Sunday, 11 January 2015

Photo Challenges and How They Inspire The 3Cs: Collaborating, Connecting, and Creating

I love social media based photo challenges. My students just started doing our #mathphotoaday challenge and they are loving it! Their love for this challenge has only reinforced my believe in the power of the simple yet so effective #mathphotoaday.

Before I share why I love photo challenges like #mathphotoaday and how they inspire the 3Cs (Collaborating, Connecting and  Creating) I thought I'd share the more important viewpoint; my students. In education we need to be more focused on the students learning and their views so here's their point of view. I've asked them why they love it and for them it comes down to a few things:

1. It's fun.
2. They get to take photos that they can share and ask questions about the math in the photo.
3. They get to look at other classes photos and answer their questions about math.
4. Oh and did I mention it's fun.

The more I think about the reasons why I love photo challenges are very similar to my students. I love how they get enthusiastic by math. We do the photo challenge as our bell work in the morning in their groups and most groups are done and ready to share on Instagram by the time announcements come on. They are truly finding it fun and this love of it has transferred into our new Daily 3 Math program. The students are excited for the daily math photo challenge. Also, I love how the photo challenge (and other photo challenges like #eduphotoaday) allows for the 3Cs.

The students collaborate in their groups to come up with a way to show the photos. They are actively  engaging in a math conversation on what ways they can do show the math prompt. They work together and try different ways to do it.  It has been the best collaboration they have done this year.

Photo challenges like #mathphotoday allow students to connect with students outside of our community to see how they interpret the math concepts as well as ask them questions and answer theirs. It is just another great way to connect using social media.

Another amazing outcome of the challenge is the creativity that comes with it. We talked about boring ways to show some of the math photo prompts and they started coming up with creative ways to create and show a math concept instead. For example, we showed skip-counting by using people. We had a row of 3 people, a row of 6 people, and a row of 9 people. Even our principal and vice principal got in on the skip-counting #mathphotoaday.

It is my belief as a teacher that student engagement is crucial for learning to happen and #mathphotoaday and other photo challenges are a great way to do while also; collaborating, connecting, and creating.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Coming Out of a Slump

I started out this school year in some kind of a funk. I was wanting a change in my grade level but, that didn't happen. The teacher of a grade 3/4 class that my grade 3s usually collaborated with moved to a higher grade so our collaboration hasn't been the same. Other issues had made the start of the year not as smooth as it usually is.

Awhile ago, I started thinking about what I liked doing the best with  my students and obviously the answer was collaborating using technology. I thought abo8t how I could do this on a more regular basis than just with  my online #plngelato (a great group of teachers that I connect with-perhaps a blog on them in the future). I made the decision to connect with our new term grade 2/3 teacher who was teaching the same social studies unit as I was. We get along great and my love of technology integration didn't seem to scare her off. This was a new territory for me because for various reasons  all of my collaboration had been online based. I hadn't collaborated with my grade partner. I, also, realized I need to stop worrying about this and other things I had no control over and work with what I can control. I knew I need to do something that would let my passion come back out.  I decided to go for it and asked her if she was willing to try doing some technology based collaboration. She willingly decided to join me in my technology collaboration madness. I am not sure she knew what she was getting herself into but, I am sure glad I got her involved. Our students have loved collaborating with each other as we use technology to learn about our friends at the Maple Grove Hutterite Colony. The experience of success in school based collaboration has been amazing. It has proven to me that using what I love to revamp my teaching practices is what I needed. Next term, will find us having our students create iMovies centred around the continents and oceans. My students will show her students how to blog as there is nothing better than students teaching other students how to do something. I'll be sharing the power of Twitter with her this week too! Things are so much better know that I have the ability to collaborate with another teacher on staff. Our students are better off for it as they are learning together and bonding through this collaborative learning adventure. This is really all that one can wish for as nothing beats learning with and from each other. Their learning experiences are much more enriched because of our use of technology. Not many students in grade 2 or 3 can say they are learning in real time from other students especially students living on a colony. In the end, I am glad I stuck where I am.

I, also, need to say thank you to my #plngelato for starting my passion for collaboration. The things I've learned from you have allowed me to succesfully collaborate within  my own building. It is because of you that my students are having such enriched learning experiences with fellow students at our own school and at others. Thank you for everything!

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Repeat After Me: I Must Not Fear Anymore and Blog!

I've had this blog for a few years and I always say; "Oh, this is going to be the year I really blog more often." Sadly, this has not happened yet. I want to say that this year it will change but, I am not sure it will. This year I have to be evaluated so I decided I'd see if could do the project route and have my evaluation be centred around my professional teaching blog as a reflection tool.  My administrator said thought this was a good idea. I was hoping that this would be enough motivation for me to blog but, it didn't as here it is mid November and I haven't started yet. I have a problem and it isn't that I don't know what to write about but, it is that I am afraid to blog because I don't feel comfortable with my writing skills. I fear that others will notice the mistakes and will think poorly off me. But, today, I had a realization. I thought how can I inspire my students to take risks and not fear when I am afraid of something I shouldn't be. My online PLN is awesome (especially those in my #plngelato) and we use twitter to share and not criticize. Therefore, why would some grammatical errors make them think poorly of me. So I am going to break through my fear so that I can show my students that they need to conquer their fears and challenge themselves because it is part of my job to inspire my students. My students just set goals at student led conference and will set a reading goal this week so as they do this I will set a goal to blog once a month sharing my thoughts and reflections.

Please tweet me if you don't see anything from. I am hoping by saying I will be doing this it will make me be accountable. Here's hoping I can conquer my fear!

Monday, 28 April 2014


My students and I are excited to present #mathphotoaday. Credit must be given to Tara McLauchlan (@msmlauchlan) for coming up with this idea.We just gave it an elementary spin and came up with our own terms to take photos of. The steps to do this are quite simple:

1.Have your students find or create the daily math photo prompt. See the calendar below for the photos of the day.

2. Share the photo with #mathphotoaday on Instagram and/or Twitter.

3. Check out the other photos on Instagram or Twitter using #mathphotoaday. Feel free to comment on other photos.

4. Have fun!

There are no rules. The key is have fun and be flexible. If you can't do a day there's no need to worry, just do what you can. You can skip the weekend photos or do them on Friday or Monday. All that matters is that your students have fun and connect with other classes.

Monday, 20 January 2014

We Asked and They Answered: Canadian Olympians Rule!

Have I mentioned lately that I love Twitter? If not, I absolutely love the power of Twitter and the connecting that occurs with it! Twitter continues to provide awesome connections for my grade 3 students including our new adventure with Olympians.

Do you ever experience that "Wow, did that just happen?" moment? My students and I did today! But before I share it, I should give the background information: this weekend I was planning an Olympic unit for my grade 3 class and was wanting to connect with some Canadian Olympians on twitter to ask questions to about being Olympians. The Canadian Olympic Team on twitter told me that on you can see which athletes are on Twitter and to ask them directly if they would answer our questions. So off I went to see which athletes were on twitter and tweeted the more active ones to see if they would be willing to answer a few questions from my class. I thought maybe one or two would respond since they would be busy getting ready for the Olympics after all. I was way off in my prediction as within twenty-four hours I had received responses from fifteen Canadian Olympian athletes!

I wanted to easily find the tweets for when we started our Olympic research so I came up with the hashtag #olympianchat and off we went. Today we tweeted out to Chandra Crawford (@ChandraCrawford) and James McNaughton (@McNaughtonJames). Chandra Crawford won gold in the 2006 Olympics and James McNaughton will be competing in his first Olympics. Both Chandra and James answered all of the questions shortly after we tweeted them which wasn't expected since they are busy getting ready for the Olympics. They even addressed the students, who had tweeted them, with their names. It made their day to have a tweet addressed to them. Their effort to respond and do so with enthusiasm blew me way and caused the "wow did this just happen?" moment. It was a moment that my students will remember for a long time. When they see the athletes competing they will feel a connection. Chandra and James were just the start of our #olympianchat athletes with many more to come all week long! Thank you to Chandra and James for replying today and to all other Canadian Olympians who said they would reply to our tweets this week. I appreciate the power and positive effect that your simple and quick act will have for my students. We will be cheering loudly for Chandra and James as well as all of the other Canadian athletes we connect with.

Many people from my PLN have tweeted me about this project and said how interesting it is, so my advice is jump in with your students. All that can happen is they reply with interested like fifteen or so did to my tweets or they don't reply because they are busy getting ready for the Olympics. So go for gold and see what you can get!

Sunday, 19 January 2014

C-The New Letter in Our Town

In my classroom we have moved past the 3 Rs and on to a new educational letter. We're all about the 3 Cs. My students are; connecting, collaborating, and creating. Of course, we still; write, read, and do math but using the three Cs. This year, it hasn't been a complete day unless we have done at least one of the 3 Cs. Our journey with the 3 Cs has been a exciting one that must be shared.

Last year, my 3 Cs journey began with myself personally becoming more connected (through Twitter). Soon this jumped over to my classroom as we study different communities so connecting to other classes in North America and around the world fit nicely. Being connected in our classroom means we use Social Media to interact and learn with students around the world. We tweet our learning with our twitter buddies from classes in North America and the world. Our tweet topics include; what we are learning in class, questions about topics we are learning about,  books we are reading including our Global Read Aloud novel and many more. We comment on other class blogs and receive comments from students in other classes. This year we started using Instagram to share our learning and have received comments and questions on our pictures.


Dana Ariss was one of the first people I connected with on Twitter and it has led to our classes connecting on various topics. We have recently between tweeting up a storm with the Dana Ariss's (@danaariss) class, the @gr34bears, about the book we are both reading. This wonderful book is called Wendell the World's Worst Wizard by J.C. Spencer. Both Dana and I discovered this book because we were both following one of the authors of the book-John Spencer. John (@edrethink) was promoting his book on twitter and we both fell in love with the book. We both started reading it to our classes at the same time and starting connecting with tweets on it. Our connecting with the book could have stopped there but it didn't. John and his co-author (his wife) created a twitter account for the main character in the book (@wendellwizard). They are doing an awesome job answer the questions and comments we tweet to Wendell. Last week we even had a twitter chat with the @gr34bears and @wendellwizard. It was fun for all parties involved! Before Christmas break, John even Skyped with my class to answer our questions about writing the book. It was the best Skype session I've had my class participate in. All of these connections have, also, led to awesome creating.


This year we have been creating awesome writing pieces and projects related to our read alouds. The
creativeness of John Spencer and Wendell from his chapter book have inspired us to be even more creative with our Wizard Spells and our spoof of  "What Does the Fox Say?" by Ylvis. Without twitter and these connections my students would not have had the chance to do these awesome projects. Our creating around Wendell the World's Worst Wizard led to the final C, collaboration, with the @gr34bears.


This past month we have started collaborating beyond the classroom level. My students are now not just collaborating in classroom based groups but are collaborating with Dana's class to come up with a design using the items that Wendell found on his trips to the DUMP (see Wendell the World's Worst Wizard by J.C. Spencer for more information on the DUMP). Our students used google docs to come up with a plan together as well as Skyped to make final decisions.February brings a few new collaborations with the @gr34bears. We are both studying countries as part of our social studies and so we decided to join forces for more fun and creative collaborating. Our students are partnered up to use a google doc to research a given country.  For some reason, when we were planning this project I was reminded of the TV show "Where in the World Carmen San Diego?" and thought it would be neat to use google docs and have our classes re-write the song based on the countries we are studying. My other idea was to have students work with their other class partner to come up with questions about their country and include them in our "Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?" live game show in a Skype session. Dana willingly agreed to jump into this adventure and we both can't wait for the research to begin. We have more collaborations planned for later on. I hope, for as long as we are both teaching similar grade levels, that we continue to have our students collaborate and learn together.

The 3 Cs in our classroom have brought learning to a new level. I can't imagine our room without them. What is the new letter in your classroom? I hope it's C or something inspiring!

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Craving Teacher Feedback

I think that I am craving teacher feedback. I didn't realize it until the other day when I was planning a research unit with a more experienced educator and she told me that I was doing amazing things.  It was most likely the first feedback other than “great art work on your bulletin board” that I had received from a more experienced educator since I had my last evaluation over 3 years ago. We, as teachers, give continuous feedback to our students but most teachers or administrators don't seem to give it to one another as much. I know that I am doing a good job with my students using technology and creativity to teach them, help them learn, and inspire them but, just like my students love getting comments on their blogs, I'd like to hear that I’m doing a good job or even what I could do better.

Don't get me wrong, I receive many thank yous when helping others out in their classroom with technology projects or activities but it isn't the same as hearing feedback about what you are doing in your own classroom. As a newer teacher I feel like I would benefit from feedback from my more experienced colleagues.  These first ten years or so are our crucial years in developing as a teacher and although I know I am doing a fine job  feedback is important in developing as a teacher. Our experienced educators have knowledge and insight that I may not have thought of especially a few years ago when my teaching evaluations stopped. I find myself turning to the newest teacher, who started teaching the year I stopped receiving feedback, to share my ideas and thoughts. We collaborate and share while, also, providing feedback in the form of; "I love that idea. How do did you do that?" or sometimes this colleague will ask "I am having trouble with this ... or do you have any ideas for this__?" and I'll do the same as well. This is the kind of feedback and discussion that I yearn for from experienced educators as although the conversations I have with this newer teacher are insightful, more feedback from others is always great. So thank you to the more experienced teacher that made my day by simply telling me I was doing amazing things.

I do, also, get feedback from my online colleagues on the projects I am organizing or on ideas I share. I must thank Dana Ariss (@danariss) for providing me with much needed feedback. She keeps me going and motivated. Dana, you are a role model and inspiration. Please keep on giving feedback and I will keep on providing it in return!

Feedback is crucial in student learning so I think in return it should be more prevalent amongst all educators. Even a simple "Oh I love that art project your students did. How did they do it?" provides some feedback. Perhaps, at lunch times and recess I need to start sharing what we are in doing in my classroom to get things rolling.  Maybe this will facilitate more feedback and discussion on what we are doing in our classrooms. This in turn could perhaps lead to how we could develop stronger team-work and collaboration in order to continue our positive climate and safe environment for all students and staff. I need some advice and tips or should I say feedback from my online colleagues, if you don’t mind. How do members of my PLN share feedback with your colleagues? How do you collaborate with your colleagues? How do you facilitate these discussions for sharing feedback in your work environments? What can I do to help create a sharing environment with my colleagues? Any other advice?

Thank you to the colleague who let me know that I was doing a good job. It may have just been a simple statement to you but to me the feedback made my day and got me thinking about teacher feedback. Both you and Dana have helped satisfy my craving for feedback and encouraged me to seek advice and feedback from my online colleagues.

Feedback, anyone?