Introducing the Following for 2014

New for 2014

1. “NonFiction Fridays” - Fridays are devoted to non-fiction text!
Reading books as well as online news sites.
a) Have a ton(!) of books spread around the room hidden in corners and nooks for children to “hunt for”.  Choice is important: Students can choose to read alone, with friends, in groups.
b) Fire up our computers and check out these “news sites” for students: http://www.timeforkids.com

http://teachingkidsnews.com

http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/

http://www.firstnews.co.uk

http://www.gogonews.com

P.S. Stories can be of a sensitive nature … so always preview!
c) As a starting point consider the use of these Graphic Organizers when recording ideas, observations, opinions & questions: http://ht.ly/s7b0o

2. “Calendar Math” Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays (This term we will include cells for “odd & even”, “factors & multiples”, “multiplication & division”, “All the ways to make ….”.) Google & Pinterest have tons of example pintables to view and make your own.

3. Mindfulness in the Classroom – for more information view the following:
a) What is Mindfulness? http://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/mindfulness & http://www.mindfulnesseveryday.com
a) http://mindfulnessforstudents.co.uk
b) http://themindfulclassroom.com/Home.html
c) http://au.professionals.reachout.com/Mindfulness-in-the-classroom
d) http://www.edutopia.org/stw-student-stress-meditation-schools-research

4. “Habits of Mind” – Class meeting theme – for information view the following:
a) Integrating the 16 Habits of Mind: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/habits-of-mind-terrell-heick
b) http://www.slideshare.net/suziea/habits-of-mind-explained-for-students
c) http://www.childmind.org/en/posts/articles/2012-4-23-mindfulness-classroom
d) Kingsway College in Toronto has truly embraced this concept: “Habits of Mind, Body & Action”. They have fulfilled those promise/goal. Please visit their school site to learn more! http://www.kcs.on.ca/Habits?rc=0
e) http://www.habitsofmind.org
f) http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/108015.aspx
g) http://www.mindfulschools.org/resources/healthy-habits-of-mind/

What are you planning to embrace, include, do differently in 2014?
We would love to hear from you!

Happy New Year!

Cheers,
Ally

P.S. I recently came across this site which I found quite practical : dolch/frye http://teacherhelpforparents.com/2010/12/how-do-i-help-my-child-become-a-better-reader/

 

Twitter 101

How to Create a Twitter Account:

  1. Visit http://www.twitter.com
  2. There is a “sign up box” (or https://twitter.com/signup)
  3. Enter your email address, you name and a password … & then just click “Sign Up”
  4. Now here’s the hard part … choosing a username! Trust me … this isn’t as easy as it sounds … at least it wasn’t for me! ;-)
  5. Go to “Create my account” and then follow the prompt so that they/we know you’re not a robot ;-)
  6. You will recieve a message at your email account … and accept.
  7. & that’s it folks!
  8. Oh – posting a pic & a bio is a good idea. “Eggs” are often Spammers and you do not want to be mistaken as one
  9. Dive right in and play. Find people you are interested in connecting with … who do they seem to follow and chat with?
    There are also some great #chats out there! Have a look around … you’ll be amazing at what you find!
  10. Consider using a social media dashboard like Hootsuite.com in order to manage incoming messages

Basic Twitter Lingo

# Hashtags - connect a stream on consciousness
@ + usernames = the  link to a Twitter profile
DM = (d +space & username) a direct message between you and other; not seen publicly
#FF = “Follow Friday – use it to suggest fab tweeters others might like to follow
RT – when you re-tweet a message you think others ought to see – share!
MT – if you have to make slight changes as there are only 140 characters to play with – & share again

Twitter Chats at #ecoo13 – Bring IT Together

I am so excited to be sharing my passion for Twitter and Twitter Chats at the Bring IT Together Conference (http://bringittogether.ca) (#ecoo13) next week.
You see, seldom do I get up on a soapbox …. however … in breaking with tradition …. I am doing just that …
You see …
I believe that not only is it to our benefit, but I believe that it is in fact our professional responsibility to be connected educators — to establish and participate in our own professional online learning networks.
After all, if we’re asking our students to become authentic, involved, digital, global citizens — we ought to be doing the same …
We should be teaching them about global citizenship and learning along side them.
& you know, now that I think about it– I really don’t believe that any one group has leveraged the true power of Twitter in quite the same way – in quite  as powerful and meaningful a way – as teachers.
I believe that Twitter and Twitter Chats are among the most effective ways to reach out to, learn from, and share with other connected educators in a professional, productive and positive manner – to engage in online learning experiences in real time.
& so … if you are at all interested in learning more … in learning how to set up a #chat … or just want to encourage a colleague or two to get onto the Twitter “Bandwagon” :-) then I look forward to seeing you at Bring It Together #ecoo13 next week in Niagara Falls.
It’s going to be a fan-ta-bu-lous 3 days!
Hope to see you at : http://lanyrd.com/2013/ecoo13/schfqy/
Cheers,
Ally

Test Taking Strategies in a Grade 5 Class

Although I introduce, model and review many test taking strategies with my students, I tend to include those below on the 2nd page of every test (after the “cover”). …. & so I thought I’d share today!

Introductory Strategies:
1. Go over the test as a class. Ask for clarification as we address each question.
2. Highlight important words.
3. Make note of those questions that seem the easiest to you. Mark them somehow, and do them first. This will “get them out of the way”, make you feel good – show that you know your stuff – and are making progress. Feeling positive and making progress immediately will give you the confidence to move on!

Mid-way Strategies:
1. Half way through the test we will put our pencils down and grab a hoola-hoop! Let’s move and stretch and twist! Let’s have a “Hoola Break”! Fun! Fun! Fun!

End Strategies:
a) When you are done, put the test for one side.
b) Do something else (e.g. read, write in your Journal, engage in an iPad activity (math app., country research), do a word search, a maze or a puzzle until I say “Stop”. (You may also choose to doodle or draw a picture on this page should you wish.)
c) When I give you “the go ahead” return to your test with “fresh eyes”. Pay close attention to both the questions and to your written responses. COPS your work.
Attend to what you see – wonder – think – & feel.

I do hope that these prove useful to some of you. I wonder what other wonderful strategies are out there ……

Cheers,
Ally

 

The Gamification of Learning

Playing games in the classroom, be they of a cooperative or competitive nature, is a wonderful way in which  to increase student engagement and motivation.

 Admittedly, the simple act of saying, “Okay kids, so now we are going to play _________ games,” magically heightens “the happiness/alertness factor” in the classroom.

 & so … why do I believe in “the gamification of learning”?

Alphabetically speaking, games involve/embrace the following:

  •  Active engagement
  • Challenges – ongoing & ever present
  • Challenges – often very “cool”: i.e. “Save the world”, “Save the Prince”, “Climb the mountain, cross the ocean, etc.” with the implied understanding that as a player, “You can do it!”
  • Clear goals – players learn to “follow instructions” as they morph and become increasingly complex over time
  • Co-operative learning or friendly competition – choose the “type” that appeals to individual students
  • Developing strategies – skills acquisition
  • Fun – it’s a game! ;-)
  • Goals – clearly laid out, increasing in complexity as the “user” becomes more proficient/adept
  • Immediate feedback  - players know exactly where they stand relative to personal goals and/or to other players
  • Levels –  playing & learning are levelled according to individual strengths and needs
  • Practice – often repetitive in nature as well – with the goal of achieving “mastery” in order to reach the next level
  • Problem solving – let’s learn “how” and in new ways …. students are able to “try out theories” and take risks, to develop problem solving and critical thinking skills in a safe, fun environment
  • Progress – attainable goals; visible; rewards ;-)
  • Risk taking – players learn to take calculated risks in a safe environment
  • Role-playing – creativity – Students choose who or what they want to be – a unicorn? a wizard?  yourself?
  • Skills acquisition through a clearly outlined process.

 … & so there it is – alphabetically speaking – the “the gamification of learning” —- just one among many of the “cool” approaches to learning – one that engages students as active learners.

(Please note: I am grateful to all those who have spoken and written before me on this most entertaining and effective teaching strategy … I tip my hat to you … for your ideas and input — for these are surely not all my own but, rather a co-operative process.)

 Cheers,
Ally

The First Week of School: Math

I have been thinking a lot about all of the different ways in which we can make math engaging, starting from day one! Math ought to be playful, engaging, fun, challenging(!), creative, real-world, purposeful, thought provoking, etc.

& so, if you were a fly on my classroom wall you would see that this is the way in which I plan to start the year … with centres & picture books of course!

The First Week of School: Math:
- rotating through 3 centres a day (+ one which is always “the initial assessment”).

Monday – Day #1
a) Introduce Math books, procedures, page set up, daily/weekly structure, etc.
b) Introduce Centres
c) Begin Assessment (number sense, etc.) – assessment includes pencil to paper, discussion, survey/questionnaire.

Day #2
1. Assessment (a little bit every day for 4 days)
2. Challenge: Find a One-Hundred Dollar Word (http://bit.ly/12PPvSo); How much is my name worth? (http://bit.ly/18pnAd1)
3. Graphing Skittles / Gummy Bears (http://bit.ly/18taqPG ; http://bit.ly/15Rr8lJ)

Day #3
1. Assessment (every day)
2. Marshmallows & Toothpicks Place Value (working with large(!) numbers) (http://bit.ly/1axSBML)
3. iPad Games

Day #4
1. Assessment (every day)
2. Where do we see numbers / math in our world? (Learning Log entries)
3. Shopping with Flyers (http://bit.ly/XonNHq)

Day #5
1. Assessment (every day)
2. Calendar Math (http://bit.ly/15t6bhg)
3. Multiplication War (http://bit.ly/Ezj5N)

P.S. We will have “longer than usual Math classes” week #1 .. just for the fun of it! ;-)

Twitter for Teachers – It’s Not About the Numbers

One day in 2009 my husband asked me to join Twitter in order to promote his music project. Little did I know on that day in December, that this social media medium would breathe new life into my educational practices. Lucky me!

During my initial foray into this fast, furious and free world of information sharing, he and I talked a great deal about ways to become active online. One of the many things that we discussed were “the numbers”:

  1. The number of followers;
  2. The number following;
  3. The number of updates;
  4. The number of retweets & modified tweets;
  5. The number of mentions;
  6. Klout scores;
  7. Views
  8. Etc.

& herein comes my “thought” for the day:

The more I play and learn on Twitter, the more magically meaningless these numbers become … & for teachers, it’s not about the numbers.  I truly believe that this is one of the many magnificent things that makes our teacher presence online different from some others – it’s really not about the numbers …. It’s really about the kids after all.

The number of followers that teachers have, their Klout scores, etc. become increasingly irrelevant and uninteresting as time marches on.

If we are learning and sharing; if we are inspired and inspirational; if we are connected and connecting; if we come across cool things and are spreading the wealth … well, that’s all that matters …

Cheers,
Ally