Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Blogger As Enrichment For Reading Response

School Reading Routine

The school I am at this year has a school-wide practice that was new to me: PERT (paired-echo-reading-time). In a nutshell, every morning almost all the students read with a partner. Older students are trained to be coaches and read with younger students. Students either read at the same time (paired) or the older student reads first and the younger student repeats the passage after (echo). The occurs for about 15-17 minutes every morning.

Blogger As Enrichment

I have a grade two student who received enrichment during PERT last year and did book reports after completing books with his older partner. I did not want to simply repeat last year's enrichment. So when thinking about what to do this year I looked to what my area of expertise and strength: technology. I thought a blog would be an easy way to build on what he did last year. It would also help him and his partner build some technology leadership that could be used in class later. 

Things I Considered

  • When I went to set this up, I had to remind myself he is still only in grade two and there is limited time each morning. 
  • I also wanted to create a structure so that they would not need my assistance very often once they got going as I have other responsibilities during PERT time. 
  • I wanted to be in control of the blog. So that meant I would own the blog and he and his partner would be added as authors, rather than having him own the blog.


  1. I created a new blog. I decided that it would be best to keep it open ended as possible. So I made it a general review blog for the school that I would manage. That way if other students require enrichment or a whole class wants to do a book review project, they can use what is there already. However, I only added the two students as authors for now (as the creator, I am an author as well).
  2. I changed the settings so the comments would be moderated by myself. I also decided to not allow just "anyone" to comment. While it is moderated, I feel that by having people having their username attached to comments, we were more likely to get useful and thoughtful comments and less inappropriate comments for me to moderate. 
  3. While the school already had FOIP forms filled in at the beginning of the year, I also wrote a note to get permission from both families. 
  4. I found a worksheet that could serve as a note taking tool for the pair from Read Write Think.
  5. I created a post that would serve as a template for their reviews. 
  6. I sat down and spoke to the boys and explained what they would be doing the day before actually starting.
  7. I started them off with a short and simple book. 
  8. I helped them with their jot notes on the planning sheet.
  9. I worked with them on their first post, showing them how to copy and paste the template into a new post. I explained they needed to take turns writing as it is a partner project.
  10. I will repeat steps 6 to 8 until I feel they were ready to try longer books. I likely will have them do a review for each chapter but I am currently undecided.
  11. I will comment on each post and encourage other staff to do so as well!

Added Bonus

As we have four permanent computers in class, I as able to use the blogging activity as sort of anchor activity. He was able to work on writing the review during class time after finishing his other work. It was a meaningful and relevant anchor activity for him. 


Having set it up so a registered user can only comment has deterred staff from commenting as most of them do not have Blogger accounts.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

SMART Tables as an iPad Center in K-3

- Originally Posted in Heeding Thamus
More and more we are seeing iPads being used as a learning center in K-3 classes. Typically, a teacher will have four or five iPads all linked to one iTunes account. Apps can then be bought and shared between the iPads and organized into thematic folders. (It is important to note here that unless the teacher is using Configurator, this practice violates the iTunes Store Terms and Conditions – section MAC APP STORE PRODUCT USAGE RULES). As these iPads are not set up for individual students, most of the educational apps used do not collect learning data and tend not to be collaborative.
One solution that has promise is the SMART Table, where students can use it as a center to collaboratively solve problems and learn through playing. The idea of immediate feedback and the potential for the collection of learning data is excellent.

However, before we get too excited, there are some fundamental problems with the table. The first is cost. They run between $7000-$8000 CND, which might be worth while if the table managed learning analytics, but doesn’t, at least not yet. Also, in order to set up the table for students to play on, the teacher needs to insert a USB key. It makes sense to have a lock on the teacher screen, but a USB key seems a bit 2003. The resolution is good, but the screen would occasionally disappear for a second or two.
Finally, and most importantly, it is difficult to see how the learning is improved through the use of the table. If the goal is to improve collaboration, the table is an expensive alternative to manipulative and games already in the classroom. As well, some of the learning activities immediate feedback told students they got the answer right, even though they selected the wrong answer.
There remains a lot of potential in a SMART table in the K-3 classroom. Unfortunately, the price point and the lack of an improvement in learning puts this device in the “Maybe in the Future” category.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

How Technology is A Part of My Social Centres

Background Information

I break up the grade two curriculum into the regions and teach those separately. As students learn about another region, they compare and contrast it to the other places they have studied. I have tried teaching all the regions together (as most of the resources are set out to do) however I found that students mixed up the regions more often.

Within each region, I break up the unit into three parts: the land, the people and the economy. Currently we are studying about the land.

Big Class=More Centres

In past I have done these particular social centres where they are rotating through three centres. With a class size of 26, that seemed to be a recipe for disaster. So I now how have four centres.

Day One 

I allot about 16-18 minutes to each centre. I allow 1-2 minutes inbetween centres for tidy up and switching. Students take a handout with them.

In The North Centre  

Student read the book, I Live in The North, as a group. They then make a list of what they can see if they were in the north based on what they read in the book. I worked with this group primarily.

Netbook Centre 

Students use the a website, Animals in Nunavut, to learn about the animals found in Nunavut and make a list.

Video Centre  

Students watch a YouTube playlist I made on the Smartboard. They  write and draw about what it looks like as they watch it. The playlist of Nunavut videos does not last the whole centre, so they watch it twice. Once for enjoyment, the second time to do their writing and/or drawing. 

The Inuksuk, Guide In The North Centre  

Student read the book, Inuksuk, Guide In The North, chorally with a teacher. This book has the book on CD, so there is an option for having this as a listening centre. I have a retired teacher as a mom, so I have her volunteer on days like this! 

Day Two (no handout)

Artifacts Centre 

I had a kit that had some Inuit artifacts. Students work with me to handle and discuss them.

Inuksuk Centre  

Students use sandpaper and black construction paper to make an inuksuk picture. Before centres start I remind them we can use pictures to show what we know. I make a connection to the book In The North from the last set of centres. Students are encouraged to show the Northern Lights, the North Star, snow on the ground in addition to making an inuksuk. Early finishers have books to read about inuksuks.

Netbook Centre 

Students use the class website to access the following websites:

The Inuksuk, Guide In the North Centre PART TWO  

Student read the book, The Inuksuk, Guide In The North, as a listening centre (12 minutes). Then they answer questions about the book (from day one's handout). As it is quite a long book for grade two, the first time they read it with a volunteer it took the entire time because they were discussing as well as reading. So I added it as a second centre on day two. As I do not have a CD player in my class this year, I improvised with an iPod and speakers. Not ideal but it worked okay. 

What's Next?

The goal of the centres is that students will have a really solid understanding about what Nunavut is like (land and animal). They are now ready to make a travel brochure using their notes from their centres. While it is a travel brochure, we won't touch on tourism until later.

Related Posts

Showing Videos In Class (discusses playlists)
Benefits of a Class Website (great if you use technology in centres regularly)