Primary Preoccupation

A grade one teacher inviting the world into her classroom

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

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.

kuropatwa-tweet-560

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.

Kendell-tweet-475

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.

Kathy-Cassidy-05

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

Video

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!

A Twitter Impostor Took My Identity

I debated writing this post because I didn’t want to give any publicity to someone who should not have it, but I now know that this happens to other people too, so hopefully my experience can help anyone else who has had this happen.

Last November, I received an email from Alec Couros asking, “Have you seen this?” with a link to a Twitter account that had recently followed him. I checked the link and stared in shock at what I saw.  My Twitter home page is just below. Below that is an account that is NOT mine and has nothing to do with me.

My Twitter Account

 

NOT My Twitter Account

Although it’s pretty clear that the photo and header are the same, the background photo is actually the same as well, it is just positioned in a different way on the page. Even the bio, while slightly different, was the bio I had had until the end of August of last year. The URL of my classroom blog and the location were identical. Clearly someone was pretending to be me. With seven tweets in two and a half months, this person had somehow managed to gain over three hundred followers—followers who thought they were following me.

I felt violated. I work very hard to try to protect my online reputation and digital footprint. Although the screenshot above only shows a couple of retweets, there were several tweets with my picture beside them with what I considered to be nonsense content and one contained several profane words. I would never do that. People who saw those tweets would not necessarily know that. They would assume I had written them. It was one of those moments when I had to force myself to breathe deeply. What could I do about it?

Alec suggested that I use Twitter to help get rid of the account, by asking people to block the account and mark it as spam. His recommendation was that I tweet the link to the account rather than using the @username in my tweets. I did this and although I have no idea how many people actually blocked the account, several people tweeted to me that they had done so.

I also went to Twitter’s help section and found their impersonation policy and a place for reporting impersonation accounts.  The report included questions about how the account was impersonating me and asked for links to other places I had the images online. The form was also very clear that it was necessary to fax a copy of either my driver’s license or my passport. On November 11th I filled out the required forms, and on the 12th I faxed a copy of my license. An automatically generated email gave me a reference number for my complaint.

Then I waited. It felt like I waited a long time. Finally, on January 7th, I received another email asking for a copy of my driver’s license or passport with the assurance that this would be shredded after use. I sent this again the same day and the next day, January 8th, I received an email saying

Thank you for providing this information. We have removed the reported profile from circulation due to violation of the Twitter Rules (https://twitter.com/rules) regarding impersonation. Your faxed ID has been shredded.

This was great news! The truth is, though, I still have more questions than answers. Even though the process eventually worked for me, I wonder why I had to send my identification twice.

If you go to the webpage for the imitation account, you will see that the account has been suspended, but the background picture, a photo of some of my students, is still there. The account obviously still exists and Twitter does have an appeal process for suspended accounts. It makes me wonder if, even though the attempt to pretend he/she was me was so clear, it would still be possible for the account to be reactivated.

I also wonder WHY someone does this. When I asked people to block and report the account as spam, a couple of other people responded that they had had the same thing happen to them. It seems random. I get (sort of) that people like to pretend to be someone famous, but why bother with an ordinary Joe or Jane?

The impostor didn’t just take my identity, he or she took a bit of my faith in humanity as well. So most of all, I wonder about protecting our online identity.  If it hadn’t been for Alec’s curiosity about why I had another account, I might never have known about this.  Recently, a friend had the same thing happen to her Facebook account. Do I need to be more on the defensive, watching online spaces for instances of this happening? I probably do. Probably you do too. And that is too bad, because I would rather that we all took that time to share the good and positive things that are happening in our classrooms and lives.

Mystery Number Skype: Even a Six Year Old Can Do It

I’ve heard a lot about Mystery Skype calls over the past few years.  If you’re not familiar with this term, the basic idea is that two classrooms chat via Skype and try to guess where the other class is from by answering questions with only yes or no answers. I’ve always thought this would be lots of fun, but it has always seemed out of the reach of my six year olds, many of whom are still struggling to realize that they live in both a city AND a province.  Answering questions about our location would be out of the question.

I toyed with many ideas for ways that my class COULD do a Mystery Skype, (mystery letter, mystery word etc.) but it wasn’t until I saw a document about Mystery Number Skype that the lights suddenly came on.  For my class, numbers to one thousand (or even one hundred at that point) were out of the question, but suddenly, I realized we COULD do a call about numbers to twenty. You can get lots of ideas for doing a Mystery Number Skype with older students on the document I just mentioned, but if your students are still learning their numbers, this is…

How It Works in My Classroom

While there is no one way to do a Mystery Number Skype call, we’ve now done about a half dozen of them and this is how we have found it to work best.

  1. When we are getting ready to play mystery number Skype, everyone, including the teacher, writes the numbers up to 20 on a small whiteboard. (We got this idea from Karen Lirenman’s class during our first Mystery Number call.) Paper or a drawing app on an iPad could also work.
  2. Each class secretly chooses a number between 1 and 20. We usually do this before the call as well.
  3. Each class asks questions with yes or no answers to try to guess what the other class’s number is.
  4. For our purposes, we have one class guess until they get the correct answer and then the other class guesses. For my young students, this has so far worked the best.

Crossing Off Numbers

As the students determine which numbers have been eliminated, they cross them off or erase them from their boards. I do the same to help those who are still unsure of their numbers (or who were distracted and missed something). Besides being a great way to practice identifying the numbers, it keeps all of the students engaged during the call.

Hints to Get the Most Out of the Call

If you teach young students, remind them that it is a MYSTERY number, like a secret. In one of our calls this fall, a student in the other class kept bursting out “it’s sixteen!” I tried valiantly not to giggle as my students ignored this and went on guessing.

Agree on the rules ahead of time.  Assume nothing. In another of our calls, I assumed that the other teacher had seen a post about our first mystery number call on our classroom blog and was familiar with the way we had been doing this. Imagine the surprise of my students, some of whom were still working on their numbers to ten, when the other class’s first question was “what is two eights plus three?” (This could also have been a great way to practice numbers together, but was not what we were expecting!) You might also want to clarify what the other class knows about numbers. There is no use to ask if the number is divisible by 8 if the other class does not yet understand that concept.

Ready to Guess the Number

Think about who will ask the questions. At first, I allowed the more confident children to do this, but I now want to give a little nudge to quieter students who can also participate with some support.

I encourage what I call “fat” questions (these questions can eliminate multiple numbers) by discussing options ahead of time, but allow the students to ask questions of any kind.  My students’ questions range from “Is it eight?”  to “Does the number have a curved line?” to “Is it between sixteen and eighteen?”

Why I Love Mystery Number Calls

These calls work well on so many levels. I use Mystery Number Skype calls in our classroom because:

  • My students are writing the numbers to get ready. Purposeful practice.
  • Everyone is learning at their own level, whether that student is still learning to write the numbers, is struggling to distinguish between 11 and 12 (why do those pesky numbers not follow the ‘teen’ rule?) or is formulating questions that eliminate lots of possible numbers. We can all participate in the same activity, but the learning is differentiated.
  • While we are discussing numbers, my students are learning that other children far away are learning the same things as they are. This is a big step in global awareness.
  • My students are learning one more way to use technology to help them to reach their learning goals. This kind of digital literacy is important for children growing up in an online age.

If you have other great ideas for dong this that have worked for you, I’d love to hear them. We’re looking forward to more calls like this—soon we’ll be ready for numbers up to one hundred!

Using Blogs and Twitter With Young Students: THIS is What it Looks Like

I talk and share what I do with a lots of teachers.  When these educators hear about the ways their colleagues are using blogs and Twitter in their classrooms they are intrigued. Most of them are interested enough to want to look further, but the idea is a bit overwhelming.  I find this to be especially true of primary teachers. “What would that look like with young children?” they wonder.  “What do the different blogging tools look like if you teach six year olds?”  “How could you use Twitter in a kindergarten classroom?” “Yes, I can see what that would look like with older students, but my students are young. Most of them can’t yet write. What would THAT look like?”

Reading Tweets

Reading Tweets

What they really want to see are examples. I can show them my classroom blog and my classroom Twitter account, but there are so many other fabulous classrooms out there learning and sharing their learning in unique and effective ways. Ways that teach traditional literacy skills while also teaching digital literacy including how to learn and how to be safe online.

So for those people who have asked the questions and for anyone else who wants to see what blogging and tweeting in a primary classroom looks like, check out the links to examples below.

This is what it can look like:

Primary (to me that means age 3 – 8) Classes that Tweet*

Primary (again, ages 3 – 8) Classroom Blogs

And just so that those of you who teach older students don’t feel left out, here are some lists for older elementary students.

Classrooms That Tweet (all age levels)*

More Classrooms that Tweet*

Elementary (ages 8 – 12) Classroom Blogs

Blogging

Blogging

I’m grateful to teachers who are willing to add their information to lists like these that are such a help to educators who are just beginning their social media journey.  When you start your own journey, don’t forget to add your link to a list!

A link really is worth a thousand words!

Maybe more.

[*Note: If you have never used Twitter, but want to see the tweets of those teachers who are, you just need to type twitter.com/username in a browser to access their home page with all of their tweets. For example, my classroom Twitter account’s URL is twitter.com/mscassidysclass]

 

But the Parents Aren’t on Twitter…They’re on Facebook!

Blogging

Since 2005, all of my grade one students have had their own blog. Those blogs show my students’ learning from the first week of school until the last week.

Every year of that time, I have encouraged the students’ parents to comment, knowing that while the students love getting comments from me or from people they have never met, the comments that really mean the most are those from their parents and others who love them.  It has been my experience over the years that while some parents are very faithful at commenting, most do not find the time to comment regularly, and many don’t ever comment at all.

I’ve thought about this a lot over the years. How could I remind the parents about their child’s blog? How could I get the parents to their child’s blog more often? I tried holding commenting nights. I tried various other reminders such as emails, but have never had the success I was hoping for. Eventually, we started tweeting as a class as well. Twitter has become another great learning space for my class, but again, very few parents followed us there.

What About Facebook?

Our Facebook Page

As I was musing about this last summer, it occurred to me that while my class is a frequent user of social media with our classroom blog and Twitter account, neither of those were social media spaces that my students’ parents were using. Social media spaces are great for connecting, but only if the people you want to connect with are in that space as well. It occurred to me that my students’ parents were probably on Facebook! Perhaps I should enter that space as well?
I’m not a big Facebook user, so I had to ask my daughter to help me out with the best option but with her help, I set up a “page” for my class (see instructions at bottom of this post). This way, I get to control the information on the page through my own login, but it is not associated in any way with my personal page. Beginning in September, each time I put a post on our classroom blog, I put a link to the article on our Facebook page.

At our grade one parent information night during the second week of school, I asked the parents how many of them were on Twitter. One raised her hand. “How many of you access a Facebook account fairly regularly?” Most of them agreed that they did. I explained the page that I had set up, and suggested that if they “liked” the Facebook page, they would get a notification in their timeline each time I posted.

Learning to Comment

At that information night, I also asked the parents to comment on their child’s blog before they left that evening. In the past, along with talking about how children learn to read and how parents can support that process, I have shown the parents our blog and demonstrated how to comment, but this year we had a few extra minutes at the end, so after my modeling, I asked them to use one of our classroom iPads and to leave a comment for their child. I was there to help if they needed it, but apparently no one did. The next morning, I had lots of happy children who beamed as their special comment was read aloud. That seemed to set a pattern.

Reading Comments Together

This fall, my students have received more parent comments than they ever have before. The sheer volume of comments some of my students have received has blown me away. It could be that this year I just have outstanding parents who are eager to be involved in their child’s education. While I am sure that is true, I have thought that same thing other years as well, but we have not had as many comments.

It appears that having the parents see that notification in their Facebook timeline encourages the parents follow the link to see what we are up to in our classroom and it seems to remind them to check their child’s blog as well.

I can’t truthfully say whether it was the commenting practice at the parent night or the Facebook page that has made the difference, but you can bet I will be doing both again next school year as well. Instead of trying to bring the parents into the spaces our class are in, I have now gone where the parents are instead. No wonder it is more successful! A couple of small changes, but they seem to have made a big difference.

Setting Up a Separate Facebook Page for Your Class

If you do not already have a Facebook page yourself, the best thing is to set one up for yourself first. You don’t have to use it, but it is the starting place for the way I did my class page.

Facebook has changed the way to find this since the summer, but if I was to do it now, I would click on create ad and then create page. I chose the Company, Organization or Institution option and then just added the information I was prompted to give. Voila! It is not associated with my personal page in any way except that I control it through my account.

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