amazing ideas I want to implement in my classroom, I can’t actually implement them for at least another month. But really, neither of these beefs have anything to do with the organizers and presenters. I can’t thank them enough for their generosity of time and knowledge.
So, where do I go from here? I’ve set myself a few goals that I feel are achievable and accomplishable this school year.
I will set up a class blog with my grade one class this year. I hope to have a blog that the parents of my students can go to see what we are doing in class, and that the rest of the world can check out too.
I will take the time to learn as many Web 2.0 tools as I can that can either benefit my teaching, my students learning, this blog, or my class blog.
I will continue to differentiate my teaching because I believe so strongly about it, but I will look even more closely at how I go about differentiating.
I will provide more opportunities for my grade one students to show me what they know in the manner that they are most comfortable with.
I will book the “free” lab time more often as well as bring the laptops into my classroom much earlier than term three.
I will look for grants to get more technology into my classroom, and into my school.
I will read as many blogs as I can, and comment as often as possible.
I will be willing to help anyone that can use my help.
I posted my last blog on twitter looking for help with my problem of getting a SLIDE slideshow embedded into my blog. One sleep later I had the answers. I feel so very fortunate to have found my twitter community. I think the possibilities are endless. In the mean time, enjoy these few beach scenes from around Australia. And to those that helped me out... THANK YOU!!
One of my goals since discovering the amazing educational information on twitter is to get to know more of the Web 2.0 tools. This evening I played with Slide which is a tool that creates slideshows from photos that can easily (or so I thought) be shared.
I discovered Slide on one of the kazilion blogs I've been checking out. It looked really cool and really added to the class blog. I figured since I'm hoping to have a class blog this new school year I'd better familiarize myself with this tool. I've been working on a photo book from my one year teaching exchange in Australia, and this is my educational blog, so I figured I'd make a Slide with some photos I took in an Aussie school.
I easily loaded the photos into Slide, chose my background, and prepared my slide show. It was super easy to use. I was then given a link to paste into this blog so that you could see it. I pasted the link into the blog and instead of getting a little slide show embedded into my blog I got this instead.
Trying out new tools is an exciting thing to do, even when you can't make the tools do exactly what you'd like them to do. Thankfully I'm not one to give up and I will figure out this tool properly. In the meantime if you know what I did wrong please feel free to let me know.