After spending a year getting to know elementary students and elementary teachers (it’s definitely quite a switch from middle school), I’m finally starting to feel like I know what kinds of projects are appropriate and achievable in the elementary classroom. All of the projects I completed with our amazing teachers last year really helped me focus and refine my goals for this year – keeping things simple is definitely the key.
For this year we’re looking at staying small and making consistent connections with global partners. Ideally, we would like to find classroom partners that are willing to connect with us on a regular basis over the course of the entire school year (Sept 08 – June 09).
We would like to develop personal learning networks for our students where we can deepen understanding of classroom curriculum while learning how to communicate authentically and appropriately online. We want to make sure that the use of web 2.0 tools deepens their understanding of classroom content and also helps them feel connected to the world around them. Sound interesting? Read on! And if you’d like to participate in one of these projects, please leave a comment!
Amazingly, I have a willing and enthusiastic teacher on almost every grade level ready to fully collaborate with me this year. We are planning to go deep with the students and to really focus on building 21st century literacy skills in a consistent and authentic approach.
Here’s what we’ve gotten started so far:
Grade 5: Students Teaching Students
The wonderful Chrissy Hellyer and her fellow new ISB teacher, Aly McAloon, will be kicking off the school with a classroom blogging project that will eventually include a regular podcast focused on the Lucy Caulkins Readers Workshop.
We’re starting simple with a whole class blog and students as contributing authors (like Betsy and I did last year in the Grade 3 BlogPals project). Once the students start feeling comfortable in their blogging as a class, we’re going to link Chrissy & Aly’s class to start making connections across the grade 5 quad, and eventually they will connect with other classes internationally (Jane Lowe’s class is already on board!).
Our next step will be rotating groups in each class podcasting about their reading strategies to help teach their younger classmates how to be good readers (Melanie Holtsman and her teachers are ready to connect with us, thankfully, since they are total experts in the world of Lucy Caulkins).
I love the idea of embedding multiple tools into one class project and developing a classroom routine where students are not only in charge of their own learning, but also sharing that learning with others.
We would love to connect with another grade 5 class (or two) that would be interested in becoming co-learners along with our students for the entire school year (Sept 08 – June 09)!
Grade 5: Student Portfolios in Spanish
Our Spanish teacher, James, has been experimenting with tons of fantastic web tools over the last school year and now that he’s on the report card committee, he’s looking to find alternate ways of assessing student learning. So, we’re piloting electronic portfolios (in the form of blogs, for now) with one of his grade 5 classes.
James has already been embedding multiple tools into the class blog he’s been running for a year now, and now he’s ready to let the students be the authors on some of those posts. The goal is to keep track of student learning throughout the school year by creating a category for each student. Each time the students have a piece of work for their portfolio, they will post it on the class blog (as contributing authors). By the end of the year, parents will be able to click on their child’s category and see the progression of their work over the course of the year.
Grade 5: Our Online ESL Classroom
Our wonderful grade 5 ESL teacher, Diane, began blogging and podcasting with her students last year. We saw such an amazing leap in their oral and written language as soon as they realized they had an authentic audience for their work that she wants to continue to provide that opportunity this year.
Although Diane only sees her students for short lessons every other day (we run a Sheltered Immersion ESL program), we have been able to organize specific collaboration projects that focus on issues ESL students are concerned about. We have set up a few open ended blog posts to get them writing and connected with other classes (including Anne Mirtschin’s) about moving on to sixth grade.
This will probably be a more infrequent collaboration, on a topic-by-topic basis, but it would be great for our ESL students to connect with other language learners (or native English speakers) on topics that are important to them.
Grade 4: BlogPals
My fantastic colleague Sonja Merrell, who participated in the 1001 Flat World Tales last year, is back for more 21st century learning this year! She has decided to start the school year off with a class blog, which she will use as a communication portal for her students and their parents. There are a few students in her class that participated in the BlogPals project with me last year, so they will make great student leaders as we venture further into blogging with Sonja’s class.
We’re going to start off the year using the blog as a discussion tool, to build the school-home connection and to get her students thinking about their learning in a more interactive way. Over time we will have each student as a contributing author to the blog, just like we did with BlogPals last year.
We are looking for one or two grade 4 classrooms that would like to participate in this type of year-long adventure with us!
Grade 2: A Window to Our World
Another amazing colleague, Susan, who took a huge leap with me last year when we had our grade 2 class connect to another grade 2 class in the US via a Ning, is back in action this year! She loved the idea of working with a Ning and found the “walled garden” concept perfect for her second graders. It was amazing to see how quickly they took to this new learning environment – posting questions and answers, commenting on individual student pages, and sharing their learning as a class – all in second grade!
This year Susan would like to do something very similar, but preferably with another international school class, if we can find one. She wants to focus on intercultural understanding and connecting with class that would have a greater mix of nationalities (she’s not limited to an international school, but we thought we might have better luck at getting a very diverse class if we were able to find another international school interested). Last year she had 20 nationalities in her class of 23 students, so finding a class with a similar makeup would be ideal for her.
Grade 1: ESL Learners Speak English
Our enthusiastic grade 1 ESL teacher, Erin, started using VoiceThread in her classroom last year as a way for her begining ESL students to practice their English in an authentic environment. We had a great time connecting to another international school in Spain, thanks to Nancy von Wahlde, and we’re planning to re-connect again this year.
Erin maintains a class blog, mostly to communicate with the parents, where she posts her VoiceThreads that the students create based on their classroom units of inquiry. We’re planning to start out with an introduction to each student so that our partner class can really get to know each person as an individual. Over time the students share a bit about their lives in Thailand, the school, and other grade 1 favorites.
Ideally, we would love to connect with a classroom that is able to communicate with us on a regular basis – maybe once a month – and that would be willing to continue these conversations over the course of the year.
Kindergarten: Kids Draw!
We have one set of co-teachers in Kindergarten this year. Sandy and Akiko are team-teaching one class of 24 kindergarten students all year – and what a class they have! It’s amazing to see the way Sandy and Akiko build on each other’s streagnths as we begin working with these little students and technology.
We started out the year with a short unit on drawing, where the students were asked to draw a picture of themselves on paper (for a unit entitled “All About Me”) and then draw the same picture on the computer (using KidPix). We discussed what was the same and what was different about drawing on paper and drawing on the computer. Interestingly, although almost all of them though drawing on the computer was more difficult (we still need to work on those fine motor skills), most of them liked drawing on the computer better.
After this short unit, Sandy, Akiko and I realized we have lots of room to grow with drawing and technology. We’d like to revisit the concept of drawing on the computer over the course of the year and build in some thoughtful reflection, ideally with VoiceThread, where students can talk about the context of the picture, and the skills they learned while drawing.
It would be great to partner up with another kindergarten class that’s interested in sharing learning through drawing!
What do you think? Are you interested in collaborating with one of our classes?