Category Archives: digital citizenship

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.

How We Explore The Global Goals: @vermontkkids123

A Culture Of​ Learning: Global Goals

As a kindergarten teacher, I have the privilege of working each day with young children who are eager to learn and connect with their learning environment. I look forward to being inspired by our busy days together.

In the beginning days of school, I began to build a learning culture with my students through a big idea. This year our big idea was sustainability. We began by asking what we could do to help sustain and keep the world healthy. As we began to explore this idea I introduced the Global Goals for Sustainability because these goals were at the center of our learning. We put a poster of the Global Goals in our classroom and it became an easy way to weave the goals into our daily learning explorations. I explained to my students that these goals are promises we can make to make a difference in the world. I shared that if we make a promise to help, we are pledging our help to save the world. My students immediately become excited about this idea and wanted to know what they could do to help. I began by asking a simple question, “What do you do if you are cold?” The children responded with: I get a jacket, snuggle with a blanket and put a coat on.  I used their examples as an opportunity to connect the goals. I asked my students to imagine that the goals were a large blanket that wraps itself around the world.  The blanket represents the goals. The goals are around so we can all help sustain the world for everyone to enjoy.

Why does this matter?

The world needs everybody’s help. Global Goals provide endless opportunities to build awareness and create a plan of action. The goals also translate to my local community as I began thinking of possible needs and opportunities we have and ways my students could engage in a positive manner to build awareness for change. Children want to be a part of solution-based problem solving, and this can begin in kindergarten. A good place to start is with teaching how our actions of kindness can help create people who care and have empathy for others.  

Getting Started:

There are seventeen Sustainable Development Goals, and I chose to begin with Goal #16 because it is about being kind, advocating for others who may need help and promoting fairness. A good place to learn more about the goals on the #TeachSDGs site, there is also a Twitter conversation around this hashtag.

This goal sets a positive tone for risk-taking, support, and encouragement.  Young children need experiences and opportunities to feel what it is like to support others and be kind.  Through establishing these ideas at the beginning of Kindergarten we all begin to understand that it is about what we can do together, not as individuals that offer invitations for everyone to participate.

Creating a Culture of Learning

We created a culture of learning, by noticing and sharing our actions of kindness towards each other. Through our actions of kindness, patience, and collaboration my students felt connected to Kindergarten and each other. As we built trust, took risks and learned from each other we created a culture where all students feel safe, valued and inspired. Once my students felt connected to a classroom, we painted a map of the world as a way to show that other people live outside of Vermont and this Kindergarten class. I also began connecting with other educators and people around the world using Padlet, Skype, Google Hangout, and Twitter.  As we connected with people I took photos so my students were able to see where people are from globally, but also how we were having conversations with them.

Connections with Content:

As I began exploring how to teach about the SDGs, I looked towards the content I was teaching to determine where the goals and the content meshed. I first looked at the NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards), these standards are a wonderful way to begin to think about where you want to start and what goals you will explore. As we explored Goal #13 Climate Action and Goal #15 Life On Land, my students were able to connect that through our ability not to be wasteful, we can have a positive impact on land and climate. Since the goals are displayed on my wall, the students make connections about being responsible for waste every time we recycle, compost, and reuse. This helps my students make a connection with authentic action. I found a good place to start is by simply putting up a Global Goal in your classroom where your students can make a connection. Just by adding Goal #6 to our sink area my students are being more responsible for not wasting water. These visual reminders are helping to build their awareness.

Another idea is to ask your students to make a pledge or promise to the world.  I have found this to be very impactful in my Kindergarten class, as students highlight the goal and what their action will be. I then ask my students to read their promises aloud, as if to the world, and they all feel proud. We created a board outside our classroom as a way to highlight our promises.

In my class, we are currently exploring forest life, and this offers opportunities to explore and expand on two Global Goals: #13 Climate Action and #15 Life On Land.

Through our weekly nature walks and explorations outside, my students are beginning to develop an awareness of the outdoors and why we need to take care of it.  Through Padlet we were able to share what a tree/forest looks like in Vermont as well as what trees look like and need in other countries. To get started with this activity, we first shared our Padlet on Twitter, and I also asked families to share with family members and on their Facebook pages. I also shared on my Facebook pages with other teachers. We received responses from Hong Kong, Egypt, Portugal, Germany, Ireland, London, and Australia. My students were so excited to see that people from 5 continents added to our Padlet! I printed the photos off from each country and we made observations about the trees and forests, then we put the images on our map of the world.  This allowed my students to see where the trees grew globally.

Through our forest exploration, my students were able to reflect on what things trees need to grow and survive no matter where they are in the world.

This is what they came up with:

  1. All trees need a seed.
  2. All trees need water.
  3. All trees need soil.
  4. All trees need sunlight.
  5. Trees need people to care

My favorite response was #5 because when we take care of things we are modeling and demonstrating how we care.  This idea comes back to no matter what the content. These ideas turned into a belief statement for my Kindergarten students. We now connect all of our learning explorations to the global goals.  

As an extension to this project, we made a connection with a Kindergarten class in Hong Kong because my sister is a teacher there and she put me in touch with other teachers who are interested in connecting globally with another class.  Now we connect monthly using Padlet and/or Twitter to share what we are exploring. Twitter and Facebook teacher groups are also great places to post projects and ask if others are interested in joining my class to explore a specific learning idea.

Now What?

The goals can be woven in and out of all content, standards, and learning. Regardless of the age you teach, the world needs everyone to care, now! What are some themes of study you are exploring? Ask your students how they can make a difference. What is important to them? Think about a global goal that would connect with their learning. Then take it a step further and think about a community need or school need you to have.  How can you build an awareness alongside your students and their families?  

To help you get started here are some resources with great ideas: Participate, World’s Largest Lesson, and the Global Goals.

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Exploring the Global Goals

I have the privilege of being a Kindergarten teacher.  I work in a public school where I am completely supported by my own learning and the learning of my students.  I mention this because as an educator when I am supported by my school, students and their families a very magical synergy begins in a seamless way. This synergy is what supports many different parts connecting and collaborating together to make a difference.

A couple of months ago I became aware of the Global Goals for Sustainability.  This really inspired me and challenged my thinking about how I could bring these ideas to Kindergarten in Vermont.  So I made a large copy of the goals and shared them with my students. I told them that in Kindergarten we all have goals.  One of my goals for each of my students was to teach everyone to read.  This was an example of an individual goal.  When I asked my students about what do you think global goals might be, I was surprised and inspired by their ideas…

“It is when you share your idea with the world.”

“It’s like everyone wants to be kind.’

“I think it is working together.”

“Maybe it is sharing and helping people.”

Then I was able to build on their ideas.  My explanation was simple..  I said; “The world needs our help. Together with if we share our ideas we can make a difference.” So we began exploring Life Below Water, then Life On Land and Peace & Justice.  Through our work and exploration of these goals, all my students were able to learn new content and also begin thinking about how life on land and life underwater is important for everyone.  We created murals, collages, shared our ideas on Twitter and even created a passport where we are collecting stamps of the global goals we explore.

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I now have an opportunity to connect and collaborate with my talented ELL teacher, Patti Tursi, who has a unique perspective and insight.  She offers her time and expertise to have small discussions with the students around the goals we have explored.  Through these small discussions, we are now able to create smaller dyad groups where the children can turn and talk about what these goals are and why everyone in the world needs to know about them. Now we have another opportunity to create a movie about these goals and why they matter.

How do I know if these ideas are making a difference?

One of my students was on vacation with her family.  She and her family looked at the global goals and decided that picking up trash in a park was part of goal #15 Life On Land. Children are naturally curious and want to be a part of solutions where they can make a difference.  I share this with my students and they are all now even more interested in making connections with what we are exploring.

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I am grateful for the flexibility and support I have as a public educator.  Through my relationships with my students, families, and colleagues I have many opportunities to collaborate and connect.  It is when we work alongside each other, that we are able to make a difference.  It’s not about what we’ve done, but how are we inviting others to learn with us.  Relationships develop, inspiration appears and all ideas are valued and challenged.

Just by having a poster up in my classroom of the global goals I am able to reference them throughout the day.  Giving my students opportunities to make connections and talk about what they understand.  This is an opportunity for me to model ways to care in a global way about the world.  Through our ideas and experiences, we are able to share and hopefully, others will be inspired by our actions and create their own plan. I think about what the possibilities are to make the world a better place when we all work together.  Endless….

Building an Awareness Globally

I have the privilege of being a teacher.  I look forward to each year with my Kindergarten students because together, we get to learn about the world and build our understanding of what we can do to help others and ourselves.  I appreciate the support I get from my families each year as we all begin to develop an awareness of others through our ideas and personal experiences.

As I begin to explore ways to build an awareness of the world I always think about what are the tools available to use to help capture and enhance the amazing discoveries we are making inside Kindergarten.  So this year I am using Twitter, Kidblog, Padlet, AirServer,Blogger, Skype and GoogleHangout.  These platforms, applications and tools all offer opportunities to share what my students are curious about and also capture their ideas that we share globally.  I think the sharing no matter what platform you use is a wonderful way to demonstrate explicitly what you are exploring and then your students have opportunities to see who in the world is interested in their learning.  This is so powerful for children because they are inspired and excited to see where in the world they are having an impact and who is also interested in what they are learning.

Recently we used Skype as a way to learn about the life of bees with an expert.  My student intern created a unit of study about bees.  She use Skype as 1 way  for the children to ask questions and share their learning.

Twitter is on all day because you never know when you might want to share an idea. This way my students get to connect with others who are sharing what they are learning.  When we “tweet” we are demonstrating and modeling “how to” have a conversation on line. Look here and here to read posts I have had published in regards to using Twitter.

Padlet is a fun and easy way to ask others globally for ideas and to share.  This tool is like a sticky note so when I explain and share with my students I have something explicit to connect this with.  My students were able to see what a pumpkin looked like in Germany and Australia recently via this tool.  A great opportunity to make connections and see what is different, the same and wonder about what all of these plants need to grow no matter where in the world they are. Look here at ours.

Kidblog is a wonderful way to explore ‘how to” write with an audience in mind.  This way my students begin to experience that a larger audience will be reading and looking at there posts, so they become excited and focused on doing their best.  Kidblog also has a map of the world like we have on our classroom wall and our class blog so we have many opportunities to connect and see who in the world is interested in our ideas. Look here, here and here to read posts Kidblog has published.

Blogger is another way to enhance and share your learning and that of your students.  Through our own ability to be transparent and share our voice, we offer invitations to share our students’ voices too. The families of my students love the class blog because it offers  them an opportunity to have face to face conversations with their child about there day inside Kindergarten.  This is important because I want the learning that takes place inside my classroom to be outside as well.  This is whereby students begin to develop an awareness of the world and how many wonderful things we have to share.  Look here to see a post that was published on blogging and here to read about the positive effects of blogging.  Why I blog…..

GoogleHangout is an easy and fun way for parents to read a story to the class as well as share with other children globally about a topic of interest.  Read Across America is a great opportunity for teachers to connect with others globally via a great book!

This year many parents have been emailing me photos of their child making connections with ideas we are exploring inside Kindergarten.  This has been a wonderful way for my students to share their connection with the class and facilitate a discussion.  This type of opportunity also gives all my students inspiration and raises their self confidence.  They matter and what is important to them matters too.

In the photos you might notice a child seeing a rhombus created with light in her home.  This is one of the attributes we are exploring in Kindergarten.  Another child sharing a climb he made also noticing a circular shape on top of a mountain. He shared what he saw as well while on top of a mountain.  This is another opportunity for me to weave in the idea of perspective. Another child creating pizza.  We had an opportunity to talk about straight lines and curvy lines because of what this child created.  We were also able to justify our thinking because we made connections with other things that are triangular.

Interacting with the world has opened my eyes to what is possible to explore even with 5 and 6 year old children.  We are able to enrich our understanding of the world through our ideas and sharing our perspectives with others.  Then we make connections with what we see others doing and we begin to question which is where we think critically and deeply about what we are exploring.

Student Voice: @vermontkkids123

Earlier this week I had the pleasure and privilege of bringing 7 of my Kindergarten students to Dynamic Landscapes to present why coding is important and how we use Bee Bots to teach us about code.  It was an amazing experience. I have been thinking about the value also of student voice and how my students were able to share theirs in a very authentic way.

My students collaborated, answered questions, reflected on their thinking as they shared, demonstrated “how to” operate a Bee Bot as well as show how they support our exploration of coding.  Some things really struck me…..

  1. All of my students were confident when they shared throughout the audience.  All of my students displayed confidence and were great supporting each other.
  2. My students spoke up clearly and confidently.
  3. They added their own ideas and thoughts throughout my presentation about coding without my prompting them.
  4. They really understood what coding is and why it is important.
  5. They all worked in small collaborative groups with adults demonstrating “how to” use Bee Bots as well as answered the questions that came up.
  6. They introduced themselves with confidence and were genuinely excited and so proud to be alongside me sharing the love of coding.
  7. This was a great example of student voice.  I am so proud of my students.  They did a wonderful job using their voice to inspire others as well as opportunities for people to think about coding.
  8. My students remembered and understood the importance of covering their name when photographed because this is how we are safe when we share ourselves and our ideas online.

These are just some of the things I noticed.  I am also thinking about how seamless this was for them.  They were not nervous, but confident in their knowledge and thinking about what we were sharing and why.  This has me thinking deeply about how important it is to have our students voices heard.  Our students have so much to say and I am thinking about the opportunities that I have as an educator on a daily basis for student voice.  Creating opportunities for our students to use there voice to share, reflect and design what they are exploring and learning creates a very rich culture for learning.

Thinking about next year and how I will begin to have student voice present in all of our learning offers me opportunities to be reflective and also begin to think about what I will be designing, why it is important and how will it look and sound?  Lots of platforms and digital tools “out there” to think about incorporating…

My students are at the heart of my work.  Their families are important stakeholders and need to be a part of our busy days together.  I am thinking also about when my students are invited to share their voice, it becomes confident, inspiring and helps us all think deeply about the what of our work.

 

Bee Bots @vermontkkids123

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A Passion

One of my passions is knitting.  Knitting is an opportunity for me to create, design and think critically about patterns and “how to” make things I have never created.  Knitting is always new learning for me and it also provides a great sense of reflection and rejuvenation as well. When I knit I am often challenged by the patterns and code that I have to figure out.  I have been thinking a lot about how knitting and coding connect and also why it is important to explore code with our students.

This year I have been exploring coding using Kodable and Bee Bots.  Both of these explorations have revealed some amazing insights into the why behind coding.  When my students use Bee Bots they are collaborating and having face to face conversations about what they are trying to get their bees to do.  In a very authentic way they are beginning to create learning experiences with a bee that they design and create. The excitement around these bright yellow bees is contagious and all of my students are willing to take risks when engaged with creating their own code for their bee.

Why is this important?

Coding challenges our thinking.  It provides all of us to think deeply about an idea, a code and how is it created.  When I am challenged with my knitting I engage deeply with the challenge presented because I am passionate about what I want to create.  Students are naturally curious and excited about learning and creating what they explore.  Coding is an easy and fun way for this to happen.

Coding provides opportunities for even young children to use oral language to have conversations about what they are doing.  This is an important part of development for children as they become independent and passionate readers.  Through opportunities to interact and solve problems even our youngest learners find ways to create new ideas that inspire further exploration.  One day while we were reading our feed on Twitter we noticed another Kindergarten class in Hawaii using a Bee Bot to draw with colors.  My students were excited to try this.  While we were exploring this idea some of my students decided to put paper on the floor and build a maze using a variety of blocks.  They were trying to get the Bee Bots to travel through the maze.  This exploration began from an idea that originated outside of our walls.  We tried the idea and then it inspired my students to go further in their own thinking.  Here is what I saw and what I listened to; So much rich vocabulary and conversation. “We are like programming, we programed our bees, let’s figure out how to make them turn and go right, Hey Mrs. D. we are using math language when we do this, We are thinking mathematically and so much more.”

Later I begin to think about other opportunities to offer in regards to coding.  During math time Bee Bots is now a station with task cards I created for the children to use with the mats we have.  I have a former student who is now in 2nd grade who comes to Kindergarten weekly to facilitate this station.  Using Paint as a way to create our own Bee Bots offers my students another opportunity to create and design what they understand, why also strengthening their computer skills.

So many possibilities in regards to learning to code.  Little did I know that I have been coding for a very long time……..