September 29, 2011

License to Blog

One of my favorite sessions from RSCON3 this summer featured blogging with students by Pernille Ripp.  Having only joined the blogosphere a few short months ago, I am by no means an expert, but I am enthusiastic and completely enamored with the conversation of blogging.  It didn't take much to convince me and by the end of Pernille's session, I was committed to blogging with my students.

Anticipation does wonders for motivation.  My students have been learning about blogs, commenting, reading other student blogs, and posting to our class blog all in the efforts of earning their (drumroll please)... License to Blog.  For a third grader, this is a big deal.

The big reveal was pretty low-key, my post to our class blog congratulating them on earning their license, was displayed on the screen.  But their reaction was priceless with shouts of joy, big smiles, jumping up and down, and the "yes!" fist-punches in the air.  I just about had tears of joy in my eyes.  It is elementary school, so I did make them an actual paper license (link to template coming soon!) which only added to their excitement.

I had my own moment of excitement tonight about my budding blog authors when I tweeted their first posts with #comments4kids and we had comments in a matter of minutes.  Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to those of you who take the time to comment on kids' blogs.  And yes, I fist-punched the air and did my "this is why I love Twitter" dance of joy.

Enthusiasm is contagious.  See for yourself in these new blog authors.

September 18, 2011

A Gratitude Celebration

This weekend I am celebrating.  There are so many things to be thankful for in my life, my career, my classroom.  In the spirit of gratitude, affirmation, and general "YIPPEE!" I am celebrating.
  • Why yes, I will be Expanding my Horizons at ISTE 2012 in San Diego because I have been awarded a grant to attend!  
  • My students have taken to blogging like bees to honey!  They are anxiously awaiting their official license to blog.  I am so inspired by their enthusiasm!
  • The Global Read Aloud officially begins tomorrow and I'm just thrilled to have connected with another school to connect on a virtual level through this very cool project.  
  • I completed a huge, time consuming, but very creative project this week, which ultimately was very fulfilling to my soul.  
As a new week begins, I am committed to reframing stress into gratitude, being open and active to change, trying a new way to integrate tech, beginning my presentation proposal for ISTE, and going to bed earlier (teachers really can't live on caffeine, unfortunately...).  

Food for thought: How could gratitude affect our classroom environments?

September 1, 2011

What if?

In my quest to transform my instructional practices, I made a commitment to take my class for a walk around our school grounds at least once a week.  This inspiration came from an article featured in "The Big Fresh" newsletter from Choice Literacy, The Benefits of Taking Students Outside to Inspire Writing.  Following in Stephen Hurley's footsteps, my 3rd graders and I set out on our "Wednesday Walk" each Wednesday morning.

Our first walk, we set a few expectations like focusing on our senses for observation, keeping up with the class, and leaving nature as we find it (or better!).  Last week, having our inaugural walk under our belts, we tromped in the opposite direction with a focus of observation to put our "think like a scientist" skills to work.  We stopped along the way to focus our senses and try to notice something new or interesting about our school setting.  The observations shared were great observations, but I really felt like there was an overall lack of enthusiasm for the Wednesday Walk.

This week, after a reading of Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street, the focus for our walk struck me like Eva's ideas struck her: I wondered, "What if?"  What if we took our Writer's Notebooks with us on our walk?  After several minutes of an internal struggle about purpose of notebooks, control of what goes in the notebooks, and when the notebooks have been scheduled to go outside...  I finally realized I was waaaaaay too concerned about this decision, so with Writer's Notebooks in tow, we began our walk today, pausing here and there and wondering, "What if?"  

It was pure magic.  The ideas were practically tangible, scattered everywhere like treat filled Easter eggs there for the taking.  I watched in awe the imagination and wondering unleashed with a fury of pencils to notebooks.  A few of my students who might typically struggle with ideas were so engaged in their creativity and excited to share their ideas.

I learned a few valuable lessons today.  First, let go and let learning happen.  I had to get over my control to let this magical moment occur.  Second, there is time.  It is so easy to become overwhelmed with all there is to do and let the clock be a driving force.  No more!  I will fiercely guard the Wednesday Walk time each week.  The value in this experience has already become immeasurable and teacher and students alike can't wait for next week.  Third, it's a good thing to stop and wonder, "What if?"  Innovation, design, learning, and change are born out of wondering "What if?"  My students wondered, "what if it rained doughnuts?" "What if that plane landed on the soccer field and our whole class got on board and went to Florida?"  "What if there was a road right there [through the middle of the playground]?"  Suddenly they saw a whole new world of possibilities and ideas.  

What if we wondered "what if?" more often?  What if I teach with transparency, sharing openly and honestly with my colleagues, building and world-wide?  What if I challenge my students to see beyond the leaves of the trees, the mulch on the playground, the four walls of our classroom?   I wonder what innovation, design, change, and learning will be born out of wondering "what if?" this year.  

How do you wonder "what if?" with your students or about your teaching?