Monday, April 22, 2019

Classroom Energy Diet 2019

My grade 6 and 7 students are participating in the 2019 Classroom Energy Diet .  The challenge encourages classrooms across Canada to complete challenges to conserve energy and raise awareness about energy consumption.   We've learned quite a lot over the last several weeks and the challenges have inspired us to read, write, research and create!  I like that this kind of contest can be a springboard for meaningful learning or even project-based learning.    I wanted to share some of the great work my students have done as part of their contest.

Recycled Art

The task was to create art from recycling and my Grade 6/7 Character Education class rose to the challenge!  I kept this challenge fairly unstructured and let students plan their design, find the recycling items and develop their own creations as individuals or in small groups.   We ended up with a wonderful variety of art projects, including:  
  • cardboard creations: a robot, a barn, a miniature city, Angry birds from toilet paper rolls
  • cardboard canvases: students painted on recycled cardboard instead canvas or art paper
  • paper mache from recycled newspaper
  • pencil holders made from toilet paper rolls or plastic bottles
  • a bird feeder made from a plastic bottle

One Hour, No Power

We've been turning off our lights, computers and power bars when we don't need to use devices to reduce energy consumption in our classroom and we challenged other classrooms to try it too! 

A student-created poster promoting One Hour, No Power

Energy-Saving Tips

For this challenge, we were tasked with researching energy-saving tips and sharing them in our school or online.   I provided a planning template to guide students in selecting a product to create, identifying a target audience and a platform for sharing.  Some students decided to create posters to share in our hallways and others created digital posters to share online.  One group wrote energy saving tips to share on our school's digital sign and another group presented to students at the elementary school.  One group launched a "game" and social media campaign - they posted small notes with energy-saving tips around the school and encouraged students to find the tips, photograph them and share them on social media.   

Friday, March 29, 2019

Our Beliefs: Setting Classroom Expectations

My term position as LwICT teacher leader for my school division ended recently and I started teaching Grade 6 when second semester began on February 3rd.  I was interested in having students provide their input on classroom expectations, learning activities and classroom procedures/routines, so we spent some time in our first few days developing belief statements.  

First, I shared my own belief statement with students and talked about what those ideas mean to me.

Next, we did some brainstorming as a class.  We used the whiteboards to generate ideas in response to several questions.  We thought about what makes a good student, what makes a good teacher, what types of activities we'd like in our classroom, how we'd like to be treated, things we'd like to keep the same and things we'd like to change. The students gave some wonderful suggestions and we've been working on incorporating their ideas.

Our final step was to take the ideas from our brainstorming and summarize them into a class belief statement. The poster below is what our class came up with and I think it's a fabulous list of things to strive for!

The students requested that their belief statement be printed as a poster for our classroom and we're lucky to have a large-format printer in our school, so it now hangs in our classroom as a beautiful reminder of what we're working towards as a class!

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Booksnaps : A Different Kind of Reader Response

In the last few weeks, I've had the chance to try out creating booksnaps with some PWSD students.  I've seen booksnaps before and I liked the idea, so when I had some ELA teachers willing to try a project with me, we decided to show students how to respond to a text in this way.

I started by revisiting these resources from Tara Martin and then I created my own booksnap (see below!)  Since our school division recently started using Google Suite for Education, I elected to use Google Slides to create mine because I knew students would have access to that tool.  I checked out #booksnaps on social media to see some samples, then watched this video on using Slides for booksnaps and finally got into the creation process!

What's so great about booksnaps?

I like that this kind of "reader response" allows students to respond to a text using visual elements such as clipart, emojis or bitmojis.

This is an alternative to traditional written reader response that allows students to share their ideas using creative visuals and short captions.

It can be a quick way for students to represent their connection(s) to a text.

Creating a booksnap provides an opportunity for digital design.   I think that it is important that students learn to present their ideas in a variety of formats, including digital ones!

Tips for Creating Booksnaps in Google Slides

Take a photo with a built-in camera using Insert>Image>Camera or take a photo with your phone or iPad and upload it to the Google Drive app, then use Insert>Image>Drive

Change your page setup to make it the size/layout you want by going to File>Page setup>Custom

Add a text box and format the outline colour and fill colour to customize your caption box.

Use the line tool to "draw on your image" by selecting the curve setting.

Use the line tool to add arrows by selecting the arrow setting.

Find copyright-free/public domain images and clipart at a website such as and use the drag and drop method to add them to your slide.   Select the image, drag it up to the tab where slides is open and drag it back down.

Save your creation as an image file using File>Download As>JPEG image or PNG image

Share your snap on social media with #booksnaps

More Tools for Booksnaps

There are lots of ways to create booksnaps.  Some other tools that work well for this type of response include:

  • Snapchat (the original inspiration for these snaps)
  • SeeSaw
  • PicCollage

Student Samples

Thank you to the Miniota Grade 7/8 students and the BCI grade 7 students for sharing these samples! Each class got to view some sample booksnaps and create a criteria list for what should be included in their work, then they got busy creating these beautiful responses!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Book Creation with Google Slides

Helping students publish their writing is something I've done in my own classroom and while supporting other classrooms in my role as Literacy with ICT teacher leader.  I think that publishing student writing is a great way to share student work with a wider audience, while integrating technology and encouraging students to polish their work to share with others.   I've blogged about How to Create Digital Books before, but I've recently been exploring another option for book creation.  Our school division is currently transitioning to Google Suite for Education, so our students and teachers now have access to Google tools.   Inspired by Eric Curts' ISTE presentation, Beyond the Slideshow, I've worked with some students and teachers to create books using Google Slides.   I don't have any samples to share just yet, but I do have some tips that I've found helpful!

Ways to Use Google Slides for Book Creation

  • whole-class book
  • individual book
  • choose your own adventure story
  • e-book, manual, textbook or guide

Tips for Using Slides for Book Creation

for a class book, create one slide (with a sentence starter, if desired) and duplicate it

take photos of student work on your iPad or tablet and upload them with the Google Drive app

to avoid copyright infringements, check out these sources for images:

Use the “Drag and Drop” method to easily insert images

  • click on image from website
  • drag to Slides tab
  • drag down onto slide
Share student books
File>Publish to web
  • provides a link and opens in full-screen presentation mode

File>Download as>PDF
  • saves as a PDF File

Create an audiobook by recording narration with Screencastify

Create a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure non-linear text by linking text to a slide
  • highlight text, right click and choose link
  • choose “slides in this presentation”
  • choose the appropriate slide to link 
Have fun with fonts
Click on font menu and choose MORE FONTS

Apply a default font
  • Slide>Edit Master
  • Select all text and change font
  • Exit slide master
Try making it collaborative
  • SHARE button at top right, create a sharing link or share through Google classroom
  • with large groups, I suggest assigning each person a slide number for their work

Friday, December 21, 2018

Coding in the Classroom

In my ICT adventures this month, I spent lots of time working on coding with students and teachers around Park West School Division.   December kicked off with Computer Science Education Week.  Across the globe, thousands of people took part in Hour of Code and the staff and students in PWSD were among those participants!   During CSED week, I supported three schools in offering whole school coding events, where every student got to participate in coding activities!  I also joined many other classrooms for coding activities throughout the month.  Some classes paired up with other grade levels for their programming activities and some classes worked on their own. Whether it was single-grade or multi-grade, whole-school or single-class coding activities, I loved being part of the learning and excitement around coding in our schools this month!

Inspired by the great work I witnessed this month, I wanted to share some of my thoughts on coding in the classroom.  I created some images to share my ideas with you!

Why teach coding? 

My 5 Favourite Tools for Teaching Coding & Computational Thinking

I've tried plenty of tools and activities over the last few years and I've developed some favourites that are my "go-to" tools when teaching coding and computational thinking.   The numerical list is not intended as a ranking system, I just have 5 things I use more than anything else!

Regardless of age, I always start with unplugged coding activities.   I like to use these activities to build a basic understanding of coding concepts before we work with technology.  I've developed lessons to teach students about sequencing, conditions, loops and more.   It really helps to include some unplugged lessons to ensure students understand the programs they are writing with technology! has so much to offer.   They have a variety of activities for different ages, including both one-hour tutorials and full courses.   Spend some time digging around on their website and you're sure to find something suitable for your class!

Kodable was a favourite in my Grade 1 and 2 classes and it has been very popular in K-4 classrooms around the division.  The free content is a great start, plus they offer paid content if you'd like to offer more coding activities for your students. 

Thanks to Kids Code Jeunesse, our schools now have micro:bit sets for teaching programming!  It's awesome when students can see their programs run on an external device and I'm excited about the possibilities for these pocket-sized computers!

I have two of each of these robots in my ICT kit and they've traveled with me all over PWSD for the last several months!  

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Global Read Aloud 2018

Somehow it is November and I've barely blogged.   It seems like my school year started off as a whirlwind, as it does for many educators.   As the Literacy with ICT Teacher Leader for Park West School Division, one of the projects I've been supporting over the last several weeks is Global Read Aloud (GRA).   The GRA was a wonderful experience when I participated with my students in my own classroom and now that I work in many classrooms, I've really enjoyed seeing our students and teachers around PWSD get involved with this project!   Thanks to all of the educators and students that welcomed me to join them for Global Read Aloud activities this year!

What makes the Global Read Aloud so fantastic?

I'm not sure that I can fully explain why the Global Read Aloud is so meaningful, but I think there are three key elements that I really appreciate:

Rich literature: Global Read Aloud founder, Pernille Ripp, chooses excellent books for this project each year.   This year's choices were no exception.   The GRA books address important topics, inspire thoughtful conversations and really get us thinking.   I love that good books are at the center of this project. 

Connecting with Others:  The idea behind GRA is "one book to connect the world".   I'm passionate about students and teachers making connections beyond the classroom and I think that Global Read Aloud provides a great opportunity to build those connections.   Participating classrooms typically connect with at least one other class to discuss the book, get to know each other and share their learning. Participating classes can plan as many different connections as they wish, and there is plenty of sharing happening throughout the GRA.

Making the World a Little Smaller: There is something so special about being in a classroom when students are connecting with others in another province or country and they realize they have things in common.   Maybe they also learn about the differences that exist between them or their communities and this helps foster an acceptance of differences and appreciation for what makes us unique.   I like seeing students share their ideas about a book with others - to have a real audience outside the classroom considering their thoughts.   I also think it is so important that students get to consider others' opinions on these books and topics.   The GRA gives students an opportunity to see new perspectives, from students and teachers around the globe.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Creating Commercials: Miss Wallace's Class Video Project

I was invited to help out with a video production project in Miss Wallace's grade six class.  They had been learning about television and it seemed fitting that they should produce some "television" of their own.  Before I joined them, Miss. Wallace and her class were working to better understanding what makes television and commercials interesting to us.   They branding, personalities, images, audience and more.   As a concluding activity, Miss. Wallace tasked her class with creating commercials for a fictional product.   The class worked in small groups to plan, film and edit their commercials.

Phases of Creating Commercials

Preparing a Plan - Groups of students met to decide on a "product" and then plan their video, including target audience, roles to cast, crew member assignments and more

Writing a Script - Each group used a shared document to draft and revise their scripts using a two-column script template.

Filming - With the cast selected and the scripts ready, students shot their video using an iPad.

Editing - Students brought together their video clips, added sound effects and titles using iMovie.

Sharing - Miss. Wallace helped her class upload their videos to a class YouTube channel.  Their finished products are shared below:

Thank you to Miss. Wallace and her class for sharing their work!