Archive of ‘Professional Practice’ category

Authentic Learning using Skype

In my classroom we have been using Skype in the Classroom to meet experts and ask authentic questions.

I started asking my class what they wanted to learn about during the year. We made a huge list and I tried my best to get a bunch of experts to cover most of the topics. We skyped with different classrooms and experts around the world.

Our favourite by far was skyping with SANCCOB a Penguin and Seabird rehabilitation centre in South Africa. They first gave us a presentation about what they do and then we had a question time with a penguin! 

Here are some students asking questions. 

 There is nothing better than thinking of a question, asking it and getting the answer right away. 

* Thanks to the parents of my students who allowed me to use these videos.

Making Thinking Visible in my Primary Classroom

I just finished running a book club called #bowkerbooks this winter. The participants signed up for the book club and voted for the book they wanted to read. The selection that was  chosen was “Making Thinking Visible” by Ron Ritchhart, Mark Church, Karin Morrison. 

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During this weekly chat, we would discuss a chapter with predetermined questions based on that chapter. I kept on thinking that my class, a very active grade 1/2 class wouldn’t be able to do these routines. I had tried asking my class  “Can you tell me more about that?,” a strategy to get students to further elaborate on what they said.

This week, after the book club had ended, I decided to try a new routine ‘See, Think, Wonder.’ When my students came in from 1st recess I had a picture up on the screen. You need to know that my students usually talk over each other and can only sit for 10 minutes at a time listening, but this time was different.

Mona_LisaI honestly couldn’t believe the thoughtful questions that my students asked. I was blown away by their questions. To hear the audio of this, click here.

The next day, I decided to try it again. I put up a picture of “The Scream.”


At first I thought I shouldn’t have picked this painting since my students came in saying it was scary and creepy. But the discussion we had was amazing. They had great thoughtful questions again and really made connections. They even took the picture and inferred that he was lost. We also got into a debate whether it was a boy or girl. To listen to the audio, click here.

I googled the painting and showed them a map of Oslo, where that painting is. Then they were curious about where the ‘Mona Lisa’ was so we googled that. I showed them the Louvre and they thought the pyramid was so cool. Then we took a virtual tour of the Louvre.

This was my first experience with this class of real inquiry learning. For over an hour my class sat still, listened and asked thoughtful questions.

I’m going to do this a lot more often!



Classroom Technology Usage Posters

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As we use more and more technology in our classrooms, I find myself getting confused about which students I can post pictures of on our classroom website, twitter and who is allowed to skype.

At the beginning of the year, when you collect your technology in the classroom permission forms, you can make these posters so that students, staff and visitors know which students they can take pictures of.  It is also a great reminder for you to remember who not to post on your classroom blog and twitter account.

If you know me well, you know that I have a love for Mario Brothers. Here are some examples of the posters using Mario and Luigi.

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This resource should be printed and displayed on your classroom wall and should be easily seen in the classroom.

Click on any of the pictures or on this link to get the free downloadable resource with the 4 different display options.

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Week 2: Cold Thaw Collaboration Challenge

I am participating in the Cold Thaw Collaboration Challenge being put on by the wonderful Maria Verwey. For week 2 we have been asked what we are reading, what our professional goals are for this year and our one word for 2015.


Right now I’m reading ‘Making Thinking Visible’ which is my book club book. 047091551x

This upcoming Wednesday we are reading and discussing Chapter 2. Last week we discussed Chapter 1 and I was blown away by the amazing discussion we had. You can still participate and sign up here.

I’m also reading ‘What Great Teachers do Differently’ by Todd Whitaker.


Right now I have a lot of professional goals. I became a Google Educator in the summer and I’m working on becoming a Google Trainer this year.

Since it is my first year being a contract and permanent teacher, I’ve been focused on learning about how a school really works. I joined the School Learning Plan Committee (SLP), the Lead Team, and am hoping to be on our Technology Team.

I’m also focused on continuing to provide great PD opportunities. I am hoping to do that through a Summer Conference I’m hoping to help plan, my #bowkerbook club that is happening right now and maybe in the summer months, applying to present at a ETFO Summer Academy workshop and another Edcamp Ottawa next fall. I am also hoping to continue with Ontario’s Edchat (@Onedchat) and make it more popular.

In my classroom I also want to focus more on learning rather than marks and continuing to try to collaborate and do cool projects even though it seems to not be working out this year.

My One Word: 

My one word is Care. I wrote a post about it here.


New Goals for a New Year

I’ve been struggling this year. It’s my second year teaching grade 1 and I thought it would simpler. Now I have some Grade 2’s, I’m at a different school, and I have 25 very busy and chatty students. I find this year so different than last year and I’m having a really difficult time with it.

I was inspired by Pernille Ripp and Kathy Cassidy this past summer to start the year using devices, to have students blog, to show our learning, to skype, and for my students to lead the learning but it hasn’t happened.

It took forever to get working computers in my class, my class is so loud and my students still are not into routine.

I have felt defeated and like I’m lying about all these amazing ideas I have for the classroom but I cannot put them into effect yet.

I was reading Twitter last week and came across this tweet from George Couros.

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It was like a lightbulb went off in my head. Learning is: social, making connections, asking questions, about creating, everyone is a teacher and learner.

Here is a great visual by Sylvia Ducksworth.


I’m going to start the new year off differently. I’m going to start units off by asking my students what questions they have about the topic. Then I will create the plan from there.

A new goal for a new year.

Learning about Accountable Talk

Accountable Talk PD – November 10th, 2014

Our School’s Mission Statement for our SLP:
If we engage students in accountable talk and model the strategies then students will have better understanding.

What do we know about accountable talk?

  • oral communication
  • describes
  • ownership/accountable for learning
  • students talking to each other in class
  • explains and can answer questions
  • focusing on big ideas
  • script-I agree with ____ because___
  • I disagree with ____ because____

What do we wonder about accountable talk?

  • would love a guide to know how to implement it in our classrooms
  • a concrete definition to what accountable talk is
  • what is the past term for accountable talk

Lucy West Video on Accountable Talk:

  • need to learn how to listen to the teacher and other students
  • need to encourage students sharing with other students
  • need to repeat over and over again
  • need to SLOW DOWN in our teaching and focus on what students heard
  • always ask further questions when students answer questions
  • What does Revoice mean? Means rewording what a student said
  • ”student talking to learn”

Accountable Talk is….:

  • less teacher talk, more students explaining and teaching each other
  • students being respectful with a rich discussion
  • visible thinking
  • teacher is a guide to allow students to come to their own conclusions
  • articulation of students thinking
  • need to create a safe classroom so students feel safe to fail/make mistakes

Lucy West video-Barriers to Accountable Talk:

  • about the task

Why is Accountable Talk important:

  • need to clearly, concisely make your self be understood
  • clarifying thinking
  • discovery learning
  • drawing conclusions
  • inquiry learning
  • we want to communicate with others, we need to teach them to talk with a purpose

How can we make Accountable Talk work in our Classroom?
Need to create a safe classroom for accountable talk to happen

  • explicitly teach it and model it
  • mixed ability groupings
  • use talking stick/object so students can only talk when they have the object
  • visual reminder

Teacher Prompts:

  • I’ll restate/revoice what you just said. Listen to make sure I got it right.
  • ”How do you know it’s true?”
  • ”How are these things similar/different?”
  • “Can you repeat what he just said in your own words?”
  • “Can you tell me more about that?”
  • “Ok. Let me see if I understand.”

Student Prompts:

  • “How are they similar/different?”
  • “What I heard is….”
  • “So what you’re saying is…”
  • “I do think this because…”

Language Stems:

Accountable Talk Toolkit:

Too Loud Class-My new strategy

My class of Grade 1’s and 2’s are really loud. I know they are just learning how to do school, they are excited and right now, I have 29 students. That is A LOT!

I have talked to my students about how loud it is, tried to get them to whisper, put on an app called Too Loud and nothing seems to work right now.

My new game plan: I’m going to put on the app Too Loud. Everytime the app goes off indicating they are too loud I will mark it down for one whole day. I’m not going to tell them to be quiet and hope the app with remind them to be quiet. The next day I’m going to tell them how many times the app went off. We will talk about a goal that they want to hit. We will talk about some strategies to help them be quieter and why we need to be quieter.

Really hoping it works. I’ll let you know how it goes.


Setting our Classroom Up TOGETHER

I said on the 1st day of school that it is their classroom. Today I showed them. We created our classroom today. All the ideas were given and voted on by the students.

We first started with where we wanted to put the smartboard, then to desks. 

This is all the variations they came up for our desks.

Every student had a say and then we moved. It was loud, busy, and amazing. To see the before pics, check them out here. Here is the final outcome.

I really enjoyed this process. We had to problem solve through it which was really cool. I’m really proud of what they decided on.  What do you think?

This is going to be harder than I thought

Based on my summer reading ‘Passionate Learners’ by Pernille Ripp, I really want to give my students more choice.
I have been trying… I told them it is their classroom and to give suggestions about setting it up, classroom jobs, where they sit, where to hang their backpack, pencil sharpening, loud voices. All their suggestions aren’t really helpful. I know if takes time to build trust for brutal honesty but I’m not sure if they ‘know how to do school’ like Pernille talks about.

So far it really isn’t working. Today in Math, they were not listening and being silly. So I straight out asked ‘what is going on?’ They know that they are supposed to be sitting quietly and listening so they just told that back to me. I asked them ’ are you bored’ and an honest yes came out. I asked who was bored and most of my class raised their hand. A brutal honest truth which is exactly what I wanted.

Now what to do. I am going to talk about our ‘I can statements’ tomorrow and I’m going to let them decide how they are going to learn it. I am unsure of how this will go. I guess we will see.

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