Wednesday, December 27, 2017

How to Create Digital Books featuring samples from Mrs. Dreilich's Grade 7/8s & Ms. Cowling's Grade 7s

Publishing digital books is a great way for students to share their work with a wider audience.  In my role as LwICT Teacher Leader, I am fortunate to work with many teachers and students on a variety of LwICT projects.

This term, Mrs. Dreilich worked with students in her Grade 7/8 ICT class to support them in creating digital books.  Mrs. Dreilich shared sample digital books created by my class to provide inspiration, then she guided her students through planning, drafting and revising their own writing.  Many students chose to write children's books and several of them used a question and answer format. Check out some samples below:

Is this a Tiger?  By Zoe

Is this a Panda?  By Kylee

Who has this Foot? by Sierra

Is this My Milkshake? by Brendan 

Ms. Cowling's grade 7 class collaboratively published their first digital book, which is a collection of poems.  Each student contributed a "bio poem" for the collection.

Grade 7 Bio Poems by Ms. Cowling's Class 

I especially liked the plan the Grade 7s created for sharing their digital book:

So how can my students publish books?
I've helped students publish books in a few different ways.   Here is one process that might work for you and your students:

Provide the same structure that you normally would when students are doing a writing project.   Students will need to plan, draft, revise and edit as part of the writing process.  Often, traditional pencil and paper are the best tools for these first steps.  Sometimes, students may draft and edit using a word processor or online document.   Whatever the case, writing mini-lessons and student conferencing will be important to help your writers develop quality written work.  I have found it also helps to identify a target audience and a plan for sharing early in the process.

Often, students create their illustrations on paper.   The illustrations can then be digitized by using colour scanning (most school copiers will do this efficiently) or by photographing each illustration.   Another option is to have students plan the images they need and then take their own photographs or source royalty-free images online (I like Pixabay).

The next step is to put together the writing and the illustrations.  One tool I have used is a digital scrapbooking tool called Mixbook.  (The samples above were created in Mixbook.)   I typically  upload images to Mixbook with/for students and then have students put together their illustrations and text on each page.   Students may wish to type directly on each page in Mixbook or they may have their typing saved so they can copy and paste their text into the book.  

Mixbook creates a beautiful digital book and you can "flip through" the pages of your book on their website. Mixbook allows you to share a display link or embed your book in a website or blog.  My class often shares their work through this blog or by sharing the link on social media (such as Twitter).   The book links can also easily be emailed to families, partner classrooms and other stakeholders.

  • Students complete their writing and illustrations on paper and then photograph/scan the finished pages to include in the book.  
  • Students type their story and print out the text they want on each page with blank space for illustrations, then draw illustrations.  When the pages are complete, then photograph/scan the finished pages to include in the book.  
  • Book Creator is a great app if you want to create digital books on an iPad.  The files export as a PDF or video file.   Book Creator offers the option of adding a recording to each page, so students can easily create an audio book! 

Friday, December 22, 2017

Digital Books: Christmas Mysteries by Ms. Fraser's Class

I have been helping students publish digital books over the last few years.  After students go through  planning, drafting, revising and editing, students digitize their book.  Why?   I am passionate about students doing work that matters and work that has a purpose beyond the classroom.  Whether it is taking action to solve a problem through project-based learning or creating something amazing to share with others, I think that students benefit from learning beyond the classroom.  Extending the writing process to include digital publishing allows students to share their work with a wider audience.  Rather than just the teacher and (maybe) peers seeing student work, digital books can easily be accessed online by families, community members, partner classrooms and others.  It is highly motivating and engaging for students to write for a real audience outside the classroom.   

In my role as LwICT Teacher Leader, I was excited to work with a class to publish their Christmas Mysteries this holiday season!  This week, I visited Ms. Fraser's grade 4/5/6 class.   They had their mysteries written and were diligently working to finish illustrations when I arrived in their classroom.   I was able to support students in digitizing their finished books during my classroom visit.  I was so impressed by the interesting stories and beautiful illustrations!  The grade 4/5/6 class agreed that I could share their work here on my blog, so please take a look at some of their books below and feel free to leave a comment to pass on to them. 

The Case of the Missing Skidoo by Matthew

Where are Blitzen and Donner by Josie

The Mystery of Santa’s Eaten Cookies by Damion

Lost Little Santa Paws Finds a Friend by Kylee

The Mystery of Frosty’s Hat by Sean

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Kids Who Code: Get Started with Coding in the Classroom

For the last few years, I have supported my early years students in planning a special Code-a-thon event for Computer Science Education Week.  This year, my week looks a little different.  Since I'm currently acting as the LwICT Teacher Leader for Park West School Division, I get to work with dozens of classes on coding and computer science this December!   I kicked off the week with a coding workshop for teachers and I'm scheduled to work on coding with many classes this week.  For those interested in getting started with coding in the classroom, I would suggest trying one or more of the following:

Unplugged Coding
I typically introduce students to unplugged coding first.  For middle years and high school students, I have modified this Grid Paper Programming Lesson from  For younger learners, I prefer to start working on the 100 grid of a learning carpet or a smaller 4X4 grid taped on the floor.   I use arrows printed on cardstock and demonstrate how we can "program" a stuffed toy to move around the grid using left, right, up and down arrows.  Students can then work with a partner using a paper copy of the grid and a smaller manipulative to practice "programming" the manipulative to move around the grid.  

unplugged coding for early years

Hour of Code(TM)
Signing up for Hour of Code is great way to get started with coding in the classroom.  There are TONS of great tutorials available from with different options for different grade levels.  You might want to try one of the tutorials yourself and then share it with your students or just jump right in and learn alongside them.  

Using a project-based learning model, I've guided my class in planning and hosting three Code-a-thon events.  Each year involved different tools, partners and activities, but each event was a great success!  Check out my Kids Who Code Code-a-thon guide below for tips on planning your own event.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Global Read Aloud: A High School Perspective

The following is a guest blog post from high school teacher, Ms. Beccy Ardiel.  Beccy tried out the Global Read Aloud with some of her high school ELA students this year.  Read below for her thoughts on GRA in the high school classroom!

Beccy's Reflection on Planning and Preparing
Global Read Aloud was a program I had never heard of but was excited to try out!  I couldn't decide which class to work with, so I decided to have my grade 9 Reading is Thinking class read A Long Walk to Water and my grade 11 ELA class read A Monster Calls. I was a bit hesitant on how to start, so I began by seeking out people to collaborate with on Edmodo. Finding people was easy - finding teachers who had classes at the same time as my two classes was not as easy! We began discussing ideas for collaborative activities and came up with some letter writing ideas, as well as posting to Padlet and Flipgrid - two apps I had never heard about before, but I am now very knowledgeable! Shortly before the program was to begin, we received a lengthy compilation of resources that had been created for each of our novels. This document was amazing! I sifted through, found things that worked for my classes or things that I could use/change to suit my learners and with that, we began GRA!

Global Read Aloud - Connecting and Learning
My grade 9 students were much more into collaboration and we made a video about our community/school/class. These students created a padlet post about themselves and we watched Flipgrid videos, and even made our own, as a way to connect with our penpals in New Jersey. We never did arrange a Skype, but that is ok. Once the program began, I realized that you can do as much as you want or focus on a few small scale tasks, in terms of collaboration, and you are still able to participate on a global scale. We had Mrs. Obach come in to help us navigate the Twitter page better and this was a good spring board for what we made our routine - posting to Twitter after we completed our weekly reading sections. A personal high point was having the author of the novel like a couple of our tweets!

My grade 11 students were less interested in the face-to-face collaboration. We created introductory padlets and invited other students in my collaborative partner's schools to join. It was neat to learn and read about fellow students all over the world. When it came to discussing their thoughts and feelings about the text, my students were more interested in posting to Twitter than any other suggested method. We commented on other classes tweets and initiated some conversations/lesson ideas with our own and this in itself was pretty fascinating! A few of our tweets sparked discussion with other educators and this feedback really was unlike anything the students have experienced - people outside of our buidling were giving them powerful feedback about their ideas and interpretations and it was an awesome to deliver this message to them!

Looking Ahead
I am curious to find out what texts will be a part of this program next year! I would also love to have the chance create the Twitter questions at some point in the future! If I was to do it all over again, I might suggest doing it with one class as it did take a lot of time to prepare for two separate texts. That being said, I enjoyed both texts so much that I don't think I could have picked one over the other, so I'll have to see what next year brings!

Thanks to Mrs. Obach for opening my eyes to such a worthwhile and engaging learning experience - for both myself and for my students!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Global Read Aloud: Tough Boris Talks

I enjoyed working with Mrs. Ramsey's Grade 1 class, Mrs. Eftoda's Grade 1 class and Mrs. Reagh's Grade 1/2 class this month.  These 3 classes have been participating in the Mem Fox author study as part of Global Read Aloud.   Mem Fox's Tough Borris uses great adjectives to describe the pirate character, Boris.  When I visited each class, we read the book carefully, keeping track of the describing words and discussing what each word meant.

Next, we tried describing ourselves as if we were Tough Boris.  We set criteria for "what a good job sounds like" and then we recorded our ideas using ChatterPix.   Some students even used their prior knowledge of pirates to add some pirate expressions to their recording!  Check out the final videos below:

Inglis Grade 1

RES Grade 1/2

SCS Grade 1

Global Read Aloud: All About Fenway

I had the pleasure of joining Mrs. Dunn's Grade 2/3/4 class in Inglis today.  They just finished their Global Read Aloud novel, Fenway and Hattie by Victoria J. Coe. This wonderful book is written from the perspective of a dog named Fenway.  Many young readers around Park West School division have enjoyed Fenway's stories about his life with his owner, Hattie.   Today, Mrs. Dunn's class tried taking Fenway's perspective just like Victoria J. Coe did when she wrote this book.  Each student contributed a clip to the awesome video below.  These students demonstrated that they know Fenway very well!

We started with a list of things we know about Fenway. 

Then we practiced taking Fenway's perspective.  Finally, we recorded our voices using the ChatterPix app.   The grade 2/3/4s are excited to share their work with their Global Read Aloud partner class and the readers of this blog!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Global Read Aloud is Going Strong!

In my role as LwICT Teacher Leader for PWSD, one of the projects that I am supporting is Global Read Aloud.  Global Read Aloud is a wonderful global reading project started by Pernille Ripp.  Pernille's vision was to use one book to connect the world and, with over 2 million students involved this year, I think her project has done just that.   Students and teachers in PWSD are connecting with classes in other countries to share and learn.  This project aligns well with our PWSD goals; I have witnessed many great examples of "providing innovative learning opportunities" and "bringing the world to our students".  I will share below a few examples of how students and teachers in PWSD are connecting and collaborating for Global Read Aloud (GRA).

Mystery Skype 
Some classes have met their GRA partners through a Mystery Skype call.   Each class asks yes or no questions to determine where the other class is located (think 20 questions, but with a world map).   I was part of one of these calls and I heard grade 3/4 students asking questions like "Do you live in the United States?  Is your school in British Columbia?  Is your town south of Brandon, MB?"  Mystery Skype is a great way to build communication skills, apply mapping skills and learn about other people and places.

Book Discussions - Gone Global (or National or inter-city!)
Thanks to tools like Skype and Google Hangouts, our students are able to participate in book discussions with learners in other locations.  Many of our PWSD classrooms have had the chance to discuss their GRA book with a partner class in another province or country.   Through these discussions, students often hear new perspectives.  Students practice communication skills and learn how to collaborate using technology.  There are also opportunities for students to learn about other cultures, traditions and communities as learners are typically eager to get to know the partners that they will be learning with.
Mr. Langlois and his class at Waywayseecappo Community School meet their GRA partner class in Ohio for a book discussion. 

Collaborative Learning 
Students and teachers are using a variety of tools to support collaboration and cooperation between classes.  One example is having students from different classes respond to a discussion question or prompt using Padlet or FlipGrid.   These tools provide an option for posting online so that students can share their ideas with a wider audience and also gain from reading or viewing others' ideas.  Having students' ideas viewed by an "audience" outside of the classroom often motivates students to share their best work - whether it is a written response or a video response. 
Grade 7/8 students in Miniota share ideas with other classes by writing responses on a Padlet board

Twitter Chats 
Each week, a GRA class somewhere in the world leads a slow chat on Twitter for each book.   The class posts discussion questions using a hashtag and other participating classes from around the globe respond with their answers.  Again, students have the opportunity to share their ideas with a wide audience and they can read/view others' responses.  If you want to check out an example, search #GRAWild3 on Twitter.

Grade 8 students in Binscarth respond to Twitter chat questions about The Wild Robot
Postcard Exchange
Some classes have written postcards for their partner class or even set up pen pal exchanges.   The postcards are often designed by students and some have even included a QR code with a link to more information about the class, school or community.  

Saturday, September 30, 2017

New Year, New Adventure

As a new school year gets underway, I am embarking on a new teaching adventure.  I have accepted a new role in Park West School Division.  For this term, I am excited to be the Literacy with ICT Teacher Leader for our 15 schools!  In this role, I support students and teachers in using technology to enhance teaching and learning.

Over the last month, I have worked in all of our schools.  This in itself has been great; I have enjoyed experiencing each school and witnessing the awesome and unique things going on at each one.  I have had the opportunity to work with numerous teachers and I've started working with students and teachers in classrooms as well.  Just like a classroom teacher, it is my goal to be responsive to needs and interests, so we've been working on a variety of projects around the division.

So what does this look like?

spending lots of time traveling around our prairie province
Basically, I drive to a different school (or two) every day.  I am getting used to spending lots of time in my Jeep enjoying the beautiful prairie landscape!  During my longer drives, I have started listening to podcasts and playlists to pass the time.   Each day, I carry my "office in a backpack" so I have access to a technology toolkit and my work laptop wherever I go.  Every day is different, but some of the things that I do include meeting with teachers individually or in small groups, sharing ideas at staff meetings and working in classrooms with students and teachers.

What kind of LwICT projects are students and teachers in PWSD working on?

How we use technology to support teaching and learning is different in each classroom and is based on the learning goals, needs and interests relevant to each situation.  Some of the projects currently underway include:

Global Read Aloud: American educator Pernille Ripp started this incredible project with the idea of "one book to connect the world".  Students and teachers around the world are collaborating as they read the 2017 Global Read Aloud books and many PWSD classes are joining in this year!

Video Creation: Some classrooms are working on video planning and writing scripts so they can produce their own videos.  Some teachers are looking at ways to record lessons, tutorials and student work for instruction and assessment. 

Digital Binders: Students and teachers are using digital binders to organize their work while also reducing their paper use.  Digital binders allow students and teachers to access their work anytime and anywhere.

How can we find out more?

I plan to update my blog regularly with ideas and samples from schools around our division.  Please follow this blog for updates.   If you work in PWSD, feel free to call or email me to book an appointment to talk about LwICT projects in your classroom. 

Follow me on social media to see the latest updates:

Twitter : @LeahO77 for updates from me  @MrsObachsClass for updates from classrooms I work in

Instagram: @MrsObachsClass

Monday, May 1, 2017

List Poems: Things to Do with Your Dog

We have been studying poetry in grade 1.  Our class enjoys reading poems together and we have recently started writing our own poetry.  One type of poem we've read is a list poem.  This week, we finished our shared writing of our own class list poem, "Things to do with your Dog" and we are very excited to share it.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

2017 Polar Bear Walk: A Retelling

To conclude  our polar bear project, we did some reflecting and summarizing after we held our WWF Polar Bear Walk at Brandon University.  We met on Skype with the OLCS Kindergartens who collaborated with us on this project.  We discussed the project and made a to do list of next steps for the project.  Our list included things like writing thank you cards to those who helped us and sharing the work from our project.  We also made a goal for each class to create something to showcase and reflect on the project.  The kindergartens decided to create a video.  Our grade 1 class chose to write a retelling about the project, since that is a text-type that we have been working on this year.  We worked together to collaboratively author the book, using photographs from the project as our pictures.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

2017 Microsoft Education Exchange

I was thrilled to be selected to attend the 2017 Microsoft Education Exchange (E2) as a Microsoft Expert Educator Fellow.  The conference was hosted in Canada for the first time, with the venue being the classy Fairmont Royal York in Toronto, Ontario.  240 educators representing 83 different countries were in attendance.  It was a whirlwind of learning, sharing and networking.  

One of the highlights of this event was getting to know other educators. Team Canada included many talented and passionate teachers.  I really enjoyed working with all of them.  It was especially exciting to connect with some educators I have "known virtually" through social media, webinars and the Microsoft Educator Community.  Jim Pedrech and Ian Fogarty are two Canadian teachers who do great work with their students.  I've been hearing about their work for years and I finally got to meet them at E2!  I also had the chance to meet #WHOtoYOU leader Kaylyn Dorland, who I've connected with virtually in the last two years.  It was great to meet her face-to-face and I enjoyed touring her school, Queen of Heaven Elementary School, in Milton, ON.  There are many other educators from around the world that I was excited to meet and work with, but I'll refrain from writing a long list here...

Top: with Ian Fogarty, Middle: with Jim Pedrech, Bottom: with Kaylyn Dorland & Lia DeCicco-Remu

I coached an awesome collaborative group of ladies that were recognized for their work in the educator challenge.  This group was challenged to pitch an idea that would delocalize learning.  They were awarded second runner up in their category at the awards ceremony.  
Group 1: Susana (Costa Rica), Mary Catherine (USA), Meg (Canada), Jeanne (USA, Peta (Australia)

Engaging keynote speakers shared messages about education and Expert Educator Fellows shared breakout sessions on each day of the conference.   Hearing about the awesome work going on in classrooms around the world is so incredibly inspiring.  At the same time, this experience also makes me think about how much more we can do to transform education, inspire teachers and empower students!

Team Canada arriving at the awards gala.  Photo courtesy of Microsoft in Education.