Saturday, December 21, 2013

Homework completed...just in time for the break!

I was given an assignment to complete by friend and colleague, Antonio Vendramin. It has taken me several days to get to this as I have a 10 week old at home. 
Here are 11 random facts about me:

1) I was born in Cape Town and moved to Vancouver in 1980. 

2)  My niece was the first person in my family born in Canada. 

3) I have a love/hate relationship with my birthday. Being born on Dec 26 sucks, but people remember it! 

4) I was 1 of 3 people born on Dec 26 in my family. Unfortunately, my grandfather and uncle are not longer around to share birthdays with me. 

5) The day my daughter was born was both the best and worst day of my life. Read my blog post to find out why. 

6) After high school I went to university to be a high school PE teacher. Boy was I wrong about where I would end up! 

7) In 1988 I was the provincial champion for vault in my age group. 

8) My husband and I went to elementary and high school together, but in separate grades. 

9) I played the trumpet through high school. 

10) I hate public speaking, ironic as that's what I do all day. 5 year olds are very forgiving! 

11) In 1990, my gymnastics career ended because I broke my big toe into 50+ pieces. 

Questions from Antonio:

1. Favourite place you have visited? Venice, Italy. I stayed in campsite across from Venice which we had to take a water taxi to/from and one morning I woke up early to watch the sunrise over Venice. 
2. Favourite sports team? NHL - Canucks. MLS - Whitecaps. NFL - Chargers 
3. Five songs on your device/CD in my car… right now I currently have a Charlotte Diamond CD in my car (and yes I know ALL words!)
4. Biggest surprise of your life? Finding out I was pregnant after a year of trying. We found out three days after seeing a fertility doctor and the day after I booked my flight to Israel. 
5. What would your best friend say they like MOST about you? I am dependable and will always be there to what ever they need. 
6. Nickname? Current or past. Munchkin 
7. Favourite number?  Why is that number significant? I like the #7, there is no real significance. My new house address is 14721 - all multiples of 7, so I am happy! 
8. What drives you crazy? People being late
9. Biggest fear? Anything with snakes and spiders
10. Favourite movie? ...Finding Nemo...
11. If you could do anything other than what you are currently doing career-wise, what would it be? I would love to be a CSI.

Now its your turn:

Gallit Zvi 
Michelle Hiebert
Dave Beaudry
Jennifer Paszkat 
Laura Murtsell 
Hugh McDonald
Liane Loeppky 
Holly Dickinson 
Lilliana Bolton 
Erika Gray 

Questions for you: 

1) If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would it be and why?
2) What is your biggest regret?
3) If you could change one thing about yourself physically what would it be?
4) What is your favourite colour and why?
5) Favourite food?
6) What is your best childhood memory?
7) What is the weirdest animal you have held/touched?
8) Where is the furthest place from home you have traveled?
9) Most recent book you have read is?
10) What are you most proud of in your adult life?
11) What is 1 thing on your bucket list?

Here’s how it works:
  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers.
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.

Post back here with a link after you write this. Go on, you have homework to do.

Monday, October 21, 2013

When thank you is not enough...

This is going to be long, and I apologize in advance. It has also taken me several days (ok almost 2 weeks) to write as my time has been limited.

This year Thanksgiving holds a very different meaning for me! The last 2 weeks if my life have been a whirlwind, and I am so thankful to be on the other side, but it couldn't have happened without some truly amazing people in my life, but my husband Daniel in particular.

Daniel and I were expecting our first child to arrive near the end of October and we were crazy enough to think that buying a new house and moving in Sept was 29 was a good idea! There were some bumps along the way with the house purchase, at one point we were going to move into the basement suite for a month, but somehow it all worked out. The owner of the house found a place, and we moved in Sept 29. Now came the task of setting up a new house. Being 9 months pregnant, everyone would "yell" at me when I picked up a box. I'm not one to sit around and watch, but I had to learn how to accept help. My parents, Daniel's dad, my brother, Daniel and I managed to get a lot unpacked before calling it a night. Thankful for helpful family members.

The next week brought MANY appointments for me! Being a high risk pregnancy, I was being followed VERY closely. Monday I saw my OB, Tuesday I had fetal monitoring and an ultrasound and Wednesday I  had a consult with an anesthesiologist (which is standard if you have asthma). All these appointments went perfectly well and everything was great with me and baby...until that night! Early in the morning I woke up with really itchy hands and the soles of my feet. I have never been that itchy before. When I look at my lower legs now, I can still see the scratches and bruises from when I was seeking relief from this itch. In the morning I had to deal with the alarm company (a saga I wont bore you with the details, but it was a 2 day ordeal) and I tried to make an appointment with my Dr or OB about my feet. My Dr was at a conference and the OB said to deal with my off to a clinic I went armed with some info from Dr. Google. After waiting for almost an hour and half, the Dr had no idea and basically told me to come back tomorrow if it was still itchy and no mention for what Dr. Google said. Hind sight is 20/20 and I should have asked about my hunch, but instead I went home to suffer through another itchy night. Friday I was back at a different clinic and this DR did have the same hunch that I did and ordered the blood work needed to confirm the condition, but it was so late in the day, it had to wait until Saturday. First thing Saturday morning I was off to the lab and feeling like we were on a good path.

Daniel decided that Saturday was a good day to begin painting the baby's room, so he spent most of the day working on that project while I rested and and did some small projects around the new house with the help of his mom and dad.

Sunday morning I woke up and just wasn't feeling right. Baby was normally very active before I ate breakfast and Sunday morning I didn't feel much movement. I didn't think too much of it at the time. After breakfast when I still hadn't felt much movement, I started to be on alert. Throughout the day, I just wasn't feeling well, so I spent most of the day on the couch resting while Daniel was hard at work finishing off the paint in baby's room. I tried to do a kick count (6 movements in 2 hours), but I was so tired, I would fall asleep. Again, hind sight is 20/20 and we should have gone to the hospital then. Around 1:30, I went upstairs to talk to Daniel about getting ready to go to the soccer game. (We are BIG Whitecaps fans and they were playing a huge game against Portland that night.) We were sitting on the floor of the just finished baby's room when Daniel looked at feet and told me that we needed to go to the hospital. My feet had turned a weird brown/purple colour. Me being stubborn, told him we could go after the game, but luckily he insisted that we go before hand. So I made a quick call to triage at the hospital to let them know were were coming and I could tell that the nurse on the other end had concerns. We got ready to go in our 'Caps gear, hoping that a quick trip for fetal monitoring was all that would be needed and we could head to the game after. Boy were we wrong!!!

We got to the hospital around 2:30 and I was hooked up to a fetal monitor. I mentioned to the nurse that I had done blood work the previous day and that there were somethings that were slightly off. Daniel mentioned about my itchy and purple feet, but the nurse didn't think it was a big deal.  Baby had a strong heart rate of around 140, but I was still not feeling many movements. In the hour and a half before the Dr. came, I think I felt maybe 3 movements. The nurses kept coming and checking to make sure I wasn't feeling movements and they kept changing my position to see if we could get more movements, but nothing seemed to help. The heart rate was staying pretty steady, not the usually accelerations and decelerations that you get when baby is moving. Having done weekly fetal monitoring for 5 weeks, I learned a lot about what they are looking for in a healthy baby.

Around 4:30, the Dr. came to check on us. He was concerned that there was a baby with a good heart rate, but a mom that wasn't feeling many movements. The tried some things to stimulate the baby, but nothing helped with the movements or a spike in heart rate from one. He decided to do an ultrasound to see if maybe I wasn't feeling movement, even though movement was there. His theory was that maybe the placenta had moved and was acting like a cushion. During the ultrasound, the Dr, resident and nurse didn't say much, but I could tell by the look on their faces that they were concerned. At this point it was decided that they were going to try to induce 3 contractions in 10 minutes to see if baby responds, and I was admitted. A nurse came over and told me that they needed to plan for a c-section "just in case" and to remove all my jewelry and sign a few more forms.

Around 5:35 we were admitted and taken to our room. I told Daniel that it was going to be a while and that he should probably put more money in the meter and go and get himself some food as he had not eaten since breakfast. Once he left I asked the nurse started explaining what was going to happen and then all of a sudden she says "No, we are doing this now!" Scariest 6 words of my life! Next thing I know, codes are being called and nurses and doctors are being paged and I have an oxygen mask on. The nurse lifted the oxygen mask long enough to give her Daniel's phone number to tell him to get back up to the room ASAP! The next few minutes are a blur, but I do remember nurses and doctors running down the halls to meet us, Daniel running behind the bed and me lying on the bed crying because no one was telling us what was happening. I knew that we were headed to OR 8 as that was repeated over and over in the pages being called, but beyond that...I knew nothing. I knew Daniel had made it up but I couldn't see him.

We race into the OR and arrived there at 5:50 and there is a team of about 15 waiting for us. As soon we we arrive, they start working on me. In my panicked state, I did manage to hear someone ask  if they wanted me sitting or lying and when the answer was lying, I knew that this was no ordinary c-section. I was going to be put under general anesthetic. There was one nurse who held my hand and wiped my tears and I asked her to confirm that I was having a general anesthetic and she said yes. Next thing I knew there was a screen up by my face and I could feel people working behind the curtain to prep me for surgery. Last thing I remember was a mask going over my face.

I know how scared I was being wheeled into the OR, I cant even begin to imagine what Daniel was feeling. He was told to gown up and that they would try to get him in, but no one cam back to get him. Neither of us got to say "I love you" before the OR doors closed, he had no idea what was going on - the last he heard was a nurse telling him to drop everything and get back to the room ASAP! The next 15 minutes must have been the scariest of his life not know what was happening with his wife and child. Phone calls were made to both his parents and my parents. Not only to tell them what was happening, but also to provide Daniel with the support he needed. At 6:05 our beautiful daughter entered the world and a nurse finally came out to tell Daniel that "It's a girl and she came out screaming".

Daniel and Ayla were taken back to the room, and I was sutured up and sent to recovery where I would remain for the next 3 hours. I think the weirdest part for me was waking in recovery. I opened my eyes and asked the nurse the following 2 questions before I fell asleep again 1) Is my baby ok? 2) What did I have? Having not found out the gender ahead of time, I was actually one of the last among the family to know that we had a beautiful daughter, Ayla, who weighed in at 5 lbs 9.7 oz and was 18 inches long.

Back in the room, Daniel and Ayla had 3 hours to bond before I got to join them. A Dr (or nurse, I am not sure who) had come to talk to Daniel about what had happened. They will not know exactly what happened until the placenta comes back from pathology, but when they opened me up, there was meconium in the amniotic fluid. I believe this is hat was causing all my itching as my body was try to deal with the toxins. The blood work that I had done the day before showed that I was negative for the syndrome the Dr believed I had (cholestasis) as my numbers were slightly low and if it was cholestasis the numbers would have been sky high. There was also blood in the amniotic fluid which the Dr's believe is either from a placental abruption or the placenta pulling away from the uterine wall.

Seeing my daughter for the first time was such an overwhelming experience. After everything we had been through in the past 4 hours, just to hold her was AMAZING!! I think I cried, tears of joy, for at least 20 minutes when I got back up to the room. There were no words needed, just hugs and kisses.

It really didn't hit me how desperate the situation was until I started to process what happened. The first few people I called when I got back in the room were probably just as shocked as I was that she was here! The next few days I did a lot of reflecting, trying to process what had actually happened and deal with the guilt inside me. The truth is, Ayla is lucky to be here and be healthy! This hit me several times, including 2 days after her birth when I was alone with Ayla. Daniel had gone back to the house to set up furniture and unpack boxes. Ayla was lying on my chest sleeping and holding my thumb tightly. I was apologizing to her for not protecting her and promising that it would never happen again. She kept squeezing my thumb as if to say, its ok. For about 30 minutes she help my thumb tightly and even if I tried to pull it away, she wouldn't let me. The other time the reality of the situation hit me hard was early one morning as I was having a conversation with Meg Unger about her son (who was just diagnosed as cancer free) and I typed the words "I get it, my daughter almost died" that the enormity of the situation really hit me. Even as I type this 2 weeks later, I have tears streaming down my face, because I didn't do my job as a mother. It is my job to protect her, and I wrote off things to being so busy with move and not feeling well.

I have replayed the events of that week and day on my head so many times and looking back on it now, I would have done so many things differently. I should have called the hospital on Thursday when my feet and hands were itchy to the point that I was leaving bruises and scratched and the clinic didn't know why.  We should have gone in Sunday morning after breakfast when I wasn't feeling well and she wasn't moving much. Instead, being stubborn, I told Daniel "it's not a big deal, we can go after the soccer."  I didn't want to be one of those moms who calls the hospital for every little thing. Now I know, you have to. If something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. As my Dr told me "things change in OB so quickly."

I am so fortunate that everything worked out, and I am thankful that there were people/events along the way that saved my daughter. As much as I wanted to deliver at Woman's, being at Surrey was amazing. I had to be there because of the NICU. Luckily, we never had to use it! Surrey also has the staff on site to handle emergencies like ours, again so thankful!

The staff at SMH were incredible, especially nurse Aly who literally saved her life. Aly was monitoring her and she was the nurse who called the code that started the chain of events. Aly was calm, efficient and knew exactly was needed to be done. Unfortunately, Aly wasn't back before we were discharged, so I never got to thank her in person. I asked the other nurses to pass on my thanks to her. When we get the birth announcements, I will take one to her with a bag of Lifesavers (thanks Meg for the idea), as that is what she is.
Proud Dad making phone calls
The biggest thank you of all has to go to Daniel! He is my rock and luckily he doesn't let me get away with any BS. If it was up to me, we may have been at the soccer (which is ironic because he is a HUGE fan and the reason we have season tickets), but he took one look at my feet at made me go in. I can be a little stubborn (ok, a lot stubborn, I am a Capricorn after all) but he is the one person who knows how to get through to me. I guess that is why I married him, we balance each other out. While he is reluctant to admit it, he is the REAL reason Ayla is here and healthy and for that there are not enough thank yous. I have always knows that he is an amazing person and husband, but he truly is the best father! When I watch him and her together, it is wonderfully special bond that they have and I am fortunate to have them both in my life.

Friday, July 19, 2013


As I am not a bragger, I am going to let this picture do the talking ....

16 weeks pregnant at the Sea of Galilee, Israel. 
 P.S. No humans were harmed in the taking of this photo!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Confession....I am a sleepy head!!

I must confess that there have been many possible posts that I could have written for this "confession" challenge. In fact, in my head I had written a posts titled "My secret addiction to stress" and "As much as I hate to admit it, I am my mother's daughter". Both of those post are a lot more "serious" and I want to keep my summer blogging light and fun (as long as @happycampergirl keeps giving us fun topics for this years Kinderblog challenge). is my confession, I AM a napper!! There is nothing I LOVE more than coming home after school or on the weekend and lying on the couch for a nap! There is something so refreshing about taking a 30-60 minute power nap in the afternoon, I just cant explain it! I have been know to plan my days around naps, I schedule evening activities (such as gym workouts) for later in the day so I can sneak in a nap.And I am not ashamed to admit this!

As a full day Kindergarten teacher, people often ask me if my kids get a nap time. Ironically, the answer is no! I know that lots of teachers do have a designated "quiet" or "rest" time in their class, but it has never worked for me (mostly because I worry that I may fall asleep). Having said that, we do have"silent" reading time after lunch and I do tend to make my afternoon activities less strenuous than the morning ones and in 3 years of teaching full day K, not 1 child has asked for a nap.

People assume this napping thing is new because "you are pregnant, its ok to nap", but when I tell them its not new, they seem shocked. I tell people I have been napping in the afternoon for years, pregnancy has just made it "OK" in people minds. The other confession I have is that I hope my child is a good napper, because I don't see me giving up my afternoon nap any time soon! 

And yes, I live with 2 cats who do this often!!!!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

My day of learning at Tait Elementary in Richmond

I am very fortunate to work in a school where we are encouraged to visit other classes/schools/districts as part of our professional development. Earlier in the year (on a Pro-D Day) I was able to visit Michelle Hiebert's class in the Abbotsford School District and on April 8, I was able to visit Leanne Commons at Tait Elementary in the Richmond School District. Both of these classes allowed me to see what all kindergarten classes have - wonderful kids with great personalities who make our jobs meaningful! Both classes also inspired me to try new things in my class. This is the wonderful thing about classroom visits, you get to see (not just read about) inspirational things and then come back to your class and try them!

Robert J. Tait school is a beautifully laid out school with a library in the center. Compared to Georges Vanier, which has 22 divisions, Tait is a small school with only 10 divisions. My friend Leanne teaches the only kindergarten class in the school. Being a small school has its advantages, there is a great sense of community in the school. They do a school wide run (3 days a week) and when its raining they meet in the gym for dance. Even as an "outsider" I was welcomed by the students who wanted me to run with them around the school grounds.

The first thing I noticed when I walked into Leanne's K class, was this quote on the wall. This is such an important message and one that needs to be in more classes.

Some of the students in Leanne's class arrive before the bell and are welcomed in and invited to start either looking at books or doing puzzles. The school has an open door policy and on the day I was there, a parent arrived at 9:00 because their child was going to lead calendar. Those parents were welcomed into the class and I thought it was wonderful that they were there to witness that special moment in their child's day. Being the special helper for the day was obviously something very important to her (and her parents).

After calendar, the students moved onto to reading. Like many Kindergarten classes, they were focusing on a letter of the week. One thing that I have always struggled with is sharing (the educational version of show and tell) and tying it into the letter of the week. For the past 3 years, I have assigned kids 1 day during the week to bring in an object. There are many challenges with that - the biggest one being by Friday, all the "good" items have already been shared. I LOVE the way Ms. Commons has solved this problem and I will be incorporating into my class next year. EVERYONE bring items on Monday and they make a chart of all the items brought in.

Children are encouraged to sound out the word to label each square on the chart and names of the children who brought each item are added to the box. Once the class chart is made, students then select one item to write and draw about in the ABC books.

The main reason that I chose to go visit this classroom is the writing program they follow. This is another area where I feel I need to make some changes in my classroom.Ms. Commons follows the mini lessons outlined in What's Next for the Beginning Writer?

This book outlines simple mini-lessons that can be done with classes that will enhance not only their fiction writing, but also their non-fiction stories. On the day I was there, a learning support teacher was in the room for an hour to assist with the lesson. Having a second adult in the room to support emergent writers is very important. Kids who are just beginning to write, need as much support and encouragement as possible with these tasks.  Next year, I plan on incorporating some of the ideas in this book during times when our early literacy teacher is in to support my students.

The teachers began the lesson modeling some of the "characters" that they were going to use in their story. This serves as the pre planning stage for writing a story. This is an important stage for all writers to go through before they actually write the story; they need a plan! The students came up with the characters and the items that the character would use in the story and then they helped to label them. Once this was modeled, some students then orally told the version of the story in their head.

When it came to writing time, students had the option of using the ideas modeled or writing a story of their own. Having the option to use the modeled story ideas, allows for those less confident students to have a "safety net" to fall back until they feel ready to try on their own. Here are some samples of what was written by two students at very different places in their writing journeys (these were samples from a different day, but still highlight where they are at when it comes to writing).


The final thing that I am going to borrow from Ms. Commons is her 10 frame math booklet that she was working on with her class. Having number sense, especially with the number 10 is a key skill for early learners. While I have taught this concept for many years, I loved the way that she and her class did it. They had to show each combination to make 10 three ways - with a 10 frame, in a  picture and as an equation.

 My day at Tait was a wonderful one and I left feeling inspired to try new things in my class. That is what is so wonderful about professional development, especially when it involves visiting others, it inspires us to better our practice as teachers!  We all have wonderful things that we do in our classrooms that seem so ordinary and have become our standard practice, but when someone else can come in and be inspired, its powerful! Thank you Leanne for allowing me into your class and inspiring me! My students are benefiting from it!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

My first #Edcamp!

I was very excited to attend my first EdCamp on Friday, especially since it was for Kindergarten teachers! What better way to learn, than from a room full of educators who all teach the same grade as you? I had never been to an EdCamp style pro-d before and I wasn't 100% sure of what to expect. I had heard a lot about EdCamp from people on Twitter, but had never had the good fortune to attend one. Even though it was not a pro-d in Surrey, I applied for funds to cover my TOC so I could attend this workshop in Abbotsford hosted by Michelle Hiebert (@MauiMickey) and Meg Unger (@MegUnger).

To Michelle and Meg's surprise, they had 43 participants from 5 different school districts! A Fantastic turnout! The participants ranged from student teachers to teachers with 30+ years, a great mix for sharing and learning.

 For those new to EdCamp style workshops, participants and organizers suggest topics and people "vote" with sticky notes to show interest in a topic. The organizers then take the top workshops and organize them into time slots and rooms. The EdCampKinder day ended up being slightly different as there were a few tech workshops that all had some interest so those topics were housed in one room, while the remaining 6 most popular topics were in other rooms throughout the day. The sessions then ran by people sharing their thoughts and ideas on the topic of the session. Some sessions were "guided" by teachers with lots of knowledge in the area, while others were more free-flowing.The great thing about teachers, there is never a lack of leaders in a room to run a chat!

The first session I attended was about ideas for math. This session was held in a kindergarten classroom and led by that teacher. She shared with us all the ways that she makes her room rich in math. This particular teacher approaches number sense the way most of approach letters - a number of the week. She spends a whole week on 1 number and does different activities with the number throughout the week. This is something that I am planning on adding to my classroom after spring break. They explore the number, make it different ways (using manipulatives), draw about it, makes stories about it, journal about it and make a class poster of what they know about the number.

She also spoke about  the students exploring addition using a balance scale to come up with difference numbers that balance (equal) the scale on both sides. This is a phenomenal manipulative that I am hoping will be added to my classroom soon.

This allows children to learn and understand why things happen, and not just that 2+4=6 because I told it is. This video shown a Kindergarten student explaining his learning about math.

Here are some items around the class that inspired me!

The front of the snail made with tissue paper to show the pattern
The back of the snail to show pattern
Using a 10 frame to show the number on the calendar

Sign in board

The great thing about EdCamp is that it is a fluid day. You are free to move around between sessions, so when this group started talking about document cameras (something I know a lot about), I left and joined the conversation about apps in a different room. In this particular conversation, I became the leader as everyone else at the table was fairly new to iPads. We had a long conversation about the educational value of iPads and why they are great for kinders before I started sharing some of my fav apps. The table was blown away when I shared with them what my class last year had done with book creator. Here is the blog I wrote on that. 

Before we knew it 30 minutes was up and it was time to move on to the next session. I made my way to sharing session on behaviour strategies in the classroom. This is an area where a teacher can NEVER have too many ideas. The thing that stood out the most to me is that in Abbotsford, each district behaviour specialist has a TA attatched to them and your school based team can request that the TA comes and spends 6 weeks with a student that is having a tough time behaviour wise. I also learned that in Abbotsford, they have a special program called TKRP (Therapeutic Kindergarten Readiness Program) for children under 6 who have already been diagnosed with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and post traumatic stress. When I googled this organization, I was shocked to find that while it falls under the Fraser Valley Child Development Center, it was only available to residents of Abbotsford.  

As a group, we shared things that we have tried with varying degrees of success in our rooms to help students with behaviour  issues, here are some of my favourites: 

  •  a 30 cm ruler voice --> show kids how long a 30 cm ruler is and then explain to them that is how loud their voice should be inside. That only people 30 cm away  (or less) should be able to hear them. We talked about how a child uses the volume of their voice as for control. There are not a lot of things that a child can control 100%, but their voice is one of them. 
  • "Are you making the situation bigger or better? --> demo this using a balloon. Blow up a balloon and talk about how the balloon can only get so big before it pops. 
  •  Ask student “if your body could talk, what would your behaviour be telling me?”
  • Provide a quiet place, such as a tent where children can go to calm down.
The conversation then turned to the differences between tattles and reporting and we ALL had lots to share, especially at this time of the year. A couple of things that I might try in my room are:
  • A "Tattle Toucan" - a stuffed animal where students can tell their tattles too. Sometimes, the kids just want to be heard. 
  • The  5 B’s of Tattles - don't come and tell me first unless you barf, are bloody, being bullied, have a bee sting or a broken bone.  
My final session of the day sort of "backfired" on me. I had suggested the topic of play-based learning and lots of people signed up for the session. I think we all wanted to learn more about play-based learning, the problem was that none of currently do it in our rooms.We all had ideas of what play-based learning was and had heard about it being it done in other rooms, but all of came to the session looking for info on how to transition from a more "traditional" style classroom to a Reggio Emilia play-based one. We all agreed that a play-based model based on the  approach would be fantastic, but none of us were such where to start to make sure that the learning was both child centered, but still manageable for us as classroom teachers. We ended our discussion talking about ways that do incorporate play into learning everyday in our classrooms.

For me, the BEST part of Edcamp, was being inspired the 42 other Kindergarten teachers that attended. The one that that has really hit me over the past few weeks is that we all do amazing things in our classrooms that we take for granted as they are part of our daily routines.  This video by Derek Silvers sums it up best.

Being able to share those things, it what inspires growth and change in our practice. I am so fortunate that for the last 2 Fridays, I have been inspired by so many wonderful people who have amazing ideas. It is my students who will benefit most from all of this sharing! 

Here are some pics of things around the school that inspired me! 


Monday, February 11, 2013

My day of learning with @MauiMickey

THE best thing that I have done for my teaching practice over the past 18 months was to join Twitter. On Twitter, I am able to connect with so many inspirational teachers from ALL over the world. Twitter is like sitting in the staffroom and sharing the BEST ideas and meaningful conversations on a daily basis. While the district has set specific professional development days, I feel that I am learning EVERY day with my PLN (Personal Learning Network) on Twitter. We share ideas about projects, have meaningful conversations about best practice and even "vent" in private about the challenges we face in our classrooms.

I have been very fortunate to meet many of the members in my PLN in person and I jumped at the chance to spend the day in one of their classes last week. Michelle Hiebert (@MauiMickey) and I have been chatting about our classes on Twitter, over text and even in person. We have been trying to find a day where one of us is in session and the other isn't so that we can visit.....well the stars lined up for me on Friday! Surrey had a Pro-D, but Abbotsford didn't, so I drove the 35 minutes east on Highway 1 to spend the day at Prince Charles Elementary.

The biggest differences between Prince Charles and Georges Vanier are the ages of the kids and the size of the school. Vanier goes up to grade 7 and had 510 kids and Prince Charles has 220 kids and goes up to grade 5. Michelle informed me that her class has 19 students and all but 1 of them are native English speakers. This also is a big change from my class of 20 where over 60% are English Language Learners.

One look around Michelle's class and you can see that the room is designed and decorated with the children in mind. There is student work posted on every available wall inside and outside the class.

Twitter Buddies
Looks like a #Geniushour project to me
Winter Art
Guided Writing on Friends
Goal Writing

Buddy Writing

Michelle has a smart board in her class and she uses this technology ALL day long from the moment the kids come into to the end of the day in free choice centers. The board is installed low enough so they kids can easily access it for items like attendance.

Twice a week parent helpers come into the class and take out 2 small groups for guided reading practice. The remaining kids work with Michelle doing a guided writing activity for about 15 minutes and then they switch. Each child gets small group time in both reading and writing. Since the theme for the month is Friendship, today they were writing about their best friend. Students enjoyed lying on the carpet and working with a small group on this project. Each student wrote 2-4 sentences about who their best friend was and what they enjoy doing together. This is something that I would like to try with my kids in the spring. My students have just started writing words with their pictures, but I see HUGE value in using the small groups and parents to help with this.

                     Working hard on their sentences
Finished work
One of my favourite things I saw (and I am SO thankful Michelle copied these for me) was the use of Wii Dance Party through the smart board to add some EXTRA fun wiggle breaks. The kids (and Michelle and I) had a great time dancing to 1 Direction and trying to keep up with the choreography on the video! Thank you Michelle for literally sharing this with my by downloading them ALL onto my flash drive!!! Party in Mrs. Pulvers' class tomorrow!!! I just need to figure out how to project this so that my kids aren't dancing in front of the projector.

Learning the choreography for "That's What Makes You Beautiful"

Story time was made extra special when Michelle projected a fire on the SmartBoard. The kids just ate it up!!  The laid by the fire, making sure to not get too close because "its hot by the fire". My comment was that if they had hot chocolate, it would be perfect - file that idea away for another time!!! 

 After recess we worked on the people for the bus for "Fin's Friends". This is a program that the Vancouver Canuck's support to help students learn about building character and social responsibility. While it is too late for this year, I am going to look into this free program for next year. I forgot to take a picture of the really cute people we made, but here is the bus that is located outside the class, but here is the blog link. 

Next was a stop in their Big Buddie's room to work on lanterns for Chinese New Year. This was a grade 5 with some very creative teachers!! I managed to convince one of the teachers (the other is the principal) that they need to come to Vainer for a visit with Michelle in April. I will write another blog about how the principal implements the science curriculum, but lets just say I was inspired by it!!! 

One really neat idea that I will share was their penny museum projects. With the penny being phased out, student were to make a project that could go in a "museum" to share with future generations. The project was entirely open ended and allowed the students to share their creativity. Here a few samples of their creativity: 

My day ended with the kids in center time before they went to gym with another teacher (at this time Michelle and I eagerly shared app ideas for our classes). I thoroughly enjoyed just watching and listening to the kids play. The special helper of the day was allowed to use the smart board, 2 students were on the iPad and the rest of the class was engaged in meaningful play. 


I am so glad that I was able to have this day to go and learn from Michelle and her students! I have so many great ideas spinning around in my head and I can't wait to get back to school this week and try them! I will be checking in on them on their class blog, Kinderpals, to see what they are up to. This was probably one of the most meaningful Pro-D days that I was experienced in a while. Going into a different class and being able to share ideas is a fantastic way for me to bring new ideas into my class. All day I was questioning my practice, questioning what I can do better and thinking of new ways to help my students be the best they can be! I cant wait until April when Michelle comes to Vanier!