2 New Picture Books My Daughter Loves

  "A picture book is a small door to the enormous world of the visual arts, and they're often the first art a young person sees." ~ Tomie dePaola   I've written in previous blog posts that I wasn't really a reader when I was younger. The only thing I read, other than what I had to, was Sports Illustrated. It's not that I was interested in reading, I just had other things that were more important to me, like playing outside. Do I wish I read more when I was younger? Of course I do. It's one of my many regrets! I know how important it is to read aloud to your children. I learned that from Jim Trelease and "The Read Aloud Handbook ." That's why I try to find the best picture books for my daughter so that I can help support her growth as a reader. Knowing...
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Your Literacy Toolbox

  "If we talk about literacy, we have to talk about how to enhance our children's mastery over the tools needed to live intelligent, creative, and involved lives." ~ Danny Glover   One of my favourite professional books on literacy is "The Read-Aloud Handbook" by Jim Trelease. It's a fascinating read about how the power of simply reading aloud to your child is one of the most powerful things you can do to support literacy. It's a must read for every parent and teacher. However, when we talk about literacy in school there are many more aspects to a balanced literacy program that teachers need to develop in order to support the variety of learners in their class. I've always been a person who believes that teachers need to use every tool in their toolbox, or find new tools, in order to support all students. We should leave no stone...
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Fact-React with Adobe Voice

"Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important." ~ Bill Gates I struggled with a title for today's post. It's really not about the fact-react strategy with Adobe Voice so much as it is about a teacher willing to step out of her comfort zone to try new things and ending up with amazing results. Especially at this time of year when it's difficult to keep the focus on learning what I have been witness to over the last couple of weeks is inspiring.  This year our school was fortunate to welcome Stephanie to our school. A fantastic teacher and former literacy coach that I have known for many years. Stephanie is the kind of teacher that students, parents and administrators dream of having. She is a teacher that takes her job seriously. She loves to...
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When Your Child Begins to Read it's Magical!

  The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go ~ Dr. Seuss   I've been a witness to children learning to read. It's a special time for a teacher when that "light bulb" goes off and a student begins to read. Teachers couldn't be more proud of their students, and rightfully so. But it's different when it's your own child. It's magical!  My 21 month old daughter Zoe is probably like most other children her age. She's active, jumps from activity to activity, loves to repeat some of her favourite things over and over and she laughs at almost anything. She also loves to listen to books for short periods of time, especially "The Wheels on the Bus" and "Zoe's Snow Day". When she was younger she absolutely loved the books you could take in the tub that...
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Professional Reading Favourites

This week my office was in need of cleaning and organizing, especially my bookcase. As I re-arranged the shelves to accomodate an ever growing library I found some gems that I had forgotten about. The books listed below changed the way I taught, or moved me to establish new practices to meet the needs of my students. Now there may be ideas that are considered antiquated in today's classroom but I am confident there are still great practices contained in them that would be valuable in any classroom today. Below are my personal favourites with a brief description of each. The Teaching Gap  (James W. Stigler and James Hiebert) - The description of math practices in Japan, Germany and the United States literally had me searching for more research on effective programming. It led me to implement a math program based in problem-solving. This wasn't lost on my principal and...
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Reflections of Book Trailer Project

On Monday our grade 7 & 8 students completed their iMovie Book Trailers and over the last couple of days we've had time to reflect on the project.  What worked well? What didn't? What would we do differently next time?  Below are our reflections. What we were happy with: the technology worked flawlessly and the students had no difficulty using the software the students were completely engaged in the storyboarding/writing stage all groups worked well together the storyboard templates were excellent organizational tools  videos were very well received by the rest of the school during our video announcements (we heard many students commenting that they couldn't wait to read that book!) What didn't work so well: some students didn't quite fully grasp the concept of a book trailer not all the iMovie templates lend themselves to the concept of a book trailer some students didn't use their storyboards during filming...
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Creating Book Trailers with iMovie and iPads

  This past Friday was supposed to be much different than it turned out. Teachers in the province of Ontario had planned to hold a one day political protest against the government and Bill 115. That was until the Labour Relations Board ruled that it would be considered an illegal strike. So at 6am the Thames Valley District School Board made a decision that all schools would be open to receive students. The result was not many students showed up, at least at my school. About 50% of the students were not in attendance which left the office scrambling to make safe arrival calls and teachers trying to put together instructional activities they didn't think they would need based on the union's decision late Wednesday. With our new iPads configured and ready to be used our intermediate teachers came to me with an idea to help keep the students engaged during...
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Reading is More Than Just Reading

Yes, you read the title correctly, but let me explain. Yesterday I had a brief conversation with our Reading Support Teacher (RST) about her observations during a Literature Circle discussion she had with a group in grade 5. It immediately had me reflecting on my classroom experiences with Literature Circles. For those of you who haven't heard of the concept of Literature Circles check out Harvey Daniels website , or just google it. Basically it's adult book club for kids. Lots of reading, lots of talking. There are many aspects involved in implementing Literature Circles that I won't write about today, but what I loved most were the "roles" students took that allowed everyone an opportunity to shine. The roles I used were: Word Wizard - discovering special words in the text Discussion Director - leading the group during conversation, developing conversation guiding questions Artful Artist - creating a picture...
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Alternatives to Homework

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="200"] The Joys of Homework Photo used under creative commons This week I read an interesting blog post called "Why do we torment kids with homework?" which had me reflecting on my own personal experiences with homework as a student and teacher.  Homework has become a very divisive topic with parents, teachers and school boards.  There has been a tremendous amount of research done on the effects of homework which suggests that for our youngest students there is no connection to improving learning. Today I am not going to write about my personal philosophy of homework but rather provide some alternatives to traditional homework.  Activities that parents and their children can do together or that students can do on their own that will not only provide learning benefits but will be of interest to children. Play sports or games as a family - what better way to...
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Student Created Videos

As I watched students this week creating videos for a district wide competition I decided to come up with a list of the benefits of integrating video creation into the curriculum. Engages students in the writing process - Before getting their hands on cameras and computers students storyboard the scenes they plan on having in their movie.  They write scripts, develop the narration and acting prompts for each scene.  Together they edit, revise and map out the direction of their movie. Problem Solving - Even after writing, editing and revising their initial copy, students will encounter issues with their original plans.  This is a great opportunity to be creative on the fly, adding to their creations. Models the process professionals go through - One of the most powerful, real-life stories I tell students is that of published author Eric Wilson, a former teacher who wrote stories for his students. They...
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Digital Storytelling

Over the last couple of months I have been working with an intermediate teacher who is very keen on using technology in the classroom and in particular the use of video. During our conversations on how to implement this technology in his curriculum I was drawn back to a very engaging presenter that came to Thames Valley back in 2007.  In the early part of 2006, during my time  as a Learning Coordinator for Technology many teachers had expressed in interest in the idea of Digital Storytelling in the classroom.  As a group of Learning Coordinators we decided to find an expert in the field that could help us explore the concept.  This led us to Jason Ohler .  The idea that really excited us about his message was the DAOW of Literacy - how oral and written storytelling using art to create digital stories are key literacy skills that...
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