Foster Parenting

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Unflattening the Classroom

Thank you to Margaret Simon for hosting DigiLit Sunday, a place for educators to share their experiences with technology in their classrooms.  Please visit her site to see what others are doing.

This week's CLMOOC make was to create a digital story about a public space and think about:

  • Why does this space matter?
  • How does this space shape you?
  • How do you shape this space?
I was all set to go, had my images and began to think about different digital tools, when I watched Tuesday's Make with Me where Nick Sousanis joined members of CLMOOC.  (And yes, I ordered his book, Unflattening while I watched the archived video).  He had so many great points, but one that stood out to me was the standardization of school, what testing does to students, and the importance of giving students voice and choice (my words, not his).  

I just finished reading Make Learning Personal, so I've been contemplating changes I want to make when I return to school in just a few weeks.  The math coach and I will be job sharing a 5th grade classroom (each of us teaching half day and coaching the other half).  In addition, we will be co-teaching with the special education teacher and about half of our students will have IEPs.  

I began to think about how I could "unflatten" school.  One of the first things that came to mind was the room arrangement.  Typically, on Meet the Teacher Night, students come in, find their name tags and choose a seat.  That becomes their seat until I decide it's time to change things up.  I wondered, "What would happen if we didn't have assigned seats?  How might our space change?"  I brainstormed some possibilities, knowing that it's important to get input from the kids when they return to school.  As I thought about what I might need as a learner, I thought about the following spaces that would help me:
  • a quiet place to work
  • a space to collaborate with others if needed
  • a space where I have access to technology
  • a space where I have access to tools to create
  • I need to be able to move around and spread out depending on what I'm doing
How could I create that environment for students?

I created this model during my initial thinking:

I envision a variety of places to sit, depending on students' needs:  tables, desks, plastic crates with cushions that can be moved around, and large pillows.  The large group meeting area is a non-negotiable.  The Quiet Zone is a place where students can work independently.  In the Creation Zone, students may work by themselves or with others.  It's a space where I imagine things are being made and problems are being solved.  In the Collaborative Work area, students may move desks around to form small groups.  And of course, there is a space to consult with the teacher.  Although, I can usually be found on the floor working with kids.  There will be no assigned seats.  Students will choose which space fits their purpose and needs.  We are also very fortunate because our students aren't confined to the walls in our room.  The special education teacher has a classroom that students will be able to use for small group work or if they need a place to work with no distractions.  The student always have access to areas in the hallway and media center too.  

Changing the classroom layout is only one tiny step in beginning to unflatten the classroom.  There are so many considerations as I begin to think about student choice, curriculum, lesson delivery, assessment, available tools, etc.  But it's a beginning.  

To read more about spaces, you can search the #clmooc hashtag on Twitter or the Google+ community.  

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

#CyberPD Digital Reading Chapters 6 & 7

I am participating in the summer #cyberPD group, joining others in reading and discussing Bill Bass and Franki Sibberson's Digital Reading:  What's Essential in Grades 3 - 8.  I invite you to visit the Google+ community and add your own thinking to the conversation.

As I read the chapter on assessment, I kept going back to the shift that occurs when we empower students with taking more ownership of assessing their learning as Bill describes in the section about digital portfolios.  It reminded me of the reading I've been doing about Assessment AS Learning from Making Learning Personal.  And is always the case, I end up with more questions.

What does it mean to "give students ownership of assessing their learning?"

In giving students more say in assessing their learning, the relationship between the teacher and student shifts to more of a partnership.  The first step, gathering information, includes sharing formative assessments with students as well as collecting information from them as to what they see as their needs.  There is so much information that can be gleaned from all the resources Franki mentions (anecdotal records, reading surveys, analysis of miscues and oral reading, artifacts of student work, analysis of comprehension, etc.)  It occurs to me that I have an abundance of information about my students, but I'm not sure how much of that information  they know and understand.  I am the one making decisions for what they learn next and how they will learn it.  I know that for my own learning, I am constantly reflecting and thinking about what's next for me.  I can't help but think that sharing this information with students will help them become more invested in their learning and help them set goals that are meaningful for them.  

How do I help students go through these steps?

Questions I might ask students to help them set goals, make a plan and reflect:
  • What do you notice?
  • What are you doing well?
  • What is difficult for you?
  • What would you like to improve?
  • How do you think we might work on that goal?
  • How will you show your learning?
  • How will you check your progress?
  • How will you know if you've mastered your goal?
It will be important that part of my conferring with students includes time for students to monitor their learning and reflect on what's next.  

How do I support students in sharing their learning with a larger audience?

One of my goals this new school year is to set up digital portfolios for my students.  Our district has  adopted a new LMS, Canvas, which has the ability to house portfolios for students from grades K - 12.  I'm also curious about using a wiki and plan on investigating some different spaces.   I hope to incorporate student led conferences this year that are meaningful for students and help them move forward in their learning.

 If we give students choice in these decisions, I believe that they will rise to the occasion.  I think it's important in today's world that we give students the tools to assess their learning and help them set goals.  As we prepare them for their future, we need to support them in being critical thinkers, problem solvers, and collaborators.  Making this slight shift in thinking about assessment and supplying the space for students to reflect on their learning is one of the first steps I'll be taking this new school year.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Missing The Chaos Slice of Life Story

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting Slice of Life Tuesdays.  Please visit their site to read and comment on other Slice of Life posts.

Our oldest daughter Molly just left after spending the last five days at home.  She brought her new Samoyed puppy, Harper, with her.  We all eagerly awaited her arrival because we couldn't wait for our puppies to meet her puppy.  It was 5 days of craziness with all 3 kids home and 3 puppies either playing hard or sleeping soundly.  As I sit amidst the mess, I miss the craziness already.  Poetry seemed to fit my needs as a writer today.

Missing the Chaos

I snapped photos of each puppy sleeping in various
parts of the house after a hard afternoon of playing.
The house has quietedSettled from the flurry of


The quiet invites peace,And yet leaves a hole.Yearning for the next time.


Filling our house with

I cherish every single minute.

It Doesn't Take Much Slice of Life Story

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting Slice of Life Tuesdays.  I invite you to visit their site to read and comment on other Slice of Life stories.

It doesn't take much to make me happy for my birthday.  If the day includes my family, a view of the water, good food, and good books, I am a happy girl.

And that's exactly what I got!
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If you live in central Ohio, check out The Smiling Daisy Cafe in Millford Center.

Heading to Lake Erie?  One of the nicest beaches is Headlands Beach in Mentor, Ohio. Stop at Scooter's Dawg House for ice cream and a hot dog.

I read The Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chamblis Bertman and really enjoyed it.  It reminded me a bit of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library.  I'm definitely buying a copy for my classroom library.

In the mood to bake?  Annie made Alisa Huntsman's Pistachio Cake (and took an hour to shell pistachios) and iced it with Honey Vanilla Buttercream (scroll to the bottom for the icing recipe).  Like the buttercream roses?  They're not hard to make.  Check out this video tutorial.  

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Continuing My Learning Journey #sol15

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting Slice of Life Tuesdays.  Please visit their site to read and comment on other Slice of Life stories.

If I could be a professional student, I would do it in a heartbeat.  Today was one of those days filled with great conversation, meeting new people, and lots of learning.

It started innocently enough.  A few weeks ago, Cathy shared a link about Dr. Bill Kist's class on New Literacies being held at Kent State University this week.  I sent an email, he replied with a gracious invitation to visit class one day, and we responded with a very grateful, "YES!"

I've been looking forward to this day for so many reasons...hanging out with Cathy is always good for stretching my thinking and making me laugh, I knew about Dr. Kist's work and I'm always wanting to learn more about using technology in authentic ways in my reading and writing workshop, and finally, Kent State is my alma mater.   I was going to enjoy going back as a student, even if it was for only a day.

The day started out with a Twitter backchannel that led to some sharing of great ideas... 

which then led to the purchase of two new books (and a few more added to my cart).  I can't wait to get started with Using Technology to Enhance Reading  and Using Technology to Enhance Writing.

Most exciting was the validation for what I believe...
  • Choice is key.  Learners need to own their learning.
  • All learners bring experience and knowledge to the table.  Honor that.
  • Young children are capable of making intentional decisions when composing digital texts.
  • It's important to study craft moves in multimodal pieces, just as we do in print.  The conversations we have with kids around those moves will help them be purposeful in their own digital compositions.
  • It's not about the tools.  Technology affords us more choices in tools.
  • Literacy is a social construct.  Connections are important.  Growing connections is even more important. (I was able to follow a lot more people from class)
  • PD does not have to be face to face.  One student joined the class from Saudi Arabia.  
  • Visual literacy is an important piece of comprehending multimodal pieces.  
The day ended far too quickly.  I left feeling energized and excited to do more thinking about embedding technology into the classroom in such a way that it becomes just one more way to read and write at school.  My wheels are spinning for both my coaching work and my teaching.  

Thank you to Dr. Kist, all of his students, and Cathy for making this a wonderful day!  

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Digital Reading What's Essential #cyberPD

I am joining educators from all over as we read and discuss Bill Bass and Franki Sibberson's Digital Reading:  What's Essential for Grades 3 - 8 hosted by Cathy Mere, Laura Komos, and Michelle Nero.  If you are interested in reading more, stop by the Google Community to read and comment on others' reflections.

The advancement of technology and digital tools has made me think more deeply about my reading and writing workshops.  It's forced me to look closely at what changes and what stays the same.  Through talking with others, (which include virtual conversations, thanks to technology), reading professional books, blogs, online articles, and attending professional development (again, some of which is virtual), I am convinced that the foundation of reading and writing workshop stays the same.   Franki's statement below sums it up beautifully.

"Fast forward twenty-plus years.  I believe ore strongly than ever that workshop matters and that students will need time, ownership, and response if they are to grow as readers."  pg. 17

And yet, there are still differences, which this book is helping me dig deep into my own reading process to help me define what those differences are.  The introduction of technology and digital tools opens the world of choice:  choice in media, choice in texts, choice in how to share, choice in with whom to share, choice in how to reflect and respond to one's reading.  It's mind boggling for myself as an adult reader.  When I think about the implications for what we need to teach kids, it becomes even more important to me that I am very purposeful in my teaching.  It become paramount that I am watching kids closely, analyzing their reading behaviors, having conversations with them, and helping them be metacognitive about their own reading/thinking so that they can be purposeful and intentional about their reading lives.

As I read, I began to recognize holes in my repertoire of resources and mini-lessons.  One of those areas is explicitly modeling my thinking as I navigate a web based article.  Figure 1.3 on pg. 10, "How digital reading expands traditional reading skills" helped me see where I might need to create some resources to help my students.

Because I am going to be teaching 5th grade next year, I also know that I need to begin to gather some content area texts.  It's no secret that my go-to website for many different purposes is Wonderopolis.  I found a Wonder that goes with our science curriculum to demonstrate my thinking as I read.  I used Explain Everything as my tool of choice.  It allows me to add the live website, write on the document and add my voice.  I can then add this final project to a digital bulletin board for my students to access.

In my classroom, I would probably record this lesson, add the chart we complete after the lesson, and put it on the digital bulletin board (Padlet) and my website.

There are still some things to work out on this's not perfect!

So, what did I do as a reader? (I would chart students' thinking at this point)

  • I set a purpose.  I am reading to get more information about a science topic, forces and motion.
  • I asked a question.  Why were my cousins' cannon ball splashes always bigger than mine?
  • I previewed the article by skimming through the text and looking for key words, headings, etc.
  • I began to read.  
  • I clicked on hyper-linked words I wasn't sure of.  The links provided me with a definition and helped me better understand what I was reading.
  • When my understanding broke down, I reread.
  • I asked questions as I read.
  • I underlined text.
  • I created a mental image of what happened when someone does a cannon ball dive.  I drew that mental image to the side of the text.
  • I paraphrased what I read to see if I understood the text.  
  • I determined what was important to my understanding.  I did not click on each and every link.
  • At the end I summarized what I learned.  My thinking grew as I gained a better understanding to my question.

I feel like I've just touched the tip of the iceberg in this chapter.  So many, many things to think about, which gives me more questions to ponder:

  1. What is the best place to create a space to help match kids to digital texts as well as print?
  2.  What digital texts can I add to pique kids' interest?  Where can I find those digital pieces?
  3. Does watching a video count as reading?
  4. If it does, how do I balance the needs of kids who need extra support in print text?
  5.  How do I read websites differently than I read blogs?  How do I read multi-media pieces?  What's important to teach kids about those reading practices?
  6. How do I support students in being intentional when reading and choosing reading material?
  7. How can I use formative assessment to analyze student reading behaviors?
  8. What are the skills I my students need to learn and how do I ensure that I am embedding technology into my instruction without making it all about the tool?
  9. Where do I begin to support students in making meaningful connections with other readers inside and outside our classroom walls?
  10. How does in the introduction of technology change reader's response?
  11. How do I ensure student ownership and help parents understand the important work their kids are doing?
I'm sure as I read more and dive into the reflections from others in the #cyberPD community, I will have even more questions to consider.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

#CLMOOC Make #2: ReMEDIAting

I wasn't quite sure where to being with this week's make, which is one of the things I love about #clmooc.  It stretches my thinking, which of course always takes me back to my practice in the classroom.  My offhand comment to Christina Cantrill on Thursday's Twitter chat got the wheels spinning, and the ideas kept coming.

I began to think about all the making I do in the kitchen.  I love to cook and the more creative I can be, the better.  So...

I had rhubarb, peaches and blueberries sitting in the fridge.
Could I reMEDIAte my favorite apple crisp recipe?  Of course I could.
I snapped a few photos to post on Instagram.

Hmmm...what would these look like in the Kaleidoscope app?  I had tried that for the first time last week and liked the effect it had on my images.  Another reMEDIAtion.

Could this count as my make?  It could, because there are no wrong answers (another reason I love #clmooc).

But I soon realized I wasn't done.  Could I take one of these images and turn them into wall art for my semi-bare kitchen walls?  What could I add?

A quote.  Yes, a kitchen quote was what I needed.  A Julia Child kitchen quote.

"Cooking is like love.  It should be entered into with abandon, or not at all."

I headed over to my favorite design tool for images, Canva and played with fonts, shapes, color and transparency to come up with this final image.  (I highly suggest you go through some of the tutorials to learn some cool design ideas).  And one more reMEDIAtion.

The next and final step will be to have this printed so that I can frame it and hang it in my kitchen.  

Thank you to the #clmooc community for pushing my thinking and allowing the time and space needed for this creation to exist.  

I will be adding more this week about the iterative process and the implications for my classroom. 

 So. Much. To. Think. About. And. Process.

Please visit Margaret Simons' Reflections on the Teche where she hosts DigiLit Sunday.  Check out how others are sharing their great work and smart thinking.