Friday, December 30, 2011

Language Experience

One of the most important aspects of language acquisition has to be experience. When I first began teaching, we would only do our written language based on language experiences - we would invent an experience for our class and would base our talking and writing on this. For example, my new entrant class were learning about prepositions, so I found the book called 'Rosie's Walk' by Pat Hutchins to use as our starting point. We read the story, talked about the prepositions in it and then went on Room 1's walk around the school. We practiced going 'under, over, through, around' and so on. We went around the different parts of the school, to familiarise ourselves with the parts of the school (since they were all new to school). This way, we were able to learn about prepositions but also able to apply them to real life - an experience that could be recalled and recounted. This then formed the basis for their own writing - "We went for a walk today and I went under the swings, over the rope bridge and around the library" and so on.

Something that we have moved away from a lot is this element of language experience. The older the children get, the less importance we seem to place on what the children know and have experienced as well as what they haven't.

Step back for a moment then and consider this: when I was at high school, I studied Art History and also Classical Studies. One of my teachers (art history) took us to art galleries and talked and talked, asked question after question and drove the learning with what we could see and experience. The other teacher (classics) opened text books and told us to read. He expected us to make links with words, not with experiences. I did ok in the exams I guess, well, I scraped through anyway with classics but I did really well with Art History. Why? It's simple. I had made connections to authentic learning experiences.

However, if I was to sit that exam now for Classical Studies, I can assure you the result would be very different. I have been to Pompeii now. I have roamed its streets, smelt its smells and heard its sounds. I have walked through the Acropolis ruins in Greece. I have run around the Colosseum and wandered around the Pantheon. I have been and seen all of the places that the text told me about.

Don't think that I am suggesting that we take every teenager to Rome and Greece for a quick pitstop before exams, but what I am suggesting is that we use the tools of our time to 'take' them there instead. We can use google maps and google earth to take virtual tours. There are a million websites to utilise that can provide them with experiences which they won't find in a book. Although reading is an incredibly powerful tool, we have to make a connection with ideas for it to last in our memory and for synthesis to occur.

So, back to the classrooms of today. I teach year 3 & 4 children, some of whom have dyslexia and some who struggle to make new connections. The BEST way to ensure that they are able to learn, at their own level and own speed, is to give them genuine learning experiences which they can then talk about, think about, ask about, read about and write about. Then, the extension of this can be to ask new questions about and to create new ideas from.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Let's Play!

These holidays, I have set myself the task of getting back to the 'why' and 'how' stuff on teaching and learning. We have the theme next year of 'colour my world' and some of the considerations we have had to make are around the 'so what?' part of learning. This is about authentic learning journeys and doing things for a reason.

So, I have been researching the changes in children as they enter school at 5 in 2012 compared to children in the past 5, 10+ years. What has changed and why? What skills are new to these children and which ones from the past are missing?

What I have discovered so far is this: children may enter school having been exposed to more technological tools - even those who do not have access to computers at home, have been used to phone technology, computers in daycare, DVD/bluray players, gaming consols and more. They have a different range of digital experiences compared to even my own 2 children when they were 5 (they are both 10 and 12 now). So the technological and digital knowledge that my own kids had at the point of school entry is vastly different to that of a 5 year old today.

The constant, however, is this: children have a skill set needed for life REGARDLESS of the tools needed to deliver knowledge or to communicate.

As I write, my own kids are sprawled across the lounge floor, playing, building and talking with Lego and Littlest Pet Shop toys. There is an adventure playing out in front of me, fully narrated and debated, negotiated and enjoyed. What is the same as 5, 10+ even 100 years ago?


Play has its own set of rules - none. It has its own language and conventions. 'Play' levels the playing field - ANYONE can do it, any ages can combine, anything can be used. My 78 year old dad talks to the kids often about the old can that used to provide a day's entertainment. Kicking it all the way to and from school, at lunchtime kicking it with friends (no soccer ball for them) and then after school, at the local pier, diving for the can with mates. A tin can? Yes indeed! ANYTHING can be used to play with!

The most important things that happen when we play are the talking and listening, as well as the collaboration and sharing involved. The thinking and communicating occur naturally!

So how can we, as educators, ensure that this happens in our classrooms? That we build time for learning through play? What do we need to do differently so that all of the learning through play doesn't happen at morning tea and lunchtime?

Monday, December 19, 2011

My Favourite Learning Moments This Year

I heard a wonderful rendition of 'One Day At A Time' sung yesterday and it reminded me that I have rushed through this year, looking forward to each day but perhaps missing some of the wonderful things that happen when we take things more slowly. As I reflected on the year throughout, it has been really powerful to return to some of my past posts where I had managed to learn the most personally or where the children had learnt a lot through (often) unplanned outcomes or 'carp et diem' - that 'seize the day' moment!

So, to round off the year of blogging, I would like to take the opportunity to chart my own journey through my own personal favourite 10 learning moments, recollected and reflected on in my blogposts:

January - the journey began, and what a journey it has been!

February - we planted the seeds of learning as the year in the classroom began...

March - this post had almost the most comments of all and it was such a wonderful moment in the classroom, one that you carry with you forever as a teacher :)

April - ePortfolios got a big lift in my class as we started that part of the journey!

May - the art of the 'fairy tale' - definitely my most hilarious moment in the office this year!

June/July - fragile self-esteems and the humble teacher. This has been the most visited blogpost all year...what does that tell us about how teachers often feel - vulnerable, inadequate, anxious and FRAGILE.

August/September - what an awesome mystery trip around Auckland we had! The iPods/iPhones and iPads got a right old workout and we had heaps of fun using QR codes!

October - my busiest blogging month with 27 posts, phew! SO, from uLearn to the rugby world cup and back again, I had to put the WHOLE MONTH here as my faves! I had a great month with the class and my personal learning was immense!

November - Flat Stanley has been a major part of our learning this year and 'going global', pushing the boundaries and becoming the 'class without walls'. It will all begin again next year!

December - reflecting on my top ten of the year!

And what a year it has been! I must admit, that when I re-read the January/February posts that I have written, a smirk sits on my face as I realise that the 'best laid plans of mice and men' (thanks Will Shakespeare) is the best way to describe my year! I believed things were going to go one way but they ducked and dived everywhere else! Leaving space for learning to occur in myself as well as in my students has been imperative. Allowing the learning to be driven by my students as the drivers and me the navigator. Making sure the pathways were authentic learning journeys. Constantly pushing the perameters and shoving the norms aside. Ignoring what seemed impossible and allowing the a-ha moments to shine through.

This, yes THIS has been an awesome year :)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Letter Of Thanks

This is my letter written to the staff of the wonderful school that has been the hallowed place of learning for my children for the past 7 and a half years:
It is an extremely bittersweet day for me today, as I farewell the last of my 2 children out of Point View and off to Intermediate.
Each one of you in some small or large part, have been a piece of the journey that my children have taken while at primary school. Some of you I have been privileged to have teach my children and they were truly fortunate to have each person who taught them. Others have simply been a part of the fabric of the wider school where they interacted and learnt alongside you.
From the principal, deputies, office staff, XO, team leaders, class teachers, librarian, IT guru, music teacher, ancillary staff, cleaners, teacher aides, learning assistants to the students, this is a great place to learn and you are all part of the old adage that 'it takes a community to raise a child'.
On behalf of my departing child, Abi, and our family, we wish to thank you all for making this place what it is - a wonderful, friendly, warm and caring environment where children come first and learning comes with the territory.
You are a great bunch to work with but I have had the amazing great fortune of leaving the formative years of educating my children in all of your capable hands.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Last Day

Well, it's the last day of school for 2011. Outside, I can hear the happy voices of the children waiting for the bell to ring, for the final time this year, to welcome them back into our classroom. The day will fly by - it always does.

But for me, this year is different. This year, the farewells and last day moments are personal. For today, my association with my wonderful school ends for me as a parent. Today, I farewell my last, youngest child from this hallowed and happy place of learning. Today, I see the last of my 3 children graduate from primary school and enter a much greater time of independence.

No more post-It notes in my office at the end of lunchtime, lovely notes from my daughter who enjoys writing me little messages.
No more knowing everything that is going on in her life.
No more coming to school with mum and running back to my room at 3pm.

Perhaps this is a very good thing. Apart from the post-It notes, those I will REALLY miss!

It is time for the last one to fly off to intermediate and find her place in the world outside of the safe and warm place that is primary school.
And it is time for me to shed a few tears, laugh a lot and smile proudly. Not just for my daughter as she leaves but also for my lovely class as we farewell one another for the year. Bittersweet is the best way to describe it all, really.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Planting The Seeds

A few years ago, our school decided to take a different tack with new classes. We had spent many years letting the children (and parents) stew all of January about which class they were in with which friends and which teacher. A week before school began, the lists were posted and the office staff fled the premises or locked the doors and ignored the banging from miserable parents or disgruntled families. We faced the onslaught on day one instead - parents coming to debate the placements of their children, unhappy faces and worried children. For most part, everyone was happy, but it was hard going for those who were not.

More often than not, it was lack of knowledge of the 'new' teacher. Or the fact that one child was in a class without their mates from last year. Or there could be a clash of personality or the fact that one child preferred to have a break from someone they had been with for years and didn't really get along with. All schools at some time or another, no matter what system they have used, have faced these issues.

I have worked in schools where we called out names on the first day of school, with all of the kids in the hall waiting to hear their name. This was great for the first class called, nerve-wracking for the last class and disastrous for the children left sitting in the hall with no assigned class at the end. I have worked in schools where the class lists were handed out on the last day with reports. (Shut the door and let them worry about it next year.)

But we have such a great system in place now! The children all have buddies who go with them to their new classes to meet their new teacher for half an hour, 3 days before school ends. We get the chance to allay their fears, introduce them to each other, amp them up about their new class, teacher and room as well as their new year of learning.

Today my new class rocked in to meet me - 9 of my pupils from this year are being retained and they were very excited about this! I also have 4 children from the class next door who I have been teaching all year for maths, so they are well know to me too (that's half the class now!) We have been doing some buddy activities (strategic of me...) with the class that is feeding 6 children to me and that means they also knew me and my classroom. As for the rest, they were all children who I have made a point of introducing myself to and also talking to when on duty so they were thrilled that I knew them when they came to our classroom today to meet their new class for 2012.

I decided that I wanted to leave with a challenge since this year has been a year of challenge as our 'big idea'. Next year, our big idea is 'colour my world' and the first term is all around growing things - growing ideas, planting the seeds of learning and so on. So today, my new class of 2012 left our room with a planter pot with 3 sunflower seeds inside it, charged with the challenge of growing these over the summer and either planting them in their own garden or bringing them back to school ready to plant in our class garden. The idea is for them to take something home and think about their learning for next year and also have something exciting to focus on over the summer which helps them to be excited about next year.

Whatever happens to those seeds over the summer, the idea has been planted that we are a class and hopefully they will end up looking forward to the excitement of learning next year!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


We had our wonderful senior school prizegiving tonight. What a fantastic evening it was too - a total celebration of 6+ years at primary school, academic achievements, sports accolades, speech/drama celebrations and more.

This prizegiving was a little bit special for me this year though - it officially signals the end of the era of primary school for my own children. It also marks the final passage through of children that I taught as New Entrants. Plus it means the end of my role as a parent in my school where I work. Next year, for the first time in 8 years, I will rock up to school as a teacher only. No longer will I have the same heart connection because of my own children, it will be back to being connected through other people's children.

There were some wonderful celebratory moments for me tonight. Firstly, my daughter winning a cup for drama has to be central to my joy. A true 'mummy moment' for me! But there were also some other moments that cement themselves in my mind because of what the children have overcome as learners. One recipient of a very special award is an autistic child who was an absolute joy to teach as a new entrant, and I felt thrilled to see him receive a very special prize for excellence in effort.

Prizegiving is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on how far these children have come over the past 6 years - their whole lives so far as school-goers. There may be highs and lows throughout their time at primary school but there is one thing we can guarantee - if we get it right in the foundation years, then we have set our students up to move through intermediate and secondary school with some key skills firmly in place. And we can also be certain that we will have embedded some amazing memories of a special time of learning. They may never remember us as teachers, they may have a hazy recall of their days with us, but we always hope that they will recall the highlights that punctuated their first 6 years of school. And maybe, just maybe, a night of celebrating their time at primary school.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Top Ten Images From 2011

My class have had a great time using flickr365 with me this year and have taken some great photos as the year went on.

The images here have just come out of the plain old classroom learning...

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Top Ten

Looking at all of the changes that my class and I have made this year around eLearning, I have decided to make a commitment to myself to give some new things a try as well as to do some things completely differently next year.

10. Geo-caching - with all of us becoming more proficient at using iPads and iPods, and the fact that I am retaining 9 children from this year, I think it's time to stretch ourselves and have some fun with using geo-caching to learn about using directions and giving instructions.

9. Evernote - although I have used this myself almost everyday since discovering it, I have not yet utilised it effectively in my classroom. It is time! The children will be able to save photos and add text as well as voiceover all using one easy form, so we will be able to explore this more as a way to blog.

8. Keynote presentations through the iPods - this year, we did have a go at using the iPods as our 'telly-prompters' but never quite got a handle on this. My challenge is to build this skill as part of the presentation skills.

7. Scoop-It - there have been some great articles and blogs that I have found through Scoop-It but I have yet to move into automatically using it myself as a place to store great ideas and share sites. A great personal challenge for me!

6. ePortfolios - this is something that has been on the go and developing all year. I have yet to find the right way to easily manage them and the students needs to develop their understanding more of how this works to enhance their focus and partner their learning. There are lots of different places to store the info and lots of ways to explore how to do this well so that's definitely a class and personal challenge for me! Googlesites is going to be part of our management system for my class so we will keep you posted!

5. Blogs and wikis - these are working so well as an extension of the classroom and an authentic learning space, but my next challenge is to have the children self-managing through them. The wikis have started to become a much loved choice for presenting learning outcomes such as through inquiry learning, or for posting instructional videos of how to perform maths tasks or strategise.

4. Photography - we had a great time this year experimenting with using the iPods to take photos and posting them on our flickr account as a 365days with our class. We have also looked at different types of photos and messed around using different photo programmes online. But my class challenge for next year is to let them control the flickr account and manage it themselves. I also want to be really intentional about teaching the skills involved with making photos into art - Rachel Boyd's site is awesome for being able to 'unpack' the skills and then teach them specifically.

3. iPads - we have had a lot of training as a staff on many different eLearning concepts and skills but we have really only explored how to use them effectively as a teaching and learning tool. Our syndicate have loaded apps and decided on the best ones to use for now. We have some plans in place for Techie Brekkies next year to get everyone involved in developing the use of these tools so that we are integrating the skills and embedding them into our classroom programmes.

2. Communicating with parents - let's be honest, most parents are very busy nowadays and although their children are having amazing learning experiences and recording them in an exciting variety of ways, many parents are still missing this. It would be great to explore a range of ways to do this effectively - Facebook has been great for my parents to communicate through but it would be awesome to get the parents on board and fully committed to commenting on the blog and wikis. It is the act of intentional feedback from parents that many of the students look forward to, so next year this has to be a real focus.

1. Global learning - we began the concept of 'the class without walls' (Dave Beehre's idea!) this year and really opened the doors and pushed the walls over when we went global! The challenge next year is to really integrate this into all of our daily life at school so that the class become more globally aware and develop their understanding of neti-quette. Edmodo, the Flat Stanley Project, the Global-Classroom and much more. What fun we have in store! (oh and lots of learning along the way as a bonus!!!)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Preparing Children For Change

It has been a tough year for a few of the children in my class. They have weathered some storms within their lives and it serves to remind me of how fragile our students can be.

They, too, can have a bad day. They can come to school, just like we do sometimes, crushed beneath the weight of 'stuff' going on in their lives. They come for distraction sometimes. They come sad, angry, frustrated, tired, disappointed with the adults in their lives, upset with siblings, mad at the cards they are dealt, hungry or hurt. Children carry their baggage in different ways and they demonstrate their frustration or anger in different ways too.

The best thing that I have found for dealing with this and helping them to deal with it, is to listen. Many times, all a child needs is to feel that someone, anyone, is listening to them. Sometimes we have to ask the right questions or be available at the right moment. Sometimes we have to help to find the right adult for them to talk to or the right friend to share with. But listening is the first and best thing to do in all cases.

One of the special needs children in my class this year, needs some reassurance this week as we approach the end of year. He knows that his time as a student in my class has almost ended and he is already worrying about the new changes for him next year. I am so fortunate to work in a school where the security and care of the students is the most important thing to everyone. My leader is going to take my student down to meet his new teacher while the current class are in there. She will introduce him, show him around, talk through his worries with him and LISTEN. How do I know that she will do this? Because that's what she did for him last year when he came to meet me. And the year before that, and the one before that.

The way that we prepare all of our students for next year, is to 'meet their teacher' in the last week of school. It is lovely to spend half an hour with your new class for the following year. We get to show the students around their new room, have them meet their new class and see which of their friends they have with them. It is amazing how well this serves to settle the nerves of the students! As for their first day at school next year - well, they simply walk into their classroom confidently knowing where they are going, who they are with and who their teacher is! My special needs student will have already met his teacher and seen his new classroom when he then joins his peers to go to the room together, ensuring that he will be much happier with the new changes.

Preparing children for change is a huge responsibility. We hold power in our words - the power to encourage and reassure, or the power to create stress and fear if we don't get it right.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Confessions of a crazy teacher!

I can't believe it. Really I can't.

The year of 2011 isn't even over yet in my classroom and I am already excited about next year.
In fact, if I am honest, I have been thinking about next year all year. I really have! I have been thinking about what I would do differently and what I will do the same. It's a case of still trying to put things into perspective that have been learnt this year. So if I really think about it, I am feeling excited by the prospect of doing things better and trying new things that I have only dipped my toes into!

So far, I have made some big decisions about the classroom. I have decided to put backing on the walls and have a general area for the class library, but the first few days are going to be us, as a class, working together to decide where the spaces will be in the classroom. There is so much research that shows how children, particularly boys, need to feel ownership of their classroom, so this is a way to ensure that the have investment in their learning zone, right from the first day.

We are trialling the idea of 'so what?' next year with all that we teach. It is a strategic way to ensure purpose in what we do, so we are following some of the Lane Clark principles. We have the schoolwide big idea of 'Colour My World' and we are going to explore that through the concept of improving the school 'hive' which is our huge garden and growing area. This is in need of some colour and some improvement and development, so we have decided to look at plants, living things, growing and how colour improves our world. We are going to create some artwork to improve the area, as well as design seed packets and then eventually have a market garden to sell what we grow. There are many different directions that this may end up going in, so it is very exciting!

Still, there are 8 days of school left with this class. There are smiles and laughter, memories to create and fun to be had, as well as learning to be done and a year to end together. It is always so bittersweet when the year ends, but the great thing is when the seeds are planted for another exciting year to come. What a great way to end a great year!

Nominations Time!

I am really excited that my blog made it to the finals of the best education blog for Edublogs Awards - wow! How humbling and how cool!

Funny how a random string of someone's thoughts can end up being read by others and actually enjoyed by some of them! It's kind of like, 'one man's trash is another man's treasure' isn't it?!

When I first started blogging I found that I seldom had writer's block - it was literally just a series of thoughts and reflections. Now, when I write, I always simply take what is sitting at the front of my head bothering me or needing some discussion with the page, and then out it tumbles.

If you enjoy reading my blog and would like to vote for me then click the link here:
edublogs and vote for 'best teacher blog' and the title is 'elearning 2011'.

Thanks everyone - I hope that the next year of blogging is as good as this one has been! The great thing is that it was only ever for an audience of one, so if anyone other than me is actually reading it, I guess that's a bonus!!!

Kids Teaching Kids

We have 2 great buddy classes at school, one class of Year 6s and the other class of new entrant children. We get to be the older children to one class and the mentors, then with the Year 6 class we do a bit of 'you teach us this, we teach you that'!

The year 6 class took us under their wing today to teach us some new ways to use Pages to create magazine covers. We have looked at famous people this year, such as Amelia Earhart and the Wright brothers, and their class have been learning about the challenges of being an astronaut, so they decided to teach us how to create a TIME magazine cover page showcasing the famous person.

It was interesting as we moved around the classroom, looking at what the children were doing together. As the afternoon wore on, the older children settled back more and allowed my students to control the devices and create while they simply instructed. There were fantastic discussions and debates going on, plenty of negotiating, lots of teaching and learning.

When the class reflected on the experience, there were a lot of comments to one another about how well their buddy was able to communicate to them. When we talked about what we would do differently or better next time, it was amazing to hear the children discuss how they would work with their younger buddies and how they need to think about doing too much for someone who is younger than you - they have certainly 'learnt' from the experience.

We are off to our younger buddies later in the week, so we will see how that takes shape. Perhaps our reflections after that session will show more of they learned from today!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Top Ten Tweeps

SO, my next top ten for the year has to be the top 10 tweeps that I have discovered this year. It has been so hard to reduce it to only ten, there are so many amazing tweeps in my PLN. But reduce it I have, so here goes...

Firstly, my fave NEW tweep @marissatou - now I have put Marissa in here because I met her at uLearn and between me and Dave (@dbeehre), we managed to get her into twitter! She is LOVING making connections and has been awesome to follow as she BEGINS her journey on twitter and also as an eLearning teacher in a great school. Her passion is just awesome!

I also HAVE to mention @sharpjacqui, since she is the ONLY reason I got tweeting to start with. Jacqui has an answer to every question and an idea for me on anything I am working on.

10. @virtuallykaren - gotta say, it is refreshing to follow someone who 'calls it as it is' and also asks the tough questions and answers with honesty too. Highly recommend!

9. @KathrynTrask - I get lots of inspiration from following teachers who talk the talk and walk the walk every day in their classroom. Kathryn is amazing at giving critical feedback to what she is doing and I really gain a lot from her conversations around literacy especially.

8. @justadandak - I met DK at uLearn and attended several sessions that he led. This guy works for Core-Ed and by gum, he has some great links, connections, ideas and more around social media and learning especially! He is definitely someone that I follow carefully and watch everything he recommends.

7. @stefgalvin - another fabo person to follow, full of cool ideas and lots of things that are going on for me to relate to.

6. @DeputyMitchell - David founded Quadblogging and he has been great to follow too because of the edchats that he leads and the great blogposts he writes, as well as the challenging questions and comments!

5. @dragon09 - love the video posts that Simon makes! He has great connections and also cool comments, lots of relevant info and basically, he's cool! Finally met up with him in the flesh at uLearn!!! :)

4. @whatedsaid - Edna makes me laugh, smile, grimace, think, and her blog is one of the very best! It is always good to find tweachers who make you challenge everything that you do and are thinking of doing - Ed, you keep me accountable!

3. @mgraffin - Michael is the brains and the braun behind the global classroom initiative and it was through following him that my class and I finally pushed out the classroom walls and became the class without walls (thanks @dbeehre!)

2. @ianaddison - UK based teacher and somewhat awesome guru of all things tech and teach. Just love reading about the successes in his borough and school...either a work-a-holic or the best time-manager the world has ever known!

1. Sorry tweeps and tweachers, I could not separate ALL of my faves for my rave! So here are my number one choices, all 5 of them (cheating a bit here, I know!)
@mrkempnz - awesomeness from the South - the stuff he does with his class is incredible and he inspires me to dare to try new things!
@judykmck - Judy has so much great advice especially around edchats and the daily5 - I'm learning lots everyday!
@dragonsinger57 - Jo is keeping it real, a million pearls of wisdom (and a LOT of laughter!)
@tombarrett - Tom is my guru, the first port of call when I want new idea for 'how to' with devices and tech stuff.
@traintheteacher - what an incredible personal journey Steph has taken me on with her as she transitioned from trainee to teacher this year. I look forward to the ride through her first year of teaching. An incredibly gifted blogger too!

These tweeps are just legendary, and practically all of the new learning that I have done this year has come from them in one way or another. Some of them are bloggers and some are just keeping it real in the classroom, or people like Tom are getting out there and selling eLearning on the frontline. I cannot more highly recommend any group of people more - thank you, thank you, thank you, to these awesome people who have made me dare and dream. My classroom has been directly affected by the learning I have done with them, my teaching has been dramatically affected by the ideas they have streamed through. Get following them and get learning!

More on those QRs

My class have been busy creating and inventing vehicles for the future. Their brief was that they had to consider what the problems may be in the future that don't exist at the moment so we had a big collaborative brainstorming session in small groups. Each group had a different problem to consider...we called them the 'what ifs?' One group looked at 'what if we ran out of room on the land?' another was considering 'what if we could travel easier in space?' Then 2 other groups looked at 'what if we had to use what already exists (recycling)?' and 'what if we ran out of oil?' so they were exploring creative ways to fuel a vehicle.

The outcome was a mishmash of fantastic ideas, from banana-powered cars to self-charging people carriers and more. We then designed our own vehicle and since we are focussing on non-fiction texts this term, we used what we know about labeling and captions to add more information to the ideas.

From there, it was writing a description of the vehicle considering what we had been thinking about - who is it for, how does it move (fuel), where can it travel (on, under, space etc.) and the cost to build it. We used some ideas from our future travel wiki and watched some cool movies about different prototypes and other people's ideas.

It then became obvious that we wanted to put the descriptions together with the collage pictures that the children created depicting their invented future car, so we discussed the various ways of displaying them. One of the children suggested using QR codes on our artwork to hide the text in, so we have now hung them on the wall. The class had a lot of fun racing around the room as a reading tumble activity and using the iPods and iPads to scan and then read each QR code.

A unique way to display! And it certainly got the kids reading!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Top Ten

I have decided that since I my class and I are fully into the reflections from the year that (almost) was, it is time for me to really dig deep and think strategically about the highlights (and low-lights) of the year that was!

So, the first of my 'top ten' start here and now. This is my personal list of the top 10 websites that I have found and used this year!

10. Edmodo - a fantastic social networking site for students and schools. We have been using this almost daily as we communicated with our ePals in America. It is safe and a super way to teach basic net-iquette.

9. Quadblogging - this has also been a wonderful way to communicate with other schools globally. We joined and had 3 schools from the UK who we read the blogs of (in turn) and then wrote comments to one another. The class checked their blogposts every day and loved the feedback.

8. TedTalks - this has been the most amazing site for relevant, up-to-date thinking on education from around the globe. There is always something cool to read and think about - I find that I am constantly challenged and even entertained by the incredible speakers.

7. Evernote - with the death of Delicious (where I could seldom relocate anything that I had found!) it was time to find a new and more user-friendly way to organise my bits and bobs. Enter Evernote! I love this because I can record voice, add tags, save websites, take photos directly on it and even sync it with my Android phone. Add to this the fact that it is cloud-based AND an app, it means I have my notes anywhere, on any device and can even share my notebooks with others and access theirs when they allow permission too.

6. Sites4Primary - cool site that does all of the hard work for you! Teaching websites are already reviewed and written about in detail so that you can decide if they are relevant without even having to locate it yourself. Some fantastic sites listed on here.

5. TES - an unbelievably huge network of teachers and resources from the UK. It boasts almost 120,000 online resources which are downloadable and regularly reviewed. The resources range from worksheets, flipcharts, docs, Powerpoint presentations to ideas for activities including lesson plans.

4. Facebook - okay, so I discovered Facebook a long ago, not actually THIS year, but this is the first year that I have used it as a tool to communicate with parents. I set up a class account (my kids don't have access to it) and the parents can view all of our updates to the blogs, wikis and flickr accounts. They can comment and I am able to send a reminder about mufti-day or trips at the touch of a button and they can view it when they are already online communicating to friends through Facebook. They have no access to my personal account and I set the boundaries from the beginning - "don't invite me to be a friend on FB and don't be insulted if I don't ask you." They have all respected this as they, too, want privacy. It has been utilised really well by 95% of the parents and something I will certainly retain next year.

3. Flat Stanley Project - as part of the global classroom project, we joined the Flat Stanley group and haven't looked back. This has been the most fun of all - communicating with our ePals in America. We found each other through the project and have made some awesome connections. We are going to continue the relationship into next year as my class changes over to a new group of children and the aim is to Skype one another also. We have uploaded videos and photos, written to one another through the wiki and more. It is a great project and there are thousands of teachers and schools communicating on the project who are waiting for other classes to connect with.

2. Kidipede - my own class love this as part of their reading activities but it has also been fantastic for my own 2 children who are older. It is full of fun and information and has loads of links to other sites to boost the references for kids, and help them to verify info.

1. Twitter - yes, this was the year that my peeps became my tweeps and I became a tweacher. My life is now filled with tweets and twits and I am a better learner for it. The very shape of my teaching is impacted on daily as I build my PLN and read, inquire, research, listen, talk, tap and type. Again, I already KNEW about twitter last year, but it has become an extension of my classroom for me this year.

How about you? What are your favourite sites for the year?