Friday, 24 April 2015

A reflection on #otrk12

Last spring I attended my first digital learning conference: Connecting with Others in a Digital World (storify). I was slated to present about getting started with blended learning, which I did with my then fabulous teaching partner/mentee (aren't first year teachers just the best!). We had only been doing it for a few months, but after hearing George Couros speak we felt we were on the right track. Our brains were full, we were overwhelmed, we didn't know what we were going to try Monday morning but were nevertheless so very excited to try something, anything!

I remember feeling like there was so much more I could be doing. I went to a fabulous presentation about D2L in Science and Math and another on Google Docs. Both presentations I keep referring to the ideas and have been able to implement, especially when I went from teaching 5/6 to intermediate and Science on rotary.

In the meantime, I've joined twitter, I have a class account and a teaching account, I don't call it personal as it's really just trying to save ideas to use later. I may be on it a bit too much, but I love to read and learn about the exciting things happening in classrooms all around the world.

Fast forward to this week. I'm a presenter. I'm going to workshops and listening to Ron Canuel, and I'm thinking...I feel really good about what I'm doing in my classroom. I don't feel so alone! There are so many inspiring educators out there, and I don't feel as inadequate! The second time I presented, I was in the ballroom with a mike! It still seems very surreal... Plus I was honoured to have in my audience, one of the educators who inspires me Peter Cameron @cherandpete.

Teachers are their worst critics. Like I tell the students, it's really hard to be perfect 100% of the time. There's always room for improvement! I think my goals will be to continue to encourage my colleagues in the school to think about implementing blended learning and being more transparent in their classrooms.

Here are my resources from my presentation. I shared my journey in trying to implement inquiry in my classroom. I reference my blog, as I've used it to organized my thinking and process as I teach to my students' needs. I also reference many inspiring educators whose transparency have helped me improve as an educator. Ron Canuel mentioned that people need their hands held as they innovate, and I've been very lucky to have others hold my hand, simply by being excellent examples for me to follow.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Inquiry - Earth and Space Systems

As I kicked off the Earth and Space Systems strand of my grade 7/8 Science programme, I wondered what sort of authentic task I could ask students to create in order for them to show me their learning. I have a Grade 8 class who in general are very creative and hardworking, but love their text book work and are very reluctant to accept any summative task that is not a test. I have a grade 7/8 class, who need a lot of structure, class time and encouragement in order to produce. Lastly, my grade 7 homeroom, loves to jump on inquiry tasks, but loses track of the big ideas and the curriculum along the way.

My answer: Bill Nye inspired Science videos.

The ironic part was that, while the Grade 8s were open to learning the facts and text books work, the unit content was not as heavy as the Grade 7 curriculum. I was able to get them started on their script writing right away. Some groups finished their script in the same work period! I decided to duplicate the same process that I use with my homeroom class, write the script, upload to D2L, give them feedback, and submit final copy. Some began by filming their footage (demos, lego stop motion) while others needed to practice their script or experiment with the app or program they decided on. They are very task oriented and were focussed on the due date and getting it done. I have no doubts this group will be the first to finish.

The grade 7s on the other hand, were thrilled to have the opportunity to "film at the creek" or try out white board explain everything type of programs such as powtoons I had to keep refocussing on the Science content, and in the meantime, I'm still teaching them procedure writing, proper lab execution as well as observations (I have given the option to do video observations) and conclusions. I'm hoping they will use some of their footage from their labs for their Science videos.

I did end up creating a rubric as well as a reflection task sheet that they had to follow in order to get their video done.

It would've been much easier for me to give them a study guide and a test. Committing to inquiry is more work for the teacher. You need to accept that some groups need more time and others need to be encouraged to experiment, push themselves and try things they didn't think they could, or maybe were not in their original plans.

Even though this is guided inquiry, the conversations most groups are having around what the message of their video will be, has been very rewarding. The written output may not necessarily show how much they know. I really need to make an effort to be near a group while they are discussing. The process is now become more important than the product, which is what I want my students to understand and enjoy before they leave my classroom.

I recently had a discussion with the grade 8s encouraging them to ask teachers to give them options next year. I can't guarantee that their grade 9 teacher will, but at least they can advocate for themselves feeling confident that they were able to show their learning not just with paper and pencil tasks.

On Earth Day, I proudly sent pair of Grade 8s to showcase all the videos to all the other classes in our school. Meanwhile, I'm patiently waiting for some Grade 7s to hand them in.

Without further are some of our videos! (There are more still coming, I will make them public on our Youtube channel.)

Monday, 13 April 2015

Enthusiasm over Lit Circles

Gone are the days of the whole class novel study. My class read aloud takes all year, which I'm ok with as we are reading Wonder and I know the themes will be important for as long as we can read it together if not longer.

The first round of lit circles, we focussed on making connections. My diagnostic reading assessment showed students had a lack of higher order thinking skills when reading, especially when it came to making connections. In the end I taught the double entry journal. They had to make 4-6 connections per session, plus have a discussion and record themselves during every meeting.

The second round of lit circles my theme was historical fiction. They were to be working on writing with their history teacher and I thought it may help them to read fiction in a historical setting. They again had to have meetings but were to answer questions to help their discussion for every session.

The third round the theme is now "coming of age." I was inspired by this unit I found on Teachers Pay Teachers. I've never used this theme before, but figured it would be a challenge for them to justify that their choice of novel fits into the theme, what better way to focus on inferencing. Right now we have Matched, The Uglies, Divergent, Camp 30 (a sequel to Camp X that the group decided to read together) with a few other students still deciding. I wasn't sure if the challenge was going to be finding a group or a novel, but they have really impressed me so far!!

For a response, I will have them work for a period on making their own questions for the session using reciprocal teaching or any other questions that have been used this year. I will also add some poems that I hope fit into the theme so I can sit with small groups as we work on inferencing responses.

I'm really looking forward to this lit circle!