Primary Preoccupation

A grade one teacher inviting the world into her classroom

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

Listening To Reading in a One iPad Classroom

When I speak about using iPads in a primary school classroom, I am often asked about how it would work if I only had one iPad as is the case in many classrooms. This post is the first of what I hope will be several with suggestions as to how to make that work effectively.

Sharing the iPad

Although my classroom is one to one with iPads, I have many high quality book apps on my own iPad that I did not choose to put on the thirty iPads I have in the Volume Purchase Plan account for the student iPads. Sharing these apps with my students puts me in a similar situation to a one iPad classroom.

Sometimes, I use Apple TV to project my iPad so that all of the students can see it at once on a large screen. The other option is to use a Belkin Rockstar to make it possible for up to five students to plug in their headphones or earbuds to the same iPad. (Note: I have found it is VERY important to establish ahead of time whose turn it is to be the person to turn the pages or do the touching on the iPad. You have been warned.)

Listening to Reading

This can work for Internet sites as well as apps. One of my new favourite sites is Unite for Literacy, a webpage with over one hundred eBooks for beginning readers. Each page has the option of having the text read aloud and it works on iPads as well as computers. This would also be an appropriate option for a small group of early readers.

When I use my iPad for my students to listen, I put the iPad onto our DEWEY document camera stand. The iPad could also be on the floor (which is what I used to do), but the students prefer to have the it raised since we have that option.

One iPad, five students listening to high quality reading.

Changing Face of Early Literacy – Why Digital?

Brown Bear, Brown Bear“Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see? I see a red bird looking at me,” chanted all of the children in my classroom as they participated in a shared reading time in my classroom. Shared reading, in which all of the children regardless of their reading level read aloud from shared text, has long been considered to be an important part of a balanced early literacy program.

In the good old days, not so long ago, all of the shared reading in my classroom was from books (including ‘big’ books whenever possible) and from poems and chants that I had purchased or carefully printed on chart paper so that the entire class could see.  While I still use these resources when appropriate, much of our shared reading is now digital. We read a variety of digital texts, but most frequently we read tweets written by classes or others we follow on our class Twitter account or we read comments written on our classroom blog or on the blogs of one of the students. We also read blog posts written by classes or students far away.

What Does This Look Like in the Classroom?

Shared Reading of Twitter

During our shared reading, I project either our class Twitter account or our blog comments onto a board and together, we read these tweets or comments aloud.  At the beginning of the school year my students are still pre-readers, so I point to the words as we read, but I turn this job over to my students as soon as it is possible. After reading each tweet, we talk about what we just read. What did we find out? How is that similar to or different from what we have done/studied/know? Do we want to reply to this tweet or comment? What do we want to say?  Since my students are slow typists, at the beginning of the year, this task usually falls to me as they tell me what to say, how to spell words (we stretch out the sounds together) and remind me that we should always re-read a tweet before we press “Tweet”. At this point, the shared reading has turned into a shared writing lesson.

When we read a comment together, we follow a similar pattern. Is this a good comment, something we want posted on our blog? If yes, we click “Approve” and then discuss whether the comment needs to have a response.  If it does, we follow a similar procedure to the one just mentioned.

Why Read Digital?

Why have I made the switch from only traditional text to including digital in my classroom?

1. Much of the reading the students will do outside of my classroom and as they grow up will be digital.  It seems appropriate to begin to acknowledge this right from the start of their reading education.

2.  High interest Students are excited to read text that has been written by other children and classrooms. They like to “get to know” other classrooms by reading what they are up to on Twitter or reading a comment by someone they have never met. They wonder aloud about these people and if appropriate, we respond. We often get responses in return. Never in all of my teaching have I had that kind of authentic engagement with any of my chart paper poems.

3. Personalization Much of the digital text we read is written directly to my class or to one of the students in my class. It is hard to argue against the efficacy of personalization in any kind in learning.

4. The students are able to respond to the text. As I mentioned above, the digital text we read allows for an immediate means to respond. While written response to traditional text is certainly possible, the ability to ask questions and to have them quickly answered by the text’s author (whoever that author might be) is certainly not.

Can you see why I love using Twitter and our blog comments as part of my literacy program? I’m not quite ready to throw out all my charts with poems, songs and chants just yet. They still have value. But it is hard to beat the benefits offered by digital text when doing shared reading.

The Early Literacy Shift: New Words, New Media, New Friends

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

Literacy is changing. It really is. Even in my grade one classroom as the students begin to learn their letters and sounds, as they start to put those letters and sounds together into words, and as they take their first hesitant steps to read and write.

The change in our classroom was subtle at first. When my students began writing the word we with two i’s, I smiled and talked about the more traditional spelling of the word. When students came to school with a clear understanding of what it meant to get to the next level or to have several lives, I took notice of the new vocabulary they had.

And when I had to explain why iPod didn’t start with an upper case letter the way proper nouns usually did, well, I decided all of the rules were up for grabs. The changes I have mentioned are rather superficial, but they are indicators of a large shift that has been taking place in the way that I teach literacy.

New Vocabulary

The examples above are just some of the new words that my students take for granted that did not even exist 20 years ago. It used to be that new vocabulary meant words like glossarytable of contents, title page and indent. It still does, but added to that are new words such as re-tweetavatar and pingback.

New Tools

It used to be that we read text in books or on charts (the later usually handwritten by me). Now, we read on iPads, on computers and on an interactive whiteboard. The students see their parents reading on their handheld devices daily and understand that as a viable form of reading as well.

New Ways to Learn

It used to be that my class was isolated. Our learning community was just my 20 or so students and I, working together, with occasional forays into the other classrooms in the school. Now, we routinely practice and learn with other classes around the world.  When we use Twitter as a backchannel while we look for characteristics of fairy tales or use Skype to do Reader’s Theatre with classes in Florida and Pennsylvania, or to practice phonics rules with students in South Carolina, we are learning in new ways. Ways that allow us to grow in knowledge and skills from our contacts with other learners.


New Audiences

It used to be that my students learned to write by writing on paper. Sometimes they wrote in notebooks and sometimes they wrote on single sheets, but no matter how they wrote, I was the intended audience. In most cases, I was the only person who ever saw that writing.

Sometimes their parents would take the time to read through their notebooks and papers as they came home or at the end of the school year. Sometimes they would read their writing aloud to the class. But in most cases, unless I posted their writing on a bulletin board in the hallway, a very limited number of people had access to that writing.

Wow! Has that changed!

Now, my students regularly write on their blogs, not just for me, but also for their parents, grandparents, other relatives, friends and potentially the whole world to see. When they write a tweet, they have the potential of all of our Twitter followers seeing what they write, and since many of our followers are classroom groups, that number is potentially far higher. Not exactly the same as writing in a notebook. Their audience now exists in places they have never been and may never visit.

New Communication Forms

kc-ipad-chat-300It used to be that my students wrote personal narratives, imaginary stories, riddles and information text. They still write all of those, but often use a blog format to publish them. They also learn to compose comments for their friends in our classroom and in other classrooms whose blogs we follow. We talk about and practice what makes good comments and learn how to appropriately participate in online conversations. They also compose tweets, thinking about how to clearly articulate their thoughts in 140 characters or less.

Twenty years ago, my students used writing and drawing to share their thoughts and ideas. There were no other choices for young children. Now, my students are able to communicate through a variety of media, including photosvideospodcastsinteractive books andscreencasts.

No Going Back

The days of students reading only books, writing only on paper and becoming literate in an isolated classroom have passed. That classroom is outdated. Is yours?


Back Channeling With Six and Seven Year Olds

I’m not much of a movie-showing kind of teacher. When I first began teaching, I knew a teacher who showed reel-to-reel movies every afternoon.  I didn’t understand that. For me to show video in my classroom, there needs to be a very clear curricular reason and it has to tie in directly with what we are presently learning. It also has to be the best way for my students to learn something.  I sometimes show videos from our Discovery Education account to introduce or clarify concepts for students, but full-length movies rarely happen. This week was one of those uncommon occasions.

Back ChannelingWe have just finished a unit about fairy tales and I decided to show the students a fairy tale they were not familiar with to see if they could identify the characteristics of fairy tales in a non-book format. I also wanted them to look for some of the viewing elements from our curriculum such as colour, shape, size, movement etc.

In the past, I have tried showing a movie and stopping it frequently to allow students to reflect on what they have seen. The students don’t really enjoy this, as it interrupts the flow of the story. (“Can’t we watch it all first?”) But, if I wait until the end, the students have forgotten much of what they have seen. The reflective moments have passed.

This time, I decided to try back channelling. If you are not familiar with the term, it refers to using an online connection to share your thoughts and have a conversation during a lecture or presentation of some kind. I wondered if this would be a better option for my students than what I had done before. Since each of my students have their own iPad, I decided to let them tweet during the movie, using our Twitter feed as a back channel. The children had never heard the term back channeling before, but I explained that it was something that people did to help themselves to be better listeners and to show what they were learning. They could tweet their learning as they watched. The students couldn’t believe their luck. An entire movie with their iPad in front of them.  (“We NEVER get to watch movies,” said one of the students who is in my class for the second year, his voice full of wonder.) This was clearly going to be awesome.

The students are all used to tweeting on our classroom Twitter account, so there was a strong comfort level with this process. Before we began, I reviewed with them the characteristics of fairy tales from the anchor chart we had made together. We also looked at our anchor charts for viewing.  The students knew that we would need a hashtag (we’ve made them before) and quickly thought of one, #fairytales13. We tested to make sure no one else was using it and we were ready to go.

I knew there would be a lot of tweets , so before we started, I typed a quick tweet to warn anyone who follows my class of this and we began. The students tweeted out fairy tale characteristics that they noticed

And then moved on to some viewing elements.

After the students left for the day, I aggregated their tweets together using Storify. I now had a record of all of the tweets from that event for reflection and for assessment purposes.

It was interesting to watch my students through this process. They all wanted to share what they saw by tweeting (and did!). Some spent a lot of time thinking as they wrote their thoughts and others were very confident, sharing many tweets. Some students were so caught up in the visual display that they had difficulty taking the time to finish their tweets. Some shared many brief snippets while others put several observations into each tweet. (Frankly, this all reminded me of the various adult personalities I see tweeting during a keynote at an educational technology conference.) Many of them scrolled through the tweets of their peers, commenting aloud to each other about similarities and about the ideas other students had had.

I had seen other teachers back channel with young students before and we had done a whiteboard version together last fall, but for various reasons we had never done it using our iPads. Throughout this viewing experience, I watched as my students listened, watched, reflected, wrote and read together. They were supporting each other as they were learning and they were all able to clearly show what their learning was. Our first back channeling experience was a success.

Will we do it again? Absolutely!

You Can’t Teach Literacy With Skype, Can You?

We Learn Best From People

I have a few grade two students in my classroom this year for the first time in half a dozen years. Since the last time I had a grade one/two split, the curriculum has changed.  Naturally, I have spent time reading through the grade two curriculum. But when I have specific questions about what my seven year olds need to know, I don’t usually try to find the answer in the curriculum.  I just walk across the hall and ask the grade two teacher. She explains it well and gives me the practical information that I need.  She is also likely to add a few things I had never thought to ask that will help me to be a better teacher of that concept. Learning from her is much richer than the answer in the curriculum guide.

My students learn best from people as well. When some of the students wondered aloud about what it was like to move, I had some picture books handy, but the learning was far deeper when we asked a student in my class who had actually moved. Even the best book or digital program is no match for  personal contact.

I’ve noticed this online as well. People often ask a question on Twitter that can easily be googled. I’ve done this myself.  Somehow we feel more confident in an answer when another person is directly involved. We like to be able to question and push back. Simply put, we learn from best from people.

Because I want this best learning, we often use Skype as a learning tool.  Skype connects us to people. I made the following video for my about-to-be-published book to show some of the ways we use Skype in our classroom. As always, my students say it best.

OK… But Literacy?

Skype is also one of the tools in my literacy instruction. The listening and speaking components of Skype are obvious ones, and we use it often that way. We learn about similarities and differences and ask and answer questions with others from far away. But, we have used Skype for more traditional literacy activities as well.

  • Many times, teachers or others have taken the time to read my class a story or poem via Skype. These experiences have introduced us to books and authors we would not otherwise have encountered and enriched our learning as a result.
  • People have been willing to listen to my students read via Skype, helping them to increase their confidence and their reading fluency.
  • We have done Reader’s Theatre with a class from Alabama.
  • We have shared reading strategies with another class, marveling that they used the same strategies that we did when working to improve their reading skills.
  • We have made reading connections with various classrooms. “Hey, we like that book, too!” or “we have a books by Robert Munsch in our library!” We have even learned a special silent hand sign to show we had made one of these links from the Kinderkids in New Hampshire. (We make a signed y with our fist and rock our hand back and forth in front of our chest—it saves a chorus of comments like the ones previously mentioned.)
  • Later this week my class will be making up some nonsense silent e words to see if some students in South Carolina can decode them. They’ll do the same for us.

Can you teach literacy with Skype? You bet. We learn best from people, and Skype connects us with people.

Free Books for Kids

As a teacher, I value choices for my students in both how they learn and in how they demonstrate that learning. I try to give my students choices about as many things as I can each day, including whether to use technology in their learning or to use more traditional methods. Because I am fortunate enough to now have a classroom set of iPads, I am able to offer the choice of using technology much more often.

Our iPads have apps for math, writing, arts education and many literacy activities, but it bothered me that these devices did not have a good choice for just reading. There are apps available that contain leveled books of some kind, but these books are always a bit contrived. There are also some good “listening to reading” apps available that read stories to the students. The best of these highlight the words as they are read. I appreciate the value of this as part of my literacy program, but I looked in vain for quality books that the students could read on their own.

Finding the Solution

Back in the spring, someone on Twitter shared a link to  This site has a constantly changing list of books that are currently free at Amazon. When you click on the link to a book on this site, it takes you right to the Amazon page selling that book and you can then purchase the free book. Because I had the Kindle app installed on my iPad, I could view all of my purchases there. I loved this site for myself. I could try books from authors I had never heard of without spending money on something that might not be as good as I had hoped. Last summer, I noticed that there were sometimes children’s books available. This intrigued me. I wondered about using these books in my classroom. Could this provide me with some choice for my students who like to read on the iPad?

I set up an account and tried it on my student’s iPads, only to discover that a book can only be viewed on a maximum of five devices. After five children had downloaded a book, the other children could see the book in the Kindle app, but not read it. The other children were more than a little disappointed when the Halloween book they wanted to read was not available to them.  So I started over.

Making it Work

This time I set up four different accounts. Since all of my iPads are numbered, I set up four gmail and Kindle accounts– accountname1, accountname6, accountname11 and accountname16. I put the Kindle account from accountname1 onto iPads 1 – 5, the account from accountname6 on iPads 6 – 10 and so on.

Then, I started watching for good books on Now, when I see a book I think might interest my students, I first check it out on Amazon. I have a look inside (Amazon provides this option) to see if it is an appropriate reading level, whether the illustrations are good ones, whether the illustrations are supportive of the text—in short all of the things I look for in a paper book. I have learned to NOT purchase any books that do not give you a look inside at the first few pages. If I think the book is worthwhile, I get my student’s iPads that are numbered 1, 6, 11 and 16. These iPads always have their Amazon account open. (This has never been an issue and saves me a lot of time). I choose in Safari—and purchase the book on those four iPads. When my students next open their Kindle app, the book will be available to all of them.

I try to check the site a couple of times per week, and if I see something interesting, the whole process takes me about two minutes. Books on this site do disappear without notice, though. More than once I have found an interesting-looking book that has been taken off the site by the time I got to the iPads.

Here is a screenshot of what their Kindle app currently looks like. We have books from a variety of genres and reading levels. has recently added genre selection to their home page, so I now go directly to their children’s books page and browse all the titles available there.

I appreciate the variety of books I have been able to provide for my students. Now, all of the students have access to a variety of books on their iPads as well as in their self-chosen bin of paper books. During our “read to self” time, the students can choose paper books or digital books. Some choose to read on the iPad every day, some rarely do and some switch back and forth. My students have another choice.

Is There an App for That? Word Work Edition

One of the most often asked questions these days seems to be “what are some good apps?”   This is such a difficult question to answer, because the answer depends on the question “what do you want an app to do?”

Don’t get me wrong. I have asked that question as well. Sometimes you get an unexpected answer and you are able to see an application for your classroom that wasn’t immediately obvious to the person you questioned.  It’s a fair question. I just don’t think it’s the best question. I think that better questions might be “what is an app you might use to help a child struggling with letter reversals?” or “can you think of an app that will help students to demonstrate their learning?” or “is there an app that you have used to help students understand groupings to make ten?”

The question I’m hoping to answer with this post is “what do you use for word work” or “what are some apps that could help students to learn to spell frequently used words?”

Here are my answers. These are apps I am currently using in my classroom for just that purpose.

DrawFree – (free) This is technically a drawing app not a spelling app, but in my classroom it does double duty. Writing words can be so much more engaging when you get to choose to write with a paint brush, a pencil crayon or a crayon and can also choose from a wide variety of colours. Children can also change the background colour or the thickness of their lines.

Magic Ink – (.99) The more quickly you move your finger, the thicker the lines this app makes.  Your letters become gorgeous, with extra swirls thrown in at the end. The magic part is that after a few seconds, your letters disappear, leaving you room to write more words.  The length of time the letters stay before disappearing, the colour of the letters and the line thickness are all adjustable in the settings.

Skywrite - (free) As you write the words in the sky, a tiny airplane follows your finger and turns your letters into cloud letters. You can also type the letters into a textbox and the airplane will again make cloud letters for you. (I first learned about Magic Ink and Skywrite from Angie Harrison.)


Word Wizard – (2.99) This app makes the sounds of each letter as you drag them onto the board. As you put the letters beside each other, the app tells you the combined sound. When all of the letters of a word are in place, the child knows it is spelled correctly because it is read aloud to him. There are also lists (CVC words, number words, Dolch words etc.) in the app that are spoken aloud for children to spell. My favourite part of this app is that if you spell a word that is inappropriate in school, the app will say “oops” and return your letters to the bottom of the screen.

This list is by no means definitive, just the apps I have been using so far for this. I do have other spelling apps on our iPads, and since apps that are not yet suitable for my students may be useful to someone else…here is a screenshot of my current Word Work folder.

Word Work Folder

Making “the Cafe” Make Sense for Primary Students

I will forever be indebted to Gail Boushey and Joan Moser, the authors of The Daily Five and The Cafe Book for showing me how it was possible to organize a primary classroom to have an individualized reading program. I have, of course, taken their ideas and adjusted them to fit with my students and my curriculum, but the classroom organization basics have come directly from their ideas.

The part of the Cafe that did not seem to be working well for my students was the terminology on the bulletin board.  The students themselves write out the reading strategies as each one is taught, and these strategies are then posted under one of the menu four categories–comprehension, accuracy, fluency and expand vocabulary. If you take the first letter of each category, the letters spell cafe. Thus the title. It’s a great visual reminder, and encompasses the basics of what we teach in reading. These headings make perfect sense for older students, but not for my six and seven year olds, some of whom do not even know what a cafe is.

While I was musing about this, Laura Komos posted on Twitter that she had changed the headings on the bulletin board in her classroom to fit with a theme. I immediately knew that this was the answer. I wanted to change mine to make it more kid-friendly as well.

I wanted a word that made sense to my students, and nothing I could think of made more sense than READ. I also wanted the accuracy aspect to come first on the board, as this is the first focus in my classroom each year.  This is what I came up with. (Click on the picture to go to a larger version if it is too small for you.)

Accuracy has become “right words”. Comprehension is now “explain what you read”. Fluency was changed to “able to read smoothly”. Expanding vocabulary has become “discover new words”.  The first letters of each category now spell “read”.  It still has the four reading components of the cafe menu, but the language used is better suited to younger students.

Feel free to use it if it is useful to you. While I’m pretty confident that this will make more sense to my students than the last bulletin board did, I’m not totally happy with a couple of those headings.  If you have a better idea about how to phrase any of them, change it.   If you do modify it, I’d love to hear how you adapted it.

Thanks for the inspiration Gail and Joan!

Writing Back to School Letters

Everyone Likes Letters!

Last year I mentioned on Twitter that I had just finished writing letters to my students-to-be. Someone asked me to share the letter, which I did.  I was surprised at how many people were interested in that letter, so this year I decided to share it without being asked.

Communicating is what we do all day long as teachers. Doing it well is important to the success of our students and to gaining the understanding and support of their parents. I like to start that communication off well, so every August, I send a letter to my new grade one students.  I write to the students because

  1. It gives us a connection before the school year begins. “I got a letter from you!” is a common remark on the first day of school.
  2. Our first contact is positive. It sets the tone for the year.
  3. It creates anticipation.
  4. My pre-readers learn more about communication through the written word.
  5. It gives me a chance to remind them about school supplies which, as you will see by the letters below, is a perennial issue.
  6. Everyone likes to get a letter!

It’s a bit early for this letter to go home, but I have some commitments later this month, so I’ve written out and stuffed the envelopes so they will be ready to go when I want to mail them. The letter has morphed and changed a bit every year, but here is this year’s version.

New Student Letters

Dear Payton,

I’m glad I get to be your teacher this year!

I hope you have been having lots of fun this summer.  Did you buy your school supplies yet?  Don’t forget to bring them all with you on the first day of school.  I’ll put everyone’s supplies together and we’ll share them.

We are going to have an exciting year.  You will get your own iPad to use in our classroom and we will get to learn with other classrooms from all over the world. The best thing about grade one, though, is that you learn to read!

I want you to think about what else you would like to learn this year.  Then, ask your mom or dad to email me and tell me about it.

On the first day of school, I will meet you in our classroom
(Room 2) at 8:55.  Look for the door with pictures of iPads on it.

I’ll see you soon.

Your Grade 1 Teacher,
Mrs. Cassidy

Returning Student Letter

This year I will have a one/two split classroom. Eight grade twos and I will be looping, so they needed their own letter.

Dear Leighton,

I’m so excited that you are going to be in my classroom again this year! I loved watching you learn in grade one and now we can learn even more things together.

You might see some new things in our classroom when you come back in September. You’ll have to wait to see!

I went to some garage sales this summer, and I bought some new books for our classroom library. I’ll put a couple of them that I think you will like into your reading bin to start the school year.

I also bought some new apps for our iPads that I think you will enjoy and will help you to learn. All of the pictures that you took in grade one are still on your iPad and waiting for you.

Don’t forget to bring all of your school supplies with you on the first day of school. We’ll share them again, but be sure to put your name on your scissors and on your headphones or earbuds.

I’ll see you on September the fourth.

Your grade two teacher,

Mrs. Cassidy

Letter to New Parents 

Last year, I decided to also write to the parents of my students.  I included their letter in the child’s envelope.  Here is this year’s version of that parent letter:

Dear Parents,

I’m looking forward to this year and to getting to know your child.  You can help me with this.

Before school starts, would you please take the time to email me ( and tell me anything you would like me to know about him or her?  With your help, I can better help your child to be successful and happy this year.

Your child may also have ideas about what I should know. I would appreciate it if you would also tell me some things that your child is interested in or passionate about.  Sometimes this is dinosaurs, or snakes or Lego or horses…each child is different. This will help me to tap into your child’s interests as he learns to read.

By emailing me, you will also be sharing your email address with me, and I can use that to help keep you up to date about things in our classroom.  If you do not have an email address that you use regularly, or would prefer paper copies during the school year, just mail me a letter with the information instead.  The address at the school is 1100 Currie Crescent, Moose Jaw S6H 5M8

Watch for information from me very early in the school year about a parent information night.

It is not necessary to put your child’s name on all of his supplies as we will be sharing them. Please do put his/her name on the headphones or earbuds and on the scissors.

I’m anticipating a wonderful year of learning together! Please don’t hesitate to email me with any questions you may have.

Kathy Cassidy

Letter to Parents of Loopers

I decided to also include a letter for the parents of my returning students.

Dear Parent,

I’m very excited to be teaching your child again this year. It has long been a dream of mine to have students for two years in a row as it eliminates all the “getting to know you” phase at the beginning of the year and helps students to quickly feel comfortable and ready to learn.  I know your child’s interests and strengths and we can just pick up where we left off at the end of last year. Students also feel more comfortable with someone that they already know. It’s going to be a great year of learning!

Your child will have an iPad to use throughout our school day just as he or she did at the end of last year.  I’m looking forward to finding more ways that these devices can enhance learning in our classroom.

It is not necessary to put your child’s name on all of his supplies as we will be sharing them. Please do put his/her name on the headphones or earbuds and on the scissors. that will save us some time on the first day of school

Please don’t hesitate to email me with any questions you may have. Also, if there is anything about your child that you think I do not yet know but should, please contact me about that as well.  My email address is still

I’m anticipating a wonderful year of learning together!

Kathy Cassidy

I’m sharing these not because I think they are perfect (the’re not!) but because they may be helpful to someone. I’d love to see letters that other teachers write to their students or parents. Are you willing to share?

Viewing and Representing–It’s Where They’re At

Like most of the teachers in North America, I’ve recently been through another round of report cards and parent/teacher/student conferences.  I’ve had a classroom blog for several years, but this year I am making more of an effort to use each student’s blog as an online portfolio, with examples of the students’ work from all subject areas.

As part of the process, each student looked at their blog with me and chose three “articles” that they felt represented their best work and wished to share with their parents.  We had recently made recordings with Vocaroo of each child reading a book that they had practiced to share, so that was a popular choice. Aside from that choice the students, without exception, chose to show articles that contained images and proceeded to tell their parents (with my support) what they had done well in creating the image in terms of their use of colour, space, details, shapes etc.  I don’t think this is just because they do not yet write well–actually some of them do write well for this point in the school year.

This further reinforced my conviction that my students are more visually oriented every year.  They come to me with five or six years of viewing TV, video, games and various online sites behind them. Their brain is wired to view images.  I’m glad that my province has included viewing as one of the six strands of our language arts curriculum.  In fact, we are supposed to be giving viewing the same amount of  teaching time as we do reading and writing, the traditional text-based mediums.

What does this mean for me as a teacher who is helping them to create an online portfolio of their work? Certainly I need to give them lots of opportunities to express themselves through visual means   (representing, another great strand of our language arts curriculum).  Students learn uniquely  through the creation of digital media.  I’m also more convinced than ever of my need to systematically teach them the age-appropriate strategies they need to become effective viewers and contributors in this digital age.


Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: