Tag Archives: learning

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

Sharing Our Story…..

Sharing Our Story:@vermontkkids123

My Story….

Recently I had the opportunity as a former Ignite award winner to work with an amazing storyteller, Sue Schmidt. I, along with 3 other talented educators was able to share our stories at a recent Vita-Learn conference.  For me, this was really hard at first! As I practiced my story, wrote it down and then shared with a live audience I was struck by the ease at which my words and passion came through. I learned that when we share a personal story, it has such deep meaning because it represents a journey, a beginning and a place where we end up but still evolving.

The other thought I have about this process is how reflective it was. My reflection was both backward and forward about my experience. I thought a lot about my inward reflections as well about my journey and what I thought others might be thinking about what I was sharing, my story. As reflective and challenging as this process was, I felt very inspired and confident in my story and hope that it inspired others too.

Telling our story….

Back in Kindergarten, I started to think about when and how my Kindergarten students have opportunities to share their stories and when. One of the opportunities in our class is to create an iMovie about the Global Goals for Sustainability. One of my colleagues and awesome ELL teacher, Patti Tursi offers her expertise in being a director for our movie. She shares how we are going to talk about why we want people to know about the goals and why. As we begin this work collaboratively we meet and come up with a plan of action. The plan provides us a way to organize our thoughts and ideas but is also flexible if we need to change things. We use Google Docs because we can both add and change things anytime, anywhere. If we have questions we can post and support each other in our thinking. So we begin…

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Our plan….

  • introduction
  • What are the goals?
  • Individual photos with words
  • Voice over photos
  1. How are we learning about the goals?
  2. Service-learning connection/experiences
  3. Think: goal(s)
  4. Create photo/illustration
  • individual/small group
  • Background of the world with our identity(color, collaborative)
  • Exploration of the filming” studio”/stage we created with the children
  • Explore microphones
  1. Rehearsal/Filming: Practice using student voice to tell their story and connection with the goal they choose
  1. Filming Cutaways:
  2. A small group of students works with Patti to edit and make decisions about what we want to keep and/or retakes

The children learned so much from Ms. Tursi. She has special expertise in creating movies and as our director, we all learned how to create a movie and what was involved. Through this process, the children were collaborative and very respectful and supportive of each other. They learned how to use technology in an authentic way with a strong purpose to inspire others. Thinking reflectively about what they thought of themselves as storytellers about what they are passionate about, helping the world. As an educator this really is amazing and how wonderful that we can all learn alongside each other to create a story/message about why others need to engage in the goals.

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Reflecting further…

Through the use of a microphone, iPad, iMovie, Google Docs, Ms. Tursi’s time, energy and expertise, and flexible space we were able to collaborate with each other to create something wonderful. The process is easy to think about: a plan, design, create/produce and publish.

So because of this experience, one of my students thought it would be a great idea to tell the school about the goals and ask for others to help us collect food one more time before school ends and then walk and deliver the food before school ends. So we did! Small groups of Kindergarten students are visiting interested classes to speak about their goals and why they are important. They share our work around Global Goal #2 Zero Hunger as a way to share how collecting food connects. Then something wonderful happens. Another Kindergarten teacher reads the story; “On Market Street to her students and shares that her students decided to do something kind for others and that they also wanted to collect food for the food shelf. Awesome! So now students from both classrooms are making a morning announcement at our school to explain what we are doing and why we need everyone’s help.

 

 

When we share and invite others to help we create a positive culture of learning and a culture that encourages kindness and builds empathy. I am proud to be an ambassador for the global goals and feel privileged to work and learn alongside so many inspiring educators, students, and their families globally.

Check out one of my kindergarten students’ writing she created during a playtime.. What if we all felt this way? How can we all make this happen?

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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.

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Digital Learning Day 2016

Digital Learning Day is one of those opportunities students and their teachers have to share about why this is an important day to recognize and why digital tools are important in regards to our learning.  So my students created Kidblog posts and we are using Twitter this week also to share how and why we use digital tools.

This afternoon I asked my students to think about why this might be an important day to celebrate and what are the ways we use digital tools.  I was really impressed and also felt validated about why digital tools are important.  Here are some of the responses that were shared today.

  1. We can have conversations with other people in the world.
  2. We can share our learning with the world.
  3. We show how we use them in a safe, kind and responsible way.
  4. They make your brain think more things and they help you learn.
  5. They help us to have conversations with other people.  We connect.
  6. You learn how to use digital tools.
  7. They help you think better.  They help you think when you don’t know what to do.
  8. They want you to learn.
  9. We celebrate this day because we want other people to know what we are doing.
  10. Our parents know what we are learning.
  11. They are fun.
  12. We help each other and collaborate.

Learning is for everyone and technology gives us all a voice.  Digital tools and platforms have enriched and engaged my own learning and that of both my students and their parents.  The communication is ongoing, fluid and just by offering a variety of platforms to share, I am also modeling explicitly “how to” use tools in safe, kind and responsible ways.  Parents want to be informed and engaged.  They are important stakeholders in their child’s education.  So today was another opportunity to model and celebrate the value and excitement me, my students and families have in regards to learning, but also how we share and reflect what we are exploring.

Happy Digital Learning Day!

The Privilege of Being A Teacher

 

I am grateful for being a teacher because….

Being a teacher is a privilege and a honor.  Teaching is about offering hope all day long and being available to encourage, create and design learning opportunities that have an impact.  I also feel it is about creating a learning culture that is open to the world where all learners can connect, take risks, share their voice and have friends.

Today I am thinking about my own path and reflecting on an amazing year of growth. I have much to be grateful for.  As a teacher I have the ability to help promote empathy, patience, risk taking, acceptance and collaboration. These are ideas that I think are important to think about as I weave a multitude of learning opportunities throughout the day.

So for today…..

I hope…

to inspire ideas through inquiry and passion.

to learn more about “how to” create opportunities globally for my students.  Culture is rich everywhere and I want to find ways to connect and celebrate what the world has to offer.

to be a part of solution based problem solving opportunities where I am able to share my #edvoice in hopes of making education better.

to collaborate with others around making a difference.

to learn alongside my amazing PLN which hopefully will just keep on growing.

to have my thinking challenged through opportunities that present themselves.

to explore nature often with my students.  Nature is full of patterns, fresh air and authentic opportunities to learn about the natural world.

to be able to continue to mentor others who are interested in becoming a teacher.  Teaching is an art and through our ideas we have opportunities to “paint” and “weave” all day.

 

I will….

create and design meaningful learning opportunities alongside my students because this is the heart of my work, where I have and can make an impact.

model and practice daily “how to” have conversations using a variety of tools that will help my students connect, reflect and ask questions.

listen with an open mind and value perspective.  This is vital for all of us to be able to collaborate globally to make a difference to solve world problems.

bring a smile and gratitude daily to build confidence and trust inside/outside of Kindergarten.  Through our ability to accept each other, we develop patience and experience the value of kindness.

show gratitude for former and present families that I have the privilege of knowing who give their time, energy, enthusiasm and support in endless ways.

be transparent in my thinking and use a variety of digital tools to create bridges globally to help solve world problems to make a difference.

pursue new ideas and revisit previous ideas through a different perspective.

make mistakes and experience them as learning opportunities, opportunities for me to grow and have my perspective enhanced.

 

offer invitations to learn alongside others who are learning how to learn for themselves.  This is where I can encourage, question and reflect.

celebrate and recognize others for their ideas and work.  Together we all have the ability to be brilliant and make a difference.

Looking forward to another year of connecting, collaboration, inspiration and growth.  Thanks to all of you who are a part of my journey.  I hope you all are able to dance, sing and laugh often….

I am grateful…..

Exploring Coding:@vermontkkids123

Last week was really wonderful.  My students, some parents and myself participated in the Hour Of Code.  This is my 2nd year participating and I am already thinking more about how I can use the Hour of Code week as an opportunity to introduce coding to my students and then continue to weave in opportunities for my kindergarten students to continue to explore coding.

Last week our technology integrationist, Bonnie Birdsall visited Kindergarten.  She was awesome.  She shared a video of coding happening globally and then alongside me and my students we explored code.  We used Daisy the Dinosaur as a way to begin.  The children were very interested and intrigued about how they could make the dinosaur do things.  After this introduction I then began to explore more coding alongside my students and families.

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My students were so proud and happy when they finished a challenge.  I was so excited to hear how they were all supporting each other and asking questions to help them solve problems.  Lots of critical thinking happening!

I had 2 fathers volunteer to come in and work with small groups of children using Daisy the Dinosaur. What I noticed was lots of collaborating with students and I was amazed at how my students were supporting each other when stuck and the connections that were being made.  Remarkable really.

Here were some of the responses my students made about why everyone should know how to code:

  1. It helps you think mathematically.
  2.  It is so fun.
  3. It helps you learn.
  4. Coding helps your brain solve problems.
  5. It helps my thinking.
  6. It helps us learn to use technology.
  7. Coding helps us think and justify our thinking.
  8. Coding is learning Mrs. D.
  9. Coding helps you learn about math.
  10. Coding is important because you can do it by yourself or you can collaborate.
  11. Code

We created a poster to display in our classroom.  I really liked how a few of my students made brains.  I asked why and I was told that that is where we think!  Wonderful.

 

Later in the week my students created a Kidblog post about coding.  I am always reminded about how easily young children can make connections and build on their prior experiences when trying something new.  A couple of my students were creating their Kidblog post and wanted to know “how to” spell a word, so 1 child went to get a book to find the word he needed!   Another child went to get our ‘how to” use Kidblog book to help guide her through the steps.  Wonderful. What a great example of young learners using prior experiences and tools that we created together to create and design what is important.

As a teacher I am able to learn so much from my students through this experience.  How are they figuring things out? Sounding out words? Looking for environmental print? Print in books? Other ideas? This is also an opportunity for me to grow and to begin rethinking about what I need to do, where do I need to go next in regards to learning opportunities that my students need.

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Technology really offers so many ways for even our youngest learners to not only connect and engage, but also problem solve and build their own confidence with digital tools. I am grateful for being able to be a teacher and work alongside so many wonderful people.

Then I was inspired to write a project in regards to coding!  If interested, my project for Bee-Bots can be found here.