Tag Archives: classroom culture

Being Grateful: @vermontkkids123

This is a very exciting and busy time of year for everyone.  As a kindergarten teacher I am trying to weave in opportunities for my students to share, reflect,connect and make a difference.  These ideas begin in the beginning days together as we get to know each other and develop, create and design our learning culture together.

This past week we used voicethread as a way to share what we were grateful for as well as Kidblog.  Both of these platforms are opportunities for my students to connect, reflect and inspire others to think about what they are doing to make a difference and also what are they grateful for.

One of the features I like about Kidblog is how versatile it is.  My students can take photos of their ideas and then upload to a blog post.  Sometimes we use other apps as well to create pictures.  After their picture is uploaded my students create a title and last week was the first time we added a thought/sentence expressing our idea!

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Right away I noticed the writing conventions that we have been exploring being used!  For example; Children were remembering to leave spaces between their words, capitalize the 1st letter of a sentence.  Some even remembered punctuation. I was also thinking about the comprehension in their drawings.  They were detailed and their pictures told a story and reflected their idea of what they were grateful for.  The writing of their thought/sentence matched their illustration.  So as an educator I am able to learn many things from this blog post about my students writing, their understanding of comprehension of an idea and various conventions.

Moving forward this helps me get a sense of what is familiar and known as well as where I need to focus next.  The invented writing reflects their understanding of sound/symbol relationships.  It shows me what they understand a word to be, a thought and how they express themselves.

Another feature about Kidblog is that it has a map of the world.  This is important because my students get to see where people are from throughout the world that are interested in our learning.  As we blog and Tweet our learning we are connecting with others along the way, learning alongside each other.

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As an educator I begin to create a culture alongside my students that is transparent and reflective.  Our culture is also global because we are sharing our ideas with the world and look forward to getting compliments on our Kidblog posts.

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I am most grateful to be able to use a variety of tools that enhance, enrich and engage learning for myself, my students and their families. Through our transparency we are able to connect globally and extend our ideas and learning outside of our classroom walls.

 

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What Lucia Taught Me….

The iPad is really an amazing digital tool with so much flexibility.  I have noticed how easy it is to navigate and also how this tool enhances my students learning. This digital tool has become part of my classroom culture as a way to enrich, connect and collaborate relationships and learning.

I have been asked lately how I got started using the iPad.  So today I share my story because it is an example of what can happen when we watch, listen and share. iPads, tablets, any device has the potential to bring people together to communicate, share and explore the world.  I am #grateful for Lucia, a former student, who taught  me about the value of having a voice and being able to share it.

I have the pleasure of working in a wonderful school district that supports innovation and creativity. My school district provides teachers and students with many types of digital tools and professional opportunities that stretch our thinking.  Our school also has amazing technology educators as well as IT people who work tirelessly to ensure that our tools are working and ready, as well as provide updates about new things happening and opportunities for students and teachers to collaborate inside/outside of our buildings. 

Every spring near the end of Kindergarten our preschool teachers offer their students opportunities to visit their kindergarten classroom for the fall.  This is a wonderful way for me and the students to begin to say hello and explore the classroom with each other as well as the present students.

So Lucia arrived.  She is an amazing young lady.  She came with a smile, confidence and sat right down on the floor near a group of her students with her iPad. Right away I was struck at how many of the children started talking to her.  They asked her for the code so they could unlock her iPad.  Lucia was not able to speak, but used sounds and gestures with her hands.  The students immediately began looking at her with amazing eye contact, speaking to her and waiting for her to answer and show them what was next.

The iPad was new to me.  I did not have one, hadn’t used one before and already Lucia, was demonstrating alongside her new friends how this digital tool was going to open up opportunities in regards to learning.  Remember this was brand new for me and I was also going to get some professional support because our school was also going to purchase iPads as well.  My learning started, my eyes were opened, my mind was racing with ideas about the possibilities that might be possible because of this digital tool.

Thinking back on my first introduction to an iPad I think about how naturally the other children were drawn to Lucia and how she immediately felt comfortable showing and using her iPad with them.  Right away the children started taking turns speaking to Lucia, listening and watching her as she responded using sounds, her iPad and gestures to answer.

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What a wonderful surprise! iPads really make a difference in student learning and engagement.  This has been so exciting and a great learning opportunity for me and my students.  This is a digital tool that is making a difference and yes, Kindergarten children are finding lots of ways to use these tools as well as discovering lots of a ha’s about how this tool can help them to reflect and create learning experiences.

On the 1st day of Kindergarten I begin by introducing this interactive tool to my class.  We talk about being safe, kind and responsible as well as how it might help us with our learning.  The children immediately start exploring with the iPads and instantly began figuring out how they work.  We explore the basic features of the iPad.  Then I explore how to use the video, camera and take a screenshot.  I begin with these 3 features because this is where I want to model and show how this digital tool can be used to capture the what and why we are exploring. I continue to be really impressed with how quickly the children adapt to this tool and of course the excitement is wonderful.  The touch screen really makes it easy for the children to type and access.  The children begin touching the screen and the exploration begins of how this digital tool will enrich our learning.

As an educator I often think about all of the things I want and need to do during the course of a school day.  It can be a bit overwhelming…  So when presented with a tool that might make learning more accessible and engaging, I find myself beginning to see how many opportunities I have to make connections within my lessons as well as help children to become more engaged and invested in their own learning.

In the photograph you see a child creating a post on an iPad on her kidblog.  Lucia helps by showing her where to go to next. swlm

As a class we spent time from the beginning of school talking about blogging, what it is, why do it and how it helps us with our learning. The children understand that when they blog, they need a title and thoughts that we call sentences.  In the beginning I use lots of books to help demonstrate this point.  I find that the more explicit you can be with children and the more tangible, concrete connections and comparisons you can make, the easier it is for children to grasp and begin to use technological tools.  The beauty of this example is that this child knows 1 way to use the iPad in a meaningful, safe way.  She is motivated to blog and share her ideas with others.                                     

As an educator I find myself trying to create and design meaningful learning opportunities for and alongside the children and families I work with.  Digital tools are amazing and their impact on student learning and engagement are endless. For me the iPads have enhanced everything that I do.  I can’t help but love them!

I am #grateful for Lucia and how she introduced me to what was possible with the iPad.  She has courage, perseverance and amazing ideas.  She taught me to always have hope, to be brave and that technology gives us all a voice.

Appreciation, Gratitude, Kindness

Appreciation, Gratitude, Kindness……

I am so grateful for many things that I thought I would begin to share the importance of how showing appreciation, gratitude and being kind is important and vital not only as a teacher, as an educator, but as a person.  Through our own ability to display gratitude and kindness we are able to make connections, show appreciation towards others which gives a feeling of confidence and comfort.

When I think about gratitude and appreciation and how important these ideas are, I am also thinking about how can I begin to model and support these ideas.  I want to encourage my students to also begin to see the value in having gratitude and being able to appreciate acts of kindness throughout our busy days together.  I think it can happen so easily, yet I am reminding myself how important it is to share this idea and feeling with my students so they in turn become and display how being grateful can encourage others, offer connections and give recognition to others.

I remember one of my students learning how to use a new app to create and design patterns.  The student was nervous about asking for help, yet really wanted to explore this new app.  I watched as another student walked over with an iPad, sat down and began working alongside this student to show how the app worked and within a few minutes this student was off and running!  The smiles exchanged were beautiful as well as the conversation.  “Thank you”, I didn’t know what to do”.  The student who offered to help just said; “I got stuck too.” I recognized both students in sharing how collaborative and kind they were being.  Then I have an opportunity to highlight what happened and have the students share how it made them feel and introduce the word gratitude.  This now becomes a special word in our classroom and everyone wants to be able to not only use the word, but explore opportunities with others as well. DSCF3067Think of a place in your classroom where you can display important/special words that you want to your students to use.

During a read aloud time one of my students was trying to find a place to sit and be comfortable.  Another child offered his place and gave me a thumbs up!  I smiled.  Later the student came up to me and asked me if I noticed that he gave his seat up.  I said I did and he thought that he should share that with the class because he was being kind. Right away my students are beginning to explore and experience what it means to help someone out, share something you are comfortable with, be a mentor, a friend.  This is how we begin to model and explore appreciation, gratitude and kindness.

When I offer opportunities for my students to share through role playing and talking about the kind deeds they notice, we then create  a special place in our classroom to post the important words we use.  Appreciation, kindness, gratitude now become part of our oral language as well.  This helps to begin to establish a culture of learning, connections, collaboration and also where children will take risks and try new things.

School is starting soon for many of us and I am so #grateful for how social media, blogging and other digital tools have helped connect, engage, challenged my thinking as well as offered opportunities to be inspired.  I have made many friends thanks to social media who have supported me and collaborated in many different ways.  I am grateful and humbled by the time and energy that others give so freely. Working alongside others enriches learning for me.

IMG_3178 I strive to model and offer invitations to my students, their families, friends and colleagues who, like me, are also trying to make a difference, one idea, one kind gesture at a time. This is at the heart of our work.

Digital Tools: It’s Always About The Learning!

Lately I have been sharing lots of ways digital tools can enhance, enrich and engage learning for not only the students we teach, but their families and other educators.  When I share a platform and/or tool I am asked to talk about the digital tool, which I am happy to share as well as why I choose the tools I do.  These questions offer me an opportunity to reflect again on the why and what I do and how it all happens.  For me what is most important is how the digital tool will support and enhance learning for my students as well as how their voice can be shared globally. My students have amazing ideas and are always excited to share and ask questions about what they are exploring.  The digital tools give them endless ways to share their learning with each other and the world.

When I share ideas and reflect it is always about the learning that is happening and/or has happened.  The digital tools offer ways for my students, their families and others to engage, connect and be reflective.  Through our ability to reflect and rethink about what we are doing, we learn how we are exploring ideas and what is it about how we are learning that we understand the process of gaining new knowledge and acquire new information.  As an educator I want to make sure that I am always offering invitations to my students and their families that invite them to learn alongside me.  This is possible through the use of digital tools because it offers ways to enhance and engage in conversations.  Conversations are important and vital because this is the heart of our work, as educators, where we have opportunities to listen to our students voices and get at what is most important.

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I value perspective because it gives me opportunities to have my thinking challenged as well as be inspired.  My students need to be able to experience different perspectives as well.  Through their ability to listen and rethink about what they are exploring, opportunities for collaboration appear and the digital tools help bridge this and make it possible.

Last year my students were exploring the forest.  We created a forest inside our own classroom as well as explored the different types of animals and plant life that grew in Vermont forests.  As we explored this idea of forest life we were able to extend our learning to other forests in the US via @skypeclassroom where my students were able to have a conversation with a real forest ranger in YellowStone National Park.  This experience was so meaningful that all of my students were excited to learn more about forest life and take risks with new texts and create their own books about forest life.

So through Skype, posting on our Kidblogs about an animal, creating podcasts of what we learned about the Vermont forest and then Tweeting about what we were learning and how we were learning we all became very invested and engaged.  This is where my students pushed themselves because they were curious about what we were learning.  Through their curiosity about a topic of interest, they invested their own time and hard work pushing themselves to create a multitude of projects that helped encourage them to be creative and learn more about the topic.

Digital tools are amazing.  They offer so many wonderful ways to enhance learning opportunities.  I always think about the learning and then think about what digital tools might be helpful as I explore this new theme with my students.  I also think about what tools will give us opportunities to connect and share our learning globally too.

As an educator I will always have lots of “have to’s”.  The piece I look forward to is how I am going to get at the content, make it meaningful and engaging as well as what digital tools will help me and my students.  The why of this work is always at the heart.  It is what appears and is discovered by your students.  The real learning comes from your students own curiosity.  I am trying to make it happen whenever I can.

Ongoing Reflection and Thinking

Last week I was reminded about the importance of self reflection and choice through play.  When students have both the time and opportunity to pursue a personal interest they are able to connect, collaborate and engage in meaningful ways that would, well, really surprised me.  One of my students is very interested in tornadoes.  He has been exploring books, creating tornadoes and even brought in a “tornado tube” and shared how a tornado is created.  unnamed-4Through his interest and passion for this topic he was able to share his ideas and engage through play and exploration of text about his topic.  He choose a friend to go to the library and get some books on the subject and then read them.  Afterwards he created an amazing picture of what he thought a tornado might look like from outer space.  I was so intrigued by his perspective. After having a conversation about what he created it was clear to me that by giving choice and more opportunities to our students we are giving them invitations to be inspired and share about what they wish to explore.  This is where our students experience critical and deep thinking because they work tirelessly to pursue their own understanding.  Through their curiosity they are  not only sharing what they are passionate about, but also inspire others to learn alongside them. Here is where authentic learning naturally leads to meaningful conversations and opportunities to collaborate.  Later this student asked if we would tweet his picture.  When I asked him why; “I want to share my idea with the world.” I recently heard from a parent as well about their Kindergarten experience.  Through feedback I am able to reflect, rethink and begin to think about things that worked well and what opportunities do I have to make changes moving on.  She shared; “I just want to say a heartfelt “thank you” for teaching our children in a way that inspires them to apply what they learn to real life problems!  You don’t just teach them to memorize – you teach them to understand!  Two examples in this past week show how much __ has grown in your class with regard to understanding math. First, two days ago we were discussing his birthday party. He was trying to determine how to divide all his friends up into the six stations we are going to have. He asked “If we have 5 friends in each group how many is that?”  I asked him what he thought and within 30 seconds he replied “30!”  He explained that he combined stations so he could count by 10’s:) This is on example of what can happen for our students when we create opportunities and invitations to learn in ways that connect, engage and inspire us.  For me I am thinking of ways that I can continue to offer choice through the content I am required to pursue.  I am thinking about ways I might be able to offer choice more often and in ways that might inspire my students to become more curious about the what, why and how we explore together when pursuing questions. unnamed-2unnamed-3Here are a couple of reflections from my students in Kindergarten this year.  We are creating books about what we learned how to do in Kindergarten.  Here is another way to think about what your students learned, but also what they were most interested in.  This is also another opportunity for me to reach out and ask more about why these ideas were mentioned, what they offered? As an educator I want to offer the best learning experience for my students.  I want them to feel important, cared for and also know that I have hope for each of them.  Learning is for everyone.  Through my own ability to ask for feedback and engage in meaningful dialogue about my own learning I am able to make changes and improve learning for myself, my students and their families.  Through my own change, I am growing and modeling how transparency can be revealing, but offers ways to create more learning opportunities that promote meaningful reflection and growth.

Allen Brook School’s Davison is VT NEA Dorta Winner – myChamplainValley.com

Allen Brook School’s Davison is VT NEA Dorta Winner – myChamplainValley.com.

@SKYPEClassroom: Inviting Perspective To Enrich and Engage!

Yesterday was one of those amazing experiences that I had using a synchronous tool with my Kindergarten students that really had a positive impact on what we were exploring inside and outside of our classroom.  As a Kindergarten teacher I have lots of opportunities for my students to create and design their understanding of the topics we explore. We use our imagination and interest, but also our hands!
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Yesterday morning we had an opportunity to use SKYPE to connect and learn from a forest ranger in Yellowstone National Park!  Wow!  My students were so captivated and interested in this session.  Our forest ranger was engaging, shared photographs and real artifacts of animals and other real things that are part of forest life.  Through this experience my students learned about forest life in the west.  We were able to make connections with ideas that we were familiar with in Vermont too.  My students learned about special adaptations of animals and how these adaptations impact their life.  As I watched and listened to the conversation between the forester, in Colorado and my classroom I was struck at how comfortable my students were in using Skype as a way to share and the great questions they had. My students were engaged and enriched with this experience.  They were able to experience again the value of making connections with others who have a special expertise and a different perspective about what we are exploring.
unnamed-7I look forward to using @SKYPEClassroom again to enrich my students learning.  This is a wonderful, easy and fun way to connect real learning opportunities in authentic ways.

As we began to explore the forests of Vermont my students were very interested in the trees that grew in the forests and the animal live.  So we began to create our own forest inside of our classroom.  We constructed trees using paper, paint and cardboard.  We even collected real tree growth from the natural world and found ways to display and share inside our classroom.  Later we created non fiction books, created posts on our Kidblogs about our favorite forest animal, the rabbit!  Later we were also able to create our own rabbit too!unnamed

As an educator I have opportunities to use a variety of technologies to support and enrich learning for my students.  I continue to share and try new ideas that offer inspiration and challenge my thinking.  It is vital that I think in a transparent way when teaching.  It is an opportunity for me to offer my students and their families to learn alongside me, with me and feel like they are a part of their child’s education.  This is how I am able to make a difference, engage and connect.  I would not do it differently.  Technology is definitely changing education, but it is creating an opportunity for all of us to connect and engage in meaningful ways that supports learning inside and outside of our classrooms.  How are you making this happen?