Books We Are Reading In Class

Eastwood Public School

Windsor, Ontario, Canada

Global Read Aloud

We will be participating in the Global Read Aloud Project. We will be reading Marty Mcguire in the month of October and connecting with other classes about the book.

Primary Blogging Community

Each primary classroom will spend some time visiting the focus class' blog for a week, leave comments etc.

Class Wordle

We used Wordle to describe our classroom.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Using Social Media as a Teaching Tool

Teaching Social Media as a tool is imperative in todays day and age.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube are all applications that many of our students frequent everyday.  We also hear horrible stories of mistakes teens and adults have made that they can't take back on social media.  A snap of a picture that is sent via text could be detrimental.  Saying something inappropriate on Twitter or Facebook can put you in a lot of hot water or worse....jail.

This is why I teach social media norms and etiquette in my classroom. Do kids make mistakes?  Of course!  I encourage mistakes, because we learn from them.  I want my students to make those mistakes while they are in my class.  An inappropriate comment on someone's blog is a lesson learned in my class and hopefully not repeated.  The mistakes that are made in grade 2 are a lot less harmful than when that student is in high school.

My students see Social Media as a teaching tool.  Twitter is embedded into the daily instruction in my classroom.  As well as posting their learning on their personal blogs or uploading their work to our Youtube Channel.  Our classroom Twitter norms were created with my students to ensure ownership of our norms.

A few weeks ago we were working on writing a persuasive letter.  I wanted to make this an authentic task so as a class, we brainstormed a list of things that we could persuade our principal to buy or let us do.  My students agreed that they wanted to persuade our principal into buying us a bird feeder to put outside our observation window.  My students came up with the idea to post the letters on their blogs and then tweet them directly to our principal on Twitter.  Students tweeted their letters and got responses from not only the principal.  We received a bird feeder and birdseed on behalf of our Director of Education, a bird house that one of our students made and a humming bird feeder from my mom.

One of my student's letters on their blog.  (Check out the response).

I think the above tweet says it all.  The connections being made in my classroom that day was amazing.  Students were discussing how powerful social media can be.  They spoke about how quickly the message got around and how if they would have delivered the letter to the principal's office we would have not received all of this support from other people.  This also sparked a conversation about if you were to post something that was harmful or inappropriate on Twitter, how many people could potentially see it very quickly and how you can't take something back even if you delete the tweet after it has been tweeted.  These conversations help mold my students opinions and work ethic around social media.

Another great example of how social media has a positive impact in my classroom, is when I  recently received this tweet on the weekend from one of my students:

I was so excited to get a tweet on the weekend from a student that on their own, researched about our current inquiry and tweeted it to me!  (Remember, he is in grade 3).  This student isn't using social media to see what Justin Bieber is up to or to ramble on about his weekend.  He is using it in a purposeful way to show his learning.

 After the weekend, my student was all set with two QR codes printed out to share with the class.  Amazing!

Remember mistakes are welcomed in our classrooms and when children make mistakes it creates new learning.  Don't be quick to "shut it down"  when a mistake is made on social media.  Be thankful it was made in a controlled environment where students can learn from their mistakes without it being detrimental down the road.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Will Dance For Minecraft

As I walked into my classroom this afternoon at the end of lunch, I saw three boys on the carpet at the front of the room dancing and giving each other high fives.  There was also an excited chatter throughout the classroom.  As I went over to ask the boys what all of the excitement was all about, I heard the word, MINECRAFT.  The students had read the learning goal and success criteria for our Science project that I was going to tell them about the following period.  (I was excited that they were reading my anchor charts while they were eating their lunch, who knew?) 

What is it about this game that has young and old, girls and boys so obsessed over?  I have students playing it outside during recess, I have kids in my class that will do ANYTHING just for the chance to play it for 10 minutes on our iPads. (Do you have reluctant writers?  Give them 10 minutes on Minecraft and have them write about their adventure. I guarantee the writers' block will disappear.)   Heck, my 7 year old son sleeps with a stuffed creeper that he has named Creepy and creates things with cardboard cutouts that look like Minecraft pieces.

This past year I have dabbled with Minecraft on our iPads at school.  It took a matter of seconds for my class to notice that Minecraft had been downloaded on our 20 iPads.

Like every other app on our iPads, I wanted their to be a purpose for downloading it. Besides it being entertaining, fun and to be thought of as the "coolest teacher" for downloading it and letting them play Minecraft at school.  Minecraft had to have educational value.  I had to be able to tie it into the curriculum. I did some searching on the Internet, went to a few sessions at conferences about Minecraft, bombarded my son and husband with question and learned about the game.

So far this year, we have incorporated Minecraft into the following:

1. In science, students had to design and build a strong and stable structure over a lava river in Minecraft.
2.  To conclude our Early Settlers Inquiry in Social Studies, students were asked to create a replica of a home or town that resembles what they had learned during the unit.

3.  For a literacy component, students were asked to create a replica of our school with a group of 4 other students.  The tricky part was that the students were only allowed to communicate by using the messaging option in Minecraft.  My room is usually pretty noisy and you could hear a pin drop during this activity!

4.  Our current Science Inquiry about Soil that students have to identify and describe the different types of soil.  (I had a couple of students ask if they could do it at home for homework.  I bet I wouldn't have had that question if I asked them to create a diagram on paper.)
Here is a completed soil project:

If you have not used Minecraft in your classroom before, I encourage you to try it.  It is like Christmas morning every time I tell my students that we are going to use Minecraft.  There is dancing, smiling, cheering and lots and lots of learning!   If you are using Minecraft in your classroom, I would love to hear how you are using it.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Learn Something New Today and Implement It Tomorrow!

I am so excited to let you know about the launch of a new collection of books created by Apple Distinguished Educators.  Last year, I participated in my first ADE Institute, held in Austin Texas.    At the institute, the idea was introduced to us, to write a lesson, or a chapter on something that we felt was "One Best Thing" that we could share with other educators.  

Quoted from the ADE website:

"The One Best Thing is a collection of books, created by Apple Distinguished Educators (ADEs), that demonstrate the use of Apple technologies to transform teaching and learning. Each One Best Thing book shares a unit, a lesson, or a best practice and is designed to help another educator implement a successful practice. It’s a professional learning idea championed by an educator—in word and action—that others can look to for ideas and tips on how to replicate."

There are 102 books that were chosen altogether from approximately 500 submissions.  These books are short so you can read them quickly, (in a night) and be able to implement right away.

There are books about assessment to photography and everything in between.  Here is the direct link for you to check out all the amazing content.

Don't forget to check my book out, on Twitter in the Primary Classroom. I would love to hear your feedback!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Math is Harder When Using an iPad

Photo taken by Christine Cousins
I do not use a lot of worksheets in my math program.  So much so, that last week, I gave a worksheet during math to my grade 2 students to do and one of my students cheered.  CHEERED! For a worksheet!  I asked the child in my class why she cheered.  I figured that she would have responded with, "I like worksheets."  If she had answered that way, I would have been fine with that. I believe that we all have our own learning preferences and some children enjoy doing worksheets.  However I would never have anticipated what she said to me.  She responded with,

"I like doing worksheets better than using the iPads because I don't have to think as much."  

I was speechless for a second... then I dug deeper and asked her to explain how worksheets are easier.  She responded with, 

"On the iPads, I have to show my work, explain my thinking and make sure it is my best work because someone other than you might see it on my blog or on Twitter."  

"Wowza!" (I actually said that out loud to my student) she giggled and I continued thinking about what she had said.

In other words, there are two major reasons (other than they are engaging and fun) to continue using the iPads and social media during math class:

  1. Using the iPads leads to a higher level of understanding because students have to explain their thinking with pictures, numbers, words AND their voice. 
  2.  If you use social media in your classroom like we do, it leads to higher quality work because there is a larger audience that may see the student's work.  
As I continued to think about what my student had said, I thought about the recent math activities that we had done on the iPad.  My student was right.  It typically takes longer to complete a task on the iPad because there are multiple tasks that need to be completed.  We usually do an anchor chart with the learning goals and success criteria for the task.

An example of a finished product Sidhak's Skeleton

An example of a finished product Ryan's Blog

Could I have handed out worksheets for the students on these two math concepts?  Of course.  Would it have taken less time?  Probably.  Do I think they gained a better understanding of the concepts?  Definitely!  I also love using these pieces for assessment purposes.  These two examples were completely done independently and I can go back to their blogs and look at their work whenever I want to.  So can their parents.  A very powerful tool if I do say so myself.

Will I continue to use the iPads and use worksheets on some days?  Of course. In fact, I gave out a worksheet today for my students to complete.  They said, "It was an easy math class today."  Hmmm, maybe I need to give them harder worksheets...

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Full Of Beans Global Project

Are you interested in participating in a collaborative global project?  
Do you have to cover the changes plants undergo in a complete life cycle, identify the parts used to produce specific products, and or describe how these products are produced in your curriculum?  If your answer is yes, this is the project for you!

The idea behind the project is to have your students collaborating with other classes, documenting and sharing their seed growth on a central wiki. The purpose of the wiki is to connect classrooms and help share common and different experiences. 

Instructions For The Project

Please plant your bean seeds on April 22nd, 2014
1. Soak the beans, or seeds of your choice in water overnight.
2. Have students stuff an open jar or a plastic baggie with a moistened paper towel or cotton balls.
3. Have them place three beans between the glass/baggie and towel, and moisten as needed.
4. Post pictures, video and or audio to the wikki to share with the other classes.
5. Ask students to observe: on the third day, the seed may be soft and fat. On the fourth day, the skin may loosen and the root may begin to appear. On the sixth day, root hairs may begin to sprout from the big root. On the eighth day, pale shoots may sprout, representing the beginning of a green plant. When the leaves and roots are well developed, have the students plant the bean plant in a pot of soil.
6. Have your students record all of their observation over the next few weeks.

Documenting Your Seed Growth

There are many ways to document your seed growth. A few suggestions are:
  • A written plant journal
  • Take a picture each day, use Skitch to label and discuss the changes
  • Use the Book Creator App for a multi-media creation filled with audio, video, text and images from your students.
  • Have each student create a personal seed journal on Explain Everything, creating a new page each day of the project.
  • Create a class Observation Book.
  • Take a picture each day for a stop motion project with an app like iStopMotion for the iPad.
  • However you choose to record your results please post your progress at least twice a week on the wiki so other classes can view your progress.

Items that must be included in your observations:
  • The temperature that day.
  • The date or growth day number
  • If the seed has started to sprout, the measurement of how tall the sprout is using millimeters and or centimeters

Information to include on your wikki page:
  • Your location and School name
  • The grade of your students
  • Your classroom Twitter handle if you have one

How to Sign Up

Once you fill in the google form, I will create a page for your class on the left hand side of the project wiki. You will need a log in to edit the wiki. When you try to edit the page, it will ask you to fill in a form asking for permission to join. Once I approve it, you will be able to edit your page. The page I create for you is where you will add your observations. You may add text, images, audio and video to your page. Please feel free to be as creative as you wish.

If you have any questions, you can contact me on Twitter @mrswideen or email me at

* A special thank you to Sarah Soltauheller for allowing me to duplicate her project from 2 years ago.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Explain Your Thinking With Math Stations and the Explain Everything App

Math in my classroom may look a little different in my room than other classrooms.  At first Glance, it looks a bit chaotic and messy.  You may not see me at first glance, I might be playing a math game with a student, or working with a small group on the carpet,  or going over the math concept that we are currently working on with a group that needs a little extra help at the guided reading table.

I teach 75 minutes of math everyday.   My grade 2 students start with 10 minutes of an App called FlowPlus to practice their addition and subtraction facts.  They write their score on the back page of their math book each day and try to beat their score from the previous day.

I then teach a mini lesson to the whole group on the carpet.  We then do some sort of activity to reinforce the concept.  This might be on the iPads, using white boards and manipulatives,  a game, a partner activity or a worksheet.  I usually work with a group that is having difficulty with the concept at this time.

When students are finished the activity they go to a math station.  Students are partnered up with the same student each day and usually do one station that is preassigned.  All of the math stations are concepts that have already been taught in class.  The math stations reinforce the skills the students already have.

When creating a math station, I want students to be accountable, however I don't want copious amounts of paper to look at.  I also work with students to assess their knowledge of the math concepts during math stations and use this one on one or small group time to get a clearer picture of where they are and what they need assistance with.

We are working very hard this year to make our thinking visible and to talk more about our math
strategies and how we arrive at an answer.  This has led me to create many stations that incorporate the Explain Everything App.  Students use this app to explain and show their thinking.

Here are a few new math stations I have created and a few old favorites.  Feel free to download them and use them in your class if you wish.  On a side note, my students upload their Explain Everything's to their blogs. Having an authentic audience and getting feedback from others is a big engagement piece for my students.  They also like tweeting our their EE creations to our class Twitter feed.  This can be done easily with Explain Everything.

Measurement Math Challenge

Download Here

Fact Family Math Challenge

Download Here

Double Digit Dice Challenge

Download Here

Word Problem Challenge

Download Here

Area Math Challenge

Download Here

One last tidbit to think about, if you have a great student example, upload the example to your Youtube channel, create a QR code that links to the completed explain everything and attach the QR code to the back of the task card.  If your students have questions or want to check their work before submitting they can scan and watch the video.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Where Does Your School Fall on the Lego Movie Continuum?

Last week, my husband and I took our two children to see the “Lego Movie.”  I can’t praise the movie enough.  It was funny for the whole family, clean, very entertaining and it had some great messages.  Believe in yourself (and your students); everyone is special; there’s a time to follow the rules and a time to break them.

As I was talking to my Principal, James Cowper, this past Friday about the movie, he told me he was writing a blog post about the movie from a principal's point of view and invited me to write one from a Teacher’s point of view.  This blog post could have gone many ways with this movie and as my husband Eric, and I brainstormed all of the themes this movie had that were symbolic to the teaching profession we settled on the following.

In the Lego Movie, there were 3 distinct levels of hierarchy:

Image from
The Evil Lord Business – “The Man upstairs” When Lord Business rose to power, he began capturing master builders because of his disapproval of them being innovative and building things that were not made with instructions. Lord Business planned to use the Kragle (a tube of Krazy Glue with some of the logo's letters rubbed out) to freeze the universe perfectly in place.

I believe that the “Man Upstairs” in a building definitely sets the tone of a school and can make or break a staff.  Is your principal like Lord Business, where he or she has to be in complete control?  Does it need to be their way or the highway? If you push the boundaries will you be Kraglized? 

On the other end of the spectrum is “Vitruvius.”  In the movie, he is the heroic wizard.  He tries to teach Emmet, the main character, that the key to true building is to believe in yourself and follow your own set of instructions inside of your head. 

A great leader needs to value the uniqueness of each individual on his staff.  A great principal realizes that “everything is awesome when we work as a team” and that everyone on staff can rise up to be a leader. School leaders also need to play an active role in planning and supporting instruction instead of demanding how it needs to look like and sound like.  Most of all, great principals need to lead by example.

Image from
The Micro Managers – In the Lego Movie, the "Micro Managers" were a type of robot used by Lord Business to pose and prepare civilians to be Kraglized (In a frozen perfect state). Micro Managers also put all of the blocks back together following the instruction manual.

I see these “Micro Managers” as teachers.  On the one end of the continuum, you have teachers that micro manage their classrooms and students.  These Micro Managers offer no choice, engagement or creativity.  The teacher “manual” is the “Bible” and they don’t deviate from it.  There are only lectures, worksheets and textbooks to deliver curriculum, and paper- pencil tests to measure student achievement.  This is an environment where students do not value the tasks and the only form of feedback is a grade on the top of a paper.

On the other end of the continuum is when teachers are like “Wyldstyle.”   Wyldstyle is a free spirit who loves pushing boundaries and being creative. She has a strong, independent streak that makes her question when things are wrong and makes the main character, “Emmet” feel special.  She is the encouragement Emmet needs to give him the confidence to stand up to Lord Business.

Innovative teachers are constantly pushing the boundaries in their classrooms; they are creative in their thinking and approach.  Great teachers know their students, build trusted relationships with them, and create an environment where their students feel comfortable to take risks.  Great teachers are not micro managers; they embrace student curiosity and empower their students to learn about topics that are important to them through inquiry.  They also give students choice on how they show and share their learning to the audience of their choice.

Image from
The Master Builders - Master Builders are creative free spirits that can instinctively build anything without instruction manuals. 

The “Master Builders” are our children.  When children come to us beginning in Kindergarten, they are full of questions, curiosity and excitement.  They have the attitude that they can do and be anything that they want. Just ask a kindergarten student what they want to be when they grow up. 

We can foster this attitude, by encouraging personal interests through inquiry, letting students follow their passions and teaching them collaboration skills.  This way, they can have positive working relationships with their classmates, their community and the world through face to face interactions and through social media.   As educators we  have a choice to make every child feel that they are the most special person in the world.   Or we can stifle them, with rigid routines, boring lessons and isolation from working with others.  We can have quiet, neat classrooms that produce robot like children that cannot create any original ideas and cannot think independently.

At the end of the movie, Emmet convinces Lord Business that creativity is not messy or weird, and that it is okay for people to build brand-new ideas from all the things Business himself had made, which makes him special, too.

Hopefully you are part of a school on the winning side of the Lego Continuum.  If not, take a stand.  It's time for a change at your school.  You ARE the “Special One.”

If you would like to see James Cowper's take on the Lego Movie, read it here.