Kindergarten Teacher

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Seconds, A Look Back at 2011

This week I saw an amazing video post by @bengrey where he used one second video clips to create a video story. (check it out here) Then I saw @shareski’s post using the same concept (here). The thought of a one second clip being meaningful would have never occurred to me. It was a great reminder of how important such a short period of time can be.

Those two posts inspired me to do the same. I have often wondered what I could do with the hundreds of short video clips we take each year with our iDevices. This idea seemed to be a perfect fit for those clips. I had a blast looking back through all the great videos and memories from 2011. Here is a one minute journey through the past year, one second at a time.


I wish everyone a Happy New Year. I hope many “seconds” of 2012 are joyous and meaningful to you

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5 Things I Didn’t Learn From Testing

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I thought it might be useful if I talked about what I might be missing if I focused too much on data

The names have been changed to protect the tested….

1.  Michael has a twin sister. She is a wonderful sister but she does most things for him at home, even the talking. He was lost in the class without her and needed time to build confidence and believe he could be independent. The confidence builds daily and the meltdowns are almost non-existent. He is finally starting to show his academic ability and I have no major concerns for him despite his initial low test scores.

2. Jacob is a math wizard, I noticed the first day when we took attendance. He immediately knew 11 girls and 11 boys was 22 students. When asked to explain he said  “10 + 10 = 20 and 2 more makes 22.”  Yes, he scored a full standard deviation above everyone in my class on the test, but the test said nothing about his struggles in working with friends. The “learning” that will really help him the most in school is practice and support in collaboration. I am enjoying watching his progress in working with others.

3. Emily scored high average on all her tests. She is a great student in every way. However the test didn’t say anything about her artwork. She is an amazing artist. When using new mediums and exploring new art forms she is very creative. During play/free time she often chooses painting and I love watching her create things.

4. Julia scored below average on the test. The test didn’t mention how fearful she is of failure. At the beginning of the year she would choose to do nothing rather than take a risk. She needed to trust me and the class before any learning would take place. Fearful parts of her day such as journal writing, answering questions in large group, and reading in small group are now not so scary.

5. Abraham bombed the test. He clicked through it like crazy. Finishing a job is more important to him than the quality of the job. That is fairly common in Kindergarten and having observed him in the class I know he has a great foundation of skills. What the test didn’t show is his heart. From day one he has been supportive, sensitive and loving to his classmate with special needs. He goes out of his way to play with him and ALWAYS stands by him in line to help. His heart will take him farther than any skill I could ever teach.

 

What are some things you didn’t learn from testing?

 

 

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Exploring the world in Kindergarten

My class will be using twitter again this year to connect with other Kindergarten classes around the world . We will also be participating in a postcard exchange with four other classes in North America.  I am really excited for both of these projects which will start this week! Twitter has proven to be a great way of having many “pen pals” that can all interact with each other in real time.  Communicating and collaborating via the web or social media in Kindergarten may be a foreign concept to you but I can assure it is perfectly natural for the digital natives in my class. The kids loved interacting with other classes last year and the learning that occurred was authentic.  The postcard exchange will allow us to actually hold something from another class.  I am excited for the kids to see the cards that are sent to us and the unique ways the other classes choose to communicate their world to us. I feel strongly both of these adventures will lead to expanded learning, increased vocabulary, and a better understanding of the world around us.

In preparation of these two projects I have set up a bulletin board (below) I will use this map as a constant visual  for the projects. With push-pins and string I will connect the locations of our twitter and postcard friends much like teachers have done for years. Each push-pin will be connected to an icon we will use to recognize the class.

In addition to the visual map we will also be keeping a journal of all the connections we make. I have divided up a 5 subject notebook into sections and each time we learn something new we will write in the journal (or add pics)  in that classes “section”. My hope is that kids will go to that journal , look back through what we have learned and be able to find those classes on the bulletin board map using the icons. The journal will be stored right next to the BB and will be open for the kids to use during any center activity.

The last part of what I have planned is using ScribbleMaps. I have been using this tool since the day our projector was installed. I love using maps and the site is pulled up several times a week (if not daily) in my class. It is like having the world at the tip of your fingers and that makes it a powerful tool! Sometimes it is planned, other times it is simply because we had a discussion that led to needing a map. The wonder of the day from @Wonderopolis often is something that leads to us using ScribbleMaps.  What I think will make this tool a powerful connection to the twitter and postcard projects is now every time I pull up the map we will see the pins of the classes we connect with.  It is my hope the class will start to see connections between what we are learning to others around them. This is the part that I feel was missing from the twitter project last year in my class. I can’t wait to see where these projects will take our learning and will update the progress later this year.

Side Note: It is important to note that I will not be “teaching” twitter. Twitter is simply the tool that allows me to connect easily with other classes. Yes I display the twitter stream on our projector, yes they learn words like tweet/follow/post, yes they count along as we near 140 characters, but learning social media is not a goal in this adventure.

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The End of Facebook in my Class

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My class Facebook page is shutting down this week. I was told that the district does not support it and thus must close it down. I knew this might happen, it was a risk I took in trying something so unknown without permission. I had prepared myself for this day. The page was very successful and I feel I met my goal of showing that there is more we can do to engage parents (see HERE) . Actually the success of the page is what led to its demise. The great teachers I work with also wanted to use the tool and parents began to ask why I was the only one using it. This made my principal need to address the situation and the final solution is closing it down. (Curious how I used Facebook in the class? Here are some examples)

I know there are other tools out there that are more accepted for use in the class. Well I can’t use those either. I was told is that if technology is not “approved” then we cannot use it.  I guess we must let others show us things can be successful before we use them or the idea must come from the administration dept.  So much for finding things that work in your class and bringing your passion to the room. This top-down way of professional development must be adjusted.  My district must realize that teachers are capable of finding things that work in their classroom and intelligent enough to use them. We have been a leader in education and technology for many years but now I fear we are falling behind. Look no further than my last training on web 2.0 tools. The focus was on word clouds and Google earth… yes tools that almost everyone in the nation already knows about. Actually the first 20 minutes of the training were spent defining web 2.0 tools.  The culture must change when it comes to professional development. It is time to let teachers led the way in trainings. The edcamp model clearly shows the value in this way of thinking.

Next,  I was told that one of the main reasons they don’t support using social media type tools with parents is they really don’t want parent “comments.”  They are perfectly content with the sterile “news” model of communication.  I really don’t know how to respond to this. I will just say that relationships are everything in my classroom. It is the foundation for everything I do. Parent interaction and feedback is valuable! There are so many schools that would do anything to get parents involved and we are pushing them away. I have more to say but will stop there…

Regardless of the success I have shown and the information I collected showing the tool the district uses was not working, I am still being told the district tool is the only one I can use.  I still plan to stretch the boundaries when I feel strongly about something, and I will not give up trying to engage the parents of my class. 

Thank you to all who have supported me on this journey and I am still available to help others wanting to use Facebook in the class. I might have tried and failed, but I learned a lot about the importance of a true home-school connection in the process. 

 

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Social media should be social

When I first started my adventure of using a class Facebook page I wrote a blog about my reasoning (here-> http://ow.ly/6m91l  ) . The main reason at the time was because so many parents use and are familiar with Facebook. A year later I can say that is still a great benefit to Facebook but it is not the most powerful aspect. If I were writing the same post now that thought would still make the list, but not the main point. The power of Facebook lies in the social aspect. When I started including parents in our learning with the page and allowed it to be the connection between home and school the real benefit came through. Facebook was a central part of our class because it helped create the community I desired. Parents knew more about their child’s teacher, their child, the class and the other parents.  

Facebook is more than another news source. We talked quite a bit about using Facebook tonight on #kinderchat and I’m sure there were a few teachers thinking “this is how I get them to finally read the newsletter.” Using Facebook this way might help how many parents will read the news but it won’t help you much with parent engagement. To really reach the full potential of the page you will need to let the kids “take over.” I don’t mean allowing my Kinder kids to post and comment on Facebook, I mean to let them lead the way in what to post. By the end of the year my classroom page had become the kids page. They suggested what to post, how to word it and how to respond to comments. It became their voice to the parents. This important distinction is what I think lead to the great succeeds of my page. Since the kids felt ownership they went home and asked parents to look at the page. Kids running home to talk about the day? Sound fun? You can find step by step directions on how I created my closed group on Facebook HERE

@MrWejr had a great post about the difference between talking TO vs WITH parents. Feel it fits in nice with what Im trying to say. Worth a read http://chriswejr.com/2011/09/05/parent-communication-to-vs-with/

Have questions about security or settings. Would love to help. @Matt_Gomez

 

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Fab 5

One of my new goals this year is called the Fab 5. Each Friday (or weekend) I will call 5 families from my class. I don’t have an agenda for the calls and there is not a specific topic I plan to discuss. I merely want to set aside a time that I am talking with my parents at least once a month. This is not an idea I thought of myself, Thanks to @ChrisWejr for the inspiration in his bog here http://bit.ly/eTXdIN 

This weekend I made the first set of calls. I made sure to mention something specific about their child such as how impressed I was with artwork or that they had been a great leader the first week. We chatted about dismissal, quiet time, lunch, backpacks, and bathroom breaks. It was such a relief hearing that their child was enjoying school and had a great week. Even though I didn’t hear anything negative I was prepared to listen to those things. I certainly want to be addressing any negatives as soon as possible. They will come I’m sure, but thankfully none this time.

I was not prepared for how surprised the parents were that I was calling and that most wanted to know what was wrong.  I reassured them all that there were not any issues and I was just calling to touch base and see if they had any concerns. After all the calls were finished I sat there wondering why I had not called parents more often in years past. I set the goal as something I needed to do but after this first week it changed to something I am looking forward to doing each week. I realized I get as much out of the communication as the parents do. It is a partnership after all!

 

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