Sunday, November 24, 2013

Joyous Chinese Cultural Center

The following was posted last week on my classroom blog.

We had a wonderful day of learning at the Joyous Chinese Cultural Center. We went to sessions on making dumplings, doing Kung Fu/Fan Dances, doing paper cutting and doing calligraphy. Check out the photos below to get a peek into how we spent our day.  Thanks so much to all of the chaperones who went along and were so helpful all day. (If you get this post by email, you will need to go directly to the blog to enjoy the Haiku Deck.)


The following was posted last week on my classroom blog.

We are climbing this week in PE. Thanks to all who came to belay the climbers. We truly appreciate it. Enjoy the Haiku Deck below. (If you get this post by email, you may need to go directly to the blog to view the Haiku Deck.)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Learning from Friends

This was originally posted on my classroom blog.

We have been so lucky to connect with Mrs. Price and her class from Australia this year. We have learned so much from each other in just a few short months with plans for more. Earlier I wrote a post that shared some of the tweets that we have sent back and forth (click here to read the previous post) but I thought I would provide a little update on things we have learned since then.

A Few Things We Have Learned from Mrs. Price's Class
We learned about an animal that we had not heard of before. It is called an echidna. It lives in Australia and it looks like a porcupine with a long nose. Mrs. Price shared this video with us that she took while walking in a national park.

 We also learned that in Australia, McDonald's is called Maccas.
Source: Link

We learned about a yummy looking dessert called Pavlova that is a favorite in Australia.

 Mrs. Price sent us a picture of her Pavlova plate with the recipe in the center of the plate.

We also enjoyed getting this video from them so that we could hear their voices.

We also learned some interesting things about the largest rock in the world from Sam's grandma and Mrs. Price in the comments of this post.

A Few Things Mrs. Price's Class Has Learned from Us
They learned about Tellagami's by watching the Tellagami's that we posted on our Kidblog page. Here is Mrs. Price's Tellagami that she shared with us.
They saw how we created patterns using popsicle sticks (they call them icypole sticks) and wanted to try it themselves. They sent us some photos of their patterns. They were so creative with their patterns. We saw more pictures. This is just a sample of the photos.

They also learned more about our American holiday of Halloween. They enjoyed watching the slideshow of our costumes on our blog.

We are going to try to Skype with their class tomorrow afternoon. (Let's hope we don't have any technical issues.) Our crew also wants to begin a conversation about coins/money in our countries so we can notice any similarities and differences. So much to learn!

Sunday, November 3, 2013


So I have been absent from this blog lately. I have been processing many changes in my school district and limiting my writing to just my classroom blog where I could stay in my comfort zone. All of that began to change for me last Friday during our professional development day. As a staff we took a day long course on creativity that happened to be taught by our own Art teacher. It was a very inspiring day. It made me think a lot about the ways that I currently ask my students to be creative and how I can improve upon that. It was interesting to learn that there is a defined creative process.

The Creative Process
  • Observe and analyze
  • Generate and select
  • Discover and apply
  • Revise and refine
  • Apply and evaluate
What we ended up noticing and talking a lot about is how this process is basically the same process as the writing process, the problem solving process in math, the scientific method and the inquiry model. It is also similar to the process of using reading strategies that we teach readers who are just beginning to decode text. It is a way to describe many processes. It is all about thinking. I want to use this new knowledge to help my students begin to see at a much deeper level all of the cross-curricular connections. The creative process is a learning process and can be applied in many areas. If they learn the basic process using whatever labels are developmentally appropriate for them, my students will have learned how to learn. For me this is exciting and I can't wait to dig in.

The Creative Process in my Room Now
Currently we use this general process in all academic areas but it seems to stand out the most in our Writer's Workshop, Math Exchanges Workshops, Number Sense Workshops, various apps on our iPads (ShowMe, Tellagami, etc.) and in our Social Studies and Science Expeditions.  I have worked hard to add short times to our days where students can also use this process. One of these is the Build and Create Station. At this station, we rotate through collections of various building toys - blocks, gears, pattern blocks, dominoes, marble towers and a new version that we call a Maker Station. The Maker Station version of the Build and Create Station is when we gather lots and lots of recyclable materials and the students can make anything they want. It has been very popular.

New Challenge
The day ended with a challenge from our principal. She asked us to dive into the creative process ourselves as learners. She asked us to think about our "perfect" classroom and think about what we would see there. She challenged us to take one idea from this thinking and try to implement it using the creative process. She encouraged us to think big and be willing to fail and try again. Her question to us was, "What matters enough to me that I'm willing to fail while trying?" She also asked to let one thing go that is currently on our plate to make room for this new thing. I am now pondering what I will try. I know that I am excited to try something new - I just have to choose one thing. So I would like to throw this question out to you. What would you try? How would you choose? What matters enough to you? I really want to know.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

We Are All Experts

Yet another post from my classroom blog that I wanted to share here because it relates to some of the thinking we did during #cyberpd this summer.

We Are All Experts
One of my goals as a teacher is to help each child find the things that they are passionate about and to know their own strengths. To get us started thinking about this we talked about the words “passionate” and “expert” during a recent morning meeting. Then we thought for a couple of days about what our passions and strengths might be. Finally, we created the charts shown here. We use these charts to help us remember that we are all good at something. This helps on those days when something might seem particularly challenging. We also use them to get to know our crew members better. We know who to ask if we need help or have a question about something. We can also use the charts to help us recommend good books that we find to others. They are also great conversation starters and have led to some wonderful sharing. We are all really starting to appreciate our differences and similarities and how these change over time. It is so exciting to me to see the crew really show a deeper understanding of each other and our strengths. Click on the picture to see a larger version of it.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Fall Voyage

I seem to be using posts from my classroom blog here a lot lately. I need to get back to doing more reflective posts, too. In the meantime, here is another post that I had on my classroom blog today.

Our Fall Voyage was a big success and lots of fun for all. Below is a slideshow of photos from our trip. You can either just hit play and watch this slide show or you can use the arrows at the bottom of the pictures to move more quickly or to go backward and forwards. Have your child watch it with you so they can tell you all about each picture. Below the slideshow are some facts, stories, etc. about our trip.


Why do we have a Fall Voyage?

We have a Fall Voyage for many reasons.
  • We take voyages to push students just a little bit out of their comfort zone. Real learning occurs when you are pushed out of your comfort zone and are challenged to try things you have not done before. For some first graders the biggest challenge is simply being away from home for a night and learning that they can trust other adults and themselves. For others the challenge is being responsible for themselves and their gear instead of counting on mom or dad to keep track of everything. Most are challenged in some way by the activities of the voyage. They must learn to work together, show perseverance when trying to find solutions to challenging problems, push themselves physically, and start to show independence in an age-appropriate manner.
  • I love the voyages because I get to see the students in a completely different environment and see other strengths that they have that might not show up in a classroom.
  • The voyages are also a great place for the students to practice the character traits that we have been working so hard to learn in class. Students also bring back some of the confidence and new skills that they learned on the trip and are able to apply them to academic learning.
  • We also all form tight bonds as a crew and are able to work very well together for the rest of the school year.

What did we do at Camp Elim?

In addition to eating, sleeping, packing, unpacking and taking care of ourselves, we also had time for some learning and some fun. Listed below are the activities we did along with a very short description.

Initiatives (Problem Solving Challenges)
Bag It – This activity had us feeling objects in bags to try to figure out what they were or finding the object we put in the bag without looking. We learned to use other senses rather than simply rely on sight to gather clues and make decisions.

Camouflage Hide and Seek - A unique version of hide and seek that can be played in a wooded area.

Nature Hunt at the Lake - This was a beautiful walk around a lake. We were challenged to really look at, listen to and smell what was around us. We had a list of things to look for and check off as we found them.

Web of Life - During this activity, we learned about how plants and animals depend on each other. We all chose an animal and then made a web (with string) to show how they are all related and what happens to the whole web when one animal is removed.

Recreational Activities

Alphabet Hike - At the beginning of this hike, we were all given a card with a letter of the alphabet on it. During the hike we had to look for things that started with that letter of the alphabet.

Obstacle Course – There were several physical challenges at this station.

Solo Hike – This was a short walk with a stop for a little solo time to reflect on the voyage. The kids chose spots within a set boundary and they sat by themselves just thinking and reflecting about the Voyage.

Chapel Games - There were several fun running and very active games that were played in the large chapel.

Other Items

We had a big campfire with skits and lots of laughter. This was a big hit for most of the crew. I am sure that they will tell you all about the spitting contest between two of the counselors to put out the fire.

The meals were very good. For dinner we had spaghetti, green beans, salad and garlic bread with a cupcake for dessert. For breakfast we had pancakes and sausage. There was also a breakfast bar with fruit, granola, oatmeal and hard boiled eggs. Then for lunch we had pizza, salad and grapes with ice cream bars for dessert.

It really was a wonderful trip. Thanks again to all of the chaperones who gave so generously of their time. Chaperoning is just like parenting or teaching – the toughest job you will ever love.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

How We Celebrate Birthdays

The following post was also posted on my classroom blog. I thought it was time for a non-technology post on this blog so I am posting it here, too. I didn't want to give the impression that I am all about technology (if you ask my crew of 1st graders they would say that I am all about reading).

Wow! We have had so much fun with birthday treats this year. We started off with a great treat from Gabriel of two mechanical pencils - a big deal with first graders. Then today we had two birthday treats in one afternoon. Allison brought in goody bags with dry erase crayons, a notebook and a pencil. She has also invited the entire crew to her pool party at the Rec Center. Joseph ended our day with his birthday treat of a science experiment. We "blew" up balloons using the chemical reaction of vinegar and baking soda. The crew absolutely loved it! Each child brought home a balloon and instructions to do the experiment again at home.

I truly love how these treats are healthy and include all of the members of our crew (regardless of allergies and food intolerances). Thanks to those parents who have started us off so well with our birthday celebrations.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Our New Twitter Friends

This post was posted earlier in the week on my classroom blog. I thought it might be of interest to readers of this blog, too.

 We have made some new friends through our crew Twitter account this year and we are already learning so much from them. We are only in the getting to know you stage of our friendship and we hope to learn more and maybe collaborate on some projects in the future.

The first friends we made were Mrs. Price's class from Victoria, Australia. In just a few short days, we have already learned so much about Australia, time zones, weather and more. Below are a few short snippets of our Twitter conversations with them but these are always followed by more discussion and map viewing in our classroom. Enjoy the snippets and feel free to check out our crew Twitter account @MsJillsCrew for more of the conversation. They have sent us more questions tonight that we will answer and discuss tomorrow.

We have also started conversations with two classes from Ohio, Mrs. Mere's class and Mrs. Frazier's class. Here are the beginnings of those conversations.

We can't wait to see what tomorrow will bring.  Be sure to ask your child about this and maybe follow along with us on Twitter.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Hopes and Dreams of My First Graders

On the first day of school, I asked my crew of students what their hopes and dreams were for the school year. Their thoughts, voices and drawings are in the 30 Hands presentation below. (If you get this post by email, you will need to go directly to the blog to view the presentation.) I will admit to having had a challenging meeting one day at school and I refreshed my attitude by working on this presentation that evening. Listening to my students' voices is like a magic tonic for me.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

My Kind of School

School has started for me. Teachers reported back last Thursday and Friday. On Monday and Tuesday we will spend the days hosting Listening Conferences for parents. Students will come on Wednesday. Am I ready? Yes, indeed. I can't wait to get back to it. I love the philosophy of my school as I have mentioned before. To give you an tiny taste of what my school is like, take a look at our new staff t-shirts.

Front of the shirt

Back of the shirt

Close-up of the logo of our school that is on the front of the shirt

Sunday, July 21, 2013

TED Talks That Demonstrate Who Owns the Learning

I must begin by saying that I love TED Talks. I always have but it was difficult to find time to watch them. The day I figured out that I could watch them on my ipad while on the treadmill was such a happy day for me. It helped me find time to watch TED talks and it motivated me to get on the treadmill.

In the last week or so, I have watched a couple of talks that seem to demonstrate the ideas from the beginning of Who Owns the Learning when Alan November talks about students finding problems in their community and working to try to solve them. I don't think that I would show these talks to my first graders but those who teach upper grades could. My first graders do love it when I tell them stories and I think that I could share the stories in these TED talks with them and that they would understand and enjoy them. I think watching/hearing about these stories could make our students more aware of the possibilities that are open to them. I know that I felt very uplifted and inspired after watching these talks.

The first TED Talk that demonstrates this is one done by Jack Andraka who worked out his ideas for an early detection test for pancreatic cancer - all before he turned 16, using what he knew he could find on the internet.

The next TED talk is by Miranda Wang and Jeanny Yao who stumbled upon the problem of finding a bacteria that could break down plastic while they were in 12th grade.


Another TED talk that I want to share is a collaboration between four adults who are working together (and asking others to join them) in working to create a way for other sentient species (dolphins, orangutans, elephants,etc.) to be able to connect to the internet.

The last TED talk that I want to share is by Richard Turere a 13-year old boy from the Masai community who invented a way to prevent lions from attacking his family's cattle. While he does not use the internet, it definitely shows how he noticed a problem in his community and worked on a way to solve it.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

I Did It Again

Today is Part 3 of our #CyberPd event. We will be discussing chapters 5 and 6 of Who Owns the Learning by Alan November. Laura Komos will be hosting the event today on her blog, Ruminate and Invigorate. Be sure to stop by and add the link to your post and check out what others have to say.

Why is the title of this post, "I Did It Again" you might ask? Well, it is because I did again what I often do when reading a professional development book(s). I let myself become intimidated by the ideas in the book I was reading and began to feel like I could never do this - or never "catch" up with all of the learning that I need to be a good teacher in this time of major change. Phrases like "global audience", "global communicator", "synergies", and "the legacy of student contribution" had me feeling like this was all too much or too big to be able to handle. (I was going to add "in a primary classroom" to that last sentence but it is a lot at any level.) It didn't help matters that I also was dipping into several other professional books at the same time while reading blogs and tweets. All of this converged and I felt like maybe I could not do this job anymore.

Random bits of paper and gum wrappers used as bookmarks show how quickly I was grabbing books to read and putting them back down again.
But here's the thing. I can do this job and I want to do this job (this blog is called My Primary Passion for a reason) so I had to slow myself down and think. I read a few blog posts and watched a few TED talks that helped me think about slowing down. Here are a few samples:

Unhurrying the Hurried Educator: A Convo about Personal Learning and Passion by Pam Moran
Why you should set soft goals for your classroom this year by Vicki Davis
The art of having your own back by Sarah Berry
TED Talk: Cloudy with a chance of joy by Gavin Pretor-Pinney

Now these links do not have anything to do with the reading that we did this week but I think it is important that we all take care not to overwhelm ourselves. It is especially important when so many things are being requested of us by so many people. (Or when we are even being overwhelmed by people reminding us to slow down and have fun.)

So how do I normally handle these feelings? I STOP. I stop letting my thoughts spin. I take a break from twitter, blog reading and professional book reading. What happens for me during this time is that ideas percolate in my brain and begin to come together for me. I did just take a break like this and when I was done, my family noticed that I was extra chatty during dinner about all of the things that I was going to try this next year in school - the ideas began to come together for me. Taking that break allows me to remember that I am me - not Alan November, not Kathy Cassidy, not Kylene Beers, not Frankie Sibberson, not Cathy Mere, not Laura Komos - even though I love these teachers and the ideas that they share. I am me and I will never be able to be exactly like anyone else.

What works for me is to read and read and read without really taking notes or highlighting or anything. Then I let the ideas simmer for a while in my mind and play against each other. Then I create my list of things that I would like to try in my classroom. This list is always just a suggestion of things I can try. I do as many as I can when I feel like the time is right. I also often notice things happening in my room that I can attribute to my reading and thinking but that were never on my official list. If I let go of my need to do it all, I end up doing a lot.

So what are a few things I want to put on my list for next year? Here are a few ideas from this week's reading that I am sure I will add to as the summer progresses:
  • Create a class Twitter account to begin to connect more with other classrooms. (If you have a class Twitter account, I would love to know your thoughts about how it has worked for you along with your Twitter handle.)
  • Actively work on building a global audience for my students using twitter, blogs and possibly epals. (We do have an audience outside of our classroom but it is still rather small.)
  • Create a research folder of apps on our classroom ipads to make researching ideas easier for my primary students.
  • Reread and browse the #cyberpd Pinterest page that Cathy created for all of us to contribute to and use.
  • Participate in more Skype calls with other classrooms, authors, grandparents, etc.
  • Think about the "big picture" of what I want students to know and be able to do using tech tools to make sure that I am being purposeful.
  • Breathe. Every month. Every week. Every day. Let things happen and be willing to go with new things that come up even if they feel scary.
Our #cyberpd event consists of multiple parts:

July 3rd: Chapters 1 and 2 - Hosted by Cathy Mere at Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Community

July 10th: Chapters 3 and 4 - Hosted here at My Primary Passion

Today: Chapters 5 and 6 - Hosted by Laura Komos at Ruminate and Invigorate

July 22nd: Final chat about the book on Twitter using the hashtag #cyberpd

 You can participate in several ways:
  • You can write a blog post with your thoughts about the section we are reading for the week and add the link to your blog in the comments of the host blog.
  • You can add your thoughts directly in the comments of the host blog.
  • You can share your thoughts on Twitter using the hashtag #cyberpd.
  • You can come up with another way to share you ideas. We would love to see a new, creative way to join the conversation.
We hope that you will join us as we read, reflect and share our ideas about this book.

If you are interested in past #cyberpd discussions, here are some links for you:
2011 #cyberPD:  Conferring:  The Keystone of Reader's Workshop
2012 #cyberPD:  Opening Minds
2013 #cyberPD: Who Owns the Learning (posts from the event so far)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Beginnings of a Plan of Action ~ #CyberPD Part 2

Today is Part 2 of our #CyberPd event. We will be discussing chapters 3 and 4 of Who Owns the Learning by Alan November. I am hosting the discussion here today so if you have a blog post or ideas to share, please add them to the comment section below. Throughout the day, I will be updating this post with a list of links to the other posts that people have shared. So be sure to check back and see what others have shared. The comment sections of each blog have been filled with wonderful conversations that you won't want to miss. #CypberPD is also a great way to find others to follow on Twitter and follow more of the conversation there. You can follow me at @jillfisch. You can leave your Twitter name along with the link to your post in the comment section so others can follow you, too.

The chapters today dealt with having students act as scribes or researchers in your classroom in order to benefit the learning processes of all of the students in the classroom. The example of a scribe was having a student take notes from the lesson of the day and post them for the rest of the class (or others) to access. Having a student act as a scribe may be a bit of a stretch in the primary grades but reading the chapter did cause me to think about how I could adapt this to my situation. The chapter on students as researchers was not as much of a stretch and gave me lots to think about. So for this post, instead of focusing on my questions, I am going to focus on the beginning of my plan of action for the upcoming school year.

Beginnings of a Plan of Action
  • Students as Researchers - I love the idea of having a student sit at a computer to immediately look up answers to questions that come up during the day. I will probably modify that to have iPads placed strategically around the room so that students can grab one to fact check or look up information quickly and easily. At the beginning of the year, they will need a lot of support with this but as the year progresses, they will become more independent.
  • Teachable Moments - I don't think I will do a series of lessons on checking the reliability of a site but I will use those teachable moments that come up as the students are acting as researchers to teach some of the more basic ideas of site reliability and validity.
  • Students as Scribes - This one had me stumped for a while and I am still not sure if I will use this "chore" in first grade or not. We kind of do this now when students write posts for their Kidblogs about what we have learned in class but it is not set up in a formal way. I could also go back to the idea of having "guest posts" on our classroom blog so that it is a more systematic way for students to share and explain what we have learned in class. I stopped this once each student had their own blog but there could be value in starting it back up again. (It would certainly draw more parent attention to the classroom blog.) I am still thinking about this one.
  • Students as Tutorial Designers - I definitely plan to continue to do this with my students. It is very beneficial to other students, to parents and to me (as an informal assessment of what a child knows and can do). I am beginning to play with some apps (in addition to ShowMe) that might provide more options to the tutorial creators. I am also toying with the idea of housing them somewhere other than each child's Kidblog but I am not sure whether I will do this or not. Having them on the Kidblogs has been working very well for us so I am not sure that I want to add another "place" for the students to have to visit. As we all know, many times, less is more.
I am excited to read the last chapters and add more to this plan of action. I am sure that it will continue to change and grow over the summer as I continue to think about all of this and then it will change even more as I begin to work with my new group of students.

I am looking forward to reading your ideas from this section of the book. The conversations have been so thoughtful and productive so far.

Our #cyberpd event consists of multiple parts:

July 3rd: Chapters 1 and 2 - Hosted by Cathy Mere at Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Community
Today: Chapters 3 and 4 - Hosted here at My Primary Passion

July 17th: Chapters 5 and 6 - Hosted by Laura Komos at Ruminate and Invigorate
Date to be determined: Final chat about the book on Twitter using the hashtag #cyberpd

 You can participate in several ways:
  • You can write a blog post with your thoughts about the section we are reading for the week and add the link to your blog in the comments of the host blog.
  • You can add your thoughts directly in the comments of the host blog.
  • You can share your thoughts on Twitter using the hashtag #cyberpd.
  • You can come up with another way to share you ideas. We would love to see a new, creative way to join the conversation.
We hope that you will join us as we read, reflect and share our ideas about this book.

If you are interested in past #cyberpd discussions, here are some links for you:
2011 #cyberPD:  Conferring:  The Keystone of Reader's Workshop
2012 #cyberPD:  Opening Minds
2013 #cyberPD: Who Owns the Learning (posts from the event so far)

The posts for this week (these will be updated throughout the week):
 Co-host, Cathy Mere, at Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Community shares her thoughts on the answer to the question of Who Owns the Learning in her post Growing the Learning #cyberpd.  The subtitle of her blog gives us a clue about her thinking.

At The "Rudd"er, Amy Rudd, shows us what it looks like to be a connected learner. She includes lots of links and makes many outside connections to our reading. Stop by and take a look at her post,  Further Down the Trail Cyber PD #2.

Katherine Sokolowski, at Read, Write, Reflect  joins the conversation this week and shares her thoughts on how she plans to make some changes in her classroom this fall. See her ideas in her post, Who Owns the Learning #CyberPD.

Over at Catching Readers Before They Fall, Pat Johnson, shares how her thinking has changed as a result of reading the blog posts shared in last week's #cyberpd event. Her thoughts can be found in her post,  Continuing the conversation about Who Owns the Learning?

Like Amy Rudd, Tony Keefer also synthesized his learning by combining ideas from two sources (Energize and Who Owns the Learning) to create some great ideas to try with his students. You can see his thinking in his post, #cyberpd: Who Owns the Learning (Part 2) on his blog, atychiphobia 2.0.

Maria Caplin, at Teaching in the 21st Century, shares her thoughts about "learning (that) happens anytime, anywhere" - something that we, as adults, are comfortable with, in her post, Who Owns the Learning? Ch. 3-4 #CyberPD.

In her post, #CyberPD--Who Owns the Learning, Ch. 3-4, Mary Lee, shares a couple of her "flops" when trying out new ideas involving technology in her class along with her ideas for how to make these "flops" better next year. Check out her post on the blog, A Year of Reading.

LitProfSuz reminds us that while the actual tasks we ask students to do may not be a radical change, the shift of control over the learning environment is. Check out her post, Shift of Control, on her blog, In the Heart of a Teacher is a Student.

On her blog, Ms. Victor Reads, Erika Victor, shares how she decided to join the #cyberpd discussion after reading Mary Lee's first blog post about it - the power of #cyberpd is in the connections and discussions. Check out her post, Cyber PD Chapters 3 and 4.

Stop by co-host, Laura Komos' blog, Ruminate and Invigorate, for a nice chat about today's reading. While I have never met Laura in person, I love "hearing" her written voice ooze throughout her post. You will feel like she is sitting right there with you as you read her post, Who Owns the Learning? #cyberPD Part 2.

Linda Dilger joins the conversation today by sharing some of the challenges she will face as she begins to try new things this fall. She has a great attitude about it all as you can see in her post, Who Owns the Learning? by Alan November on her blog, Room 5.

On her blog, Teacher Dance, Linda Baie, shares her thoughts about how to help students take on the roles of scribe and researcher at her school. See her thoughts on the post, Exciting Chapters in Cyber PD.

Rose Cappelli, pulls some wonderful quotes from this week's reading to use a "jumping off point" for her thinking. In her post, Continuing the Journey, on her blog, Mentor Texts with Lynne and Rose, you will see how she uses these quotes to extend her thinking.

Over at Literacy Learning Zone, Michelle Nero, synthesizes her individual thinking along with many of her online resources and mentors. Read her post, #cyberPD Part 2: Who Owns the Learning, to see an example of a "21st century learning specialist" in action.

Anna Sexton, at Technology Tips, reminds us to "let go of the control" and move "beyond just grading the work".  You can read more in her post, Who Owns the Learning Book Study #2.

Taking a beach break to share her thoughts is Barb Keister, at Reading Teachers/ Teachers Reading. Barb shares her experiences with having a teacher scribe during a recent professional development opportunity. Check out what she noticed in her post, CyberPD Week 2 - Who Owns the Learning.

Jamie Riley shares her ideas for how to incorporate critical research skills into the library/media center. Check out her post, #cyberpd-Who Owns the Learning, Ch 3-4 on her blog, Rethinking Media Centers.

On her blog, Wondering Through 2012 and Beyond, Barbara Phillips, makes the connection between wondering and owning the learning. I wonder if you will see the connection, too, when you read her post, Who Owns the Learning? #CyberPD - Part Two.

Rola Tibshirani, at Learning in Progress, shares how she shifts control of the learning to her upper elementary French Immersion students. Take a look at her post, Who Owns the Learning Chapters 3 & 4 to learn more.

Julie Balen is playing with new tech tools and sharing her thoughts about them in her post, #Cyberpd 2013: Chapter 3. Be sure to visit her blog, Write at the Edge, to see how she is trying out her new learning.

Over at Primary Perspective, Deb Frazier, shares her thinking about having students act as scribes in her first grade classroom.  She shares how her thinking shifted as she read and how she has a new perspective on the idea now.  Stop by and check it out.

Lesa Haney shares her learning and a collection of online resources in an online flyer that she created at, called Who Owns the Learning.  Another great tool to take a look at and great ideas of resources to use for each learning role .

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Questions, Questions, Questions

Today marks the opening of our third annual #cyberpd event. This year we are discussing the book Who Owns the Learning by Alan November.

The first chapter gives us a definition of a digital learning farm. According to Alan November, a digital learning farm is based on the idea that in the past children provided much needed help around the farm by doing jobs that they were capable of doing. Mr. November says that this filled a need in the children - the need to be of value or the need to be needed. A digital learning farm is set up in schools to give students jobs that need to be done and that they are capable of doing. The jobs are often using digital tools and are focused on supporting the learning of others.  Chapter 2 focuses on one of the jobs possible in a digital learning farm - the student as tutorial designer. The two chapters for this week left me filled with questions so I thought I would organize this post around them.

Question 1: Are there more good examples out there of students/teachers solving a problem or filling a need in their community?

I would love to see more examples of the type of multi-disciplinary, solving real problems type of learning mentioned in Chapter 1 (the student created ways to share community health information). I would especially love to see this in the primary grades. I know that my students are very capable of the kind of critical thinking that is needed to solve these types of community issues. I teach at an Expeditionary Learning School and a big focus of ours is service learning within our community. So far the youngest learners at our school have been able to provide a service within our school community. While this is very valuable, I would like to begin to think of ways to branch out to surrounding neighborhoods or even our town like the older grades do. I need to find ways to bring community issues to the attention of my students so we can consider ideas for this type of learning.

Question 2: How do I prioritize what my students should spend time on during a school day?

I feel that this question is very specific to primary grades. A large part of what we do in first grade is to teach students to read, write and do mathematics so that they can participate fully in this type of learning now and in their future. I fully agree that primary grade students can and should do some of the work involved in a digital learning farm but the question for me is always how to do it most effectively. I try to blend the learning of reading, writing and math with the technology learning but there are always times (especially in the younger grades) when you must focus on one more than the other. It shifts back and forth, but this is something that I am always aware of and thinking about - how to determine what is most important for this group of learners at this point in time.

Question 3: How do I allow myself and my students more freedom to just "go with" the learning that presents itself?

I feel that I am getting much better at following the interests and needs of my students but I still always have to have that conversation in my head telling myself that it is okay to follow the lead of my students and ignore whatever curriculum piece might have been on the agenda for the day. Let me tell a story that might illustrate this a bit for you. I have my students create tutorials for each other using the iPad app ShowMe (similar to what Alan November suggests). However, I did not start with this idea in mind.

I began using ShowMe as a way for me to assess what my students know and are able to do. I wasn't all that sure that they would be interested in watching ShowMes created by other students. I was very wrong. We began creating ShowMes and posting them to each student's blog. Over time I began to notice that trends would move through the ShowMes. When one student began to use a variety of colors to illustrate a point, others did, too. When one student learned how to clear the screen all at once, others did, too. I began to hear students asking each other how they did certain things in their ShowMes. The best thing that happened was when students started to quote from each others' ShowMes during discussions in Math saying things like "I like how Cutter explained this in his ShowMe" and then going on to share Cutter's thinking.

I learned that when I let students figure things out on their own, they would and did. So what I am left wondering is if I can let students figure out a way to solve a problem in our community just by giving them some time to explore problems that might exist in our community. I am still struggling with how to "find the problem" with primary grade students. They have shown that they are good at solving problems that come up in our classroom but how do I expose them to problems that exist in our community that are still developmentally appropriate for primary grade students to grapple with?

Student created Math ShowMes
Student created Reading ShowMes
Student created ShowMe about how words are spelled
Video of a student teaching others how to create a multi-page ShowMe

Our #cyberpd event consists of multiple parts:

Today: Join the conversation about chapters 1 and 2 - Hosted by Cathy Mere at Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Community
July 10th: Chapters 3 and 4 - Hosted here at My Primary Passion
July 17th: Chapters 5 and 6 - Hosted by Laura Komos at Ruminate and Invigorate
Date to be determined: Final chat about the book on Twitter using the hashtag #cyberpd

You can participate in several ways:

  • You can write a blog post with your thoughts about the section we are reading for the week and add the link to your blog in the comments of the host blog.
  • You can add your thoughts directly in the comments of the host blog.
  • You can share your thoughts on Twitter using the hashtag #cyberpd.
  • You can come up with another way to share you ideas. We would love to see a new, creative way to join the conversation.
We hope that you will join us as we read, reflect and share our ideas about this book.

If you are interested in past #cyberpd discussions, here are some links for you:
2011 #cyberPD:  Conferring:  The Keystone of Reader's Workshop
2012 #cyberPD:  Opening Minds

Friday, June 14, 2013

The #CyberPD Book Choice is....

We did it! It was challenging but we made the final decision for our #cyberpd book choice. We were so inspired by all of the lists that everyone shared. We each found several more titles that we have added to our lists. We had some great discussions about lots of books and found it very difficult to choose this year. There were so many great books to think about.

Our choice for the #cyberpd book choice this year is Who Owns the Learning? by Alan November. We saw this pop up on several lists and we were all intrigued so we checked it out. We think that this book will generate lots of great discussion and help us all to rethink how we currently teach. I am really looking forward to reading this book.

If you would like a little background information on the topics that may be discussed, check out the TED talk below that was given by Alan November. I loved it.

Our #cyberpd event will consist of three parts:

July 3rd: Chapters 1 and 2 - Hosted by Cathy Mere at Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Community
July 10th: Chapters 3 and 4 - Hosted here at My Primary Passion
July 17th: Chapters 5 and 6 - Hosted by Laura Komos at Our Camp Read-A-Lot
Date to be determined: Final chat about the book on Twitter using the hashtag #cyberpd

You can participate in several ways:
  • You can write a blog post with your thoughts about the section we are reading for the week and add the link to your blog in the comments of the host blog.
  • You can add your thoughts directly in the comments of the host blog.
  • You can share your thoughts on Twitter using the hashtag #cyberpd.
  • You can come up with another way to share you ideas. We would love to see a new, creative way to join the conversation.
We hope that you will join us as we read, reflect and share our ideas about this book.