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9/15/14

The Dot

Today was International Dot Day. I'm not making that up.
I celebrated this amazing book with the kids in my second grade classroom. 


I spend a lot of time beating them over the head sharing with them how important it is to be individuals and to try new things. They're starting to get it. Really get it. When I gave them the assignment to make their own dots. I gave them nothing else but some inspiration from other dot makers. 

Here, I said, go make your mark!
After we made and admired our work, the kids asked me what made me make mine different. So I told them a story.

I have two friends whom I've never met, but who I am bound to because we are all teaching sisters who love kids and books. They aren't as lucky as me right now because they are being kept out of their schools. Their kids aren't getting to learn from them which is a crying shame.

So I made this special dot to honor them and the others they stand with in British Columbia. May they get their classroom kids back. May their classroom kids get them back. They all need to make their mark.

Here's to my friends Sandi and Carrie! This Dot's for you.

9/14/14

KidBlog

Margaret Simon at Reflections on The Teche invites others to share some of the technology they find that could be useful, in and out of the classroom. 

This week was kind of monumental for me as a teacher because I accomplished something I've been dying to do for three years.  I decided to create a blog for every one of the kids in my class. I chose KidBlog because I'd heard a lot of great things about it's simplicity and I'm glad I did. As a way to make sure I knew the ins and outs of KidBlog, I decided to move my classroom blog from postach.io (which operates with Evernote) to KidBlog. I was having trouble with the updates on postach.io so it wasn't a tough decision. For me, it has to be simple and it has to work every time. Plus, I'd only blogged a few times as school had just started so the transition wasn't too painful. 

Anyway, I put KidBlog on my four iPads in my room, but I haven't taught them how to use those yet. I wanted to get them all blogging at once to push for excitement and to allow for the social helping stuff that seems to always occur with technology and kids. I got the laptop cart of 30 that we have at school and logged them all on. I could have taken an easier route.  KidBlog does have this code thing where the kids could have done it themselves, but I didn't figure that out until later. It wasn't too bad though and they ALL blogged! My partner was jealous, so I created blogs for her kids too. Then she and I worked to set up her own classroom blog also through KidBlog.

I let parents know they could comment on their kid's blogs and comment they did. The kids are going to be thrilled to come in and find 3-4 comments on each post! It's so exciting and I think the energy will last all year because I plan to use these blogs as a way for the kids to showcase what they are learning and to store exemplars of their work. It'll be their digital portfolio to help them with conferences and to help them monitor how much they grow as learners. Matt Renwick author of http://readingbyexample.com/ and the book
gave me the seed of an idea and I made sure that seed grew in my classroom. This is what I will focus on all year. I will not take on too many apps or other ideas so that my kids can become an online writing community. I can't wait.

If you'd like to check out my kids blogs, go here and be prepared to be amazed!
http://kidblog.org/MrsMoransSecondGrade

9/10/14

Problem Solving not Complaining

Lately I've been hearing a LOT of complaining, some of it is even from my own mouth. Common Core this, Standards that, too many mandates without good teacher researched data to prove it works. I think I've found a way around it. Actually, I know I have because I do it all the time.

Let's call it differentiation.
Let's call it inclusion.
Heck, let's call it names those who have the ability to mandate things like to hear used.

I do what I know is right for our kids, well for the kids in my classroom. I observe my kids carefully and then I differentiate. The kicker is that I use informal observation notes to prove I know what I am doing and why.

I read.
I read.
And I read some more to make sure I've got a few other smart thinkers to back me up in case someone questions me.

"Why did you do it this way? Why aren't you using <<fill in the latest and greatest -- Daily 5, CAFE, Fountas and Pinnell>>? "
"Oh I am," I say. "I use it all to be honest, but I have to tweak it to make sure that each of my children gets a customized education." You see what I did there? Who can argue with that?

And the truth is, I am doing that and, you know what? You probably are too.

Number 1: Document what is happening with each child so that you can show you know those kids inside and out. Put it on post its if you must, but I have to admit technology like Evernote makes you look WAY more in the know (insider secret).

Number 2: Make sure you know their parents well too and they know what you do with their child in the classroom. Hence, the blog. Because, you see, when they know what you do and they see their now joyous and info hungry kid excited to get to school...they are going to back. you. up. Mark my words. And parents (despite what some might say) are powerful in the world of education.

So start there. Differentiate and be sure to invite every kind of child into your classroom so the expectation of your administration is that you want them all and you know how to make sure every one of those kids is successful.

9/9/14

Gaming in the 2nd Grade Classroom

This video mirrors my opinion. We need to activate prior knowledge and start with where kids are in order to engage kids in authentic learning. I'm not a technology teacher or a computer teacher. I'm just a plain old 2nd grade teacher who loves every kid exactly for who they are right now.

9/7/14

Using iPads Simply

Margaret Simon at Reflections on The Teche invites others to share some of the technology they find that could be useful, in and out of the classroom. 

This comes at an opportune moment for me in my teaching life because I have been working hard to use technology only where it will improve what I planned on teaching. I have been asked by several teachers both at my school and outside of my school, to support where they are and help them grow in their use of technology. I find myself continuously saying, "Keep it simple. Don't start doing too much." I have taken my own advice. This year, I have four iPads to use in the classroom throughout the day. I am going to have my kids focus on these apps.
Educreations: To help kids teach us what they have mastered
KidBlog: To help kids showcase their ideas and what the are learning before uploading to KidBlog
Pixie: To help kids respond to their reading before uploading to KidBlog
Spelling City:  To help kids feel excited about working with words
I know there are lots of other amazing apps and I may try a few others on my own to get better. I already use Evernote and Skitch. What I'm focusing on though with my kids this year is how to showcase learning with these apps instead of how to know a lot of apps. I plan to blog about how it's working as soon as I let go of the reins which is likely to be next week.

My blog post message: Keep it Simple. Don't let the app wow you. Let the children wow you because the app lets them showcase their amazing work.

8/27/14

Making the Time: Joelle Trayers

Today's Making the Time is from a blogger who never fails me. Her posts are smart, clear, and give me great ideas for teaching in smart nifty ways. Meet Joelle Trayers from
When Kimberley asked me to contribute to her weekly blog segment, I hesitated. I'd pretty much do anything for Kimberley, I admire her very much-it's just that I don't think I'm the best person to talk about prioritization when it comes to teaching. I'm a bit teaching-obsessed. People tell me that all the time. I am always thinking like a teacher, sharing stories from the classroom. I was yard sale shopping with a friend one day and picked up an Indiana Jones version of the Life game and she gave me this odd look. But it would make a great workstation! I could write letters on the squares and they could spin the dial and make words. Many people don't understand.

I do not have children of my own. This is my child
I don't think she minds that I'm a teacher-I do try out my read-alouds on her and she contributes her lovely barking when I'm recording stories for the kids. (They actually get a kick out of that because I do talk about her in class all the time). I'm writing this at 3 am on a Friday night-I did sleep for a few hours, but woke up and can't fall asleep again, so I thought I'd get up and be productive. I'm often just working on what needs to be done for tomorrow. I think teaching is different from other jobs in that it's impossible to completely catch up; there's always more to plan and prepare. You have to prioritize based on need. This past week preparing our classrooms everyone would ask "are you done?" and my response was "are we ever really done?"

I am always trying to improve my craft. I will be the first one to tell you that I do not know what I am doing half the time. I love learning about new technology or strategies, particularly ways to challenge my students. I attended 9 days of professional development from my district this summer and unfortunately got little out of it. I went to my first EdCamp last year and really liked the fact that teachers were driving the choice of topics, although I did feel like the technology they were talking about was a bit over my head. I find a lot of ideas through the blogs I read. Blogging has had the most influential impact on my growth as a teacher. The community that not only shares what they are doing in the classroom, but is also willing to give you feedback and answer specific questions you pose. I think every teacher would benefit from blogging. You have to reflect on your craft to see where you need improvements.

Sometimes it's very difficult to carve out time for yourself when you are a teacher, but it is just so important. In the evenings I will take my book outside to a bench I have in the yard and I will read while my puppy watches the world go by. Even if it's just 10 minutes, I can turn off that teacher brain for a little while and unwind. We are always thinking about our students, their parents, our colleagues, I truly believe it's important to make the time for yourself as well.

8/24/14

DigiLit Sunday: Evernote

About two months ago, the amazing Margaret Simon who blogs at Reflections on the Teche invited me to join her Digilit Sunday and I'm finally doing it. What took me so long?
I'm starting school tomorrow. It's something we call Management Days. That's two days of meetings and classroom prep and Open House. I feel very prepared this year. I think my decision to go completely digital has transformed the stress I usually feel about how my classroom looks.  I've decided to live with my iPad or my MacBook Air this year. Literally. I might even sleep with them under my pillow. I want to give myself no excuse for not putting information into Evernote.

The super exciting thing is that my Evernote is suddenly making perfect sense to me. It was like for a while it spoke French and I only spoke English and 'Je m'appelle Kimberley' French. Then I went through an immersion program this summer and KABOOM! now I speak French too AND think in it.

I've started my classroom blog with it. See post HERE.

And a few nights ago, I started using it as my lesson planner. I wish I could write that in a way that showed you how huge this is for me. I tried for TWO years to understand how to do this and suddenly it was like I could even dream in French.
It may not look like much to you, but I can access it from anywhere. I can add clickable links and I can share it with anyone--even a SUB. Do you get that? I want to marry Evernote and call him Jean Luc. I cannot wait to start school so I can use it for absolutely everything. I'll keep you posted!