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!