Posted in Professional Development

Summer Book Study Blog Party – The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease

This year the Summer Book Study Blog Party is starting a bit later, which is so much better for me.  In Canada we don’t finish school until the very end of June so often I find I am playing catch up with the blog party.  This year I have had time to relax for a few days and just last night I read the introduction in Jim Trelease’s The Read-Aloud Hanbook 7th Edition.  If you would like more information on the blog party you can check it out here.  I participated last year and really enjoyed it – a fun an relaxed way to do some professional development over the summer.

Let me start by saying I love books, and I love to read, however I often forget to give myself time to read.  My collection of professional resources I want to get through is daunting.  I have given up reading ‘adult’ books, with the exception of one great book I ‘make’ myself read at the cottage every year.  My ECE partner would confirm that I have an obsession with collecting picture books, between myself and my children we may have more books than the school library.  One of my goals this summer is to organize all my books so today I downloaded the app Book Crawler.  Just starting today I have already added 90 books.  But, I digress, the reason I say this is because even though I love books they are often the quickest way to solve my insomnia.  This wasn’t the case last night when I started The Read-Aloud Handbook.  

After reading the introduction a few key thoughts stuck with me:

  1. I need to read more with my own children.  All three of my kids LOVE books.  My girls (7 an 4) are both avid readers and advanced for their age and my 2 year old son loves following his sisters lead.  Saying that we have become a bit lax with family reading time.  We sometimes read throughout the day but our 20 minutes every night is much more inconsistent.  We rectified that tonight.  First Michael picked a board book Franklin’s Shapes.  Next Eileen and I read Stephanie’s Ponytail together (she insisted on saying the repeating lines).  Finally Kaitlyn and I started a new chapter book The Wide-awake Princess.  The key is for us to keep this up – I know how important it is but even I sometimes need reminders.
  2. How can I get the parents of my students to read this book?  I understand the importance of reading with my children (even though I need reminders) but sometimes I feel that the parents of my students don’t understand quite how powerful it is – which is VERY evident in the introduction to The Read-Aloud Handbook.  Prior to blogging I went on Trelease’s website to check out his brochures.  I am going to take a closer look at these later in the summer and see how I might use them in communicating with my students’ families.
  3. I am excited to keep reading this book, and like it says, I am going to try and get my husband to read chapter 9 (we will see how that goes).

I wanted to share a few quotes from the introduction that really jumped out at me.

It  comes down to simple arithmetic: The child spends 900 hours a year in school and 7,800 hours outside school.  Which teacher has the biggest influence?  Where is more time available for change? (pg. vii)

Contrary to the current screed that blames teachers for just about everything wrong in schooling, research shows that the seeds of reading and school success (or failure) are sown in the home, long before the child ever arrives at school. (pg. xvii)

What we teach children to love and desire will always outweigh what we make them learn. (pg. xxi)

The first two quotes are great to show the influence of parents in education.  I know that some may take this as teachers trying to ‘put the blame on parents’ but I don’t feel that this is warranted.  I work very hard for the hours I have my students during the day to make their learning the most meaningful and relevant that I can but when I see it is number of hours it is overwhelming.  As always the education of children needs to be a partnership – “It takes a village”!

The final quote, I would like to blow up and put over top of the door to my classroom!  This is applicable to a love of reading but has a more broad context to a love of learning!

Posted in Professional Development

Teaching in the Digital Age – Chapter 5

I keep thinking I want to finish reading “Teaching in the Digital Age” before I get too much into work for the fall but I just can’t seem to get motivated.  I actually finished chapter 5 a month a go the first day we were at the cottage but then we had the week at the cottage, a couple day trips and a week a Disney.  I am recovered for Disney and actually went in to the school to start setting up yesterday but still having motivation issues.  I am going to a 2 day workshop starting tomorrow so hopefully that will help motivate me for the year.


Personally I have had some experience with videoconferencing on both the personal and professional level.  We are avid Skype users at home with my own kids.  My husband often travels for work and it has been great for them to be able to communicate with Daddy.  Michael is too young to understand the voice on the other end of the telephone but when he can see Daddy on the computer screen he gets very excited.  My mother-in-law also lives very far away so Skype helps the kids keep in touch with her easily.

Before I became a Kindergarten teacher I was a teacher-librirain and member our our school board’s Elementary Teacher Librarian group.  I helped found a elementary literacy festival that involved 3 different sites in the school board.  The first year we attempted to connect all three sites through video conferencing.  We had some technical issues but the attempt was solid.

The limiting factor with using videoconferencing in my classroom is the hardware and level of permissions.  I love the idea and the possibilities but ideas explored in other chapters are more practical for me to put into place when school starts in 2 weeks.  I would love to use videoconferencing to interview an expert, especially in our inquiry based classroom.  I also LOVE the idea of skyping another kindergarten classroom.  Last year we set up our own class twitter account and I hope to expand this year.  We are planning on signing up for Kindergarten Around the World an this would be an amazing opportunity to make the experience more visual.

The first step will be to get a webcam for the classroom.  I will add that to my wish list (which seems to be growing rather fast).

Posted in Gardening with Kids, Preparing for Kindergarten, Professional Development

Teaching in the Digital Age – Chapter 4

Last night I finished chapter 4 in Teaching in the Digital Age and it was entitled: Use Audio Recordings to Capture Powerful Moments

I thought it would be appropriate to create a podcast with my reflections on chapter 4.  I have used podcasts in the past but now have some more ideas on how I can effectively use audio recordings in a developmentally appropriate manner in my JK/SK class.

Audio Recordings in Kindergarten

It took me a bit to figure out how to add an audio file but I managed to get to work.  Another new skill!

The linky for the Book blog party and a summary on chapter 4 can be found over at Teach Preschool.

I have been thinking for a year about setting up my listening centre and by the end of the year I had enough points on my scholastic account to purchase the traditional set up but now I think I am glad I didn’t. I think it would be a wiser decision to figure out a way to get an iPod touch into the class.  It will be easier for students to use, take up less space, and be much more conducive for sharing audio recordings we make in class.  Another item to add to my wish list!


Posted in Professional Development

Teaching in the Digital Age – Chapter 3

Rethinking Projectors

For me personally this chapter was not as insightful as the first two, but I still learned a few things.  I am very fortunate to work at a school where technology is very important and subsequently funding is provided.  By Christmas of last year every classroom in the school had their own Smart Board with the exception of our two Kindergarten rooms, however we had 2 on loan from the school board office.  Our own Smart Boards with proper wall mounted projectors are currently on order and should be installed in the fall.  With those we are each getting a netbook to hook up to the Smart Board, and we have wi-fi throughout the school.  We also have had PD sessions where trainers have been brought in to teach us the technology and sessions where we share our uses with each other.  In terms of other technologies I have my own playbook and mac book that I often take to school with me and it has been hinted that we may be getting tablets for use in the class sometime next year.

Some of the ideas I picked up from this chapter included:

  • using turn and talk to make sharing images a social experience
  • using images from books to inspire dramatic reenactments or discussion
  • demonstrate math concepts using manipulatives
  • students sharing their art and creations with the class

These are all things that I do with my class now without the projector but am now considering taking it to the projector to make the experience more social and give all students access to the visuals at the same time.  I am thinking about all the time it will save not having to pass things around or all huddle around a small object.  In our new ELK program there is a lot of inquiry learning but I feel the two main skills that students are working on developing are questioning and sharing.  Questioning starts the inquiry and sharing expands it to include the rest of the class.  The use of projectors keeps coming back to this but there is one main thing I and starting to think I need to get: A DOCUMENT CAMERA!

After finished the chapter I decided to question my #kinderchat network on their thoughts on document cameras.  I got a very good and concise reply from Matt.  I don’t want to retype all his great ideas but you should check out his blog.  So now that I have decided we need a document camera I need to figure out which one will work best for us and put together a proposal for my principal.

Posted in Professional Development

Teaching in the Digital Age – Chapter 2

Chapter 2 is on using photographs and images to inspire in the classroom.  I already take a lot of photos with my class so I was interested to read this chapter.  I knew in advance that the biggest difference was going to be that currently I am the one using the photographs but I need to get my class involved in interacting with images.  I was pretty successful in using Evernote to take notes on this chapter so I am referring to it to write this post.  It would be cool if I could find a way to import into wordpress from Evernote but I think that may be asking too much.

As with all my reading I am constantly trying to find ways to incorporate different methods and teaching styles into the new Full Day Early Learning Kindergarten Program (ELK) that I will be starting in September.  The first thing that struck me was to use photos to encourage questioning and our infamous ‘I Wonder’ questions.  With our inquiry based learning class students are to drive the learning but before they can ask inquiry questions they need to know how to question.  Sometimes they know what they want to learn but they have trouble articulating it out loud.  Images would be an excellent way to model questioning!  I can see starting the day with a picture on the Smart Board that the class can see as they arrive in the morning.  I would first just let them approach and view it on their own.  Once we meet on the carpet I would ask them if they have any questions about the image and record them around the image.  Near the beginning of the year I may need to do a fair bit of modelling as to what questions I may come up with but  I would hope it wouldn’t take them too long to come up with great questions independently!  This could provide spin off ideas during learning centres – story writing, research, drawing, etc.

The next idea that would work great in my ELK class is using photos to develop background knowledge when developing dramatic play centres.  This is a great way to incorporate learning into playing and the children would never question having to do the work to help set up the centre.  In the book they disussed making an Australia centre., but you could use the same strategies for any type of dramatic centre.  Last year I did a unit on space and gave the students a large fridge box to make a spaceship.  They had a great time but would have gotten so much more out of it if we would have first explored photos of other spaceships and what parts they might want to put on theirs.

One of the big initiative in Ontario are TLCPs – Teaching-Learning Critical Pathways.  This is a model of how we plan and run a critical thinking/comprehension area of our language program.  Sometimes in Kindergarten we find this model difficult to run as our students are at very beginning levels of literacy.  We cover different expectations throughout the year but at our school the one area we are always focusing on is making connections – text to self, text to text, and text to world.  After reading chapter 2 I was starting to think that we could use digital images to help our students make connections.  Peurling writes that people take photographs to capture moments in life and “When this happens, people engage in familiar discussions about people, events and stories associated with memories”.  The key for our Kindergarten students to have them connect their memories and experiences.  For example, if we were reading a number of books on winter  then I could show them a picture of a winter scene similar to the one Puerling showed his class of the Chicago blizzard.  They could make connections to events that they have experienced or books we have read.  I would do this by putting my playbook beside me and recording their observations as they looked at the photos. Then I would have a record of their thought and also any prompts I had to use.

A couple of other areas that I found very interesting in the chapter included using pictures to teach emotions and self-regulation, using photos to create anchor charts for behaviour at centres, and illustrating book similar to Mo Willems’ Knuffle Bunny.

Finally the main thing I got from this chapter is that I need to figure out a way to get the camera out of my hands and into the hands of my students.  I am not sure how to get this to happen with our expensive school cameras but I need to figure out a way!

I will link to the Blog party at Dr. Jean‘s site but I wanted to mention to make sure to check out her post if you aren’t finding me from the link.  I love ALL of the amazing activities she has listed.  I so want to make the books with my class!  One of my goals for next year is for us to make more cooperative class books.  ‘Welcome to our Room’ would be great to use at the beginning of the year to help students become familiar with their classmates and to recognize their names.  I want to do this before Meet the Teacher Night!!  I also love the ‘Alphabet in my Mouth’ book at it would be great to make to celebrate with my JKs after we are done our Jolly Phonics letters.

Posted in Books, Professional Development

Teaching in the Digital Age – Blog Party (Chapter 1)

I had been waiting to see what the book was going to be for the pre-K/K blog party this year and  was excited to hear it was selected to be: Teaching in the Digital Age by Brian Puerling.  I like to thing that I am techie but I am always striving to find developmentally appropriate ways to use technology in my JK/SK classroom.  This past year I found that 75% of the time I was the one using the technology and my class were simply passively observing.  The only times they were engaged is when we were using the Smartboard but even then there was very little critical thinking taking place. I am starting the book study a bit late for a couple of reasons.  First it took a month for my book to come in – it was on back order.   Also in Canada we don’t finish school until the end of June so I didn’t have time to crack my book open until school ended.  Now that school is finished and I am starting to feel relaxed I am catching up on my reading!

I started by reading the introduction and chapter 1.   I love how it is written very simply.  I find too often I am reading education texts that I first have to think about decoding the vocabulary and it takes a bit more concentration to understand the deeper meaning.  It is summer and as a rule I don’t want to have to think too hard about anything!  Before I even got to chapter 1 I started to take advantage of the QR codes and I downloaded a QR code reader on my iPhone – I don’t know why I hadn’t done this earlier, it is so cool!  As an aside I also downloaded one on my new playbook but I can’t get it to work.  I especially like how it points out what should be obvious to me but I need to think about.  For example it talks about getting media consent.  I never post any pictures or names of my students on the web but this is something I need to figure out for September.  I would love to have a closed website/blog that parents can view with a password and then I can post student pictures and videos.  I need to figure this out.  With the new ELK program we are starting in September many of our assessments and observations will be done on my new playbook through a lot of pictures and videos I would love to be able to have the students use this material more interactively and also share it with student’s families.  That is one of the things I am hoping to get out of this book.

Chapter 1 is entitled “The Digital Classroom”.  This immediately reminded me of David Warlick’s Redefining Literacy for the 21st Century.  This was a great book I used when I use to run the school library but many of the strategies I found too difficult an abstract for my kinders.  Often the limiting factor is a requirement of basic literacy: reading and writing.

In chapter 1 Puerling discusses the world our students are experiencing inside and outside of the classroom.  As a parent I immediately thought of my own children.

This is not an unusual sight – to see all three of my kids sitting around the iPad.  What is more common is to see one on the iPad, one on my iPhone and one on the computer.  My youngest, Michael is very adept at using the iPad and can easily find his favourite apps (he is not 2 years old yet).  Now don’t worry my kids aren’t on technology all day.  Often they play a bit in the morning while they are still waking up and then maybe a bit in the afternoon on a really hot day, like we have had all week, when it is just too hot to go outside.  When they are not on technology they are usually dancing (to the same songs over and over again) or doing crafts.  But I digress …

The reason I mention my kids is because I feel they are not indicative of the population we live in.  Last year I set up a symbaloo site for my class to use at home and very few actually did.  I want to set up a class website/blog but I am not sure how many families may actually use it.  A few families in my class don’t have internet at home and of those that do some are still on dial-up.  Our county is expanding broadband to the more rural areas but this process is slow and frustrating.  This does not mean that I shouldn’t use the technologies in my class but it means that I need to be aware that my students will come with varying levels of background experience.

The key is to marry the use of technology with my play based classroom.  I love Bonnie Blagojevic’s comment that we need to: “Use technology to enrich, not replace, hands-on learning experiences so important to young children”.  We don’t use the technology to teach the technology but rather as a tool to learning.  If we keep this in the forefront of our minds I believe both teachers and students will be successful!

Take away from this chapter:

  • Check out the forms at the back of the chapter.  I may not be able to use all with the new way of planning in the ELK program but they will help me get organized.
  • I want a document camera!  After they were mentioned I looked them up and one would be awesome to use in my class.  We could use it to share the awesome work students will be doing and exploring in our inquiry based class.  Think how we can share the items my students bring in from the natural world!
  • Use my Evernote!  This is one of my goals for the summer.  Come September I am hoping to use Evernote to record assessments of my students (using my new Playbook) and why not start now.  I hadn’t thought of it until Karen on Pre-Kinders commented on using Evernote to record comments so I am going to try it with chapter 2.