Foster Parenting

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Explore and Discover

Thank you to Margaret Simon from Reflections on the Teche for hosting DigiLit Sunday.  Please visit her site to read how other educators are integrating technology into their reading and writing workshops.

"I'm not sure.  Try it and let's see what happens."  This statement, or something similar has been my mantra this year.

I decided before school started that I was going to change the way I introduced different apps and digital tools (I wrote about our core apps in an earlier post.) into my classroom.   We are using more of a "explore and discover" approach.  The technology integration teacher and I have worked closely in figuring out how to best introduce apps to the students.

We began with a quick, informal check on students' familiarity with our core apps (Pixie, Explain Everything, iMovie, GAFE, Notability).  For each app, I drew a continuum that ranged from "Never Used" to "Expert."  I gave the kids round dot stickers to place  on each continuum.  It gave us a quick look at where our class was as a whole.

First Round

For our first round, we put kids into small groups and assigned an app to them.  I created a Google document for each too that I shared with them in a Google folder. We let the kids explore the app, with little input from us.  We wanted to see what they could do on their own.  Some groups discovered a lot of different things about their assigned app, while others got stuck and didn't get very far.  It was a little messy to say the least.  However, I think that messiness is important.  When I reflect on how I learn new digital tools, it's not always a linear process.  More often than not, I go round and round, trying something, finding it doesn't really work and then trying something else.  The kids go through the same kind of process when they are learning on their own.  So, even though it took more time than we anticipated, and we didn't get the results we thought we would, it was still time well spent.  

Round Two

For round 2, we decided to give them some guiding questions.  The questions varied according to the app.  There was one commonality:  How do you save to Google Drive?  This skill is essential as it will allow students to easily share reading responses, writing projects, notes, etc. with Miss Moore and me.  

I added the questions to the original template.  We mixed groups up and let them go.  It was time well spent.  Not everyone got to every question, but everyone did discover something.  Feel free to copy the template and tweak it for your own use.  We then asked the students to share what  they learned.  Their work is also saved in the Google folder, so students can go back any time they need a refresher.  In addition, as students discover new features of the apps, they can add their discoveries to the document.

Round Three

This week we will create a chart that will help us categorize what apps will be good to use for different kinds of work.  For example, we are currently doing a small research project on space.  It will be important for the kids to know which tools will be good to use for note taking and which ones might be good for presenting their information.  

All of this information is in a shared Google folder that the kids can access any time they need it.  

We are spending quite a bit of time at the beginning of the year to lay the foundation for a strong digital reading and writing workshop.  These tools will become a regular part of our workshop, alongside the more traditional tools.  

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Establishing Routines in the Digital Reading and Writing Workshop

Thank you to Margaret Simon for hosting DigiLit Sunday.  Please visit her site to read how other educators are integrating technology into their reading and writing workshops.

I am so very fortunate to have a second grade teacher coming along the digital literacy journey with me this year.  We are working closely with our tech teacher as we look at ways to add tech tools to what Cheryl is already doing in her classroom.

Last week, we had to solve a big problem.  She has 15 iPads for her class of 21 students.  There aren't enough devices for everyone to have one at the same time.  I know from talking to other teachers, that this is a common problem.  Sometimes the problem is so big that a teacher will give up, thinking that it just won't work.

As Cheryl and I talked about how we could solve the problem, we decided to give the kids a chance to help us figure out what to do.  We had some ideas, but we wanted the students to be part of the process too.  So, when we sat down with them, we weren't really sure where they would go with their ideas.

We talked about the purpose of keeping track of our thinking while we read.  And then we moved right into why we might want to use an iPad to track our thinking and why we might want to use our reader's notebook.  

Next, came the big question:  How are we going to share the iPads when we don't have enough for each person to have one?  Hands shot up immediately and a buzz filled the room as they began to share their ideas.

Our chart shows the beginning of their thinking:
  • We can take turns.
  • We could share them.
  • We could wait for another time if we already used an iPad.
  • We could use our reader's notebook and let someone else use the iPads.
  • We could take turns using our mailbox numbers (even and odd numbers) for first choice and then if there are any left over, we can see who still wants to use an iPad.
This is just the beginning of getting routines in place for using technology in our classrooms.  Cheryl will be asking the students to keep track of their thinking this week while she reads aloud and in that process, will be practicing and having conversations with her second graders about being respectful with each other and sharing the devices.  

It's been interesting to watch the process in my classroom.  So far, it hasn't been an issue.  I have some kids who right away want an iPad or Chromebook in order to read online, while others are content with their print books.  I'm not sure it will ever be an issue, but if it is, we just might ask some savvy second graders to come up and share their solution.  

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Slice of Life Tuesday...Becoming a Mom Again

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

This summer, I joked with some friends, "I think I'm ready to be a mom again."  My husband and I have raised 3 good kids, we've survived the bumps in the road, and I'm a lot smarter now.  I kind of feel like I know what I'm doing.  In my imagination, I'd bring home a new baby and would know all the right things to do.  No more guessing, no more fretting and hoping for the best.  I wouldn't make the same mistakes again.

Three weeks ago, the call came.  Could we take in two little girls?  We hesitated for maybe 10 minutes before saying yes.

And now, my wish has come true.  I am a mom to young ones again; a first grader and fifth grader.

And guess what?  I'm still not sure about what I'm doing.  This is a different kind of parenting.  Fostering children is not like raising my own children.  I find myself still fretting and hoping for the best.

And so we go at it again.  We will make decisions the best we can.  We will still worry.  We will laugh and we will hold them and love them while they are with us.

I am a mom to young children again.

The sandwich assembly line that comes with making lunch for 7 people.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Celebrating the Nuances of Family

"Julie, come here.  See what I drew of our family."

My heart quickens.

Our family.

On the patio I see...

Six blue hearts

Sketched in blue chalk

By six year-old hands

One for Autumn

            One for Destiny

One for Annie

            One for Zach

One for Keith

            One for Julie

Our family.

In one short week, our family now means something new.

Today I celebrate quiet time (and not so quiet time) with ALL of my kids and ALL of the puppies on this long Labor Day weekend as we settle into a cozy cabin in Pennsylvania.

Thank you to Ruth Ayres for providing this space of celebration.  Visit her site to read about other celebrations.