Monday, February 29, 2016

Marvelous Muffins: Lauching a New Project

We have interacted with a number of different classroom partners this year through Skype, Twitter and email.  These interactions allow us to learn from other classes and experts, while practicing communication and collaboration skills.  Early in the school year, an African educator contacted me through the British Council education website to establish a classroom partnership.  He was able to share videos of his class reciting poetry in their classroom in Ghana, Africa.  My class watched the videos and learned the same poems.  We also sent back some samples of our work to share.  This winter, we started sending Tweets to Mr. Eric.  One day, a student asked if the African classroom had computers like us.  I wasn't sure of the technology available in their room, so we sent a Tweet to ask Mr. Eric.  We learned that they don't have computers and that Mr. Eric could only email and Tweet us from his computer at home.

When I visited Mrs. Hembree's class while in Redmond, WA for Hack the Classroom, her class had just finished raising money to buy postage for their Books to Africa project.  Upon my return to school, I shared her students' project with my Grade 1s.  They thought they might be able to help kids in Africa too, so we decided to ask Mr. Eric if his class could use our help somehow.  We learned that books and school supplies would be much appreciated by their class and from there, an exciting project has launched.

Earlier in the school year, students had brought up the idea of having a bake sale.  This idea came up again when discussing how our class could raise money to purchase school supplies for Mr. Eric's class.  After some discussion, negotiation and class voting, students decided to have a muffin sale to raise money for the supplies they'd like to purchase for our partner classroom.  Further discussion, brainstorming and voting led to our project name - Marvelous Muffins!

Capacity Investigation

It is a leap year, so we have an extra 24 hours!  We spent our 24 hours learning and being creative! We measured how much different cups to hold and created a video in MovieMaker.  We shared our video on Twitter for the #my24hrs project!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Marvelous Muffins: Take our Survey

This school year, we met a teacher from Africa. He emailed us some videos of his class and we sent some messages on Twitter. We found out that they don't have many school supplies at their school in Ghana.  We decided to help them.  We wanted to have a bake sale, so we decided to raise money for Africa by selling muffins.  We hope to open our bakery soon.  Our class voted and the bakery will be called Marvelous Muffins!

We want to know what your favourite kinds of muffins are, so we made this survey.  Fill out our survey to help us get started.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Kids Who Code: Starting a Coding Club - What Next?

This fall, I started a Grades 2-5 coding club at our school (which you can read about here).  I'm sharing our experiences in hopes of helping others wanting to start a coding club and also to document this aspect of the Kids Who Code project.

In our first coding club meetings, students worked in multi-age teams to complete Scratch Jr. challenges using activities from their website.  After the first couple of meetings, students were able to work fairly independently in Scratch Jr, so I started working with small groups to introduce other coding tools.  Since I didn’t want to take whole teams away from their Scratch Jr. challenges, I chose a grade to work with each week while the other students continued with Scratch Jr.  I picked different tools to introduce to each grade so that, as a collective club, we had experience with a variety of tools.  For example, I introduced Lightbot to our Grade 5 members and set up Kodable accounts for the Grade 2s.  This system of “small group instruction” works well, since teaching 50 kids at a time seems a bit overwhelming to me.   

There were a few little “housekeeping” tasks that came up for us as a new coding club.  If you're thinking of starting a club, they are things to consider when you're planning!

Clean up – On the first day, I didn’t even think about the fact that there isn’t a garbage can in the gym, so we had to make a habit of bringing one in from my classroom.  I also realized that we needed to sweep the gym floor after our meetings since we were eating our lunches in there, so I asked for student volunteers and was very pleased to have more than enough students offer to help.  (I actually turn down students every week because so many of them volunteer to help – what a great bunch of kids I work with!).  So basically, whichever 3-4 kids volunteer first stay for a few minutes after our meeting and I give them the brooms to clean up – easy!   

Attendance – I felt it was important to have a record of which students were meeting with me each week, so I made a simple “class list” of club members.  Older students volunteer to check off all members in attendance or I carry my clipboard with me as I circulate during meetings and mark down attendance as I work with students.   

Membership – I’m still working on this one.  Over 60 students signed up to try coding club.  Most of them attended our first few meetings to see what it was like.  Now that we have been running for several weeks, a few students have decided not to attend.  I’ve been doing lots of thinking about this… is it okay to “let” them quit?  Should their parents sign off on it since their parents signed the form for them to participate?  Is it important that students commit to attending every meeting or is it okay for them to choose their usual lunchtime routine and outdoor play after an initial trial period?  I’m leaning towards the latter – for several reasons.  Coding club is an extracurricular activity.  Sure, we are learning a lot, but it’s meant to be fun.  I don’t want to force kids to attend.  I also think that it was great for students to sign up and “give it a try”.  When I sign up for a new exercise class or activity, I expect to have a choice about whether or not I continue with it – and I think our students deserve that same choice.  That said, I may still create a simple note to go home so that parents are aware that their child is no longer attending.   In future years, I would discuss this aspect with students and come to an agreement about membership in our club.  

On the whole, our coding club start-up has run very smoothly and I really enjoy working with the students each week.  It's nice to reconnect with my former students and get to know some students I didn't teach.  If you're thinking of starting a coding club, I'd certainly encourage you to give it a try!


Friday, February 12, 2016

Wellness: Happiness Habits: Part 2

This post is a continuation from my Happiness Habits: Part 1  post reflecting on Tracy Hutton's keynote at the Snowflake Winter Wellness Festival!  She spoke to us about happiness habits – basically, things we can all do which have scientifically been shown to increase our happiness. 


Ways to Promote Happiness: Part 2

 reflections from Tracy Hutton's keynote at Snowflake Winter Wellness Festival 2016


Use Your Strengths – Do the things you are good at.  Try new things too, but realize that it’s okay if you aren’t good at everything you try!  I think this is relevant for students for a couple of reasons.  (1) We want students to work as a community and a team, taking advantage of each others' strengths.  For example, if someone needs help in our classroom, often another student can help (which is especially important if I'm engaged in teaching a small group lesson or conferencing with another student.)  (2) We want students to be proud of their unique talents and gifts and also recognize and respect others' gifts.  

Serve Others – use your strengths to make a difference in the world.  Every year, my students choose projects to engage in that will make a difference for others or help address a problem.  For example, former students have hosted a Farmer Appreciation Day to recognize our local farmers, organized the Recycle for Good Garage Sale to raise money for people in need and ran a support campaign for Olympic athletes.  I think that it’s vital for students (of any age) to contribute to their local or global community so that they realize that they can have a positive impact.   Plus, interdisciplinary projects are a great way to meaningfully address curriculum.  

Generous Explanations – think positively!  Rather than coming up with a negative explanation for an event or occurrence, be generous and consider another perspective. For example, if another driver cut you off, instead of thinking they are an inconsiderate, reckless drive, consider that maybe they didn’t see you or were in such a rush that they made a mistake.  Similarly, if a child is having a difficult day, instead of being upset that they are choosing to misbehave, consider that maybe they didn’t have a good sleep or missed breakfast or had something unpleasant happen to them that day.   Using generous explanations can make us happier adults, but I think there is also value in teaching students to be compassionate and consider others' perspectives.  

Be social – interact with others.  I think we’ve got this one down pat in Grade 1!  We love to work and play together!   

Set goals – Tracy encouraged us to set micro-goals, so that we are more likely to tackle them.  For example, she shared two of her micro-goals: Meditate for 1 minute every day.  Plank for 1 minute every day.  When considering classroom goal setting, I know that I set many goals for myself and for my students.  We also set goals together (ie: develop our Daily 5 stamina so we can work independently for 20+minutes, write a poem, learn to code).  However, I think I could do a better job of intentionally teaching goal-setting and encouraging students to set micro goals such as writing 5 sentences during Daily 5 writing time or mastering 10 sight words in a given time period.  

As we enter the second half of our school  year, I will be keeping Tracy's happiness habits in mind for both my personal life and my classroom practice!   

Monday, February 8, 2016

Wellness: Happiness Habits: Part 1

I will begin by saying that this is a bit of a deviation from my usual posts.  However, with our busy lives, I believe wellness is a very important topic.  It’s also something that I’ve personally struggled with.  As an educator, I feel like there is always more I could do for my students and it seems the demands on us are always increasing.  I find it difficult to make time for everything I want to do.  Often, exercise/wellness/hobbies have been low on my list of priorities. In recent months, I’ve been making an effort to re-prioritize and take time for “wellness activities”.  If you are a fellow educator, a parent or a community member reading our blog, I hope you will find this post useful/interesting, but if you’re really after a post about what’s going on in our classroom, please scroll past this to find just that! :)

I was lucky to receive a special gift this Christmas from my fellow educator and close friend, Mrs. Devon Caldwell.  Over the past 7 years of my teaching career, our classes have worked together on many occasions, we have done some team-teaching via technology, we’ve co-presented a number of professional development sessions and we often work/learn together.  We are both passionate about education and most of the time that we’re together, we’re busy working on our latest idea to improve teaching and learning.   However, we both tend to go overboard once in a while and lose that precious life/work balance that everyone talks about.   To help us make wellness a priority, we started practicing yoga together with local instructor Kaycelyn Rosales-Knight about one year ago.  In addition to those yoga sessions with Kayce, we started to practice yoga together occasionally and to complete online yoga challenge videos.  Since then, we have reaped the benefits of yoga and other wellness activities.  

This Christmas break, I was thrilled to open my Christmas gift  from Devon and find a ticket to the Snowflake Winter Wellness Festival!   Devon and I attended this one-day event hosted at the Fort Garry Hotel in Winnipeg, MB on January 24, 2016.  The day featured a variety of sessions, including yoga classes, presentations and a keynote.  It was a very interesting day,which we both enjoyed very much.  The part that I felt was most relevant to my classroom was the keynote address by Tracy Hutton.  She spoke to us about happiness habits – basically, things we can all do which have scientifically been shown to increase our happiness. 
Ways to Promote Happiness: Part 1
 reflections from Tracy Hutton's keynote at Snowflake Winter Wellness Festival 2016
Move – Engage in some form of movement/exercise.  Pick something you enjoy - whether it’s dancing, yoga, walking or hockey.  I think this is particularly important for my young students.  We have been trying out a yoga pose of the week, we love to dance along with videos (such as the ones on GoNoodle) and our day is structured in short blocks of 15-30 minutes, so we are frequently moving around the room as we transition from one activity to another.  Of course, there’s always our daily gym class and recess too! 

Hug – What a simple way to promote happiness!  And one that children are already very good at!

Practice mindfulness/meditation – I am personally working on this one.  Quieting my mind is difficult for me, so I’m making an effort to try meditation. (I just completed the free 7 days of calm with the Calm app, which offered nice, short 5 minute guided mediation sessions).  I have difficulty “turning off” my brain at night so I can fall asleep, so I also find guided sleep mediation helpful.  I recently read an article about teaching mindfulness in our Park West School Division newsletter.  This is something I have an interest in and I continue to learn more about.   

Forgive Others – an ongoing lesson in an early years classroom(And one that many of us adults can practice too!)

I have a lot more notes on promoting happiness and my classroom connections, but I fear that this post will be far too long, so I'm saving Part 2 for later this week!  Check back in a few days for more happiness habits!