Category Archives: 21st century

The wonder wall

The wonder wall came about quite by accident one day. To be honest, open house was coming up so I hastily threw a hand-made “tableau de découvertes” poster up on the blank bulletin board, not knowing really what I had in mind but knowing that I wanted it to be an organic place for students to ask questions and share answers.

Then after parent night, the board was left alone until we went outside to observe the soundscape around our school. When we came back in we discussed what we had observed with all of our senses. One of the students remarked that she had seen pussy willows. My teaching partner noted that it was impossible for pussy willows to be out because it was the wrong season.

This was the question that constructivists seek: that moment where a learner’s understanding is challenged and the paradigm is forced to shift. I was just so happy to see the moment come so organically.

If it was impossible, how had our student made such an observation? The next time we went outside we looked for pussy willows… And sure enough they were there. Not because they were ripe and had opened on their own but because students had stripped them off the branches and had dropped them on the ground. We took one of the stripped branches and stuck it up on our bulletin board. Next, the questions started to come fast and furious: what would happen to the plant if all of the pussy willows were stripped off? Would birds eat them? Immediately, we needed a place to organize our questions. I stuck up three large sheets of paper for “my questions”, “what I think I know”, things I have learned” and the side of the board was reserved for “ideas that turned out to be mistaken”.

As the weeks passed, students were welcome to add questions and to add answers they thought they already knew. The wonder wall has been quiet over the last few days, but we are ready to give it another boost next week when we begin some student-lead research. My assistant principal @shafinad has shared the brilliant app aurasma with me and I’m so excited to have the students start creating videos that link directly from the wonder wall to videos of their learning! In the past I have created similar “off the wall” projects that linked from QR codes, but I think the Aurasma will be much more dynamic and students will be more inclined to scan one another’s work.

I would love to guide students to linking their work from last year on animals to their research this year. I think it would show them that the work they do never has to be entirely left in the past. In addition, it takes the work out of the four walls of the classroom and into the up-and-coming-learning-commons.

More to come!

CREATE: The Value of Art in the Classroom

Today my students completed the final session of three sessions with CREATE artist Tanya Rogoschewsky. Tanya looked at paintings by Emily Carr with my students and talked about her influences. My students then created paintings, drawing on her for inspiration.

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Full disclosure here: my students don’t get to paint as much as I would like them to, mostly because of the mess factor. We are in a classroom in the portables and are a long way from a sink for clean-up, making painting a big undertaking every time we do it. It was fun watching my students paint, though. Some who are not generally artistic or drawn to the arts really got into it and it was fun to see the visceral painting style of students who are generally more athletically inclined.

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I believe in arts in the classroom, not only because it complements other areas of the curriculum (in this case: Canadian heritage), but also because I think students should be exposed to art and be encouraged to make beautiful things. How sad would the world be if we streamed kids at such a young age and asked them to put themselves in rigid categories?

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A More Effective Teacher

I took a leap today and had my students begin working on Evernote to keep a journal. I am posting the results here even though the result is not as polished as I would like.

I think that Evernote notebooks have the potential to be an education game changer. As I previously noted on Twitter, I had a student with organizational challenges begin using Evernote about two weeks ago. Here, he is able to store pictures of organizers, record audio responses to some work, and write a journal that is generally of higher quality because the iPad is pointing out his mistakes to him (it has been interesting to watch him work – I can here him say “Oh! That’s how you spell (fill in the blank)? I didn’t know that!)

When he was away for a couple of days, I put his missing work directly into his Evernote and he was able to access everything directly from home.

Today’s work was writing a journal. While I would like to get better at doing this, today was a first step. Ten students wrote their journals in Evernote and I was able to access their work from my desk on my iPad. I recorded feedback for them using Explain Everything and sent them a copy back that they can watch and use to make corrections to their work.

I think this will be a powerful tool for students as I can have a virtual 2 minute meeting with each student after they are already gone for the day and make improvements to their work.