Keeping up with my blog reading

I suffer from the problem of not enough time to keep up with my RSS feeds – today I opened up Google Reader to discover 600+ items to read.

Luckily I sort into folders and some I’m quite happy to mark as read and be done with them.

Others I skim through quite quickly.

But the gems I click on the little double arrow to read in their original blog format.

These posts I savour – some I comment on – some I tuck away for further digestion during holidays.

Here are some blogs/posts that have come to my attention today:

Joe McClung posts about a student who was away from school – but didn’t spend all their time relaxing.

At the teacher’s desk is a collaborative blog – well worth the read.

My boss also blogs and this post about Art Costa caught my eye – specifically the initial comments about thinking:

1. Learning to think

2. Thinking to learn

3. Thinking about our thinking

4. Thinking together

5. Thinking long term and short term

Tom Barrett always has things worth reading. He creates some very useful presentations that are just that – useful/helpful/practical.

This particular post talks about using Wordle

and Voicethread

in the classroom. As I use both of these already (in a limited way) I’m interested in these slideshows.

Andrew has posted about the “crazy ones” – I love this – I have one of the limited edition apple “think different” watches – what’s so different about it? It runs backwards!


(This isn’t my actual watch – but this is what my actual watch looks like!)

5 year old visitors

One of the other teachers at school brought her students (5 year olds) to visit in our class. As there are only 6 students in her class at the moment we put one in each of the 6 class groups.

I had found some online maths activities for them to do together.

It was fascinating to watch my kids in action. I could tell which ones are used to working with younger children by the way they talked to them and helped them without taking over.

I shot a short video – I wanted to gauge noise level and also how connected everyone was to the task.

(I need to figure out angles in my classroom so I can fix a camera to a tripod and shoot a maths or reading/language lesson.)

Kids can totally blow you away …

Yesterday we used a blog to facilitate our SODA (start of day activity based on Tony Ryan’s Thinkers Keys). The students worked in their groups to come up with their ideas. Then they commented on the post to record their ideas.

Picture 2

All the groups worked well and came up with fantastic ideas. I have developed a sheet that sets out exactly how to do their commenting.

Picture 3

Then I showed them the process I went through to moderate their comments (and incidentally demonstrated why I wanted the particular layout in the comments) and published their ideas.

Then last night when I was doing some more work I happened to notice that there was a comment awaiting approval. When I checked it out I was totally blown away.

Picture 1

While we have been learning about critiquing (voicethread) I’ve not talked at all about commenting like this in blog posts. This was totally student initiated – and Drew is a 7 year old, Year 3 girl.

It’s so inspiring when you see your students starting to respond independently like this.

eLearning + Classroom2.0

After reading some blog posts and wiki information about ‘inspired’ classrooms I decided that I wanted to try moving my computers away from the wall and into the middle of the classroom and base each group around one computer – instead of rotating students/groups around the classroom they could rotate their activity and have a specific computer they would use.

Great idea but big problem – only 4 computers. I still moved the computers and decided to try bringing 2 laptops to school and have 2 groups using them.

That kind of worked except 4-5 people round one laptop isn’t idea as the screen size is too small.

Then I went on the scrounge. A neighbouring teacher had a computer that was unused. Another computer had been left anonymously in the teachers PD room. Problem solved. Except for the problem of cables and where exactly to put the computers.

In the end I sacrificed 2 student desks (one unused) for the computers and got them set up. I discovered one of the computers was running Win98 but amazingly the digistore objects and other activities are working ok (so far!).

Cabling was the next hurdle. I have a small box that allows one input and 4 outputs – 3 of the computers are actually one computer with an extenda/expanda (I can never remember the name) system on it so they only take one output; the other 3 went to the 3 other computers; however I often need to use the ethernet cable to connect online – especially if I want to skype – so I brought in two very long ethernet cables from home (3-storey house!) and have one duct-taped down and the other loose that I can use (unplug another connection to plug mine in) for my teacher laptop. I also spent several hours working out which other cable was the longest for another of the computers.

I also decided to have 6 groups with computers instead of 5. I have 4 students who go out to a part-time class from 9:30 – 12:30 which leaves me with 25 students – 5×5; but if I reduce the size of the groups (5×4 and 1×5) then access to the computers within the groups will be easier.

So far so good. Here’s a little slide show I put together in PhotoPeach about my Classroom2.0.

Classroom2.0 on PhotoPeach

Autumn Leaves

Popping into school to do a quick job ended up being 4 hours – quite pleasantly spent pottering around tweaking a few things in the classroom and putting together our Autumn Leaves display.

We wrote Autumn cinquains and published them on leaves, which were then dyed, crumpled and cut out. We also did some leaf rubbings. A large piece of cardboard (thank you @invictus11 for the boxes) was painted brown first, then real leaves, leaf rubbings and the poems were hot glued onto the card. Finally the whole thing was put up (thank you staple gun!).

I tried for the animation – it’s very easy to use and as you can see quite effective.

Blocked websites, drama and connectiveness oh my

Today started off with lots of drama. I went to school early knowing I needed to finish up last night’s work in rearranging the classroom. Just as well as I discovered that the ethernet cable I laid (and duct taped) was faulty. No problems replacing it and firing up the computers. I flicked onto the internet and thought my eyes were deceiving me – Watchdog had blocked my home page on my classroom computers. Thinking I’d clicked on some strange link I tried again – still the same blocked message.

“Oh FLip” I thought (ok – that’s not exactly what I thought but I’m sure your imagination can fill in the appropriate words!) I went over to the office and expressed my dismay to Mike, our principal. After some investigation we discovered that Watchdog had blocked Blogger/Blogspot – Mike had a blog there which was also blocked – not just my pages.

Mike phoned Watchdog and left a message and I went back to my classroom to get the day started. Luckily today is Friday and we start the day out of the classroom with syndicate singing, Jump Jam and usually (but not today) School Assembly.

By the time we got back to the classroom and check the website it had been unblocked! The cheer from my students almost raised the roof.

The rest of the day went well apart from me forgetting to send student portfolios home (will do that on Monday.) Here are a few glimpses of my rearranged classroom.

I stood on a chair to get this shot – gives you an idea of the four radial groups each with desktop comps and the two group without comps.

Another shot of the radial groups.

One of the groups brainstorming – trying out the Wallwisher brainstorming site.

This group was planning today’s skype session. They read the guidelines and wrote their script and assigned tasks. (And did a fantastic job – we had problems with skype and they remained patient throughout the whole session.)

Two groups have no desktop computers. I brought in my personal iBook for a group to use – they had a quick lesson in how to use a mac and away they went. (When I first got a laptop under the teacher scheme I was very precious about it – I still am – but for this I’m making an exception and until I can get another computer I will supply my own.)

This group is working on my teacher laptop (MacBook).

So the day turned out ok. But oh my … what on earth possessed Watchdog to block Blogger/Blogspot overnight?

Classroom Groupwork

I’ve been working on how my students do their work in the classroom and being inspired by other teachers blogging about their experiences.

I took some photos today of 4 of my groups working. (I have 4 students who go to another (new) class from 9:30-12:30 due to size of our classes.) The 5th group was doing publishing.

This group is working on some independent non-fiction texts.

This group is brainstorming their group Autumn Acrostic outside on the deck. They then went back to their assigned computer and to this blog post and added their acrostic as a comment.

This group was doing handwriting. I like to liven it up and so they got to copy the first two stanzas of a funny poem. I’ll give them the second two next week.

I’m using my old iPod mini for the listening post – if I can get some cushions then I could let them go outside and listen there.

After the story finished the group had to go to the computer and answer the questions about the author and the story in a comment on this blog post.

When the kids arrive at school tomorrow they will find their classroom changed. I had 3 monitors on an expanda box and one separate older computer. They were all lined up along the wall. Now they are in the middle of the room with 4 groups radiating out from them. I still have to get another 2 computers for the 5th & 6th groups but this is a good place to start.

Twitter Survey Post 1

First a huge thank you to all who answered my survey. 85 people responded from all over the world.

The demographic information I got from it goes like this:

Length of time on twitter:

  • 15 — 2+ years
  • 32 — 1-2 years
  • 10 — 6-12 months
  • 15 — less than 6 months


  • 37 — Teachers – both Primary & Secondary
  • 35 — involved in some kind of ICT facilitation – some as part of teaching job
  • 4 — Librarian or Library Specialists
  • 6 — Senior positions – Principal/AP/DP
  • 7 — Other jobs – some in education, some not (some I wasn’t quite sure what the job was!

I then asked why they used twitter. I discovered that there were some broad areas here:

  • Connection
  • Collaboration/Collegiality
  • Information
  • Fun

There were many examples under each of those areas – too many to post them all so I’ll pick out a few examples for each.


  • Link with people in NZ & around world with similar interests/global connection
  • Other teachers/educators have same vision for enhancing teaching/learning in their classrooms
  • Keep my thinking fresh by extending my prof. network & interacting with people I would not normally have the chance to connect with


  • Discussions, controversies, new thinking
  • Support when looking for new ideas
  • Coffee conversations with e-colleagues
  • 24/7 access to collaborators


  • Asking and answering questions
  • Sharing tips and resources
  • Staying up-to-date
  • Keep in touch with what is happening in the outside world – especially important for people free-lancing
  • Creating wider audience for class blogs


  • Planning fun stuff like Flash Mob @ conference
  • Personal – friends & family
  • Sharing memorable and humorous events
  • Interest, curiosity, new things

Next I asked how Twitter helped professionally

  • Difficult to find funds to attend prof. dev. workshops – depend on Twitter & peers to learn and grow
  • Able to tear down the walls of my classroom & give my students a chance to connect with people around the world
  • Keeps me in touch with the outstanding role models in our (global) education system
  • Allowed us to restructure our classes to take advantage of Web 2.0
  • I’ve ‘stolen’ and used many ideas in the curriculum or own personal life; made friends; shared my own ideas; collaborated with others; reflected on my own practice and more
  • Has grown my PLN, challenged my thinking & ideas about education & specifically the impact of e-learning on pedagogy & student learning
  • First place I go to when I have a problem or need inspiration

I also asked them to make recommendations for people to follow — the top 5 people are listed below

  • @allanahk (13)
  • @teachernz (11)
  • @tombarrett (10)
  • @suewaters (8)
  • @wfryer (8)

Then I asked for “sage” advice for newbies.

  • Find strong people to follow
  • Make connections with people with similar interests
  • Enjoy the spirit of the community
  • Give yourself time to develop connections
  • Be eclectic in your mix of people you follow
  • Jump in & connect

And finally I asked for any last thoughts

  • Don’t worry if it takes a long time to ‘get’ – just about everyone says that
  • Visit the Blogger’s Cafes at conferences to meet up with people
  • 140 characters leads to tight, focussed writing/thinking
  • @dogtrax shared a poem he had written called “I dream in Twitter” – it’s worth listening to!

As you can see from this snippet there was a lot of information in the survey. It took me the better part of a weekend to pull this information out and put it into logical order (and work on my workshop presentation!)

I will write up my thoughts of what this all means in another post. I will also post a link to my finished slideshow (once I convert it to PPT from Keynote).

In the meantime the raw data is available here for people to look at. (Personal information removed) Please contact me if you want a downloadable version.

Thanks again to all who participated in this survey. You and your answers validated Twitter as an educational tool!

Twitter survey

Hey all – I’m running a workshop for my cluster in a couple of weeks and wanted to get some updated opinions. If you can, please answer my survey questions.

Thanks to all who contributed … I’ll post results in a series of posts rather than one big post!

Literacy workshop – Murray Gadd

We had a Teacher Only day on Friday with Murray Gadd facilitating. He’s been in and out all year working on literacy with us. I started up an Etherpad window and two of us (with occasional input from our principal) used it to take notes. At the end of the session I sent a PDF copy of the notes to Mike (principal) which he then emailed to all staff.

We even had a couple of tweeple pop in to see what was happening – a great way to share learning with others.

One of the very cool things that Murray does is read books to us (well – to whoever he’s facilitating with) and while some of us already know about some of the books there’s always something new to discover. I’ve bolded the books he read.

Here’s the unedited copy of our notes. (ok – I have done a little editing with links and removing stuff for our staff only!)

Reading workshop #2 with Murray Gadd

W/shop focus – comprehension strategies/teaching of vocabulary/effective reading responses

(Indicators in curriculum are only indicators not must haves)

Our job to teach the processes and strategies …

* Literacy Learning Progressions
* Reading & writing national standards

BOOK: Sunday Chutney by Aaron Blabey

Key competencies – in the story – relating to others/managing self/participating and contributing/thinking/using language etc

Comprehension strategies

* are kids using sources of information – to make connections – visual clues/textual clues etc

* are kids using processing strategies – attending and searching/predicting/cross checking/self correct

* comprehension – (How do we bring meaning to it)

“when readers taught to use CS their comprehension improves”

“What research has to say about reading instruction”chapter 13 p 398
“Metacognition and self-regulated comprehension”

BOOK: Stellaluna – by Jannell Cannon

Good book for friendship stuff

What would kids need to have to understand this book?

(P131-133 Effective Lit book yrs1-4)

(1) Making connections with what we already know

(Good example to use for a narrative – i think we have it in the library)

(2) Forming and testing hypotheses about texts – using clues / predicting -then testing to see if my hypothesis or prediction is correct / then reflect

(3) Ask questions of themselves about what they are reading

* think alouds – “i wonder what that means?” etc

(4) Creating mental images/visualising

(when you go to a movie after reading the book and it’s not so good)

Share how we get the picture in our heads (conections of images with words)
different people get different pictures – makes the story broader?

powerful verbs – well-chosen adjectives/verbs

Using prior knowledge about the words to create an image – Applying senses

(5) inferring meaning

(Refer: Zoo by Anthony Browne –

“Mr Gadd stormed into the room with a face like thunder.” finding the clues

word, phrase or picture clues about meaning in text
Link to prior knowledge

“murray kicked the ball. he was good at rugby.”
* the ball is a rugby ball
* He = Murray

* pronouns often confusing for kids
* kids understanding of phrases and clauses can often cause problems (especially if clause is at beginning of sentence)

(6) Identifying the author’s purpose & POV

* if i know why then it might help my response to the story
* author’s style very important (ie Anthony Browne) Voices in the Park is a great example
* “How do you think the author felt about the situation?”

(How can we be so different but feel so much alike. – check the line – end of Stellaluna)

(7) Summarise main ideas

* need to find the indicators
* can introduce via the structure of writing type – like narrative
“What was the complication?”
“Which part is the orientation? – what is happneing there”
* demonstrate summarising to kids

(8) Identifying the main idea
* comes from author’s purpose
“If you were the writer what would your main idea be?”

(9) Analysing and synthesizing

ZOO: analysed dad and came to conclusions

* Reflecting on what’s it all about

(10) Evaluating ideas and information

“How does it affect me?” (My reading , my view of text, compare against what i already know)

These 10 are not in isolation – use them together.

[Page 5/6 recognising comprehension strategies – refer to this for examples of teacher talk!]

[See photo notes in evernote]

Effective literacy Practice
Chapter 5: Year 1 to Year 4 book (Year 5 – Year 8 Pgs 141 to 151)
134-135 – Strategies

Reference Copy Explaing Reading by Gerald Duffy – to be bought.

Teaching reading comprehension – Alison Davis

How do we teach comprehension strategies?

* describe
* demonstrate
* scaffold

start in little steps – paragraph/page etc

* encourage students to use – could be great to model using the mimio!
(don’t be too excessive – that’s giving us permission to throw out the instruction and have some fun in reading at times!)”Just read the story!”

Will our new national standards encourage teachers to look only at the strategies to ensure that a goal is reached rather than teacher the essence of good reading?

Readers find clues. Writers put clues in. – Inferring

Show – don’t tell – e.g. use other words to describe that someone is old

Today’s kids don’t have the oral language – less time in books more time in front of screens – screens not necessarily bad but people need to be reading


Teaching Vocabulary to improve reading comprehension pp1-2
By William E Nagy

Bringing words to life by Elizabeth Beck?

BOOK: Pearl Barley and Charley Parsley by Aaron Blabey

(lovely bedside manner – what a hoot!)

(they’re different and THAT is why they are such good friends!)

Nagy “Vocab knowledge … ” pp1-2

If we simply teach students more words they will understand text better

learning new words means aquiring new meaning

how and why one can choose and adapt vocab-related activities

in-depth word knowledge – meaning, structure, associations, derivation

american stats – scary – high decile = 8000 words by year 3/ low decile = 4000 words by year 3

Students should not be expected to learn more than 6 or 7 new words in a reading lesson
teaching 25 word meanings per week is a reasonable goal

high quality texts – Regular and extensive reading of is probably the single largest source of vocab growth (Increase volume of reading)

all the words that mean beautiful – linking hte words together

start with the meaning and ask them to find the word (rather than the other way around)

Incidental word learning is important

we can make sense of what is going on if we know at least 85% of the words

teahcers are models … use words … i find words exciting!!!! teach that excitement to the kids – word of the day/word of the week – display – could have kids find different places where they see the word and bring to share

BOOK: The first easter bunny
By Kate Walker (read by one of our teachers)

Another book on accepting others differances

Pre Reading

Introducing Key Words that may be a challenge to students
Students predicting what words might be in text. -Can be added to/checked off during and/or after reading

During Reading

Teaching new words through context
Looking closely at the structure of words to find meaning clues
Find and identify words in text connected closely to the topic or theme

Post Reading

Exploring all aspects of vocab knowledge (Meaning, derivation, structure, related words, synonyms and antonyms) using things like:

Semantic webs
Clines – words with degrees of meaning – ie – hot, tepid, warm, luke-warm etc
Semantic feature analysis
Venn Diagrams
Hierarchical array
Barrier games/matching words with definitions – could do on mimio
Close activities
Word associations – police – trouble – kids – children – trouble 😉
Finishing sentances meaningfully – The boy played in the park and….
Clustering words according to meaning (Give kids whole list of words and they group all that mean the same.)
Telephone whispers – Similiar to chiniese whispers
Call my bluff – Give 3 or 4 def’s and chdn decide which is the right one
Linear arrays
Coffee pot game (for context) – I left my “coffee pot” this morning {house}
in the manner of the word (secret adverb) ask someone to do an action in the mannaer of the word
My Aunt likes… double letter ie apples but not pears, green but not red

Can be done independently or with teacher – follow up activity can assess students understanding of a non-fiction text

hierarchical – looks like a good one for using with mimio

BOOK: Something else – (different cover)
– Accepting others again

Reading Responses
Related activities after reading should link directly to the learning goal or focus and the text being considered. Students should be able to see these links. related activities can also be FUN!!!!

KWL – more suited for non-fiction
(Brainboxes we have in Team B could be good place to start)
Template avail on mimio also

The reading activity handbook – sheneah cameron

Students should be given a variety of reading responses:
– Oral language act (“The main ideas in this text are…” “In my own words this text is about…”)

– Word/ Vocab act

– Writing act (using graphic organisers, storyboards, timelines, flow chart, diary entry for a character in the story, creating a news item{radio, tv, paper}, emotions chart, Writing to the author to describe their feelings towards the text, Creating a “Who am i?” puzzle for others, writind a similar story or poem.)

– Related art/music/drama act (Wanted poster, model or diorama about key section of text, book mark)

– Research act

online/digital responses – create your own superhero for the story/avatar/online story boarding etc

creating photographic freeze frames/slide shows/movies

These should be changed regularly so that children are “captured” by new responses

Pick a card – variety of response on cards (upside down)

shopping for pyjamas

make their own books
reading from the wall
buddy reading
online reading
interactive reading and writing on the comp/mimio
listening to other text at listening posts
reading from independent book boxes


BOOK: the cats in krasinski square