Friday, March 2, 2018

Digital Publishing with Decker Colony Students

In my role as Literacy with ICT Teacher Leader for PWSD, I am fortunate to work in lots of great classrooms.   One class that I have worked with recently is Mr. Elias Wipf's Grade 7-9 ELA class at Decker Colony School.   This group of students decided to tackle a special writing project this year.   Their goal was to collaboratively write short stories and publish them digitally.   Their books are now available online and they have printed a copy for their school library.   The quality of their work is absolutely exceptional, so I'd encourage you to check out the books using the links below!

The Fish Said by Grace and Carrie Waldner

The 3 Little Swines by Daniel and Alex Waldner

Unsuspecting by Renae Wipf, Tamar Waldner, Adelheid Waldner and Natalya Waldner 

I have already written quite a bit about publishing digital books on this blog.  If you are interested in digital book creation, you can read more about the process in this post. You can also check out this post to see some more samples and read about why I think students should publish their writing.  A few things to note about the Decker Grades 7-9 books:
  • Collaboration:  Students worked with their grade-level peers to write the stories.  They used a shared document (Google Doc) to write collaboratively.
  • Planning: In addition to planning their stories, students also used a storyboard to plan the layout of their books.   Developing a storyboard allowed students to plan the illustrations they would need.   Having the storyboards helped students put their text and artwork together in the digital book by following the plan for which pages would contain text and which pages would contain illustrations. 
  • Artwork:  The artwork included in these books is excellent!  The students developed their illustrations on paper and a combination of photographing and colour scanning was used to digitize the photos.  
  • Revision: The shared documents made ongoing revision easier.   Students and teachers could read, re-read, edit and revise.  The writing in these books was revised and refined a number of times based on peer editing and teacher editing.   

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Sharing Knowledge and Building Skills with Video Production

One way for students to demonstrate their understanding is through video production.  In my role as LwICT Teacher Leader, I was privileged to work with Mrs. Facey and her awesome group of Grade 8s on a video production project this term.   The grade 8 class was working on a "Power of Media" theme along with Project 11 activities on self-esteem.  Mrs. Facey gave her students the opportunity to produce videos as part of their learning.  Not only did the class create some powerful videos to share, they also engaged in deep, meaningful learning.

Although I was not in the classroom every day of this project, it was evident during my classroom visits that the grade 8s were learning a lot.   Their project included a wide variety of learning activities/assignments, such as:
  • research on self-esteem
  • viewing and analyzing existing media related to self-esteem
  • planning: students identified their target audience and intended message, they planned a style/format for their video and identified setting, actors etc.
  • script writing: students learned to use a two column script to plan for audio and visual aspects of their videos
  • revising and editing: students worked hard to make their work high quality, which involved revising based on peer feedback and teacher feedback
  • videography: students filmed, edited and shared their videos 

When students completed their scripts, they were grouped into video production teams.   The team then had to review each team member's script and decide which video(s) to produce.  When I met with a team at this stage of the project, I was so impressed with the collaboration, negotiation and discussion taking place.  Once a script was selected by the team, they undertook further revisions and planned their set, props and costumes.   Next, the groups assigned roles such as director, assistant director, videographer and editor.  They selected actors to fill each role.   Once their plans were in place, students used the school's available video equipment and filmed footage on an iPad.   Upon completing filming, editors worked in iMovie.  The final products were shared on the class YouTube channel in hopes of reaching their target audiences.  Students started sharing their work and made a plan to reach their targeted audiences.

The final videos are very well done and very powerful.   I would encourage you to watch them below.  However, the final videos can only begin to show the meaningful learning that these students engaged in throughout the project.   I'm sure that my short description above cannot fully convey all of the learning that took place, but from meeting with this class, I know that they gained valuable knowledge and developed important skills through this project. 

Why I Think This Project is Awesome
Yes, the videos are excellent and that definitely makes this project awesome, but behind those videos was a lot of learning that make this kind of project so worthwhile.  As a teacher, I saw a lot of good things happening with this project. 

Purpose for Learning: I've written before about students doing "work that matters" and I think this is an excellent example. Students created these videos because they wanted to share an important message and have an impact with their work.  Some groups focused on educating others about self-esteem while other groups shared messages to encourage and uplift others.  Regardless of the message, students were writing, revising, editing, filming and sharing for a purpose. They had a reason to read, write, view, analyze and discuss. 

Authentic Audience:  Students identified an audience that they wanted to reach and actually shared their videos in places where those people could access them.   I love when audiences outside of the classroom get to see the great work that students are doing!

Building Skills: The variety of learning activities involved in completing this project provided opportunities for students to develop skills in collaboration, communication, problem solving and critical thinking.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

How to Create Digital Books featuring samples from Mrs. Dreilich's Grade 7/8s & Ms. Cowling's Grade 7s

Publishing digital books is a great way for students to share their work with a wider audience.  In my role as LwICT Teacher Leader, I am fortunate to work with many teachers and students on a variety of LwICT projects.

This term, Mrs. Dreilich worked with students in her Grade 7/8 ICT class to support them in creating digital books.  Mrs. Dreilich shared sample digital books created by my class to provide inspiration, then she guided her students through planning, drafting and revising their own writing.  Many students chose to write children's books and several of them used a question and answer format. Check out some samples below:

Is this a Tiger?  By Zoe

Is this a Panda?  By Kylee

Who has this Foot? by Sierra

Is this My Milkshake? by Brendan 

Ms. Cowling's grade 7 class collaboratively published their first digital book, which is a collection of poems.  Each student contributed a "bio poem" for the collection.

Grade 7 Bio Poems by Ms. Cowling's Class 

I especially liked the plan the Grade 7s created for sharing their digital book:

So how can my students publish books?
I've helped students publish books in a few different ways.   Here is one process that might work for you and your students:

Provide the same structure that you normally would when students are doing a writing project.   Students will need to plan, draft, revise and edit as part of the writing process.  Often, traditional pencil and paper are the best tools for these first steps.  Sometimes, students may draft and edit using a word processor or online document.   Whatever the case, writing mini-lessons and student conferencing will be important to help your writers develop quality written work.  I have found it also helps to identify a target audience and a plan for sharing early in the process.

Often, students create their illustrations on paper.   The illustrations can then be digitized by using colour scanning (most school copiers will do this efficiently) or by photographing each illustration.   Another option is to have students plan the images they need and then take their own photographs or source royalty-free images online (I like Pixabay).

The next step is to put together the writing and the illustrations.  One tool I have used is a digital scrapbooking tool called Mixbook.  (The samples above were created in Mixbook.)   I typically  upload images to Mixbook with/for students and then have students put together their illustrations and text on each page.   Students may wish to type directly on each page in Mixbook or they may have their typing saved so they can copy and paste their text into the book.  

Mixbook creates a beautiful digital book and you can "flip through" the pages of your book on their website. Mixbook allows you to share a display link or embed your book in a website or blog.  My class often shares their work through this blog or by sharing the link on social media (such as Twitter).   The book links can also easily be emailed to families, partner classrooms and other stakeholders.

  • Students complete their writing and illustrations on paper and then photograph/scan the finished pages to include in the book.  
  • Students type their story and print out the text they want on each page with blank space for illustrations, then draw illustrations.  When the pages are complete, then photograph/scan the finished pages to include in the book.  
  • Book Creator is a great app if you want to create digital books on an iPad.  The files export as a PDF or video file.   Book Creator offers the option of adding a recording to each page, so students can easily create an audio book! 

Friday, December 22, 2017

Digital Books: Christmas Mysteries by Ms. Fraser's Class

I have been helping students publish digital books over the last few years.  After students go through  planning, drafting, revising and editing, students digitize their book.  Why?   I am passionate about students doing work that matters and work that has a purpose beyond the classroom.  Whether it is taking action to solve a problem through project-based learning or creating something amazing to share with others, I think that students benefit from learning beyond the classroom.  Extending the writing process to include digital publishing allows students to share their work with a wider audience.  Rather than just the teacher and (maybe) peers seeing student work, digital books can easily be accessed online by families, community members, partner classrooms and others.  It is highly motivating and engaging for students to write for a real audience outside the classroom.   

In my role as LwICT Teacher Leader, I was excited to work with a class to publish their Christmas Mysteries this holiday season!  This week, I visited Ms. Fraser's grade 4/5/6 class.   They had their mysteries written and were diligently working to finish illustrations when I arrived in their classroom.   I was able to support students in digitizing their finished books during my classroom visit.  I was so impressed by the interesting stories and beautiful illustrations!  The grade 4/5/6 class agreed that I could share their work here on my blog, so please take a look at some of their books below and feel free to leave a comment to pass on to them. 

The Case of the Missing Skidoo by Matthew

Where are Blitzen and Donner by Josie

The Mystery of Santa’s Eaten Cookies by Damion

Lost Little Santa Paws Finds a Friend by Kylee

The Mystery of Frosty’s Hat by Sean

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Kids Who Code: Get Started with Coding in the Classroom

For the last few years, I have supported my early years students in planning a special Code-a-thon event for Computer Science Education Week.  This year, my week looks a little different.  Since I'm currently acting as the LwICT Teacher Leader for Park West School Division, I get to work with dozens of classes on coding and computer science this December!   I kicked off the week with a coding workshop for teachers and I'm scheduled to work on coding with many classes this week.  For those interested in getting started with coding in the classroom, I would suggest trying one or more of the following:

Unplugged Coding
I typically introduce students to unplugged coding first.  For middle years and high school students, I have modified this Grid Paper Programming Lesson from  For younger learners, I prefer to start working on the 100 grid of a learning carpet or a smaller 4X4 grid taped on the floor.   I use arrows printed on cardstock and demonstrate how we can "program" a stuffed toy to move around the grid using left, right, up and down arrows.  Students can then work with a partner using a paper copy of the grid and a smaller manipulative to practice "programming" the manipulative to move around the grid.  

unplugged coding for early years

Hour of Code(TM)
Signing up for Hour of Code is great way to get started with coding in the classroom.  There are TONS of great tutorials available from with different options for different grade levels.  You might want to try one of the tutorials yourself and then share it with your students or just jump right in and learn alongside them.  

Using a project-based learning model, I've guided my class in planning and hosting three Code-a-thon events.  Each year involved different tools, partners and activities, but each event was a great success!  Check out my Kids Who Code Code-a-thon guide below for tips on planning your own event.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Global Read Aloud: A High School Perspective

The following is a guest blog post from high school teacher, Ms. Beccy Ardiel.  Beccy tried out the Global Read Aloud with some of her high school ELA students this year.  Read below for her thoughts on GRA in the high school classroom!

Beccy's Reflection on Planning and Preparing
Global Read Aloud was a program I had never heard of but was excited to try out!  I couldn't decide which class to work with, so I decided to have my grade 9 Reading is Thinking class read A Long Walk to Water and my grade 11 ELA class read A Monster Calls. I was a bit hesitant on how to start, so I began by seeking out people to collaborate with on Edmodo. Finding people was easy - finding teachers who had classes at the same time as my two classes was not as easy! We began discussing ideas for collaborative activities and came up with some letter writing ideas, as well as posting to Padlet and Flipgrid - two apps I had never heard about before, but I am now very knowledgeable! Shortly before the program was to begin, we received a lengthy compilation of resources that had been created for each of our novels. This document was amazing! I sifted through, found things that worked for my classes or things that I could use/change to suit my learners and with that, we began GRA!

Global Read Aloud - Connecting and Learning
My grade 9 students were much more into collaboration and we made a video about our community/school/class. These students created a padlet post about themselves and we watched Flipgrid videos, and even made our own, as a way to connect with our penpals in New Jersey. We never did arrange a Skype, but that is ok. Once the program began, I realized that you can do as much as you want or focus on a few small scale tasks, in terms of collaboration, and you are still able to participate on a global scale. We had Mrs. Obach come in to help us navigate the Twitter page better and this was a good spring board for what we made our routine - posting to Twitter after we completed our weekly reading sections. A personal high point was having the author of the novel like a couple of our tweets!

My grade 11 students were less interested in the face-to-face collaboration. We created introductory padlets and invited other students in my collaborative partner's schools to join. It was neat to learn and read about fellow students all over the world. When it came to discussing their thoughts and feelings about the text, my students were more interested in posting to Twitter than any other suggested method. We commented on other classes tweets and initiated some conversations/lesson ideas with our own and this in itself was pretty fascinating! A few of our tweets sparked discussion with other educators and this feedback really was unlike anything the students have experienced - people outside of our buidling were giving them powerful feedback about their ideas and interpretations and it was an awesome to deliver this message to them!

Looking Ahead
I am curious to find out what texts will be a part of this program next year! I would also love to have the chance create the Twitter questions at some point in the future! If I was to do it all over again, I might suggest doing it with one class as it did take a lot of time to prepare for two separate texts. That being said, I enjoyed both texts so much that I don't think I could have picked one over the other, so I'll have to see what next year brings!

Thanks to Mrs. Obach for opening my eyes to such a worthwhile and engaging learning experience - for both myself and for my students!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Global Read Aloud: Tough Boris Talks

I enjoyed working with Mrs. Ramsey's Grade 1 class, Mrs. Eftoda's Grade 1 class and Mrs. Reagh's Grade 1/2 class this month.  These 3 classes have been participating in the Mem Fox author study as part of Global Read Aloud.   Mem Fox's Tough Borris uses great adjectives to describe the pirate character, Boris.  When I visited each class, we read the book carefully, keeping track of the describing words and discussing what each word meant.

Next, we tried describing ourselves as if we were Tough Boris.  We set criteria for "what a good job sounds like" and then we recorded our ideas using ChatterPix.   Some students even used their prior knowledge of pirates to add some pirate expressions to their recording!  Check out the final videos below:

Inglis Grade 1

RES Grade 1/2

SCS Grade 1