Wednesday, 26 February 2014


Thinglink is a great way to engage your children with information your delivering or tasks they need to complete. After tweeting about it tonight and being asked a few questions I decided to put this together.

I hope it helps.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

3 weeks into the 40 Book Challenge

I'm one book into my own 40 book challenge with my kids but they've astounded me with their interest in this aspect of our class programme. But, it hasn't been all plain sailing! Here's a run down of the key learning moments in the last 2 weeks.

Some of my developing readers have made variable starts in their own challenge.
1 boy picked up a book that I would not have recommended to him, he's reading at Gold on the colour wheel, but I didn't have the heart to tell him that it would be too hard. This was the most motivated I've seen him with reading in our new school year. The Margaret Mahy novel makes regular appearances on his desk and he holds it with pride, given that I'm trying to encourage independent readers I'm not going to destroy him with a pointless teacher error. I feel validated in this as we are now making more progress when we have our 1 on 1 reading sessions.

Another reader, has loaned me one of his books (pictured), I've started reading it as it is exactly the type of book I would have read at his age but it also demonstrates my genuine interest in their book recommendations and allows us to talk about books.

One day during this time a couple of students asked me why I wasn't reading during SSR, I've fallen into that teacher-trap of doing odd jobs during this time. I need to be modelling the type of behaviour I'm trying to encourage so thought this was a reasonable query. Ever since, I try to model independent reading regularly but there is still need to occasionally do a little job.

I read an excellent blog post about slow readers, it arrived in my twitter feed at a perfect time. I hadn't broached the subject of differentiated expectations with the class ( I still haven't to be honest), the idea that some of my class might not reach 40 was quite obvious but I was yet to give much thought to my approach. Since I have spoken with a parent of one slower reader to outline my expectations, i.e., it's not the number of books that's important but the development of an independent reader.

I've won a book (thanks Gecko Press for the book pictured), been sent another and bought 2 more, so my kids are seeing my interest in books isn't idle talk. But when I offered up one as a challenge, the first person to read needed to have read 5 books I was gobsmacked by the response. One girl had already read seven and taken note of all of them in here 40 Book Book. She hadn't written much in about each book, however all titles, genres, dates of reading were all listed. This girl has the book in her desk and there is a list 7-8 long of kids wanting to be next! All kids are handing in their 40 Book Books tomorrow for me to check on them.

As part of our programme all children are being offered the opportunity to celebrate books they've read, one of my first book celebrations I loaded up to the class blog. This has been quite a motivating activity already and looks like it will produce lots of great work this year.

I am seeing more books on desks throughout the day and in keeping with Donalyn Millers's findings, the children are using the challenge to motivate reading at every moment of the day. I hate to complain that someone can't get their nose out of a book but... One of my kids walked into class reading a book which made me laugh, she then told me she'd almost ran into a street light on the way to school!

Clearly, the challenge is producing some motivated readers and I hope that this will continue. However, the real highlight of the  first three weeks has to be this piece of writing.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Blogaholic: bringing it into the classroom

"My name is Reid and I'm a blogaholic".

It certainly sounds right, amongst some teachers admitting that you blog, tweet, or any use any other social media for networking purpose does feel like you confessing a giant sin. They don't really understand the power yet, but they're getting there and these types of queries below help us move them along. So I hope you'll pass this blog post onto 2-3 teachers you know to help them think about blogging in the classroom. This isn't the how to guide, there's plenty of those but one of my favourites as a beginner was Linda Yollis's.

I recently got emailed by a teacher wanting some help on how to integrate blogging into the classroom, in the interest of spreading the love I'm blogging my reply. The teacher was a blogger (not uncommon) but was unsure of how to proceed and they'd used kidblog also. This teacher's pondering was prompted by their signing up to Quadblogging. Their questions were:

Do you have ipads, or lots of computers in your class that you use?
3 favourites
from Room 1
In my classroom there is 3 desktops, BYOD (currently 10 kids) and we have a pod of laptops that come to the classroom for a week every term. We use Blogspot as a platform for blogging.  I prefer the Blogpress app when on the iPads though as it has better functionality I believe plus you can manage several blogs from the one app,

Do all your students have individual blogs?
I run both a class blog and individual blogs (none active right now, given the time of year).

How do you work blogging into your classroom programme?
Blogging into my classroom forms part of the literacy programme, when it is reading time I always include blogging. Students are directed to various blogs through their favourite blogs list, or according to our Quadblogging commitments. When it is time for writing students always have the option of publishing to the blogs. I've seen that some teachers like to have students write drafts each time to their book and have these rigorously checked, I find this onerous and prefer students to write directly to the blog, editing still takes place and the children find it more engaging. Fantastic, or otherwise, pieces of writing can still go from their writing book to the blog as you see fit. I also constantly have planned lessons & other teachable moments to learn about Digital Safety as part of Health - where blogs are often the context and we can model the learning.

My class regularly use the blogs for reading, posting and commenting before school and it can be included as part of a formal homework programme although if the blog is engaging the children will be on it at home anyway. A target for blog views or comments can be motivating also, there was much excitement when we reached 10,000 hits.

Do you QB through your class blog only? 
No, classes that have individual blogs may have these accessible also, it is entirely up to you but naturally the children love having people visiting and commenting on their own personal work.

I understand the basic premise that QB is about, but on the weeks that your class is not the focus class, do you not blog? OR is it just that you are not the focus for the comments?
My classes still blog, even though they are not the focus that week. It keeps them engaged with the practice of blogging and they generally have plenty of comments to respond to also. My class also participate in Aotearoa Quadblogging which means that I always have a blogging focus.

There are heaps of blogaholics and even some recovering ones, I hope that they'll all pass this on to 2-3 people who are unsure about blogging in the classroom.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

40 Book Challenge

Since becoming a teacher I've tried to share my passion for reading but have still found it difficult to help less motivated readers so this year decided that I would adopt Donalyn Miller's 40 Book Challenge.

When the children entered the classroom on the first day I was ready for them, I'd purchased more books, selected my National Library Books and had given great thought to what type of books some of the less motivated readers would like. On day 1 I let them have some SSR time and ensured that everyone was reading, I helped a couple of the kids choose something as they clearly weren't too interested until they saw the Commando comics! I had a poster promoting the 40 book challenge as part of a wall display however I didn't refer to it in the first couple of days.

On Wednesday, we sat down for 10 minutes to talk about the challenge, the look on their faces was priceless and quickly followed by quintessential child responses: "Can we read short books?", " Can we read books from home?" and "Can we choose the books?". They were quite surprised by my responses, I was prepared for these questions as Miller suggested these were amongst the things top of mind for children. "Of course you can read short books, I choose short books to read sometimes too...". I knew we'd need some way to monitor our progress, so I introduced the 40 Book book to them, each of the children have a notebook to record the books they start, genre, rating and a few thoughts - I'm not interested in long written responses as it is reading we're meant to be promoting here.

On Friday we sat down to quickly run through the types of books and genres we're going to try and read. They were abuzz especially when seeing the covers they knew and loved, I started to get the feel that this might work. Afterwards, I handed out the 40 Book books and they busily started filling in their first titles and discussing what genre these titles fit into.

I'm reading Oceans at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman right now, 40 books might be tough for a busy teacher but I can hardly expect them to do something I'm not prepared to do myself!