Thursday, January 22, 2015

Makerspaces in the Classroom

Making and Tinkering have been the new buzzwords in education for the last while. For some, it’s just a new twist on Constructivist thinking. Our Kindergarten teacher has had a ‘Creation Station” in her classroom for years, encouraging students to build, create and tinker with a variety of inexpensive and easily accessible tools (we call them ‘junk’).


Small tokens arrive in my office, delivered by tiny Makers who are so proud of their creations.


Making can cover a variety of curricular outcomes, from specific science outcomes (Building in Grades One and Three) to process outcomes such as ‘collaborate’, ‘experiment’, ‘solve problems’ and ‘revise’. At our school, we are in the process of creating a portable Makerspace so that all students can practice Design Thinking: Imagine, Iterate, Test, Revise. Our Makerspace contains a variety of tools, including technology and hands-on materials.

Recently we took the Makerspace into a Grade One class as an introduction to Design Thinking and their their building unit. Students were given a brief introduction of the varied tools available, and then were allowed to choose whichever appealed to them. Their task? Simply to create something. 

Some chose to work with Makedo, experimenting with cardboard and joiners:

Others chose to use Tinkertoys:

For technology lovers, we had a Little Bits table where student experimented with creating circuits: 

Using Chromebooks, we started students on coding using Hour of Code. 

And for iPad lovers, we had a few Osmos for tanagrams, word solving and playing with interactive drawing

The learning was wonderful. As we circulated around the room, students were eager to show their new creations and skills. Our consistent question was "What would make it better?". Most students thought for a moment, and then went back to add/subtract/revise their designs.

I am sure that your thought is, "How can I do this without the equipment or the extra pair of hands?" If you consider a Makerspace as a way of thinking, you can create a Makerspace with Lego, building blocks, paper, toilet paper rolls, tissue paper, or 'junk'. The essentials are the way Making is approached:

  1. Invite curiosity
  2. Inspire wonder
  3. Encourage playfulness
  4. Celebrate unique solutions 
(Kurti, Kurti, & Fleming)  

Kick start your students' thinking with Not a Box  by Antoinette Portis.

Happy Making!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Share What Is Happening In Your Class Instantly... Use Instagram!

Sharing Photos To Share Learning

Parents want to stay informed what is going on at school, yet they are also busy and do not always want to read lengthy updates and newsletters. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. So, over the past few years I have tried to share photos of what is going on in class so parents can quickly see what is happening in our classroom and at school (often I do a collage). I have been using the News Feed on SchoolZone (an EPSB platform). 

While I feel this is a good practice, it can be time consuming. I have to take my photos and get them from the device I took them with onto a computer and then upload them to SchoolZone. So I thought to myself, how could I do this an instant...Instagram!

A Workaround For FOIP (Being Conscious Of Digital Footprints)

While all the students in my class now have signed FOIP forms, this is not the case every year. As well, I know many parents are sensitive to the digital footprint their children have, as am I. So I decided not to use any of my students faces in my photos. Instead I use our class mascot: HootHoot. 

Students (in groups of two or three) are asked to help pose HootHoot in a way that shows what we were learning in class. Typically I choose students who are done their work early, have been making good choices in class, etc. Then I take the photo (if time permits, I have a student help with this part, too) and the group of students help me compose the sentence that will accompany the photo. I made my account public so that parents do not have to have the app to see the photos. They can simply go to the website: I have permanently posted the link at the top of my Resources page in SchoolZone for easy access as well as on my class website.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

5 Great Division One Social Studies Sites

Five Great Social Studies Websites For Division One* 

*This post definitely has a grade two slant!

Finding social studies websites for younger students can sometimes be problematic, as much of the reading level is quite high. That is why video sites like YouTube are great because they can provide content that is accessible for a larger audience. I make playlists for different topics. Here are some examples:

This is definitely aimed at older kids but I have used this site for grade two students to research things like the different animals found in Nunavut. The CG Kids Map Puzzle is a favourite during our geography unit. 

The Kids' Site of Canadian Settlement

This is actually archived now, so it is usable but not maintained. It has information on the Acadians and Ukrainians which is good for grade two. The reading level is quite high but good for read alouds. 

Social Studies Image Collection (LearnAlberta)

This is a LearnAlberta resource, available to those with a username and password. It has lots of great images related to the Alberta social studies curriculum. 

Virtual Museum of Canada

"The Virtual Museum of Canada (VMC) showcases a rich collection of Canadian heritage online." You can browse by age level: