Writing Quality Comments

How to Compose a Quality Comment! from yourwonderfulteacher on Vimeo.

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As part of the wonderful Flat Classroom project that I am working on for my Course 5 project, my 3rd grade students are using Edmodo to communicate with other students around the world. I felt a need to guide them towards writing more quality comments and I was excited to start teaching this as I knew there was quite alot of great information in my PLN – we all can learn from each other, right? I found a great video from Mrs. Yollis’s class in California which gave my students some ideas about writing quality comments. Some of the tips we learned were:

When commenting on someone else’s blog,

1. Compliment the writer in a specific way – Show the reader you have read and understood what they are writing about. If you enjoyed something they wrote about – tell them! Who doesn’t like to hear something nice about their work?

2. Add new information – If someone wrote about poachers killing elephants in Africa, and you know of a way kids can help to stop the poachers, add that information to your post! It is great to learn from each other!

3. Make a connection – If the writer wrote about their trip to the Bronx Zoo and you absolutely love the Bronx Zoo and can’t wait to tell about your favourite place inside there – by all mean, share your connection. It makes for interesting reading and writing!

4. End with a question – Try to get a conversation going! Ask relevant questions from the reader. For example, if someone posts something about the Tappan Zee Bridge, and you were wondering what year it was built, ask them! Hopefully you will get an answer back.

5. Proofread your comment – Make sure your words are spelled correctly, always remember your capital letters at the beginning and add punctuation at the end. And remember, if you want to show excitement, use your words, not exclamation marks.

I also found some great information all the way from Australia, which I shared with the classes. We sorted blog comments into quality ones. We found a useful guide for writing great blog comments, and developed our own by discussing what would work best for us.

Here is my guide for writing quality blog comments. How do you get your students to write more quality comments?

Created by Heather Goggins

Created by Heather Goggins






Jigsaw Puzzle

As part of the Flat Classroom “A Week in the Life”  project which we are participating in, third graders were asked to create a digital handshake, a way to say hello virtually, as one of the 3rd graders put it. Students gave suggestions about unique things from where we live using Padlet. Next I used Picasa’s Collage Tool to make our collage and I used Jigsaw Planet to mix up our puzzle pieces. Can you solve the puzzle? If you want to see all the jigsaw puzzles from the other schools participating  it is on a Symbaloo link. Enjoy!

Our Jigsaw Puzzle



We have started using Edmodo with my 3rd grade students, as part of my Flat Classroom project which is also part of the Course 5 Final Project. What is Edmodo, you might ask? From the Edmodo website,

“Edmodo is a secure, social learning platform for teachers, students, schools and districts. We provide a safe and easy way for your class to connect and collaborate, share content and access homework, grades and school notices. Our goal is to help educators harness the power of social media to customize the classroom for each and every learner.”

It is fantastic so far. I’m just beginning to learn how to use it, so as I learn new things I show the students. So far we have learned how to share links and then save them into our digital backpack (you can also save files there), give assignments to either a whole class or groups of students, and create polls. There is also a great function on there to give quizzes to students that I am itching to begin!

Course 5 Final Project – A Different Approach

After a brief hiatus to have a little COETAIL baby, I am back in the teaching swing of things! I am now teaching gifted and talented 2nd and 3rd graders for 2 days a week. This means my final project is changing… It forces me to come a bit out of my comfort zone because I am accustomed to being the classroom teacher, but I think it will be a rewarding experience. For my project, I am going to work with two 3rd grade classes and guide them through the Flat Classroom ProjectA Week in the Life experience. Last year I participated with my class in the Kindergarten – 2nd grade project, Building Bridges to Tomorrow and I really enjoyed that. Tomorrow I am introducing the 3rd graders to Edmodo, which is one of the tools used in the Flat Classroom Project. Wish me luck! Anyone used Edmodo successfully or participated in the “Week in the Life” project that has any tips?


Course 4 Final Project – Looking Ahead

As I think about Course 5, I have a couple of  ideas that I feel would reflect my learning while in the COETAIL course.

1. Something I have been thinking about, especially after reading Andrew Vicar‘s blog post, and Jeff‘s writing about it, and the comments, is to create some sort of IT skills self assessment for my students for the end of the year. I think this would be useful because it would make clear many of the skills we have done through the year. The students would also be very aware of what they have learned, and would be helpful for their teachers for the next year. I’m not sure which tool I will use for this, I will look into Excel/Numbers/Google Docs to see which one suits us the best. I’d like to work with the students to develop a sort of checklist of skills for our age group, then they could assess themselves. This could also help the whole school environment as it would be helpful for our ICT coordinator. I think this would be a good unit for my Course 5 project because it would show all the skills my students have learned – many which I’ve explicitly taught them, especially after learning something new in my COETAIL course. Some of my concerns about this project are how my students will show their work explicitly and fitting in the time to complete this into an already quite busy schedule. I feel this would require me to really think about what skills I’ve been teaching and how exactly they are helping students. I think the students will need to be quite reflective of their own learning for this project.

2. Another idea I thought about is to do a digital storytelling unit with my class and have them use….. iMovie. I’ve been playing around with it for awhile. During Course 3, I wrote a blog post about my own use of iMovie, and had a few suggestions from other COETAILer’s about perhaps having my students use it themselves. I’ve always put it in the back of my mind and thought it would be too difficult with my age group (1st grade).  I have used other tools to have students tell stories using movies, however they are pretty basic and the are using pre made videos. I’d really like to have the students themselves use the digital cameras and take their own video, then create their own authentic digital story. This would fit in really well with a literacy unit we are going to be doing in the spring called “Everyone Has a Story To Tell”. I think this would be a good unit for me to work with because it would really get me to come out of my own comfort zone. Some concerns I have are that my students are only 6! They will need a huge amount of support with this. An idea I am throwing around, after reading about Flipping the Elementary Classroom is to make how to videos for my students and putting them in an accessible location. I’m also going to see how using iMovie on the iPad works. I have a feeling my students will probably take to it like a duck to water – they absolutely love seeing the videos I create of them, but it will take some diligence and hard work for them (and me).

Managing Devices with 6 year olds

My 1st grade classroom has 4 desktop computers. The school has a laptop cart with 25 laptops which can be used in the library on a bookable basis. On average we have about an hour a week with the laptops. We also have 8 iPads available. Managing all these has been a learning experience, lots of trial and error.

I use Delicious for bookmarking sites applicable to my students, then I’ve put the Delicious links on the homescreen for the iPads, and into the bookmarks bar for all the computers in the classroom and in the library.  This is time consuming but immensely pays off. In the beginning of the year during Back to School evening, I show parents how to bookmark this at home which I’ve received a lot of positive feedback for. I often mention websites that I’ve bookmarked to parents in my weekly newsletter.

Desktops -I try to use the 4 desktops in the classroom as much as possible. This can be tricky as students are easily distracted by seeing others on the desktop, so I try to put the desktops facing the class, this way students who are working on something else aren’t continually watching them. Students save their work onto the school server and have their own folder, which I’ve blogged about problems with this. Hopefully in the future we will be able to have individual log ins.

Laptops –  Usually I try to book the library early in the week, and before we go into the library I will use my Interactive Whiteboard to go over what we are doing in the library. In the beginning of the year we use the BBC Dance Mat Typing for a few minutes in the beginning of each lesson. For the laptops, I have my teacher assistant go into the library before the lesson with 3 student monitors to lay the laptops out on the tables, helping making the process much smoother. After the lesson, she will also supervise the monitors putting them away, making sure they plug them back in for other classes to use.

iPads – If I can find an app that is relevant to our Unit of Inquiry, we will use it, and we’ve also used math and reading apps which have been helpful, and we’ve also used them for art projects and research. Students will usually work in pairs or groups with the iPads. The iPads have wireless internet but they are not networked so if a student is working on something they need to save, for example a Keynote, I will have to go on each laptop and email it to myself, then put it on the server for them. This can be time consuming!

In the future, I’m very interested in teaching in a 1 to 1 environment, perhaps in the upper grades. I found the videos and Voicethread interesting and gave some great pointers on how to manage laptops in a 1 to 1 environment.

Is Technology Helping Us, Anyway?

In February 2011, I attended an ICT in PYP workshop. It was fantastic and I learned alot being around other teachers involved with and interested in the same topics I was interested in. At the end of the workshop, one of the participants said that they had misgivings about technology – was it really helping? On the way home, I had a long and hard think about this. I mean, obviously it was working, right? Kids are smarter than ever, right? Especially Americans? They have so much more knowledge then they had when I was in high school, right? But then why are American students still lagging behind their international counterparts?  American students have great access to the web – and you can even buy one of those nifty Chromebooks for only $199 USD! Why aren’t they doing any better? All this high stakes testing surely has to be helping students attain knowledge, right? Then why are Google, Apple, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard employees in the Silicon Valley sending their kids to Waldorf schools? 

Is technology helping us? I suppose the answer to the question is – Can I be sure? No. Am I in the COETAIL program and integrating technology into my lessons because I believe it strongly? Yes. I do think using technology is helping students to become more aware of the world around them – bring the world into their classroom and making them better informed citizens. I sometimes am envious of my students – I would have loved to be a student in the present day where quad blogging, Skyping around the world, Flat Classrooms and doing fun activities like Geography Detectives were the norm.

Will education change because of technology? Yes, I strongly believe so. Where will we be in the future? That I can’t answer – if I could I’d be working for Apple or HP. I do believe that with proper training of teachers to integrate and use technology into their classrooms, we are moving onwards and upwards.

What do you think? Do you think technology is helping? Where do you see education in the future?


Flipped Classroom


I was introduced to the Flipped Classroom model via my Twitter colleagues – I started seeing the hashtag and then I enthusiastically viewed some of the innovative things I saw being done in classrooms. I think the flipped classroom seems to be for older students, my students are 1st grade.  I enjoyed reading about Flipping the Elementary Classroom. A suggestion they gave for elementary classrooms was to start with something students struggle with and make a short video. They suggested 10 minutes but for my 6 year olds I decided to keep it very short. I asked myself what students constantly ask me repeated questions about. I realized that a problem we have is saving work onto the school server.  Each child has their own folder on the server but work gets lost often, put into other student’s folders or saved on the desktop, or put in the trash. I’m hoping in the future each child can have their own log in details. As well, they often do not name it something unique which makes it difficult to find. I made a short video and put it on the desktop with very specific directions for how to save their work into their own folder, and to check to make sure it has saved, and how to give their work a unique name with their own name in the title.  It has gone pretty well. I think file saving is a developing skill which students are improving all the time and making this video is one of my techniques. I also find making visual posters and having them accessible near the computers to be helpful as well.

I remember during our BigMarker chat with Alison Nave learning about the nuts and bolts of how it was working out in her math classroom, and her struggles to let go of the control and how the students dealt with it. That was a very informative session for me – being able to learn from someone right in the trenches. I do not have access to middle / high school students but I am curious about how they view the flipped classroom.

Do I agree with the flipped classroom model? I enjoyed reading about the differences between myths vs. reality in the flipped classroom model. I feel like the increased interaction and personal contact time between teacher and student is key here and what really will make a flipped classroom work. I am curious – we have become such a test driven, value added society – what are the statistics showing regarding student achievement in the flipped classroom?

Can you change the printer cartridge, Mrs. Goggins?

Picture it – 2007-2010 – I was the Information Technology Coordinator in a girls school in London. Lovely little school, and I was also teaching my own Year 2 class. There I would be in the middle of a lesson when some freckle faced little cherub would knock on the door. “Mrs. Cooper wants you to come up to the computer lab. She can’t figure something out. She’s going to send her assistant Mrs. Rowe here to look after your class”. I would smile, wait for my relief and trudge up to the computer lab to help another teacher to fix something so she could continue with her lesson. And it happened more often then you’d think! In a way it was my fault because I would always go – I should have sent her student back with a message saying that I’d try to help her to figure it out at lunchtime, but I wanted her lesson to go well so I’d always go. I realized I’d created a bit of a monster though as I would get called very often for tasks like changing the printer cartridge. Needless to say I was the first to try to convince the head that we needed more hours for the tech support guy and I also promised myself that in the future I’d have to try a new strategy for helping teachers.

Depending on the value system of the school is a hugely important one when it comes to technology integration. If you have an IWB in your classroom that you absolutely love using, but the bulb goes out and it lies unused for 3 weeks, you have a problem. If all the classes in your school are using iPads but when you get them they are not charged, you have a problem. If your school server is down so when your students try to save their work it is unsavable, you have a problem. And if no one comes to try to help you, all your technology integration is up in smoke. 

I found it interesting to read about the different models of technology integration. Wikipedia defines technology integration as “the use of technology tools in general content areas in education in order to allow students to apply computer and technology skills to learning and problem-solving”. As I reflect back on my own practice integrating technology in my classroom, I would have to conclude that it has been largely on a trial and error basis. I feel as though I’ve not really ever been coached – I would love to work in a school with a really strong technology team that has people that I can look to for support. I guess that is a big reason why I enjoy this course so much!

As I read through the SAMR and the Technology Integration Matrix, I had to admit that I still have a long way to go. There are some aspects that I feel quite good in and perhaps at the modification to redefinition area of the SAMR model but other areas which I’m looking forward to working on. I found the Technology Integration Matrix very useful as I feel it does give clear goals and sets a vision for where you are, and where you want to go. I will be using this as I try to create a more technology rich environment. I also think it would be a great tool to have teachers assess themselves in the beginning of the year – then set themselves a goal for the year for where they want to be at the end of the year. I feel this needs to be done with the whole school environment on board and working together for this goal.