Category Archives: Blogging

Blog posts about blogging.

Postcards: An Opportunity to Build Relationships & Learn About the World

In June of each year, I send a welcome letter, a postcard from Vermont with Vermont animals on it, and a map of the United States to each of my students that I will have in kindergarten in the fall. I ask my students to examine the animals and to share with someone at home if they recognize any of the animals and share where they think they may live. I am beginning to help model and create opportunities for my students to become explorers and to think and experience ways they can interact with the natural world.

I do this for many reasons.

Why does this matter?

One important reason is that I want to begin to establish a relationship with all of my students and their families. Kindergarten is an important year and it goes by quickly so I want to take every opportunity I can to connect. Through making personal connections early on I find that both families and their children feel welcomed and a part of their learning experiences.

Through sharing our personal stories of our travels, experiences, and ideas not only to we begin to connect, but I am sharing information about myself as well. This is always helpful when establishing new relationships.

The postcards invite conversations for families to think about why are things where they are? They begin to think about land and water. This helps me explore how all my students will become geographers because they will have opportunities to ask why things are where they are in the world.

Through this postcard exchange, I am helping me to promote conversations about where places are in the world as well as opening up perspectives about what is possible and where you can go and what you might find there/learn.

I am intentional about the cards I send because I am also trying to promote the idea of inquiry. For example; In the cards I sent from Chicago I visited a museum and the artist produced lots of visual art by creating patterns. One of the cards I sent had patterns in it so I am able to pose the following questions on the card giving all my students opportunities to think and share their ideas with a family member. What do you notice? Do you see any patterns? How do you know they are patterns? Look at the postcard I sent you from Wisconsin, do you see any similarities?

The postcards have land, water, trees, art, animals, and other amazing things that give a glimpse of where I have traveled. The variety of photos invites conversations about why is water here along the shore in Chicago? etc. This helps my students think a bit about the geography of the land. This is important because in kindergarten as explorers my students will be investigating Global Goal #15 Life On Land and these experiences help establish some familiarity with the world.

Through these types of questions, I am opening up dialogue for the family to look at the cards and to discuss their observations with their child, while also modeling open-ended questions that promote thinking and curiosity. I am modeling how writing can be used as a tool to communicate and invite my students to send and create cards as well.

What I notice:

In one of the photos, you see a young boy using his holding hand while his other hand guides him to color in the state I am currently visiting(his mom shares he is mentioning my name and where I am while coloring). He is coloring carefully and has a natural grip to help guide him. These are skills that we explore in kindergarten and this helps me get to know a bit about this child. Through an authentic opportunity to connect, I am learning many things about my new kindergartners.

The family shares that he states: “I need to color in Michigan because that is where Mrs. D. is.” The child uses his oral language to talk about the map and have conversations with his family about my travels. Each place I visit I send a postcard to all of my students. This experience invites opportunities to make predictions about where is Mrs. D. going next. In some ways, I am promoting curiosity and deep thinking so this child and others can make predictions and use their imagination about what it might be like there, where I am.

You will notice in the photos that many of my students sent me postcards of how they were using their postcards and maps I sent them. You notice that many of my students mailed me postcards and one of my students found a map on an airplane and used that to mark his travels and mine. What an amazing, authentic connection with how maps can be used to give information and share a story.

Once kindergarten started, many of my students brought me postcards of places they traveled as well. I created a place in kindergarten to display these cards because we are connecting and developing relationships from our experiences and are inspiring each other through our stories.

In the photos, you see the different ways families have used the maps. Some children taped on a wall, others kept on a table. One family added Canada to their map because that was where they were from.

Looking at photos of my new kindergarten students this year I am reminded about the impact visual information can offer and how much I can learn about my students and what they are exploring as they receive the many postcards I mail them throughout my summer travel.

As a National Geographic Certified Educator, I have been very excited about The Learning Framework that National Geographic created. The framework has 3 components; Attitudes, Skills, and Knowledge. I have experienced how these pieces when woven together through inquiry offer endless opportunities for students to begin to think like a geographer and an explorer.

The postcard exchange I create each year begins to create a culture and model how we can all learn from each other when we share our experiences and our stories. This is a wonderful example of how the Learning Framework can be a part of learning. I am inviting opportunities to be curious, promote inquiry, and to connect with others who have a different perspective.

I am a very passionate educator who believes in opening up my classroom globally to help build bridges between people and cultures. I believe that this matters because even young children can think and learn about the world through sharing. I choose postcards because they helped to tell my story of my summer travel and to give authentic images of real things in the world. This inspired my students to do the same.

My Story as an Ignite Teacher

 

Today I had the opportunity to share my story as an ignite teacher. What a pleasure it was to share and listen to my fellow Ignite teachers stories.  I shared my story about how my learning evolved with the support of technology and how opportunities for developing meaningful and deep relationships were created. I believe that because of the connectivity and my willingness to be transparent in my own learning, I am able to learn alongside my students daily as we share our voices globally.

Here is my story………

I am learning how to connect and learn about the world alongside my students. Together we are exploring how digital tools and platforms offer opportunities to have conversations with others, who like us want to make the world a better place.

In the beginning, I had computers in my room that I did not want. I asked to have them removed because I wanted the space for other things. The computers stayed, collecting dust. I did not understand how technology could be used and why did we need computers anyway?  I kept thinking about why do I need these machines, what purpose do they have, and how will they help with my learning and that of my students?

In 2008 I participated in a blogging workshop. I was immediately intrigued by how I could use blogging as a way to share what we are doing in Kindergarten, why it is important and how learning evolves. So I started a class blog and immediately my students and their families connected and our conversations and relationships deepened and learning became the focus. Blogging helped me experience the value of the audience and how by sharing a variety of perspectives, relationships develop and we open up opportunities to have conversations about our learning. Now parents, students and others globally can read and listen to what we are learning about and how. I thought about how wonderful this will be for parents especially. Families had access to our day of learning, our stories…Families were in a way being invited, daily to see what is happening inside and out of Kindergarten anytime they wanted to, no more losing and misplacing endless pieces of paper about our days. Our learning was always available. Parents and their children would have a way to begin a conversation about their day.

One of my students was from Africa. He traveled by himself to the United States where he met his new family and school. With the help of his mom, we were able to use Skype as a way to say hello and learn a bit about Africa. My student introduced his Mother to us as his African mother, Rita. The children were mesmerized by this conversation, and as my student introduced his classmates, I watched the expression on Rita’s face, one of happiness. Then his mother asked her son, “How are you? Do you like your school?” Right then, at that moment it struck me about how important conversations are and the value of developing relationships that share who we are and where we come from. So at this moment, we all learned about how technology can be used to create a bridge to connect. Later my students asked why this child had more than one mom. He shared; “I am lucky because I have an American mom and an African mom.” We learned about the value of acceptance… and our perspective of family widened, we learned that families look different.

Later another child’s parents were traveling in Japan. They shared videos and photos of what life was like there. The children were really intrigued by the speeding trains. When the child’s parents connected with us using GoogleHangout, their child was able to say hello. As he softly cried, when he saw his parents on the screen. he told his parents how much he missed them. In those moments he was reassured that he would see his parents tomorrow. The other children immediately spoke kind words and told him that it would be okay. At that moment we experienced empathy and the webcam that was once put in mouths and licked was now a portal to connect and speak with people who care about us and our learning. Through our interactions with each other, we learn about the importance of friendship and empathy. 

As we explored Global Goal #13 this past year, and previous years, Climate Action, the children were able to learn about waste.  As we explored what waste, how it is created and what might be some possible solutions we connected with Recycle Rhonda from the Chittenden Solid Waste District. We learned about ways that we could be less wasteful through hands-on workshops. We created a padlet to ask others globally what they were doing to be less wasteful. Then during one of Recycle Rhonda’s visits,s one of the children asked if she was on Twitter. She replied, “No.” So the children explained to her what Twitter was and if she joined Twitter we could talk to her. So she joined! The children now share their positive actions around waste with her via Twitter. The children, at the ages of 5 and 6 are modeling and teaching an adult about how to use this social platform in a safe, kind, and responsible way.  The children begin to experience and understand how this platform can help us make connections, share our learning and have conversations with others who are interested in our learning. Now we, together with experience understand how we can deepen our learning through the use of technology. Twitter becomes a platform to have conversations.

I’ve decided not to try to keep up with it all, but to focus on the things I’m using while being open to new ideas.  Another challenge is being explicit and intentional about what digital platform to use and how. I have been inspired by the authentic, personal experiences that I, my students, my colleagues, and their families have shared in regard to how technology has enriched and enhanced their understanding and connection with each other and the world. For me, learning is for everyone. I have hope that technology will offer endless opportunities for everyone to share their voice and connect with others who have a passion for what is important to them. Learning is always the focus… technology is a tool that offers a bridge to the world. Through our ability to be transparent, we model how we can all learn from and alongside each other in positive ways to make the world a better place.

fullsizeoutput_140e

Creating a culture……….

A very exciting time of year for me is the beginning of Kindergarten.  Summer ends and I find myself interacting and learning new ways to connect, engage and enhance learning.  Creating a culture for learning is always a challenge because I get new students each year and we explore our new classroom inside and out alongside each other.  I am watching and listening to see what interests my students have as well as how they might be learning and sharing their ideas that they are curious about.

An idea I tried this year…. and it was so successful, was to read The Dot by, Peter Reynolds as out 1st story together.  I choose this story because it illustrates so easily the value of sharing your idea and even more importantly how a teacher needs to be ready and engaged with what is “there”.  The imagination of a child is wonderful and this story captures how I can, as a teacher, take time to notice what each of my students is capable of, the gifts they have and to always celebrate what they know and are willing to show me.  Through what we celebrate, more will come and I hope my students will grow confident through their ideas and by taking risks with what they want to share.

As I read the story I kept referring to what do you want to make? create? and design? I was specific with this vocabulary because I want my students to begin to explore how their ideas matter and how together we can collaborate and inspire each other.  I also created cards and laminated them so that these words become part of our culture, words we will use to support and inspire each other.

When I asked my students questions while I was reading the story I began with phrases like; What do you notice…  I wonder…..  Again the vocabulary is important because it offers everyone an opportunity to share an idea, rather than an answer to a specific question.

 

After reading the story we sang the Dot Song together.  It was really magical. I played it on the Smartboard and afterwards I had a quick opportunity to let parents know about this great author, but also that I see safeshare.tv as a way to play videos safely.  Again, I am trying to weave and thread through a variety of ideas in a meaningful way.

Then as we were getting ready to take our first bus ride I had an opportunity to share our class blog.  Again I am trying to highlight things that we, the parents and students will be using to highlight our learning.  When sharing the blog I am able to connect the story we just read.  Letting the children know that the book has text and pictures just like our class blog.  So as we begin to create, build and design our learning like the child in the story, we will be “making our mark” on our class blog where we can share our ideas with the world.

A great opportunity to participate in an international celebration of creativity.  Join others globally to celebrate International Dot Day. Go here to join.  When I shared this with my students they were very excited.  This offers us all an opportunity to share and celebrate our creative spirt.  Through our willingness to share, we can all become inspired…..

So after 2 days in Kindergarten we have created book bins with author names and names of themes.

unnamed  This way the children become familiar with book names and authors.  I am now beginning to let them them know they will also be authors this year just like…….

Children begin to get excited about books and reading.  We begin by reading to self.  In Kindergarten we have a variety of spaces, places and books to read.  We need different things….. Creating a culture needs to be flexible, but also make room for children to shine as individuals…  Not an easy task……

unnamed-22

I invited parents in to create science journals for our outdoor classroom and hand painted aprons too.  It is important to include parents whenever you can so they can also be a part of their child’s learning.  Even in the beginning days parents feel connected and a part of their child’s journey.

Connectivity……

We “tweeted” and painted a map of the world to reflect where we will be able to post who we are connecting with and how.  This is important because I want to model how we can have conversations globally in a safe, kind and responsible way.

Creating a culture of learning is the most important thing I do as a teacher.  The culture reflects what we are doing, why it is important and how we will be sharing what we are exploring globally.  Teaching is a privilege and an opportunity to offer hope and inspiration.  This year I am thinking about the value of opening my classroom globally and  ways I can learn alongside my students and families.  I would be interested in hearing from anyone who has ideas to share about how you begin to develop a learning culture…..

Thanks for reading and sharing.

 

Finding Success Blogging With Young Students

Finding Success Blogging With Younger Children

The Value of an Audience

Value of an Audience

In Between Naps On A Sick Day!

What a wonderful surprise I had in my Gmail yesterday!  I have been sick and many of my students have been out as well.  So one of my innovative parents decided to create and connect Kindergarten at home with her child who was not well.  The reason I am posting about this is BECAUSE as a teacher, I am able to model explicitly how I use digital tools, but also more importantly how they can offer an opportunity to connect and engage when you are not able to come to school.

In my classroom parents understand that the blogs I use are ways for them to connect, reflect with their child and engage in the learning.  So because this parent looked at our class blog, she was able to connect the learning happening in Kindergarten with her own child.  I love this because it reflects and displays so beautifully the seamlessness that blogging can offer.  As an educator I want my students and their families to be a part of our daily learning.  When this is encouraged, parents feel welcomed to engage.  Through our ability to model this and offer invitations to extend learning outside of our classrooms parents begin to work alongside us, the teachers who are working hard each day to make a difference for all of our students.

We have been reading a variety of texts and creating our own persuasive writing pieces.  One of the things I love about Kindergarten is how excited my students are when we read together.  Through reading a story out loud and making it interactive I am able to model and make connections.  My students pick up on this right away!  During our turn and talks everyone is excited to share,participate, reflect and engage in their own writing to share their point of view!
unnamedunnamed-1
I share the writing that one of my students did while home sick because I think that this was not only amazing, but also that this child, my student, was excited to do this!  The parent knew how to use Skitch because this is an App we have used many times in Kindergarten.  I love the initiative that was taken and shared.  I also received 2 voice recordings as well! Quick Voice Mail!  Wow!  This was new to me.  So I am learning from a parent who is experiencing the value of how digital tools can be used to connect and enhance learning opportunities.
Using digital tools and technology is not about increased screen time, but it is about how can we, as educators use a variety of synchronous and asynchronous tools alongside each other, our students, the families we teach, etc. to build connections and strengthen relationships so we can be engaged together with the learning that is happening.  Through opportunities like this, authentic learning appears and yes, I learn too!
unnamed-2
I am sharing this parents comments BECAUSE it is important to find ways to engage the families that we teach.  Parents want to be involved.  Invitations need to be present, fluid, ongoing.
“Consider me officially inspired by your use of technology in the writing process.  I can’t believe how long___ stuck with this and how proud she was when she was finished!!!  We read Click Clack, Moo…talked about the “see,” “think” “write” strategy and then I had her record her ideas on Quickvoice. (so she could remember what she wanted to say as she wrote.) Then she wrote her ideas on “fundations-esque” paper and read her writing again on Quickvoice.  Skitch to label her coverpages.  Holy moly, I don’t know how you do this stuff for all of your students.  It’s amazing but totally EXHAUSTING!!!

Thank you for everything!!”

So in between naps, look at what can happen!  Inspired and grateful!

Being Grateful…….

Today I am deeply grateful for many things.  I, like others, am especially grateful for family, my friends and my health.  All of these things are important and fuel my energy and support me always. They provide comfort and joy.

I am also grateful for the ability to share my voice.  Having a voice is so important because you are able to model, collaborate, connect and reflect on what is most important to you.  Through sharing my voice I have been able to model explicitly how I can make a difference through my interactions with others and my ability to be transparent also.  My voice is my own and I try to use it with a variety of tools that help to inspire, capture and share how innovation and creativity can make a difference and offer ways for  peaceful, thoughtful and  gracious change.

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 10.38.24 AMPresently I am involved with a project based learning opportunity with my kindergarten students.  We have been building an awareness of hunger inside and outside of our classroom.  We have invited community people into share their perspective and the ways they, community business are making a difference for others who need our help.  My students are beginning to experience alongside their parents and others about empathy and how important it is.  Through this learning experience my students have created a plan of action and have also been able to share using their Kidblogs, Twitter, Skype and other face to face opportunities where they have been able to have conversations about the importance of caring.food

Thanks to Stephen DeCatur Elem@SD_Eagles my students get to see the impact they have had in the world! He tweeted: “@ We are collecting! We kicked it off by watching your video w/over 700 staff, students, & families.” I look forward to sharing this with my students after our holiday break.  An amazing impact we have had just by sharing our voices.

When my students created an iMovie and then shared our project globally we all began to experience that others were inspired by our idea and then in turn started making a difference where they live!  Such a great way for my students to share globally and experience the value of sharing their voice in positive ways!

unnamedToday I received a photograph from one of my students parents.  Their amazing child, my student has decided to sell her books over the Thanksgiving holiday to raise money for The Children’s Literacy Initiative. I am grateful for knowing about this and that my students parents thought that I would want to know and care.  My student will post on her Kidblog, but is also inspired to make a difference for others with the support of her family.

As an educator I have endless opportunities to model explicitly “how to” make a difference for others.  When I can do this alongside my students and my families in a collaborative way I am modeling not only the importance, but the value of this idea.  Perspective is important and what we do with ours is equally important.

Thanks so very much to all of you who read my blog and post comments that challenge my thinking and inspire me.  I continue to look forward to learning from all of you as well as learning alongside you.

Peace……….