Monthly Archives: September 2013

What’s the Big Idea?

You may be unaware but in Ontario we have a new Social Studies curriculum.  There’s a lot of buzz about handling it in a inquiry based way and I was thinking it links really well to my #geniushour anyway so I’m going for it.  I tweeted out suggestions and one of them suggestions was to record the “Big Ideas” on to chart paper have the students brainstorm and then come up with a project on their own related to that big idea.  In theory that sounds  fine but in reality I’m not really sure how to bridge the brainstorming to the doing.  Sort of the same issue I’m having with genius time to be honest.  I think maybe I might have to model an project and I also think I may need to conduct a series of mini lessons to teach some of the mapping and graphing skills.  Which of course I will use math time to do.  Perhaps I should provide a set of guidelines like your project must have a map and a graph, you need to conduct an interview to an “expert”. I don’t know this type of learning is new for me as well!  Any suggestions?



2013-3014 My Transformative Year?

This November will mark my 10th year teaching.  A whole decade in the profession wow that’s pretty amazing!  It seems like yesterday that I finished up at the Faculty of Ed at Lakehead University and then started supply teaching in Peel.  I remember my very first day as a “real” teacher.  It was Kindergarten at Madoc Drive PS I was so nervous but I had a blast with those small guys and I think we learned a lot from one another. 

10 years in and I feel like I’m just coming into my own. I didn’t set  out to make a big change it’s just happened.  Thanks to my PLN and twitter I’ve stumbled upon #geniushour, integrating technology whenever I can and now today I was at a fantastic math PD session, Teaching and Learning Mathematics with Dr. Marian Small #mathwithsmall.  You know how sometimes you leave a PD session and your head buzzes and you have that super overwhelmed feeling? Well that didn’t happen today.  I realize my math program is faced in the right direction but now I have the tools to go down the path.  I’m excited to work collaboratively with my colleagues and create meaningful, open-ended tasks for my students. 

I know curriculum is super important as it is the building blocks of my program but for the first time I don’t feel stressed about “fitting it all in”.  I’m doing things I want to do, things my students need and letting the curriculum fall naturally into place around us! 

#mathwithsmall Teaching and Learning Mathematics with Dr. Marian Small

Today I’m not in the classroom.  I’m at Louise Arbour SS for a math workshop with Dr. Marian Small #mathwithsmall.  I’m super excited to transform my math practice with my students.  Feeling a bit overwhelmed but I’m sure as we get on clarity will come about. 

Keeping the Momentum Going

Fall is officially here, my favourite time of year!  September is almost passed and October a personally significant month is just around the corner.  I can’t believe I’ve been with the students in 3B for almost a month.  I feel like we’ve settled in, routines are well on their way to being established.  Kids have tested but have found their place in the room.  I’m feeling positive about the way things are.  

I have to admit I’m worried about how I’m going to keep the “first week buzz” going.  It’s not the students it’s more a personal thing.  Life is super busy right now. I’m a mom with young children and finding a balance between work and home is really, really difficult.  I enjoy my time with my kids and treasure our weekends together but when we are at birthday party or Fall fair there’s a small voice inside of my head that’s saying, “yeah but you still haven’t organized your filing cabinet, and where exactly are you going with these Genius Time projects?”  It also doesn’t help that I’m tired.  Like all the time super drained tired.  My youngest, William is 19 months and he still does not sleep through the night.  He wakes 2-5 times per night and when you alarm goes off at 5:15 and you aren’t going to bed until well after 11:30 that makes for some foggy days.  

 I guess where I’m going with this is I just don’t want to lose steam.  I love what is happening right now.  The kids are with me and excited for what new thing I have planned for them next but I need to keep heading in that direction, finish up what we’ve started and keep going strong.  



Wow, just wow I am not sure I know what to say exactly.  But tonight I discovered that 766 people are following my blog.  766 is a very large number.  As of today my grade 3’s would be able to tell you that means 7 hundreds, 6 tens and 6 ones 🙂 

I started my blog this Summer as a means for me to share what I am doing with other educators, parents, and students.  I really wanted to become transparent in my practice.  Part of this was because my own daughter was to be starting school this year and it made me kind of sad to know have an inside look into what she was doing.  I thought how great would it be if I could follow something online and see what was happening.  The other persuading factor was reading and following blogs from other educators and thinking wow they are doing amazing things I want to be like that!  

I didn’t know how often I would update or how many people would follow but it’s become big in a really short time. I also find that blog posting is the outlet I need.  It lets me debrief and the end of the day.  So thank you to the 766 of you that are following me.  I appreciate you support even if it’s silent 🙂 

Augmented Reality

My class has been playing around with Augmented Reality and it is! It really is magical to watch their own illustrations come to life with in colourful 3D images or with actual video footage.

For International Dot Day we used the app colAR (free and on andrioid and apple devices).  You have to print out the colouring sheets, colour it up and then hover your device over the picture and watch the magic unfold.  My students were fascinated and I have to admit I was as well.  For fun I even stuck my hand below the iPad to make it look like I was touching the dots and it looks so real that one child even asked me what the dots felt like.  WE had to have a discussion how it’s not actually real.

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The other Augmented Reality we used was with our wonderful ITRT @tina_zita.  Ms. Zita showed us the @aurasma app which again is a free app for apple and I “think” but not sure android.  You can also create on the computer a class channel and have parents/people follow your channel.  Which I plan on doing so stay tuned parents :).  Anyway the students drew their self portrait and 5 about me questions.  Ms. Zita then filmed their interview, took  a scan of their portrait using Aurasma and then the two marry so when you hold your device over the image it plays the video feed.  We are going to debut these amazing images for our Meet the Teacher night on October 9th.

Apps like ColAR and Aurasma are mind blowing and make me so happy that I’ve decided to pursue Tech in my classroom!


“Just make a mark and see where it takes you.”



Yesterday, September 15th was International Dot Day – a day to inspire creativity globally.  Today our grade 3’s and one of the classes in Kindergarten (our Tech Buddies) are going to be participating in Dot Day activities. My colleague @K5_RP introduced me to Dot Day over the Summer. She tweeted me “We need to do this!”  Coincidentally this meshes so well with the Genius Time concept.  When I heard about Dot Day I knew instantly I wanted to have my class participate and it was before I had even heard of #geniushour.  Perhaps, it was reading about this event and following @DotClubConnect that opened my mind to the concept of following your passions and letting creativity direct you.  That’s really what Genius Time is.  

Anyway, look for more updates later today.  Happy Dot Day and maybe try it out this week.  Because as it says on the  International Dot Day website, 

Guess what? Dot Day is every day you honor courage and creativity.


#Geniushour Takes Over :)

In my week and a bit of immersing my class in Genius Hour (Genius Time as we call it) I’ve learned surprisingly much more about it then I initially thought I would just this far in.  Some of the things are shocking to me.  First of all it’s really taken a life of its own.  Many of my students are living and breathing it.  It’s what they talk and think about.  I even had one student ask me today if when she was done eating her lunch if she could work on planning out her project.  Two other students asked the teacher librarian if they could have time next week to come down to the library to do some research, they did this own their own! My most reluctant students are doing it without hesitation.  They’ve come up with some fantastic ideas like “how can I make a driving lego car”, and “I want to make cupcakes.”  Genius Time is by far our favourite time of the day they are invested already and the real fun hasn’t totally begun!  

I also didn’t expect to be so passionate and invested in it so early into the process either.  I mean look at my last 3 blog posts they’ve been about GT.  I’ve spent hours following and asking questions and even answering a few on the #geniushour feed on twitter.  Watched youtube videos to inspire the students and help us hone our ideas.  I think I can feel this way about it because already, based on the student reaction I know it’s going to be great.  Really it’s a total game changer when it comes to my teaching practice. 

You know what I also know?  And this is going to be so hard for my “everything has it’s place” personality.  It’s going to be messy.  Like stuff piled on the back counter, scraps and bits all over the floor kind of mess.  I’m dreading it.  There I said it.  I’m an organization freak and GT is creative chaos.  But I think maybe it’ll be therapeutic for me and teach me that sometimes I need to relax a bit.  



The process continued…

The inner workings of a "technology" teacher....well a teacher trying new things out

There came a point when my secret was causing more issues than I could justify.  That outside world which I relied so heavily on was frequently “down” due to unknown issues.  I would take down the “router”, my mobility stagnated.  I had to do something about this jam I found myself in.  The only option purchase board approved AP’s (Access Points), they wouldn’t be cheap but they would bring the return of mobility for myself and staff who I began to encourage and express how valuable using their personal technology could when supporting learning in the classroom.  We started small, “coverage”, 10 AP’s spread evenly throughout the school in order to provide the greatest number with wireless access to the web.  We were no longer flying under the radar.  We were the innovators who would open up the world of wireless access in elementary schools for the Peel District School…

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Genius Time Journey Continues

Today we continued on with our Genius Time Journey.  I read the students the book “Lego Man in Space a True Story” by Mara Shaughnessy  Before I read the story I asked the students to predict who they thought could send a Lego Man into space.  The answers were as I expected, “Astronauts”, “NASA”, “Engineers”, “The Government”, “Pilots” and then one student, Muhammad said “I think it was kids”.  The room was quiet and I said to Muhammad, “Hmm I don’t know really?  A kid?  Do you really think kids could do something like that?” Of course that set the kids off and they argued with me that of course kids could do it “remember what Kid President said Ms. Lewis-Young?”  It was the EXACT reaction I hoped they would have.  I smiled and told them that Muhammad was totally right and it was kids. I gave them a little bit of history but not too much to give it away.  If you are unfamiliar with the story basically two highschool boys, Matthew Ho and Muhammad Asad created a space ship and sent a lego man successfully into near space and were able to retrieve it and have video footage.  It’s one of the coolest stories I’ve heard and if it doesn’t embody the point of Genius Hour then really I do not know what does!

The kids were desperate to know more.  So we emailed Matthew and Asad our list of 22 questions!  Yes we started with a few but it grew and grew and as they asked more questions the more sophisticated they became.  I don’t know if we will get a response from Matthew and Asad but I really hope we do!  

Can’t wait for our next Genius Time adventure 

Want to know more about Genius Hour?  Follow the hastag #geniushour I’ve learned so much from these awesome educators!