The Best October Student-led Project

This is my ninth year teaching which means it is my ninth October with a class. October is one of my favourite months in the classroom as it lends room for so many exciting activities. For the past seven years, my class has created some sort of Halloween related show or haunted house at the end of the month. Sadly, I missed one year while I was teaching online. I wonder each year if it is something I am doing because I enjoy the tradition or if students are genuinely interested in this activity. So this year, I asked students if they had any ideas rather than share what we could do.

My class of 27 students all celebrate Halloween so we were all set for a brainstorm session. Here are the ideas my students came up with:

  • Escape Room
  • Haunted Gym
  • Student skits in a classroom
  • Student activity centres in the gym

After discussing it with a student-created drama committee, my students came up with student-created skits in a decorated classroom as their favourite idea. Then, we went about discussing how the planning process works. This is what my grade 7/8 drama committee came up with:

  1. Decide on a date (October 27th)
  2. Ask the other 7/8 classes if they would like to participate
  3. Ask permission from our school administration if grade 7/8 classes can show their skits to the other classes
  4. Send an email to all staff
  5. Start to advertise our idea
  6. Sign up classes for the viewing of each show
  7. Come up with a schedule

Yesterday, my four students who had a meeting with admin. were approved for this idea and were reminded to have a fall activity such as a word search or other for students to work on if they do not celebrate Halloween. As teachers, it is important that we use this opportunity to help students and even challenge them to think critically. With our support/modelling they will recognize the importance of being inclusive when the activities are being planned for all students in the school. We can challenge our students to plan alternatives that are equally valued and engaging and still connected to the curriculum. 

Then, we focused on the actual drama part of the project. In our language class, we are working on short spooky stories. My students (along with the other grade 7/8 classes) are working on creating a story where they need to identify the characters, the setting, the problem and the solution. My students presented their plot ideas today to the class and two were selected to be turned into scripts. The rest will be writing short stories and which will be one of their writing marks this term. This was such a fun class activity today as I put on some spooky music and students read their ideas.

During drama class, we came up with seven exciting roles that students can sign up for to be involved in this class project:

  1. Acting in the shows (there will be five shows total)
  2. Script writing (working with the students who had their plot selected)
  3. Sound effects
  4. Set design (how to transform a classroom into a haunted stage)
  5. Costumes, hair and makeup
  6. Classroom sign up
  7. Advertising the event (email, posters, imovie trailer and announcements)

Almost all of my students signed up for three or more roles and are excited to get started on this right away.

Each year, I look forward to this project so much as it includes so many curriculum connections in all of the below listed subjects:

  • Art
  • Drama
  • Language- writing, media literacy and oral communication
  • Learning skills- collaboration

Overall, this is a tradition I really look forward to each year but of course, would not proceed with it if students were not interested.  Learning that is integrated like this, with student voice and leadership at the core and has strong curriculum connections does not have to be limited to a holiday or season. A big idea, social issue or other relevant theme helps to connect and motivate the students’ learning. Knowing your learners, who they are and what is important to them will guide you on selecting themes and connections for your students! I am lucky my students want to make such an impact in their school community as each year even in June, I hear students in the halls still talking about the haunted house/stories. I look forward to this year being better than ever as we are not limited to staying within our cohorts, etc. I look forward to sharing about how it went and perhaps even sharing some spooky photos!

World Oceans Day

Did you know that World Oceans Day is June 8th? Neither did I! That is until I read Rochelle Strauss’ new book, The Global Ocean. As a long-time fan of Rochelle’s other books – Tree of Life and One Well – I was overjoyed to hear that she was writing a new book and couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. In this post, I write about my new learnings as I consider ways to use this book with students. 

The Global Ocean? I Thought There Were 5 Oceans!

Situated in different parts of the world, I always thought of oceans and their wildlife as being separate and unique, without thinking of the interconnectedness of the different bodies of water. Sure, I understood that one body of water flowed into the next but I compartmentalized them thinking of the Pacific Ocean in the west and the Atlantic Ocean in the east. Distinct and separate, mainly due to geography and/or climate. Page 7 of the book brought home the reality of a Global Ocean in sharing about the 1992 cargo ship that fell overboard, spilling nearly 28 000 animal bath toys into the ocean. Over the next 20 years, tracking the rubber ducks was an incredible real-time science experiment on how all of the ocean basins are connected. The results and hearing this blew my mind!

Plastics!

For years I’ve shared about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and had conversations with students about actions we can take to ensure that we aren’t contributing additional waste into our waterways. We’ve talked about plastic bags, straws and can holders and how they impact wildlife when they enter oceans. Years ago, we also had lots of conversations around products that contained microplastics that were used as exfoliants. I hadn’t realized that there are plastics found in many common human-made fabrics. What blew my mind when reading about plastics was the fact that “with every load [of laundry], as many as 17 million tiny plastic fibres get washed down the drain” (pg. 21). What?!?! I got out the calculator and further realized the impact of my actions and have made a commitment to change by being cautious about what I purchase. Tips are peppered throughout this incredible book but I have to say that pages 26 to 35 really offer some fantastic ways to bring about tangible change. 

Why Students?

Sections of this book share about the actions of young people who are making a difference. Individuals speaking out. Groups creating projects. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, children really are the most incredible people on the planet. When they learn of injustice or see something that needs to be made right, they are eager and get creative to bring about change. Much like the interconnectedness of the oceans, when students learn about how their individual actions can have a global impact, they get excited and want to do more.  Inherently, children like to know that their actions can change the world and add to the greater good. I love that this book makes learning approachable and I am seeing so many uses for it within the classroom. Students are eager to act. How might we support them in learning and in turn using this eagerness to bring about change in our world?

This is seriously an incredible book that I think every educator should read, for their own learning and also help students in understanding the importance of our actions on the environment. Students are open and ready to make changes that will result in a better world for everyone. Through incredible texts like these, there’s so much learning and inspiration that can happen, that will lead to much-needed action, and ultimately change. June 8th is World Oceans Day. What action will you take?

Pandemic Stories in Children’s Literature

I’ve been reading books that seem to have a theme centred around the impacts of the pandemic. Children’s books and YA novels are often some of my favourite reads, whether or not I take them back to the classroom to read or study with students. In this post, I’ll share 2 books that I have recently read.

New From Here – Kelly Yang

If you have read any of my previous posts or follow me on Twitter, you know that I am a Kelly Yang fan, through and through. Her writing is real and vulnerable and I strongly believe that it’s because she writes from her own lived experiences. While I knew that I was in for a treat with New From Here, I didn’t think that I would find myself as emotional as I was while reading through the pages. 

Written from the perspective of ten-year-old Knox Wei-Evans, New From Here shares the impact of the pandemic in a real and vivid way. While not only trying to stay safe from the threat of Covid-19, we also get a real look at the anti-Asian hate experienced, not only by adults but young children. Although my heart ached for the characters in the book, seeing the bravery and advocacy of Knox, not only for himself and his family but also for his classmate, made me hopeful. I journeyed into this profession because I strongly believe that children are the very best humans on the planet. This book was a great reminder of just how great they really are. 

I’ve used other Kelly Yang books in my classroom to talk about themes of stereotypes and racism and would use this book in a similar way. Depending on the relationships we have built, it might also serve as an opportunity for students to share their experiences during the pandemic. Hate and discrimination in a variety of forms have been experienced by many people during this pandemic. Sharing and hearing each others’ stories is essential in learning just how deep the impact of this has been. From this learning, we have an opportunity for change, if as a collective, we choose. While there are many who seem eager to shed their masks and “return to normal”, for many, this isn’t a possibility nor a desire because the Covid-19 pandemic isn’t over and the pandemic of race, rages on.

Ain’t Burned All the Bright – Jason Reynolds and Jason Griffin

This book came as a recommendation from a colleague – Casey MacDonald – and I’m so grateful! I listed both the name of the author and illustrator because this mixed-media work of art is just that, a work of art. 

Grounded in 2020, and beginning with the pandemic of race, Breath One reminds us of the protests that were happening in many parts of the world after the murder of George Floyd. While we saw black squares and written statements, this is a pandemic that has continued to rage on. While many were panic-stricken with the thought of something new potentially causing harm, long-term injury or death, this was an added layer to merely trying to exist for many communities. 

Breath Two delves more into the isolation of lockdown and the experience of relying on one another, within a family, to make it through. I know that during the lockdown it was challenging to compete for space to teach while others are working and still others, learning. The challenge was real and I wonder the impact this may have as we reflect back in a few years. 

Breath Three is a somewhat optimistic look at what is most important when it comes to breathing through both pandemics – Covid-19 & race. Although this text is grounded in 2020, it’s important to note that for many, not much has changed. We’ve moved on from performative statements and symbols and we’ve “opened up” and yet Black deaths are still captured on video and many still remain isolated at home because of the very real threat of Covid-19 to their lives. It’s interesting to sometimes sit and note for whom a “return to normal” is acceptable or wanted.

The imagery in this book is incredible. While the words are powerful, the combination of the two is what really makes this book a work of art. In a number of instances, I had to go back and it was as though I saw more with a second take. This might be a powerful book to support the teaching symbolism with secondary students for Visual Arts. I do love the explanation at the end of the collaboration and wonder if a similar project, perhaps about this subject or another might be an opportunity for cross-curricular learning. 

Two books, very different in style, and specific experiences of the characters and yet the themes of Covid and racism are seen throughout. As the world looks toward “reopening” what will change? What will remain the same? How might these stories help support us in searching for and creating better for and with those most marginalized? I so love how Children’s books and YA Novels can prompt us to consider how we might do better as a society.

E is for Equity (part 1)

I’m a new teacher.

I’m always looking for books to add to my library that support the inclusive, equitable and culturally responsive environment I strive to achieve in my classroom. This school year, I have been investing in books that celebrate diversity to ensure that all students see themselves reflected within the Kindergarten program. I have been in search of stories by BIPOC authors, stories that celebrate differences, and stories that share messages of inclusion to add to my collection. I decided to create an A-Z list of stories that I love. This list is far from exhaustive and there are MANY amazing books I could have added. The stories below from A-M are stories that were appropriate for my Kindergarten class, but could definitely be read to students beyond Kindergarten as well.

If you are a new teacher looking to begin your picture book collection, this one’s for you!

A – Alma and How She Got Her Name

By: Juana Martinez-Neal 

B – Black is a Rainbow Colour

By: Angela Joy

Illustrated by: Ekua Holmes

C -Bilal Cooks Daal

By: Aisha Saeed

Illustrated by: Anoosha Syed

D – Don’t Touch My Hair

By: Sharee Miller

E – Eyes That Kiss in the Corners

By: Joanna Ho

Illustrated by: Dung Ho

F – Forty-Seven Strings: Tessa’s Special Code

By: Becky Carey

Illustrated by: Bonnie Leick

G – The Gift of Ramadan

By: Rabiah York Lumbard

Illustrated by: Laura K. Horton

H – Hair Love

By: Matthew A. Cherry

Illustrated by: Vashti Harrison

I – I am Enough

By: Grace Byers

Illustrated by: Keturah A. Bobo

J – Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You

By: Sonia Sotomayor

Illustrated by: Rafael Lopez

K -Suki’s Kimono

By: Chieri Uegaki

Illustrated by: Stéphane Jorisch

L – Love Makes a Family

By: Sophie Beer

M – My Heart Fills with Happiness

By: Monique Gray Smith

Illustrated by: Julie Flett

Using Short Stories for Literature

When I was in junior high, my dad travelled to Australia and brought back a short story collection for me: “UnReal” by Paul Jennings.  He thought I would enjoy it because each ending was a twist and the stories were funny and unusual.  When I was getting ready for my first week of teaching I thought that the students may enjoy them too.  Every since then, we have gone through a few of the stories at the start of each year to get a lay of reading comprehension and writing activities. You can find listings here: The “Un” books: https://www.pauljennings.com.au/index.php/en-au/books/latest-book-releases/unreal

Novels can be tricky to use in the classroom due to the increased needs of students: some fall out of favour over time due to re-examining content, they can be intimidating for students in early ESL stages or on IEPs, and it can be hard to take a novel adapted into a movie without the inevitable comparisons to the big screen version.  Short stories also allow for the reader to not have to worry about missing days and being confused by the story, or being bored and feeling stuck with finishing listening to an unmotivated tale.

In the “Unreal” short stories, I allow the students to be creative in doing activities that integrate other subjects.  We have done everything from drawing a scene, creating a drama sequel, and writing a diary entry from a character’s perspective.  Many students that are reluctant readers find they are more easily able to digest the content and get motivated to be involved in thinking up predictions to the endings.  Every year I enjoy seeing a new point of view from someone that I haven’t considered.

Another advantage for short stories is that with a variety of topics, you can also get students to vote on their choices, or perhaps find other pieces similar to the style of an author (think of the “we recommend” section of a book store).  I try to look at what has been selected in my book clubs, and the operative is that: not “novel” but “book.”  Gone are the days of long texts and only fiction; in fact, my book clubs look at memoirs which coincides with research that non-fiction that attract more reluctant readers.  In bringing this into the class, there are some great selections out there, like ‘YA friendly’ versions of adult books like Michelle Obama’s “Becoming”.  Students also enjoy the “Who Is/Was” books which is a great connection: if they liked “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”, they might enjoy reading about the author Jeff Kinney.  Once again, the illustrations assist students with visualizing the biographies of celebrities from the past and present.

The other short stories I would recommend include “Sideways Stories from Wayside School” by Louis Sachar.  There are a wide variety of characters with different personalities that can be re-interpreted in a variety of races and backgrounds.  Many students nowadays consume media in ‘chunks’ like short Tik-Toks and quick Youtube clips.  It may be time to take a look at how we engage using 21st century learning in the classroom  as well.

 

S.T.E.L.M.

STELM: Science, Technology, Engineering (Literacy?!) and Math 

STEM activities are unmatched in our virtual Kindergarten class this year. STEM challenges are the perfect storm for beginning conversations, exploring inquiries, answering questions and challenging new ideas. In addition to the academic learning happening through these challenges, students also have opportunities to practice patience, persistence, problem-solving strategies and critical thinking skills while engaging meaningfully within their classroom community. 

Recently, I have been on my own exploration. I have been investigating how to purposefully incorporate literacy connections into STEM activities. Here are some of our literacy inspired “STELM” challenges students have worked through: 

10 on the Sled – by: Kim Norman, illustrated by: Liza Woodruff

STELM Challenge: Create a sled that can hold ten animals.

Our students were so excited for this challenge. They used materials that they could find around their homes to build a sled and found objects of their choice to represent the ten animals. Students engaged in conversations about the number 10 and how they could group the seats for all the passengers to fit on the sled. In the picture above, the student wrote themselves into the story and shared they would also like to ride on the sled. They shared that now there would be 11 seats because “10+1=11”.

Not a Box – by: Antoinette Portis

STELM Challenge: What can you make your box into?

This one feels like a classic. So simple, but so open-ended and thought provoking. The experience of creating something from “nothing” seems to come so naturally to Kindergarten students. No matter how many groups of students I do this activity with, I am always learning from them. I feel like this challenge gives me a window into student’s imaginations and undoubtedly strengthen’s my view of them as competent and capable learners full of wonder.

The Most Magnificent Thing – by: Ashley Spires

STELM Challenge: What is the most magnificent thing you can make?

Similarly to the challenge of creating something from a box, students thoughts and ideas were not limited to using a box. We did however, challenge them to use recycled materials found at home. Before beginning the process, we listened to the story ‘The Most Magnificent Thing’ by Ashley Spires and asked students to draw a plan before beginning construction. Students entered this activity at their own level. Their plans consisted of pictures, words and symbols to represent their ideas. Not all of their plans matched their finished products – but this was part of the process. The changes and challenges students faced while building their magnificent ‘things’ were a springboard for conversations about different ways to solve problems. One of my favourite moments of learning that happened during this task occurred after I shared my own frustration with my tape that “just would not come off the roll in one piece”. “That’s ok Ms. Turnbull” one of our students shared, “That happened to me once too”, “me too!” other students exclaimed, as we talked about different ways to solve this problem effectively.

The Very Cranky Bear – by: Nick Bland

STELM Challenge: Design a bed for the cranky bear to get some rest in.

We have all experienced the feeling of being tired, cranky, upset or frustrated. So many wonderful conversations of empathy and understanding came from this challenge. Students amazed us with their kind words towards this cranky bear as they constructed cozy beds. They were excited to test out their beds made from LEGO, Play-Doh, blocks and more by using their stuffed animals or dolls. They began acting out the story, snoring and roaring like the bear.

The Mitten – by: Jan Brett

STELM Challenge: How many ‘animals’ can you fit inside a mitten or sock?

The story ‘The Mitten’ by Jan Brett has endless possibilities in regard to follow up activities. For our group of Kindergarten students, we challenged them to think about capacity after listening to this story. We asked them to find something to use as ‘animals’ (with some of the top choices being LEGO or toy animals), and a sock or mitten to put them in. Students explored concepts of counting, spatial sense, and sequencing while they created their own versions of the story.

I am excited to continue thinking about ways to provide my students with meaningful and literacy rich learning opportunities while they engage in hands on experiences that challenge their thinking.

In what ways are literacy experiences imbedded into your STEM activities?

Please note: ETFO’s position on in-person learning remains unchanged. The union firmly believes that the daily, in-person model of instruction and support best meets the educational, developmental and social needs of students, provides the best experience for support, and is the most equitable learning model for all students.

ETFO’s expectation is that elementary virtual learning in any capacity, including through hybrid models of instruction, will end once the pandemic ends.

So What’s Your Story?

Many moons ago I was gifted a wonderful book by a student and her family. Good Night Stories For Rebel Girls is a collection of stories about 100 extraordinary women, including beautiful illustrations from female artists. Over the years, the team at Rebel Girls has created other books. This month – being Black History Month –  I was excited to gift their book of 100 Real-Life Tales of Black Girl Magic, to a friend. In my inscription, I shared that her story also needed to be added to the book. This got me thinking about the stories that we share – particularly during Black History Month – and how we as teachers, go about sharing these stories. Often, it’s a select few well-known people whose stories we feel are worthy of highlighting for one reason or another. Within our schools and communities, I wonder how many equally incredible stories are waiting to be heard? How might the stories that we as a community learn from each others’ experiences, ultimately make our school community even better? In this post, I’m sharing a few ideas that are buzzing around in my mind.

Create Your Own Anthology

Based on the stories within this book, creating a class or school anthology is the easiest idea that comes to mind, but is also one of the hardest. I think of the incredible stories that students, school staff and community members could share about their lives and experiences. There could also be a team of illustrators or the person who is sharing their story can create their own self-portrait. There’s so much power in seeing how one views themselves. The stories within the book are short and powerful. Examples can be shared to give writers an idea of how they might choose to share their stories. 

Seems easy enough, right? But what conditions do we have to cultivate in order for people to feel comfortable in sharing their stories? If students, staff and/or members of the community don’t feel as though they are a respected part of the school community, we may never know what story they may have to tell. Further, if by chance we are privy to any part of the story of another and decide to ask for a contribution, we might in fact be causing further trauma by asking for the story to be revealed. There’s a delicate balance when it comes to the telling of stories and I firmly believe that it starts with creating spaces where people feel seen, heard and valued. Without that, creating this sort of anthology will cause more harm than good. 

The 3 Prompt Podcast

Some time ago, I shared a post on podcasts for students. In the post, I shared ideas on how podcasts could be used within the classroom and since then, I’ve shared other posts on how we’ve incorporated them in both literacy and science activities. Most of what I shared has been about fictional stories but why not have a podcast dedicated to sharing the real stories of students, staff and members of the community? Rebel Girls has its very own podcast that might spark ideas for listeners too. 

One thing that I’ve learned is that podcasts don’t need to be long. They just need to share interesting information about a specific topic and listeners will be hooked.  In podcasts, I think that the interview questions are crucial and make them flow.  Students can take turns interviewing people who are willing to share their stories, coming up with 3 prompts to guide the conversation. Interviewing is an art. Years ago, I learned about the TED method of interviewing. I’ve used it in design to understand the story of the user and that’s really the goal of this type of interview – to understand the story of another, rather than to lead. In the TED method, we use 3 sentence starters to guide the interview.

The sentence starters are simple enough to tweak into meaningful prompts once you know a little about the person you are interviewing. Yet another reason why it’s so important to build a space where people feel seen, heard and valued. 

These are just a couple of ideas stemming from these incredible books. Perhaps start by considering where you are at with building classroom or school community. Do members of this community feel seen, heard, and valued? If not, take stock of what changes need to be made by listening to stakeholders and developing a plan of how to implement change.  If so, consider how you might like to share stories. Consider whose stories often get told and whose don’t. Consider why that might be. Have discussions on how you might create – whether through writing, art, a podcast or any other method. Stories are powerful and can be inspirational. When the time is right ask, “So what’s your story?”.

Notable Black People in Canada – A Breakout

Last summer I had the privilege of working with a school around meaningful uses of technology to spark creativity with students. It was an incredible half-day session where participants had the opportunity to play and get creative themselves, all while considering how the use of tech tools could further support students in learning and creativity. 

As you probably already know, I’m an avid user of G Suite For Education Tools. For years I’ve been using Slides, Forms and Sites to create breakout rooms for students as an interesting way to deliver content and to help further develop the skills of communication and collaboration. For our session, I created a Breakout on Notable Black people in Canada. As this is Black History Month, I thought I would take the opportunity to share it here with readers. 

This Breakout is a series of puzzles designed to help people to learn about the history, experiences, and contributions of a few notable Black people in Canada: The Maroons, William Hall, Hattie Melton, Molly Johnson, and Michaëlle Jean. I had a blast building this Breakout because it gave me an excuse – if you will – to learn more about the contributions of Black people, using tools that I was already familiar with. 

While I’m not sharing the answers to the breakout here, I encourage you to take some time to learn and answer the questions prior to sharing this breakout with your students, if you so choose. You know your students best and I think that it’s always great to have rich conversations both before and after deciding to jump into any new learning. Slide #2 has some great instructions to help guide you if you are not already familiar with breakouts. Do you have what it takes to breakout?

The Year We Learned to Fly

I love a good picture book. When I get a recommendation or see a new book shared on social media, I often get excited to think about how I can use that book with students. Recently published, The Year We Learned to Fly by Jacqueline Woodson caught my eye. This time, I wanted this book just for me. Similar to The Day You Begin, Jacqueline’s powerful words are brought to life through incredible illustrations by Rafael López. This book is a celebration of oral storytelling; a reminder to “ believe in” and “dream a thing”; and the importance of living your truth. In this post, I’m sharing the impact of this book on my life.

Oral Storytelling

Oral storytelling is found in a variety of cultures and is a time-honoured tradition for many. In this story, the children’s grandmother shares advice, words of affirmation and of their ancestors. With gentleness and sage, their grandmother helps the children to understand the power of their beautiful and brilliant minds in order to help lift them out of boredom and new and challenging situations. With fondness, this book reminded me of my grandmother’s words of wisdom – old sayings that seemed to have passed down from generation to generation – as well as the words I find my own mother sharing with her grandchildren. The grandmother’s words are so powerful and transformative that while reading, I found myself feeling nostalgic for days of youth and missing spaces where I’ve had the chance to learn from elders. 

Believe In and Dream a Thing

Over the last couple of years, the pandemic has made dreaming and believing in a thing a bit challenging for me. While I’ve wanted to dream or envision future projects and/or goals, the question of possibility or probability often pops up and hinders the imagination. Early on when the children are bored, the grandmother guides the children with the words below:

With spring on the horizon, I think it’s time for me to lift my arms, close my eyes, take a deep breath, and believe in a thing. I don’t know what that will be but I’m looking forward to dreaming and imagining again. Who knows, I might even come back and share it with readers. 

Living Your Truth

At the end of the story, the two children move to a new street where they are not welcomed and are ignored. I love how the girl in the story stayed true to what her grandmother had taught her and encouraged her brother to do the same. They found freedom on their own rather than looking for acceptance from those around them. Even as an adult, I find this hard. In spaces where I feel unwelcomed and ignored, my tendency is to retreat into myself and I so loved the confidence with which these two children learned to fly.

These are just some of my thoughts in reading this book. I know that I will probably read it over again and perhaps my insights might change. I know a lot of us as teachers get excited about finding a new picture book or novel and sharing it with students. I’m learning to slow down and take some time to reflect on the words and how it resonates with me. I’m certain that I’ll share this book someday with students but for now, this one will just sit with me for a bit longer. Is there such a book for you?

Infographics – Hands on Learning With Technology

In my timetable this year, there are periods where I work with teachers and students around the use of technology. Excitingly, over the last month or so, I’ve had the opportunity to partner with a Grade 4 teacher, to consider the skills that would be important for students to know at this grade level. In this class, students have 1-to-1 technology and we were pretty excited to help students further develop their proficiency. Our board uses Google and we thought we would start with exploring Slides to see what students might create. 

While there are many different ways of learning to use Google Slides, we thought it would be fun for students to jump right in and play. There really is nothing like being a part of the experience, rather than watching someone tell you how to use a tool. As such, we decided to adapt a Google Scavenger Hunt that was shared online by Caitlin Tucker some time ago. While we thought we would fly through the scavenger hunt in a session or two, we realized that we really needed more time to make sure that students were able to play and discover as they were guided.  Since the Google Suite for Education Tools are so similar, we also wanted to make sure that students were able to transfer their skills from one tool to the next. Navigating from Slides to Docs, students quickly realized that the similarities in the menus in each of the tabs and the toolbar. 

Students were also learning about infographics with their teacher and once finished, they had the opportunity to create their own infographics on any topic of interest. Students learned that infographics are visuals used to easily represent information or data. They learned that they could have charts or diagrams to display information or images that would help the reader understand in a deeper way. We took some time to explore infographics found online and in magazines and quickly realized that they have key features:

  • Titles and subheadings
  • Clearly organized information 
  • Important statistics
  • Bold or bright colours are used to capture the attention of the audience
  • Graphics and images that stand out and draw the reader in

Before creating their own, we wanted students to use the Explore feature to conduct research and we also had a brief mini-lesson on how to cite information. Students quickly understood the importance of rephrasing the learning from websites but also making sure that they credit the author of the information they are using. They were so eager to start.  From Snakes to countries of family origin to cute pets and Fornite, students created some incredible infographics, helping their readers to understand the topics in a clear way. It was clear that the skills that we learned during the scavenger hunt were being put into use now when it was their turn to create. 

I’m so grateful to have had the time to collaborate with this teacher because it gave us the opportunity to sit and consider what skills we wanted students to walk away having learned and how we could facilitate the learning of these skills in a meaningful way. Pausing and supporting students in learning how to effectively use technology is so important. Moving forward, I know that I will continue to ask and consider “the why?” behind using technology and whether or not students have been supported in learning how to use the tool prior to expecting them to complete a task.