Friday, June 28, 2019

Determined Demitasse and Salon

Each year I like to develop a theme for my instructional space. This year as I began to think of what new theme to explore I struggled. I didn't really want to throw out everything (ideas and stuff) and build from scratch. But I also didn't really want to repeat a theme. I like to engage students and staff with their senses in the room that is #OurSTEAMCafe. I thought. I read. I thought some more. I searched Pinterest. I still struggled. I reached out to my PLN on Facebook. I have to love the connections we have made. One bright friend suggested like a Parisian Cafe. That idea sparked yet another for me. I will be employing a French Salon theme. As I wrote to her: "Oh Dacia, I love you. 1 idea leads to another. French Cafe - Like the old Salon's of Paris... forward thinking and gathering informally for discussions. Très bon." As in the period during The Enlightenment. Women would host gatherings to discuss Art, Music, Mathematics, Philosophy, Science, etc. These female hosts were called salonnière. I look forward to serving as a salonnière to share some of these concepts (aligned to STEAM - Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics).

Many years ago when I was in a different location within our school, I hosted informal gatherings for technology discussion. Come gather and talk about what you need. It was sort of a variation of #CoffeeEdu / #CoffeeCue concept that was going around then. I was reminded of this when two different friends hosted #CoffeeEdu sessions near them. According to the guidelines suggested by CoffeeEdu at, session can be flexible, informal, anywhere gather is possilbe (coffee shop or non-coffee shop) but generally an hour. I'd love to bring this back during the school day for teachers and staff. But I don't think an hour will work for our needs and scheduling. So the ideas continued to swirl. I believe I have landed on a way to make this work.

I would like to host "Demitasse CoffeeEdu". For those unfamiliar, demitasse, which is a French word, means "half cup". They are usually only large enough to hold 4 ounces or less of espresso. Espresso is usually a thicker, more robust version of coffee. Branching off of this idea, I will offer half hour sessions to gather and converse in #OurSTEAMCafe. These sessions will not be formalized PD. They will be informal discussions to better support what teachers and staff need and want. To try to meet the needs of more staff I think I will also vary the day of the week that they are held. This way more people can attend these Demitasse CoffeeEdu sessions instead of missing every one should they fall on a day that teachers are always unavailable.

With the salon theme, I hope to also showcase/host a more structured, formalized theme as well. Not sure if those will be weekly themes or monthly themes for exploration. But that salon topic concept is still brewing in my brain. For now though, I think I like this concept of a "Demitasse CoffeeEdu". What do you think? If you were a teacher in my building would you be interested in something like this?

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Intention and Audience

Attended and participated in several great learning moments so far and #ISTE19 is only beginning. Enjoyed viewing posters of educators showcasing their work and ideas. Love connecting on Twitter, Facebook and ISTE Connects to continue conversations. Heard one presenter discuss the difference in methods of using devices. Are your devices a "Digital Worksheet Storage Hub" or a "Pathway to Unleash Genius". Technology opens the world to our students. What a great tool to unleash their individual genius! Coaching/Teaching them how to successfully navigate the digital world is important work. Working together on collaboration and intentional creation are important. These are skills students will need all their lives. Engaging students in conversation and practicing putting a jumble of thoughts into a succinct expression is vital for adulthood in our current world. There are so many great teaching strategies out there to enhance our instruction and enrich student engagement. I love exploring the #SpotlightOnStrategies myself to gain new ideas for how to encourage interaction.

I was a member of a different audience recently. The speaker asked everyone immediately to stand up. Yes, this was less than 5 minutes into the start of their speaking session. Great way to keep the audience energized. This started everyone quietly chuckling since standing up and pairing with a stranger is not a comfort point for most people. But that helps to further connect us to the moment instead of passively sitting and receiving. The speaker asked participants to find a partner next to them and stand back to back. One problem... there was an odd number of participants.

Yep, picture me - standing in the near middle of a quite populated room without a partner. I'm willing to say outloud, "Does anyone not have a partner?" No response. Okay. Stand there awkwardly and quietly chuckle to myself about the uncomfortableness and we discuss school culture. I admit - I didn't like the feeling in the moment. But I'm also glad it happened. It reminded me to be more intentional and empathetic to my students (be they children or "grown-ups"). Activity continues, we sit down, people share out thoughts from the activity.

Speaker continues eloquently reminding us about the importance of how quickly our roles can impact several. The butterfly effect is strong in schools. Each day we have a choice to make a difference. I hope that I choose wisely, at least most days.

Okay, everyone stand again. This is now maybe 15 minutes into the session.  Great way to keep people awake and activated. "Return to your partner without talking." Hmmm whom should I return to in this exercise? (Remember above comments about not having a partner the first time). Stand there awkwardly the second time in the session while the speaker shares their directions for the next activity.

Luckily as I scan the room sooooo uncomfortably trying to figure out what do. Do I - escape? sit? continue to chuckle ridiculously? A lovely woman behind me asked, "Should we make this a triad?" Her kindness was noted. "Thank you, that would be great." However, the activity involves shaking hands and simultaneously performing another activity... um ever try that in a group of three in the US where we all shake with our right hand...

Being placed in these uncomfortable moments definitely reminded me of how our students may feel at times. Have you ever had to say, "Oh well just look on with ____." or "That's okay, I'll be your partner (um just a thought by the way)." I know that this experience will have me be more cognizant of my audience in the future. We discuss differentiation, customization, and adapting lessons. Not to mention teachable moments. I believe moving forward I will be looking around my room more as an activity is underway. Does everyone have the ability/opportunity to participate? Do we all have the tools we need to succeed? Is everyone receiving the message that was intended? Are all members of the audience able to be engaged in some way? Some may chose not to engage. Let's remember not to embarrass them with comments and/or facial expressions. But let's provide the equity needed for a successful experience for all audience members (be that audience 26 children, 15 adults, or 50 members or more).

Always learn so much from attending #ISTE19. Some learning moments are intentional, formalized sessions. Others are quick, informal learning moments. Never quite sure which has more impact. I enjoy finding both kinds of personal and professional growth moments. 

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Science Poems in #OurSTEAMCafe

Combining Science and Technology today in #OurSTEAMCafe. Reading and responding to Science Poems. Beginnings of learning how to publish our student's own poetry.

Maria Fleming wrote a wonderful flipbook of poems for Science. Her poems are delightful. They encourage students to think while exploring scientific concepts in an easy manner. I use the flipbook as an example text for students to read. Afterwards, I ask them to respond to some teacher directed questions in a Google Slide template. They have such fun sharing their thinking. First we work quietly, individually on our chromebooks. Then we share some ideas as a group. It is always fun to see how they approach things. I ask, "Who's thoughts are we hearing in the 'Dear Egg' poem?". I intentionally do not require any particular response format. After they write their answers I ask via a show of hands, "How many of you responded with a one or two word answer?" and "How many of your responded with a complete sentence?" This leads to some great discussions about transferring our writing skills.
Then students were presented with an open digital canvas where they could begin typing their own poems. Some classes had completed pieces that they brought with them to publish. Others would be drafting on the spot. Either way, they are learning wonderful technology skills in support of STEAM.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Out of the Box Thinking in First Grade

Each of our first grade classes designed shoebox parade floats to display their interests. Inspiration came from reading the book "Rosie Revere, Engineer". In a few weeks students would be seeing the play "Rosie Revere & Friends". So we used our own out-of-the-box thinking and looked for spare parts and doohickeys to create parade floats. It was a great process to watch taking place. 

Mrs. Shields provided students with a brief overview slideshow. Students were shown a few photographs of real parade floats. This helped them make decisions about aspects that they liked or did not like. They could then adjust their plans for making their own floats.  Creativity takes on many forms and facets. But as it ebbs and flows it swirls wonder, engagement, and deeper connections while it develops.

These two first graders collaborated so beautifully. They planned together, designed together, built together, and shared resources. What an adorable shoebox parade float they made by connecting both of their boxes!

Some students created floats that had settings that were instructional (Math float, Science float), inspirational (kindness float), story-based (fairy tale), and location-based (trampoline parks, basketball courts). They had freedom for creation. I was quite impressed with their masterpieces.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Science Connections in Second Grade

Second grade students did a great job making connections between previous knowledge, visual images, and surround sound. Second graders had previously studies the Water cycle with their teacher. Upon entering #OurSTEAMCafe, they experienced two songs playing softly in the background. One was about the Water Cycle and one was about the Plant Life Cycle. As students entered the space they also walked by tables that were displaying pictures of plants during various stages of the Water Cycle.

After watching a brief video of hot water evaporating and condensing on a very cold day in Manitoba, Canada we reviewed the parts of the Water Cycle. Students looked for new evidence in a selected text that lead us to conclusions about what plants may need to survive. Students then made choices and designed experiments for future observations. Would their seeds be in the dark or in the light? Would their seeds be in a dry or wet environment?

Friday, March 15, 2019

Being Clever with Clovers

Several first grade classes collaborated on a distance learning project, #SPDProject19 . We compared our data with the hypothesis that clovers are the most common Lucky Charms marshmallows. However, our data did not support that claim. The students had a great time sorting, comparing, and evaluating.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Digital Learning Day is Coming - Feb 28th

Digital Learning Day, is just around the corner! I love celebrating this day with students and teachers every year. It is so wonderful to be a connected educator and have so many resources right at my fingertips. Being a connected educator I learned about Peter Reynolds relatively new book The Word Collector. It seems to have resonated with me greatly. You may have seen my recent post about using Scrabble Tiles to create/collect words. During my preparation for Digital Learning Day, I am also thinking that I will challenge teachers that visit our event. I have a large roll of white paper in #OurSTEAMCafe. I think I will ask them to offer their word associations for the term "Technology". As the words collect, I will photograph to show the time lapse of how our words were generated throughout the course of the day.

Someone online asked how teachers were planning to celebrate #DLDay. I began sharing some of my plans. As I wrote I realized that it might be fun to co-collect words with other educators beyond our building. So I have created a public Google Doc. It is editable. Feel free to add your own beautiful words around the theme "Technology".
Would you be kind enough to share a word or two with my teachers to inspire theme? Thank you!

Monday, February 11, 2019

February Word Challenge

Recently, I saw a few people share a meme on Facebook. The caption read, "Just bought a book from Ikea." The image had scrabble letters. It's a great adult parody. How many of us have been frustrated after ordering something that needed a considerable amount of assembly. What seems simple - some assembly required - can actually be quite complex to solve. 

Also recently, I had the opportunity to read Peter Reynolds' book, The Word Collector. The story involves a child that enjoys collecting words and seeing the beauty in various words. 

Both of these experiences swirled in my thoughts. I remembered that a few months ago I had purchased two bags of 100 assorted Scrabble letter titles. The initial idea was for students to get to make some sort of project with them. But time got away from us. The titles went unused. But as the earlier thoughts merged with the book and meme thoughts a new idea emerged. Why not challenge students and staff to create words with the letters. 

I created a sign that reads, "What words can you assemble for our February book?". I made a chart where visitors can tell us what word they created and who created it. At the end of the month we will create a book where we can define our words.

To get things started I gathered the letters H - E - A - R - T to spell "Heart". A great February word to get us going. Our lovely librarian visited and added "President". I love that she opted to connect her letters to the T in heart like Scrabble. It really shows that we all connect and collaborate, support, and work together. We really are a great team gathered for #wardtechpd.

I do love my colleagues in #OurSTEAMCafe. Additional staff visited today and added more words such as "rose", "pride", "dreamer", and "peace" to name just a few. 

Thank you to everyone that visited on our first day and helped our collection of February words grow. Throughout the course of the day more and more words were added such as "Black History", "pink" and "time". 

Part of what I love about this is the flexibility and room for creativity. Where were no rules. It was just everyone's interpretation of "What words can you assemble for our February book?" I didn't give locked down parameters like "Let's play Scrabble!" or "use just 7 letters" or "Can you build upon someone else's word?". I merely offered letter titles and a spark of inspiration with my H - E - A - R - T spelled out. Notice the spaces between my letters... Can't wait to see what we continue to come up with. I wonder if people will reuse titles borrowing from other people's words or keep taking from the big pile of 200 letter tiles. It is that sense of unknown that can bring some magic to our lives in #OurSTEAMCafe.