Self Regulation and Reading

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So I am going to start the sharing!

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Nature Kindergarten in Sooke School District is another recipient of the Rural Innovation grant from The Eleanor Rix Professor of Rural Education at the UBC Faculty of Education.  As a kindergarten teacher the idea of this nature kindergarten is very interesting.  Check out their blog.  I hope that they continue to share ideas throughout the implementation of this program in the 2012/2013 school year.

Learning Symposium Presentation

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Well that’s a wrap folks!

On May 5 our group gathered at UBC to attend the Growing Innovation Learning Symposium to connect with and share the  projects  within the Rural Innovation initiative.  There are amazing things happening around this province in education.  Each of these projects has been hatched in rural or remote school districts within BC.  There are schools reorganizing based on needs of students, there is innovative curriculum being developed, there are schools looking to be sustainable and teachers collaborating in every corner of this province.  I’m feeling slightly overwhelmed by the amount of great things that are happening!

So folks let’s spread the word!!!

This is our presentation from the day and we would love to hear about yours.


If you want to share your presentation, be a guest blogger or connect please make a comment on this post. 

We need to get this information out! 

We need to honour and celebrate our innovation so that we can encourage and learn from others.

Online Discussions

Blogging, iPad, iTouch, Jillian Walkus, Uncategorized 4 Comments »

I have been pretty excited about using the Collaborize Classroom platform for my online Literature Circles in partnership with another school. My students have a completed a few Collaborize Classroom “Icebreaker” activities that focus on appropriate online discussion behaviours and how to respond to a classmate’s post. The “netiquette” activities were created by Catlin Tucker, a teacher in California but were available to me through Collaborize Classroom’s Topic Library; downloading to my classroom page was simple and I could edit the document to suit my needs.

Initially, some student responses were short, off topic and contained “text talk.” One of the activities involved students agreeing to follow specific online discussions rules and express their opinion about the rules. A few students were disappointed that there was an “avoid sarcasm” rule but it created a lively online discussion thread. Students were able to voice their affection for sarcasm with others but they also were able see that sarcasm was not going to move online discussions “forward.”

Here is a student response to “the rules” of online communication: “When you keep a postive attitude and follow the rules that are applied then you are  going to keep a good online conversation going. I like the rule that tells you to use people’s names because then you know who’s talking to you or who the message is directed to! The hardest rule is probably keeping an open mind because not everyone agrees and it usually becomes a huge online fight..”Posted By XXX on 04/05/2012 08:42 PM Reply

I recently started using Collaborize Classroom to create my own assignments and have found it to be quite easy. I have been very careful about creating assignments that require students to:

  1.  read or view something
  2. think about what they have read/viewed
  3. respond in writing

My students are getting better at writing and expressing their ideas in such a short amount of time.   I noticed a big improvement (quality and quantity) in student’s written responses when I required them to type their response into a googledoc or word document, proofread it and then copy & paste it into the reply box. Students  found it helpful to use sentence starter prompts when replying to another person’s post.  I found the sentence starters to be an effective way to reduce the number of “Good job Eric/Erica!” comments. For the time being I decide who each student must reply to so that no one is left out. Maybe I will use some sort of stickpin app this week to make choosing easier for me and totally random. Is anyone familiar with such an app?

I have found Andrew Churches’ wiki invaluable for Digital Taxonomy rubrics.  I love the recent edition of Starter Sheets for various Web 2.0 tools.  Starter sheets introduce a tool or technology, provide  step by step processes for getting started, offer ideas for using the tool in a variety of settings and also provide an alternative web-based option.  This is a resource you will want to check out!


Skitch, Sharing and Student Led Conferences

iPad, iTouch, Sarah Soltau-Heller  Tagged , , , , , , 6 Comments »

Lately we have been using a new  iPad app called Skitch.  We have been using it to document the last couple of science experiments that we have done in class.  I introduced the app to the students using my new Apple tv wireless connection (which is fantastic and I now use as a document camera and for Google Hangout and for Skype calls) on my SMARTboard.  I showed the students how to take a picture and how to import a picture, then how to label them the photo.  We use this app daily to document and record development of  our experiments and our hatching eggs.  I noticed that some students were more keen and so I have used these students as teachers to other students.  Two other classes in our school are also participating in our current  seed experiment and my students have gone over and taught other students in those classrooms how to use Skitch to document their experiments.

Initially my students were just labeling with single words, but now I ask that they use specific theme words to create sentences.  After the student has annotated their picture I have them save the picture to Evernote with the date and their names in the title.  I can then asily add this picture to their student portfolio and post the picture to our classroom blog, students can also choose to tweet out their pictures or email it home.

Our first attempts

Writing Sentences


Teaching other Kindergarten students

As always before I introduced this app I thought very carefully what skills it would develop.  The other day someone said to me that they could tell technology was my passion.  This statement worried me a little because while I am excited by the use of new tools in my class,  my real passion is to help my students become more capable communicators.  Reading and writing are my passions, I always keep in my  mind how is the technology going to help develop my curricular goals.  New and shiny is exciting but I must remember to try to bring it back to what skills am I trying to emphasis.  While  learning to use the tool is fun and makes the activity different it is still about teaching skills to students.

My next challenge is to have students use the technology in their Student Led Conferences.  Students will be using this app, making words on the SMARTboard and creating Number Stories that they will record on the iPods.  I can’t wait to see my students teaching their parents.

That apps are your newest discoveries?  What apps do you feel help develop communication skills?  How are you/do you imagine using Skitch?


SkypePlay – Guest Post by Mardelle Sauerborn

Sarah Soltau-Heller, Uncategorized  Tagged , , , 1 Comment »

      Since we are on a Twitter theme I thought I would ask another Twitter friend to explain a wonderful collaboration which is happening between kindergarten classrooms which knows no boundaries!  Mardelle (@mathmurd) is a BC  kindergarten teacher I have gotten to know on Twitter.  She is very involved in the #kinderchat which happens as a ongoing discussion on Twitter and has its own dedicated chat on Monday nights.  She  is a collaborator, explorer and risk-taker, my kind of gal!!

Mardelle came up with this wonderful idea about how to use Skype in her classroom and how to encourage others to try it too.  The thing I love about this project is the freedom of it.  Mardelle has set up the structure and the group and we all use it as we like.  Because of the connections made through this group we organized and participated in a collaborative  experiment with eggs. 

The following post is by Mardelle from her blog, Weeds are Plants Too.  She kindly agreed to post it to our blog as another example of collaboration that is happening within schools and classrooms.

Thank you Mardelle!

picture by kopp0041 on flickr


As a kindergarten teacher, I am on a constant quest to find authentic, engaging avenues for Play to bring to my current group of kinders.   I am a little crazy about it, truth be told. I have exhausted the patience of the colleagues I work with, facing glassy eyed “She is talking Play again” looks. So imagine my excitement when I discovered the world of Twitter,  and a Personal Learning Network (PLN) that is as intensely taken with the importance of Play as I am?
Enter #Kinderchat, my 27/7 PLN.   
There are endless ways to Play,  and that is at the heart of the  #Kinderchat PlayProjects.  Connecting young children to a world of play has never been easier.  Twitter, Family Facebook, GoogleEarth, Voicethread, GoogleDoc Storytelling, SkypePlay – the world is at your fingertips, inviting you to connect in a way that is just right for the children in your care.
I currently find myself the curator of a Play Project that is just right for me -  SkypePlay.
If you are new to Skype, it is an online, visual telephone call. Teachers use it to connect their children to experts, authors, and to other classes.  In Kindergarten, I found that the large group gathering was nice every now and then,  but that children just wanted to come on up and have a face to face chat, connecting through conversation, and exploring a curiosity about who that other kid is,  and what are they doing where they are.  
In a nutshell, Skypeplay gives children a peer to peer audience for their play that provides immediate interaction, collaboration, and conversation.  
And so, a network of Kindergarten classes are connecting, building relationships, exploring geography, and discovering that while everyone might have their own place in the world,  we all love to play. 
Why on earth (no pun intended) would you need to play with children via a screen when you have kids right there in your room to play with?  
Well, why not?  That is my short answer.  But I get it. We need to ensure that the world of Social Media is not just a gimmicky thing we throw at kids because we think it is cool.  
So.  Here is a story from my room.  Three boys started building a 3D structure.  As it grew, and design ideas were tried, discarded and refined, their excitement grew.  Other kids in the class came over, said “cool” but got back to their own play as fast as they could.  Then our Skype Phone rang,  and a brand-new-to-us class wanted to play.  When our new friends came online, they were overwhelmed with excitement – “WOOOOOOAH!!    What is THAT!!!”  My boys beamed, and strutted with pride, and then spent their time explaining the structure, the components, the time frame (“We have been building for two days, but expect it to take 90” ) while the other kids questioned, listened, and planned for themselves.  How many curriculum outcomes do you see there? 
Teachers in the project have facilitated discussions about tornados, snow and no snow, gardens, worms, mountains, oceans, islands. We have giggled over “Giant Face Boy!!”  and wondered if we are in the future because it is after lunch here, and before lunch there. I have seen a boy make eye contact with a child a world away when he has struggled to do that with the child beside him.  We have talked Skype manners and internet safety. We have classes plotted on a flat map, on a globe, and we have soared over towns and cities via Google Earth.  We have been  Alice in Wonderland, stepping through the Looking Glass.  
And it has opened up a world of play.  Literally. 


Melody Watson No Comments »

I honestly can’t say enough about how Twitter has changed my teaching.   Like a lot of people, when I first signed up for an account I didn’t really get it.  I didn’t have any followers, I wasn’t sure how to find people to follow (wasn’t interested in following celebrities), and even when I figured that out I wasn’t sure who to follow.  I ended up giving it a half-hearted try and then didn’t sign in again for several months.

Luckily, Sarah got me to log back in again and this time I was committed to giving it a real go.  The thing with Twitter is, that it is only as powerful as you make it.  I started by looking at Sarah’s followers and followed educators she was following.  I also signed up for Tweetdeck which made following Twitter conversations and hashtag chats much easier.  Each day I found more educators that I wanted to follow and my PLN began to grow.

Through Twitter, I touch base daily with other educators all over the world. I can’t begin to put in words how much my PLN (Personal Learning Network) has changed my teaching and learning.

Because of Twitter I have:

  • a constant stream of information flowing through my twitter feed that I can dip into whenever I like
  • Professional Development 24/7
  • a feeling of connectedness, when before I felt very isolated in my little school
  • a sounding board for ideas
  • other educators always will to answer a question, suggest a resource, or help to troubleshoot one of my many problems
  • a wealth of talents to draw upon
  • educators ready to support my student bloggers and provide them with that authentic audience that is so powerful (I highly recommend the #comments4kids hashtag)
  • an easy way to connect with other classes all over the world
  • the ability to find professionals in other fields who can help bring learning to life in my classroom
  • People who will challenge my thinking and push me outside my comfort zone
  • A place to meet weekly and participate in chats, like the Daily 5 chat
  • A group of global educators I can truly call my friends even though we have never met in person

Here a few great Twitter resources that might be helpful:

1. Twitter in 60 seconds

2. Twitter 102 for Educators- @stumpteacher

3. Twitter in the K-8 Classroom- @langwitches

I am so thankful for Sarah’s encouragement and for the amazing connections and growth I owe to Twitter and my PLN!

Google Hangout & Collaboration; Guest Post by Karen Lirenman

Sarah Soltau-Heller, Uncategorized  Tagged , , 3 Comments »

Our Innovation project is about the power of connecting with folks in alternate ways. Karen ( @LirenmanLearns) is a twitter friend who has been involved in several chats and events that I have been involved with. We keep bumping into each other out in cyberspace and hopefully we will soon be meeting face to face and working together on a writing project. Well last night was amazing! At 6pm PST (9pm EST) 6 Grade 1 teachers met and brainstormed about how we could support each other teach in our teaching of writing. It was like a cyberspace staff meeting, but way more fun than most staff meetings I have been to. We planned, we giggled, we shared! I was going to write a post about it but Karen did such a fantastic job on her blog Learning and Sharing with Ms. Lirenman I thought,  “why recreate the wheel” so I ask her if I could repost her post here and she kindly said yes! Below is the post that Karen made on her blog and she was willing to share with us.  I could not have explained it better myself. Thank you Karen!

Tonight I had my first successful experience with Google Hangout.  Wow!
I say first successful experience because I tried it last night too, while at work,  but it didn’t seem to work.
The question is why? Why google hangout? What prompted this hangout.  
As I am very certain you are all aware I am a bit of a twitter junkie.  I love meeting and chatting with new people. I love learning and sharing with others.  One group that I spend of fair bit of time chatting with are the people I’ve met on #1stchat.  It’s a really great group of educators and since they actually teach the grade that I teach they get it.  
Anyhow a few weeks back some of them had another hangout discussing something educational (and for what ever reason I can’t remember) but I wasn’t able to join (I know there was a good reason, and it would have involved me doing some serious multi tasking but for the life of me I can’t remember why either).  Then this week I dug a little deeper into getting Skype to work in my classroom.  I tweeted a few classrooms which lead to the suggestion of a Google Hangout.  One classroom teacher’s suggestion of meeting in Google Hangout  grew to six classes meeting together at the same time in Google Hangout.  The idea was born that we (our students in particular) were going to share their writing with one another  through Google Hangout.
Last night my #1stchat twitter friend Jill, @jaxbeachteach from Florida, said she’d be on line so that I could give Google Hangout a try.  I wanted to try it at work because I wasn’t sure if it would work or not and I didn’t want to get my students all excited about meeting and chatting with other students from around North America to find out that we couldn’t.  
As it turned out it didn’t work at school.  I’m still not exactly sure why but I think it may be a band with issue (what ever that means).  This is something I will investigate further.  It could have also been something with Google Hangout because my friend in Florida couldn’t really make it work with me either.
Anyhow, this evening the teachers decided that it would be a good idea to try the hangout first to plan for the official (with our classes) hangout scheduled for Friday morning.  We scheduled to meet at 9:00 pm EST.  Although I couldn’t make it on time I did make it while they were all still there.  
Now imagine, these are people I have never met (other than reading their blogs, sharing the odd e-mail, or seeing their twitter profile) but I have had countless conversations with them.  As soon as I logged on to Google Hangout they were all there, staring at me!  It was the first time I had ever see any of them “live”. Yes, I know not really live but I heard their voices and I saw them talk. At first it was a bit over whelming, but it quickly became normal.
Obviously I asked the silly questions like,  ”why are some of us so small and why is one person so big?” Like they do on twitter they answered my questions – when you talk your picture gets bigger and it  moves to the top centre box.
Anyhow the conversation went back and forth as we (well really they since I don’t think I’ll be able to join them) made a plan for Friday.  Wow, those are lucky children.  On Friday five classes from around North America are going to get together to listen and comment on one of the classes students’ writing.  
We also talked about having Jill lead a lesson for all the classes since she spent the last ten years as a educational coach.  We talked about a lot of other things too, some serious, some certainly not so series.  Remember we all teach grade one, which means we all are aware of the laughs we get from our students every day. 
Anyhow it was a really positive experience.  When it was all over we tweeted one another thanking each other for the hangout.  Christine, @cyarzy, was smart enough to take a screen shot of our hangout which she said was okay for me to use on this post.  So here it is!

My question is, have you ever used Google Hangout?  What potential do you see for its use?  And yes, I will look into why it didn’t work at my school, and how I may (if possible) get it to work.  I mean really, can you imagine seven grade one classes learning and sharing together!

Heading out into the Wilderness

Jillian Walkus 1 Comment »

The “wilderness” of my mind that is!

I have not lost my mind nor am I burned out–I just want to spend five days recharging and sifting through all those ideas/goals/ dreams that have been floating around in my head.  I love to collaborate and build with others but I really need some time alone.  If you have 20 minutes to spare the TEDtalk- The Power of Introversion is a valuable resource.  It has shifted my thoughts on “the quiet” students in my class and reinforced the importance of doing things individually first and then with others.

I have become more cognizant of allowing students quiet time to think or reflect before working with others.   I have started to consciously practice asking a question, jotting a prompt on the board and then giving “wait time” for students to think about it.   In English class we may move onto the day’s lesson and revisit the question near the end of the class or before forming groups.  I think it has improved the quality of group discussions as all students have time to think and prepare before sharing their knowledge. It also seems to have slowed down the energetic, extroverts that so readily raise their hands and contribute. I know this is not a new concept.  As I move my classroom and students forward in this “21 st Century of Learning” that values group process and collaboration  I have been reflecting and changing my practice so that all students are participatory.


I think my participation in this Learning Network has allowed me the privacy, freedom and autonomy that Susan Cain stresses near the end of her presentation. Wishing everyone a refreshing and recharging Spring Break.


Jill Cook, Uncategorized No Comments »

It’s a feeling many have around the rapid speed and trends around technology in our workplace and with our students. A few months ago Sarah introduced the use of the app Storyrobe. I was interested and could see the potential. Then life events took over: Christmas, meetings, report writing, hockey games, exercise, learning to use a smartboard, and more.
Then last weekend, finally a Saturday morning to muse on the computer for my own pleasure. There was Stroyrobe again. Wow, did I have fun. This app opens many doors for students of all ages who struggle with written output. From a beginners point of view it is easy to use and manageable. Thanks for sharing Sarah, we are enjoying this one immensely!

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