Primary Preoccupation

A grade one teacher inviting the world into her classroom

Primary Preoccupation - A grade one teacher inviting the world into  her classroom

Little Things Are Really Big

One of the things I love about teaching young students is the palpable excitement both my students and I feel at the smallest thing. A child recognizes the word “the” for the first time. Someone is able to subitize (recognize at a glance) that there are five dots on the die without counting. Or the child who was afraid to walk to the office shows the new student how to get there. These are small moments and small steps, but they have big meaning in the child’s overall development as a learner.

Recently, I’ve been seeing lots of small moments that show my students’ really understand how and why we use the Internet to connect our classroom online.

Connecting with My Teacher

Tweets From My StudentsIt started when I told the students I would be away for a week while I was speaking in Malaysia. “But we’ll miss you”, they complained.

“I’ll miss you, too,” I replied.

“We could Skype with you!” several of them cried. After a short discussion about the time zone difference, their faces fell.

“We could talk to you on Twitter!” someone exclaimed. We all agreed this was the best way and used tweets for asynchronous communication while I was away. We were connected! A small thing, but an important step in learning about online communication.

Connecting with Other Classrooms

Turning Pheasant EggsFast forward a few weeks, and we had pheasant eggs sitting in an incubator in our classroom. I’ve done this for many years, but some years, the baby chicks just do not cooperate the way they are supposed to. This was one of those years. Although we had had nothing hatch, the students discovered that another school nearby had twelve fluffy little babies. One of my boy’s immediate reactions was, “let’s Skype them! I want to see the chicks.”

I had to explain that not everyone uses the tools we do in our classroom. I love that they assume everyone does. Another small step.

Sharing the News

Tweeting My TeacherThe next week, I was at another conference when this tweet popped up on my computer. At last we had chicks!

We had not discussed using Twitter this particular time, but this student felt it was important that I know and remembered how she could connect with me. She even remembered to check her tweet with the substitute teacher before she tweeted.

Keeping Myself Safe

Dressing Last week, our school was having a school spirit day around a western theme. One of my students came to school dressed in a cowboy hat with a hockey jersey. To me this seemed like the quintessential Canadian way to do a western theme. I asked him if I could tweet a picture of him. “Well, OK. But don’t use my name,” he replied. A small comment, but I knew he understood the big picture we have been talking and learning about all year.

It’s About Learning

Yesterday, we were reading comments together sent by a first grade classroom that had just begun to blog. The students are always quick to point out errors in spelling that a commenter has made. I actually encourage this if the commenter is an adult because it shows them that everyone makes mistakes and it helps them to realize that they do know how to spell correctly.

In this case, though, since the commenters were so young, I started to remind the students of this fact, when one of my grade two students piped up, “It’s OK if they’re making mistakes. It shows they’re learning.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. That teachable moment led to our looking back at the first posts of some of the students to show how far they had all come.

All small moments, but oh so big.

Ten Years of Blogging, Ten Years of Connecting

Ten years ago this month, my six-year-old students and I first dipped our toes into the water of blogging. At the time, I really had no idea what would come of this new venture, no idea of the conversations we would have, no idea of the connections we would be able to make with people beyond the doors of our classroom and no idea of the often serendipitous learning that would take place.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 6.14.19 AMOur blog was the first way we shared our classroom online and it inevitably led to many other ways of sharing. It is actually hard to remember what my classroom was like before the advent of our blog. Sharing and learning with others through our blog, Skype, Twitter and other tools has become so much a part of what we do that the “before” is kind of foggy (although that may be just my aging brain). I do, however, remember how exciting it was the first time my class received a comment and what fun it was to look at the pictures on the blog of our new kindergarten friends in New Zealand (Where did they find that shark?) and to wonder about their life that was so different than ours. (How can they see the ocean? Does their volcano have lava? What’s Marmite?) This excitement has continued with each and every connection we have made.

Moments like that, of forging a relationship with children we would never meet in person, changed not only my students’ perspective, but my own as well. Both students and teacher were no longer insular, looking only inward. Instead, we were looking out of our classroom to see who was there, exploring new ideas and points of view. It was the first step in building my own learning network and in building a network for my students. New tools for connecting have come and gone in our classroom, but the blog has remained as a tool to share and to connect.

In the years since those first posts, there have inevitably been changes.

  1. Tools have changed. While Classblogmeister was a wonderful host for us to use, the versatility of Edublogs has given us much more opportunity for student independence and control.
  2. The power of the tools has changed. Blogging and adding media is just so much easier. When I first started blogging, it was many months before I found out how to add an image to a post. It was a complicated procedure that involved attaching the camera to a computer, uploading the image to Flickr and then getting the html code from that site and pasting it into a post. If I wanted the students to have an image in their posts, I had to log in separately as each child and put that html code in for them. Mobile devices and the ease of transferring images have changed all that.
  3. There are other classrooms to connect with. When we first began blogging, I could not find any other primary classes with blogs. There just weren’t any. Now, there are oodles of classrooms that are blogging and looking to learn from others.
  4. Parent mindset has changed. I used to hold parent information nights to have the students teach their parents how to comment. That is no longer necessary. The world has become digital. The parents of my students are almost all on Facebook and other social media sites and understand what it is to be connected.
  5. Why we blog has changed. Originally, I simply wanted a place for my students to write and a place for me to share with the parents what was happening in my classroom. That is still relevant, but I’m now also conscious that
  • Connecting will be part of my students’ world as they grow
  • Even at their young age they need to know how to act appropriately online.
  • My students already know how to have fun online. I want them to learn how to have fun learning

What has NOT changed is that the students have an opportunity to have a real audience for their work, they are learning how to be cautious and caring digital citizens and their parents, siblings and grandparents can watch and be part of their learning. The eyes of the students still shine as we read a comment written just to them by someone who is special in their lives or by someone they have never met. A comment from a stranger still sends us to a map to find out where those people live. And the students are still captivated by the idea that they have a voice in this big word we call the Internet.

Over my teaching career, there have been things that I have tried and relegated to the “well that’s no longer relevant” pile. Blogging is definitely not one of those things.

Here’s to the next ten years.

Get Your Game On–Do the Snow Clothes Challenge!

Those of you who live and teach in northern climes know what winter is all about. It’s not about the beauty of the fluffy white stuff or the bone-chilling temperatures or even the short sunlight hours each day. In a primary classroom, it is really all about the snow clothes. Assuming that the temperature is warm enough to actually go outside (in my school division the children go outside unless the temperature—including wind chill—is below -28C), the whole putting on/taking off all those snow clothes takes up a LOT of time. For some students, it is a ten-minute process. And when you consider that it has to be done first thing in the morning, before and after two recesses, at lunch time and again at the end of the day…well, you can see a lot of time needs to go into this every day.

A couple of years ago, in the midst of a cold streak and the endless tying of scarves, hunting for mittens and putting ski pants back inside right, I asked my students how fast they thought they could put on their snow clothes if it was a race. They made predictions and I decided to make a video to show them how fast they had been. For fun, we put a “how fast can you do it” at the end of the video and put it on our blog.

The very next day, we had our first response. Bill Genereaux from Kansas surprised us with a video of himself putting on his snow clothes. My students were enraptured, although suspicious that his clothes were not “real” snow clothes. Other classes of young children followed. More classes took up the challenge, including a university class who, as my students pointed out, did not have to wear ski pants and a group of teachers at a PD day. Each video was a highlight for my students as they watched their time bested, complained about how the other class had had an easier time for some reason (very competitive bunch that year) and compared the other classrooms to our own. Last year we again had lots of fun with this challenge.

This year I have a grade one/two split that includes 13 of my students from last year. Despite having already “done that”, my students unanimously voted to do it again.

Instead of just posting all of the challengers on our classroom blog, this year I have set up a Padlet so that classrooms or individuals can post their video for everyone to see. Also, in addition to our #snowclotheschallenge hashtag, we also have the French equivalent — #DéfiVêtementsHiver thanks to the enthusiastic Brigitte Léonard.

My initial goal in creating this was really to speed up the dressing process, but serendipitously, the result has been lots of fun and unanticipated learning.

Take up our challenge! Join us. We’d love to have individuals, groups or classrooms try to beat our time. It makes the tedium of snow clothes just a bit less onerous.

Connected Teachers, Connected Students

As you may already be aware, this month is Connected Educator Month. A plethora of webinars, discussions, Twitter chats and events have been planned (scroll down to see upcoming events) to help educators to recognize the power of connecting, to help them to build their Personal Learning Network (PLN) and to give teachers opportunities to learn together.

This event is a tremendous chance for educators to take control of their own learning. I hope that you’ll take advantage of some of the opportunities it provides.

But what about our students? Do they, too, deserve to have a learning network that is outside of their classroom? To have opportunities to connect and learn from people who live in other locations? To see the power of having a Student Learning Network (SLN*)?

I think they do. This month, as part of Connected Educator month, I’m going to be leading a virtual book club centering around my book, Connected From the Start: Global Learning in the Primary Grades.  Some of our book club will be asynchronous such as online discussions and activities to get you started on your connecting journey. We’ll also get together for a webinar twice this month for virtual face-to-face time.

Have you wanted to start connecting your classroom but never quite got started? Now is the time to do it. We’ll all be in the virtual room learning together. You’ll have support for the questions you have and others who are learning alongside you.

How to get started? Buy a copy of my eBook and then hop over to the Connected Educator Ning and register to get started. I’ve joined lots of Nings in the past and have always found them to be a great tool. They are available when the timing works for me. Once you have joined, have a look around, but be sure to click on my book in the list on the left hand side and then click on Join at the top of the page.  Once you’re there, introduce yourself in the discussion area and get started learning!

Although I teach primary grades, teachers in any elementary grade can take the principles we talk about and apply them to their own classroom.

I can’t wait to see you there!

(*Kudos to @kristenziemke for coining the term “SLN”)

Hello, New Students! Welcome to Our Class

Everyone Loves to get Letters!

For many years, I have sent a letter to my soon to be students near the end of the summer. I do this to ease any anxiety some of them may have, to help them feel part of the class before they arrive and because…well…it’s a letter. Children do not receive letters very often, so print written just to them is significant. It’s a literacy thing.

I’ve shared my letter before, but this year’s letter is a bit different. I decided that if connecting and learning with others around the world is an important part of our classroom learning, then I should let the students (and their parents, who will undoubtedly be the ones reading the letter aloud to the children) know about that right from the start.

I wish I had been able to find a border that truly reflected the tools we are using in my classroom, but a traditional border had to suffice. As I thought about this letter, I decided that I wanted my classroom door, which announces what we are all about, to reflect our connections as well.

Here is this year’s letter to welcome my new students

Dear Kaedence,

I’m so glad I get to be your teacher this year. I can’t wait to meet you!

I’ve been busy in our classroom getting things ready for us to learn together. We are going to have an exciting year.  You will get your own iPad to use in our classroom and we’ll find out how to use it to share your learning with your parents and other people who can help you to learn.

We will get to learn with other classrooms from all over the world and find out how the children in those classrooms are the same as us and how they are different than we are.

The best thing about grade one, though, is that you will learn to read! We’ll read LOTS of books.

I wonder what special things are interesting to you? What do you like to do in your free time?  What do you like to read books about? What would you like to learn more about? I hope you will ask your mom or dad to email me with the answer to those questions. 

On the first day of school, I will meet you in our classroom (Room 69) at 8:50.  Look for the door with some maps on it.

I’ll see you soon.

Your Grade 1 Teacher,

Mrs. Cassidy

Now, I’ve shared my letter. What do you include in yours?

Even Our Youngest Students Need Digital Citizenship Skills

This  article was originally published on the Voices From the Learning Revolution blog of Powerful Learning Practice.

This recent tweet from Darren Kuropatwa has had me thinking about digital citizenship.


As the Internet becomes an increasingly important part of all of our lives, children are spending more time online as well. And they are doing this largely without any guidance about what is responsible or appropriate online.

While my six- and seven-year old students don’t yet even understand the words “digital” or “citizenship,” they also need direction and support as they explore online spaces. In fact, they need this instruction even more than their older counterparts.

My students will live in a digital world. Computers and Internet-enabled devices have always been a part of their life experience. They are growing up with the expectation that they, too, will have uninterrupted access to digital devices. It only makes sense to prepare them for this.

They are already online. By the time children arrive in my first grade classroom, they have usually had unrestricted access to the Internet, at least at some point. By Grade 1, many have watched umpteen YouTube videos and can easily navigate to their favorite sites using whatever technology they have at home. As their teacher, I want to give them some direction in these uncharted waters.

Parents want help “drawing the line.” Since this proliferation of access and devices happened after my students’ parents grew up, they have no parental model of their own to follow. As they try to decide how much time to allow their children online, what sites to allow access to and what their privacy settings on Facebook should be, I find parents eager to know what limits I think are appropriate. They also appreciate that their children are getting some guidance at school about being responsible online.

Reading Blog Comments

Reading Blog Comments

What should instruction look like?

If teaching digital citizenship to primary students is important, what should it look like? Clearly talks about privacy settings and the dangers of posting too many selfies with alcoholic beverages in hand are not called for at this point in their lives.

These are three main ideas that I try to instill in my young students.

Be Safe – Since students in my classroom all have their own blog and also post fairly regularly on Twitter, safety does need to be a primary concern. In a nutshell, my policy is this:

  1. Get signed permission from the parents.
  2. Make sure the parents understand what we are doing.
  3. Involve parents in our online activities.
  4. Nothing gets posted online unless I see it first.
  5. Never match a student’s name with their picture.
  6. Never post a student’s last name.

If you are interested in further specifics about this, I’ve posted about it before.

There have been times when parents have inadvertently used their last name in a blog comment. We always read and celebrate these comments, but I do not post them because they could help to identify the child.

I have also had instances in which a child wanted to refer to something in a blog post that would clearly identify which one of the children pictured on my classroom blog he was – such as referring to something he’s doing, his ethnicity or another obvious physical characteristic. In all of these cases, I have talked to the child, and later to the class with that child’s permission, about why we don’t want to identify the child by their picture.

Be Respectful – With six- and seven-year olds, the talk in our classroom is often about being kind. We have always talked about this in relation to things that are happening on the playground and in the classroom, but in the last decade that kindness has also extended to what we post online.

Children easily understand how to leave a comment that they would like to receive themselves – how to focus on the good rather than the bad and how to be sure that their “best work” is what goes online. Numerous teachable moments about this topic come up every year and I try to take advantage of these moments.

In past years I have had students who, after an argument, write a blog post denouncing the other child. Because I see everything before it is posted, I have been able to talk to the children involved and later the entire class about whether they still feel the same way about their friend (they have usually forgotten the offense) and about the permanence of posting something online. These moments have been learning opportunities for the entire class.

A couple of weeks ago, one of my students was angry and as an outlet, began posting tweets full of nonsense letters and the word “poop” on our classroom Twitter account. Someone who follows our account immediately alerted me to this.


What a wonderful discussion starter this tweet was! And a lesson to all of the children that when we post online, someone really is watching.

Be a Learner – In all of our discussions and posting online, I try to instill in the children the notion that the Internet is a place to learn. Many of them already know that there is other “stuff” online, but we focus on places where we can learn, such as other classrooms whose blog posts we read or the people and classrooms we follow on Twitter.

Instances come up every year where a student clicks on an advertisement and is taken to somewhere he did not expect, or someone decides to do a search for a new word she has learned (why is it that children who cannot remember how to spell their sight words seem to know how to spell “poop” and “boob”?).

In all of these instances, we talk again about why we shouldn’t click on any unknown links and about how we can use the Internet as a place to learn as long as we know how to navigate it properly.

Reading over Skype

Reading over Skype

A firm foundation opens up the world

With these basic beliefs firmly in place, my students have been free to explore, share and to learn online, developing digital citizenship skills that will serve them for the rest of their lives.

In the past year we have played Guess My Number with a class in Italy via Twitter, commented on the blogs of other classes and received comments in return, made a video to answer questions from a class in Dublin and participated in many other curriculum-related events online.

All these activities have helped them to learn not only the curriculum outcomes but valuable cross-cultural skills such as curiosity, empathy and understanding of similarities and differences between themselves and others who live far away.

They know how to be safe, to be respectful, and above all, to be online learners. That’s what digital citizenship is all about.

Five Ways to Start Connecting Your Classroom

In my teaching career as an educator, no change in curriculum, program or teaching philosophy (and believe me, there have been a lot) has had the impact on my teaching that connecting my classroom has.  Using social media tools to connect my students with people and classrooms from across North America and far beyond has helped my children to achieve curriculum outcomes, to learn how to act safely and appropriately online and to learn an appreciation for the similarities and differences between people. Not only do we learn from and with these other people, the students have a chance to become teachers themselves.

Would you like to start connecting your own classroom with classrooms in other places?  Begin to meet curricular demands through those connections? Help to teach your students what digital citizenship looks like?  Discover together how life in those places is the same as and different from your own?

If you answered “yes”, here are five suggestions to get you started on your own journey with connecting.

Join a Project 

There are some special teachers like Jennifer Wagner who make getting connected easier for the rest of us. Every year, through her Projects By Jen webpage, thousands of teachers connect with other classrooms from around the world. Jen already has the projects set up for next year. If you see one that interests you, just register for it and she will send you information, including (depending on the project) the email address and/or Skype name of other teachers involved in the project. Take the initiative and reach out to a teacher whose location intrigues you. If that teacher isn’t interested in further connecting possibilities, try someone else from the list.

My class has participated in many of Jen’s projects over the years, including stacking Oreos in the O.R.E.O. project, the Holiday Card Exchange and sorting marshmallows from a box of Lucky Charms.

Get a Classroom Twitter Account 

My recommendation is that you have a separate account for your class than the one you use yourself. Make it clear in the name and in the description that it is a class account (you can see my class Twitter account here).  If you are looking for classes to connect with through Twitter, you can check out this list organized by grade level. (and then add your name to the list!) Consider following other Twitter accounts based on what your class is currently studying. For example, my class is currently doing an animal inquiry unit, so we are following the San Diego Zoo and Animal Life.  Last spring, when he was tweeting pictures of the earth from space and video of exciting things such as how to cut your toenails in a weightless environment, we followed Chris Hadfield.

My classroom has used Twitter to learn and to help others to learn. As beginning readers and writers, we first read and compose tweets together until we are able to do this independently.  We have played Guess My Number on Twitter, tweeted secrets about Santa and shared riddles that my six and seven year olds had composed on their own. Learning on Twitter is really only limited by the imagination of the teacher making it a great place to start to connect.

Start a Classroom Blog

To show the world what is happening in your classroom and to reach out to others, nothing beats the possibilities of a classroom blog. I use our classroom blog to share what is happening in our classroom with parents, relatives and friends and with the rest of the world.  Each of my students has his own classroom blog, linked to mine, which is a digital portfolio of his learning through the entire school year.

Since we have a blog, we like to check the blogs of other classes as well. As we read the comments others leave for us and comment on the blogs of others, we are working on traditional and digital literacy skills as we learn about the lives and learning of others.

Skype With a Classroom in Another Province or Country

For students of any age, actually seeing and talking via a video conference to students who live far away or to an “expert” on a current topic teaches not just new information, but empathy, diversity and tolerance. This is what Skype (or any form of video conferencing) can offer.

Who will you chat with on Skype? How about an author? An expert on sharks? Or register for Skype in the Classroom and check out their list of guest speakers. Skype in the Classroom also has thousands of registered classrooms from around the world with students of every age who are looking to connect using this format. My class uses Skype frequently including using it to practice measurement skills, getting extra reading practice and asking questions about healthy bodies.

Start a Project of Your Own 

If none of these ideas appeals to you, you can always invent your own project—perhaps with people you already know. You can also sign up for ePals and submit your project there. ePals has lots of projects for you to browse—perhaps someone else has the same idea as you do!

If you’re going to the ISTE Conference, and you’re interested in connecting, join Karen Lirenman and myself to chat about how you can get started. You can find us at our poster session:

Primary Kids Can! Let’s Tweet, Blog or Skype to Connect 

Saturday, June 28, 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm                                                             GWCC Murphy Ballroom Galleria, Table 21

Whether you can make it to the conference or not, try connecting your classroom with others through one of the ways I mentioned. Let the learning begin!

Keeping the Curriculum Context in Connected Classrooms

Most of this  article was originally published on the Voices From the Learning Revolution blog of Powerful Learning Practice.

To say I’m pretty jazzed about the possibilities of my classroom learning by connecting with other classrooms and people would be a bit of an understatement. My class regularly learns from and with students and others from across North America and in fact from around the world using social media tools such as Skype, Twitter and blogging.

I frequently see teachers on Twitter asking if other classrooms would like to connect with theirs or I receive emails from teachers asking me how to get started with connecting.

I started the list below because, when I see these queries, my first reaction is usually “which curriculum outcomes or standards are you looking to teach?” followed closely by “what tool would you like to use to connect?”

Connecting just for the sake of connecting is a valuable activity as it exposes children to other places and cultures, helps to teach online safety and etiquette and helps to prepare them for the hyper-connected world they will eventually be living and working in.

But if you really want bang for your buck, try connecting around a curricular theme or outcome. Kids really do learn best from other kids.


Keeping my students (meaningfully) connected

Kathy-Cassidy-03Recently, I went back through the posts on my classroom blog and on this blog to make a list of all the ways we had connected over the past twelve months.  I  hope the list below can help teachers  who are just beginning their connected classroom journey. I have seen other teachers also connecting in wonderful,meaningful ways, but here is what my classroom has been up to. Have you connected you classroom in a meaningful way? Please share it in the comments!

A couple more notes before I get on with it. First, there are lots of great tools out there to help classrooms connect. The ones below are the ones I have found to be most effective in my classroom. Second, these suggestions are all primary-grades specific (my students are almost all six years old), but it takes very little imagination to think of a way to make them work with older students too.

And now, finally, my list of suggestions to get you started connecting your classroom…

Using Skype or Google Hangout

Using Twitter

Using Blogs


So there you have it. All of the above ideas have helped me to meet an English Language Arts or Mathematics outcome in my classroom. I hope they help you as well.

Connected Measurement

If you have read my book or have been a reader of this blog, you know that I am committed to the idea of connecting my classroom. I have seen so much deep learning, both expected and unexpected, come from connected learning that I now think of connecting as an option as I consider teaching methods for most classroom topics.

We’ve done a lot of connected work with numeration in mathematics this year, but measurement and geometry are part of my curriculum as well.

Karen Lirenman, who teaches in Surrey, British Columbia and I were teaching measurement to our students at the same time this year, so we decided to find ways that our classes could help each other to learn these concepts.  Fortunately, both Karen and my curriculum focus on the comparative aspects of measurement and the ability to use the language of math in this area rather than on exact centimeters, grams or milliliters.

Instead of having my student just use this language with the others in our own classroom (although there was plenty of that as well), we played games to compare and talk about the concepts with Karen’s class.

Comparing Length

First, we compared length. Each class had chosen a number of items that embodied the idea of length– either long or short.  During our call, one student from each class chose an object from this collection and held it up to the camera for the two classes to compare. I had two cards: one had “shorter” written on it and the other said “longer”. Each time we played a round, I shuffled the two cards and randomly chose one to hold up. Then, the students in both classes had to decide which of the two items met the criteria on the card. We kept track of which class had the “winning” item. A couple of times rulers had to come out in both classrooms, but usually we were easily able to tell. Fortunately for both teachers, we ended in a tie and all of the students felt contented and successful—and had practiced the very skill we wanted to teach.

(If I were to do this game again, I would skip the competitive aspect, which did not have any real purpose. Before I had this epiphany, we did play this game on Skype with an American class and my class “lost” very badly. I had to cope with a very grumpy group of competitive boys—an experience I have no desire to repeat.)

Comparing Weight

We also compared the weights of two objects. We both set up a balance scale in front of our computer’s camera and then students took turns holding up two items.  All of the students in both classes would predict which item they thought would be heavier.  One of the teachers would say, “Hands on your head if you think the crayon is heavier, hands on your lap if you think the marker is heavier, one hand on your head and one on your lap if you’re not sure.” (This meant that everyone could participate—no excuses!)  Then, with the predictions in, a child would put one item in the bucket at each end of the balance scale to see which item was truly the heaviest. This was more popular than the longer/shorter game because everyone could cheer.

Comparing Capacity

Our last measurement Skype call was about comparing capacity. We played this game in the same way as the heavier/lighter activity, but this time, a student held up two containers and everyone had to predict which one would hold more beads. Once the predictions had been made (again, with hands on head, hands in lap or one of both) one of the containers was filled with beads and then those beads were poured into the other container.  If the second container overflowed, the students told us that the first container held more and could explain how they knew that. If there was still space in the second container when all the bead had been poured in, the students could explain how they knew which one held more as well.

All of three of these games could have been (and were) played with only the students in each classroom, but practicing these skills with another class made the exercise more engaging and motivating for the students and taught them that other students are learning the same skills that they are. Karen and I both grew as educators as we bounced ideas off each other and prepared for our calls.

Our geometry units are coming up and we are planning to help the students learn those skills while working together again. Have you done this? We’ve got some ideas, but we’re open to others…

Using Twitter to #GuessMyNumber

A couple of months ago, I wrote about the way my grade one class has been connecting with other classrooms through Mystery Number Skype. These learning opportunities are much like the regular Mystery (Location) Skype that has become popular, but much more appropriate for students who are still struggling to understand that they actually live in a city, a province and a country all at the same time. These calls also give us a chance to practice skills that are an important part of our curriculum.

Mystery Number Skype

In a nutshell, this is how it works. Students from two classes pick a number and then answer “yes” or “no” questions from the other class as both try to guess the other class’s number.  What I love best about this activity is the direct correlation to so many of my math outcomes.

Since I wrote that post, we’ve done similar Skype calls with a number of classes and I’ve watched as my students’ abilities have grown. I’ve noticed that more of my students are able to ask what we call “fat” or “juicy” questions each time—questions that eliminate more than one number.  More students are willing to be the one to ask the questions, demonstrating a growth in their confidence and speaking abilities. All of the students can now independently write the numbers on their own whiteboard. You’ve got to love seeing that progress!


Playing #GuessMyNumber

Last month, Carrie Zimmer, who works at a school in Milan, Italy contacted me. She wondered if I would be interested in connecting with a first grade classroom at her school to do something similar. Since the time change between our locations does not allow for synchronous conversation, we decided to play the game on Twitter using the hashtag #guessmynumber.

Playing #GuessMyNumber

We warmed up by playing Guess My Number with numbers up to twenty and then we were ready for a game with the really big numbers all the way up to one hundred. Each morning, we would check Twitter to look for two tweets: a tweet that answered our question from yesterday and a tweet that contained Ms. Diaz’s Class’s new question.  For this, we didn’t use individual boards as we do when we play Mystery Number Skype. Instead, we used a communal page that already had all the possible numbers and we worked as a class to cross off numbers we had eliminated with our last question.  Then, we’d send two tweets: one with our next query and another with our answer to theirs.


Twitter vs. Skype For Number Games

Guess My Number in Our Classroom

Although both Guess My Number and a Mystery Number Skype have been successful learning opportunities on several levels, the Twitter experience was in some ways more satisfying. The time constraints of a Skype call mean that it is more difficult to have a meaningful discussion with my class about the next question we want to ask. Using Twitter gave us time to consider options and to discuss different ways to solve the problem before we sent our question.  It also gave us a problem to solve as part of our daily math activities as well as a quick shared reading experience as we read the tweets aloud together. We even tried the game in our classroom with our classmates!

I think the only real key to making this game work was a commitment to do it every day as part of the math routine in our classrooms. Even on very busy days both classes made an effort to keep the questions and answers flowing back and forth to keep the interest high. When I was at home without a voice for three days, we were still able to play because I emailed screenshots of the tweets to my substitute teacher and she sent the new questions back to me to put on Twitter. A Skype call, on the other hand, would have had to be postponed until I returned.

Another example of connected mathematical literacy. I love having yet one more option for learning from others my classroom. I’m sure there are many other ways to use Twitter for mathematical literacy that I haven’t yet tried. If you’ve got an idea to share, leave me a comment!


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