Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Power of Connecting - the Global Read Aloud and Other Points

My Grade Fives and I have been rather busy this October; we are proud members of Global Read Aloud 2012!

Participating in this amazing project, thought up by Pernille Ripp, has been eye-opening for my students and certainly reinforced some very important ideas for me about the value of the Internet as a tool - a space - for teaching and learning.


Of course there's the thrill of connecting with students their age in other parts of the is the GLOBAL Read Aloud, after all!  For my particular class, we have been delighted to participate in the project with Ms. Sandler's class in Argentina; Ms. Rinker's in Illinois and Ms. Jones' in Connecticut; Ms. Boothby's Grade 5's way  over in Switzerland and shortly we'll be hearing from Ms. Bennett's class down in New Zealand (they've been on holiday)!  


And then's there's the book itself - The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate! It is a wonderful story about hope and friendship and art and so much more; it is sure to be a classic like the other selection this year, Charlotte's Web. The power of words, well-crafted as is so evident in this book, can move us all to places and feelings new and familiar.

Knowing that other grade fives are actually hearing the same story pretty much at the same time you are in so many places around the world is awe-inspiring for ten year olds! Finding out they have similar thoughts and interesting differences to students around the world is an added benefit of sharing!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Learning from our Mistakes

How many times do you come across someone willing to announce to the world the mistakes they have made?  

Mistakes made in their classroom?  

Little boo-boos, yes, maybe, but sharing several BIG mistakes?

I was struck by an article  about blogging  I read recently that was all about just that. (see citation at the end of this post/no link available)

The authors, all instructors at a teaching college, stated that they made several assumptions when introducing blogging into their university courses for pre-service teachers:

 ..."that this generation of tech-savvy kids would enjoy this particular medium for discussing their reading."

... there was little need for direct instruction

... blogging would appeal to the wanna-be teachers who would be incorporating technology into their future classroom


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Assessing What Counts

Blogging is now an integral part of my elementary classroom literacy block.  Like many teachers, such as  Kathleen Morris and Pernille Ripp, I have come to see the benefits of blogging with my students and wouldn't miss including it as part of our daily activities.

Within the first few months of introducing it, I added blogging as an independent choice for journalling, creative writing or completing reading responses in our Writing Workshop.

The importance of how we presented ourselves was established much like teacher Mrs. Yollis does with her Grade 3 class.  Having standards for 'publishable writing' is not a new concept in our school.

That being accomplished, and I have to say blogging was appreciated by the students as a 'cool' way to share their lives, their interests, and their book selections, it became a question of how do I use the blogs as part of gathering information about my students' learning?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

What and How to Value


I have spent a significant portion of this summer holiday reading and re-reading journal articles, book chapters, blog posts and tweets to become familiar with the practice (and questions) around assessment, 21st century skills and blogging in our classrooms.

Since introducing blogging to my students only two years ago, my thinking has changed as I came to understand several things about what its potential for teaching and learning holds.

In that time-frame I have begun to move from using the blogging screen as 'paper-and-pencil' replacements for school assignments/journalling, though I still see that as part of what can carried on.  Instead I have begun to establish my students as members of blogging communities, whether it's in our school or through interacting with other bloggers much farther away!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A New Name - A New Start

I have a new name. Well not me but this blog.

Peonies, Pedagogy and Other Points had fine alliteration and it did mean something to me when I chose it however having the word Peonies in the title just hasn't fit how this blog has evolved.

This is just one of my peonies!

When I started here in February 2011 (as partial requirement for a grad course) I thought it could, would hold more than 'just' my thoughts about my pedgagogy as I began to blog with my students.

I am a gardener too. I had intended to infuse the blog with personal anecdotes about gardening along the North Atlantic but it just didn't materialize. (I'll have to find a different space for that!)

This blog has had a steady, if not as frequent as I wished, focus on blogging. (Still as grad student and I would love to be blogging more often instead of researching but it is worth the sacrifice!)

I wanted to document and share different aspects of the journey I have taken as a elementary teacher who was determined to incorporate technology into the curriculum. I wanted to articulate and reflect on my own thinking as I moved to establish blogs with my grade fives.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Something's Missing

Something's missing in our blogging!

 As I have been thinking about the blogging with  my Grade 5s (this is my second year) and reflect on recent reading from Will Richardson , Bill Ferriter  and Pernille Ripp to name a few, I realized what it was.

Conversation. Real talk.

My kids are commenting on each other's blogs and keep it going but the deeper reflection that I was hoping for didn't really materialize.

And it's my fault.

In trying to get and keep the flow going by frequently responding in and out of class - me, the kids and some parents, we  (well, me, actually) didn't seek out other student bloggers or spaces to engage in conversations or discussions about things that matter.

Things that might get the kids thinking and responding and arguing and digging deeper.

I didn't get around to availing of #comment4kids (the Twitter hashtag that invites connected educators to visit student blogs with or without their classes) this year to bring readers to my students' blogs. Readers whose comments could have sparked new questions, new thinking,  new perspectives.

That being said blogging did accomplish several things I had in mind...

I feel strongly that a sense of purposeful writing - for themselves and writing for an audience other than me -was established.
I know students experienced the creative buzz from working digitally with the features of Kidblog and embedding other tools they used such as Youtube, Photostory3, and other sites of interest.

I could observe the outing of 'experts' in the class as students called on each other for assistance and I had students teach each other and me how to accomplish what we wanted using various applications!

I was able to provide opportunities for collaboration as students worked together on our Learning Scrapbook blog.

Blogging also supported other observations...

I do believe that using the blogging platform engages more students than the paper-and-pencil route, especially many of the boys who responded to the techy nature of blogging!

I  do know that students who were shy in class found their voice when on the blog.

I do think that the 'social practice' of communicating with me, their classmates and very importantly their families is enhanced greatly through our blogging endeavours.


I have come to realize that I have to do some things differently when I return to class in September.

If I want their blogging to make a difference,
to have them begin to understand what it really means to be a digital citizen,
to make the most of the opportunities that connecting with others can bring,
then I have to have them get involved in the community of bloggers - develop networks -
and be part of the world in a more visible and interactive way.


Can't wait to get back.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Looking Back at Blogging

I have been thinking and re-thinking about blogging with my Grade 5s.  Most of them enjoy it. Many of them do it regularly. The majority of the kids chose to write on their blogs without prompting or poking from me.

But in light of some reading and re-reading I have been doing for my grad research, I am wondering if I have achieved what I wanted by having my students participate in this on-line activity.

Will Richardson  says that in-school blogging isn't really blogging, that due to the "contrived" nature of the task, students are not really engaged in blogging. That they are really only writing for the teacher, for the grade (that's another post topic, for sure!)

I get that.  And for some students, that is probably true. 

 But isn't that the case for writing, too; that despite Workshops and Author's Chairs and 'publishing' pieces of  student work, that many, most, will not choose writing as a personal activity?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

This IS What It's All About

So my Grade 8s have been hearing about the new stuff the grade 5s are doing...blogging, shooting podcasts, using some little Smartboard app on an iPad and even 'going' to Disney World in Math class on the laptops

and they WANT in!

They want to USE their cameras
      and iPod touches
               and laptops
                        in meaningful ways.

They don't want to wait.
They want to use new programs, new tools, new technologies... now in school.

They don't think they should be banned from WiFi access.
They don't think it's fair that the bad apples get to spoil it for them.

They want to learn.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Difference It Makes

When I think back to the cookie cutter approach to teaching, learning, textbooks and tests of my own 'education', I shudder.  Mind you, I was one of the lucky ones; book-learning came relatively easy for me.

 Seeing my name on the wall didn't bother me-I got STARS!
I LOVED to read and write and spell!
But not everyone did.  Not everyone could make the grade.  
Some children never got a spelling star.
Some kids hated to be asked to read aloud.
Some kids hated school.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Christmas Gifts Welcome in the Classroom


As we returned to class this past week and carried out the annual Show and Tell ritual, I was struck by the number of digital gadgets my students had received...

Laptops, I Pods, tablets, Wii systems, e Readers, Nintendo DS contraptions, cellphones, digital cameras...all in the hands of my ten-year old students!

I was also struck how - when I was not much older than they are - reading science fiction, that the fiction included handheld devices that one could speak into and see the other person!  How impossible that seemed back in the day of the rotary-dial telephone.  Web-camming is a new verb and now we can Skype with students around the world in realtime!

When I was my students' age the word computers evoked an image of the roomful of computer framesNASA had to use in order to guide the various space  missions. 
(And yes, I watched the televising of those first steps on the moon on a black&white TV!)  

These days many of my students own personal computers that fit into their jeans pocket!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Back at it!

For a multitude of reasons I have not been posting here for months.  Not that I haven't been working and writing!  I have been teaching in the busy, messy, noisy way Vicki Davis talks about.
And I have been continuing my graduate studies.  And my volunteer work... and my family life!

With two students who have autism and another whose first language is not English addition to the other smiling/not smiling faces in our class this year, I have been extra busy as a teacher since September rolled in.  (There aren't actually enough hours in the day, are there?!)

Or at least I felt busier!  And stressed out a little more too!

Teacher stress is very real but it's not unmanageable.  Recognizing that you are experiencing it and acknowledging that it is a normal emotion in this profession is perhaps key to staying sane!