A chain blog? or Getting to know you better?

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

This is my professional blog where I do my best to post my reflections on learning. I don’t usually post anything personal on this blog. So if you are looking for a reflective post about teaching scroll to an archive. If you are curious and want to know more about me read on.

I was ‘tagged’ in a blog post by my dear friend Karen Lirenman. http://learningandsharingwithmsl.blogspot.ca/2013/12/thanks-tia.html I had just been warned by my husband that he was tagged earlier and he figured it was only time before I would be tagged too. Thanks Karen, my twitter twin for bringing me in the loop, I think.

11 Things you might not know about me.

1. I love to look at flyers. This is the most wonderful time of the year because I can sit back and look at all of the ads and see what kind of deal I can get.

2. I can bake a good pie.

3. At Christmas time, I make cookies. I bake continuously from November to the end of December. Gingerbread cookies are my best, but I’ve recently discovered a new recipe called Ginger Snap Crackle cookies. I usually don’t bake cookies at any other time of the year.

4. I was a gymnast and competed in the OFSAA. (Ontario finals in High School)

5. I’m a certified Gymnastic Coach. I coached for many years prior to going into teaching.

6. I have two twitter twins. One is exactly the same age, same years teaching and wishes she had a cleaning fairy too. The other twitter twin is another kindred spirit that lives in Philadelphia.

7. I have two younger brothers.

8. I like watching Days of our Lives. Yes, I watch one soap opera. It’s my way of escaping the day to day life of school.

9. I have twins.

10. I make homemade soup every Sunday. I package up the soup for lunches and freeze some for the following weeks.

11. I love reading mystery novels. James Patterson and Harlan Coben  novels are goodie, goodie books for me.

Karen asked me some questions. Here are my responses:

1. What is your favourite season and why?
I love summer. I need the sun. It fills my bucket. I love sitting and reading in the sun.
*2.  If you could travel any where, where would you go? Why?
I would like to go to Australia but I’d settle for anywhere warm.
3.   Runner or walker?
4.  What scares you?
The thought of losing my husband or children. I couldn’t bear that kind of grief.
5.   What is one accomplishment you are proud of?
I am proud to be a teacher. I feel like teaching has purpose and I make a difference in people’s lives.
6.  What have you been served, that you ate out of respect, but really didn’t like it?
Nothing, people usually ask what I like prior to eating at their homes.
7.  Water  or snow sports?
When I was younger it was water sports. Now it’s snow sports.
8.  Have you broken any bones? If so which ones? How?
My baby finger broke when I was young. My orbital bone and cheek bone were broken while playing a co-ed baseball game.
9.  Where’s the furthest you’ve been away from home?
10. What is/are your comfort food(s)?
Popcorn and Sour Cream and Onion Chips.
11. What’s the biggest surprise of your life?
Finding out I was expecting twins.
So here’s the nitty gritty….

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers.
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.


Here are the people I would like to nominate to answer questions. I apologize in advance for this, I know it’s a busy time of year but it’s a fun way to get to know our PLN. I’m modifying it to have 5 people and 5 questions. Please still provide 11 random facts about yourself.

1. Jocelyn Schmidt http://ljpskindergartenteam.blogspot.ca/

2. Colin Harris

3. Joanne Babalis http://ljpskindergartenteam.blogspot.ca/

4. Laurel Fynes http://thiskindylife.blogspot.ca/

5. Ann Marie Hulse http://kidblog.org/MsHulsesClass-2/

My questions to you.

1. What is your favourite picture book?

2. What is your favourite TV show and why?

3. If you could recommend one professional book what would it be and why?

4. Provide a recipe for a great Christmas drink.

5. What makes you tick?

So here’s the nitty gritty….

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 5 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers.
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.


Post back here with a link after you write this. Go on, you have homework to do.

Shoe inquiry- design update

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

As you may recall, my students created shoes for our babies at the house center. The DECE  and I observed some very interesting things. We noticed the students struggled with the concept of 3D and many students made 2D (flat) shoes. They glued or taped the shoes right on the doll and couldn’t remove them. Over the last few weeks we have created some weaving and sewing activities. We have worked with groups to investigate fasteners such as safety pins, thread, wool, glue and tape. Today we provided another design challenge.
“It’s cold out. Our babies need some new items. What can you design for them?” Students immediately said, “mittens, hats, scarves, neck warmers and coats.” They quickly began creating items.

It was awesome to see how they had built up resilience over the past month. They all believed they could create something and they attempted it with confidence. We did observe one student who made a one sided mitten but otherwise all students created items that had a front and back and could slid on and off the babies. No one glued their items to the dolls. I was impressed with the sewing techniques of some of the learners. A few students choose tape because it’s faster. Almost all created items that could easily slip on and off the dolls.

The final products were not my focus. I was interested in how they processed the steps, what strategies they employed and whether or not their level of persistence had increased. I was delighted in what I saw today. It certainly reminded me that we need to provide formative tasks, figure out their missing pieces of knowledge, scaffold their learning with mini lessons, small groups and explicit instruction and then provide another task for students to attempt. I learned a great deal about my students through this process. Designing, building, creating and reflecting is so important for all of our learners.

Photo 12-12-2013, 2 32 17 PM

Photo 12-12-2013, 2 33 25 PM

Photo 12-12-2013, 2 31 11 PM



Shoe inquiry update

Saturday, November 30th, 2013

Inquiries in the classroom are absolutely fascinating from the teacher perspective. While inquiries engage students in learning, inquiries also engage the educators in focusing on their individual learners. I learn so much about my student by watching them engage in inquiry tasks. I quickly figure out what they don’t know, what they already know and of course what they skills they need to move forward. But I also feel it goes deeper than that. I feel I get a true opportunity to see my students persevere, problem solve and demonstrate their level of critical thinking. I am not hung up on the final results of an inquiry. I am enthralled with the process and where an inquiry will lead or fade out. I never fully know what will happen throughout an inquiry and that sometimes scares me but it also keeps me engaged and excited about the next pathways.
If you have read my previous posts you know that I provided some provocations for a shoe inquiry for some of my learners. We read and watched Pete the Cat loves White Shoes. The students absolutely loved the videos and songs and still ask every day for some “Pete the Cat”. The challenge provided was authentic. Can we make shoes for our dolls in the house center? The students struggled and made many attempts at shoes. Flip flops were the shoes of choice due to the ease of putting on and off the doll. I was able to observe who gave up quickly and who persevered. I reflected on the reasons they were or weren’t successful. I have thought long and hard about what to do to fill their gaps and help them through the process. Do I care if we have shoes for our dolls? Not really. That wasn’t really the purpose. The purpose was to find a task that would engage a group of students who I felt were ‘stuck’ at the art center. They were not engaging in problem solving tasks and continuously were created 2D art work over and over. I wanted to extend their learning and increase their ‘tool kit’ with more experiences in 3D creations and problem solving.
A few things happened that surprised me. One of my ‘focus’ students initially was excited and started on the journey of shoe making. She had a few failures and then I introduced sewing techniques. I’m not a strong sewer. My husband (@Bharrisonp) actually does the button mending in our house. I sew ballet shoes twice a year and that’s only when I can’t get the shoes to my friend Karen Dance  (@CBCListener) to do it due to time restraints. I introduced sewing and realized the students didn’t have the lacing or weaving concept yet. I then spoke to one of my colleagues, Mrs. Greenham who comes in during my preps. We discussed ways to demonstrate weaving and sewing. I hole punched some foam bears tied on a piece of ribbon and put out cotton balls. Students learned the lacing technique and created some 3D bears.  Mrs. Greenham showed the students some purses her young daughters created and discussed the lacing/sewing involved. Students were provided with hold punches and wool and invited to create whatever they wished.

Photo 11-30-2013, 10 55 44 AM


On our walk to the pond we saw many bird nests and the students investigated nests and the weaving involved. Some students created mini nests using the weaving technique taught by Mrs. Greenham. (@GreenhamJenn)  We will continue to provide opportunities for our learners to engage in weaving and sewing and then present another challenge and see if the children can incorporate their new skills into the challenge.

I believe the inquiry is not about the end product or solely about the culmination of knowledge. I believe the inquiry is a way for teachers to discover, reveal and extend student learning. The inquiry is a process and teachers need to view it as such and take the time to observe, assess, reflect and extend. It was never about the shoe, it was about perseverance, uncovering skills that are missing, scaffolding learning and extending opportunities for new learning. We might try shoe design again or we might try a different challenge that incorporates their new abilities. The inquiry process is such a wonderful vehicle for teacher learning.

Inquiries and reflection

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

This is my professional blog for my own reflections. My class blog is a space in which I blog for my families and other K classrooms. I try to make our classroom learning as transparent as possible. This blog lets me reflect and get feedback from my PLN, my critical friends online.

Today I posted a blog entry about whole class inquiry and small group inquiries. We are at the beginning stages of the inquiry and a lot of my own questions are emerging. I ask that if you haven’t already read my post please do so at http://mrsharrisonk.wordpress.com/2013/11/10/inquiries/

I originally planned out the shoe inquiry because I have a group of students who spend most of their open choice play time at the art center. They create and make many different things every day. I do worry that they are not experiencing the problem solving or designing that happens at block center or building areas. I have tried to find an inquiry that will engage and push this group of learners into a new direction.

I know trains are not of any interest to this group, so I introduced the provocation of Pete the Cat Loves his White Shoes  video and story. To my surprise almost all of the students jumped on board and began creating and designing shoes. I had originally thought about one group in particular while I was selecting materials for the challenge. Many students have attempted this challenge and I ran into a similar experience as when I conducted our Duct Tape Challenge last winter. Aviva @Avivaloca and I discussed the obstacle of thinking in 2D and 3D for my young learners. I was amazed to see that once students used a plan our youngest learners created a flat creation and not a 3 dimensional object.

The group that I had intended to bring forward with the shoe inquiry are designing 3D shoes that actually go on and off the dolls. Our youngest JKs are struggling with this because they are thinking in 2D. They drew shoes and then cut them out and couldn’t figure out how the shoes would fit on the dolls. While this is funny to watch and I have to say I did chuckle in the classroom, I also took it as a time to reflect. This week, I’ll make more materials available and encourage 2D designs in order for students to experience success at making a shoe design. Then I need to think of ways to help the learners think and create in 3D. This is where my challenge is and where I seek help from my PLN. What tasks do you do to help bridge this thinking? I think about playdough and how students immediately crush the playdough to the table and then use cookie cutters or their hands to flatten it. It is rare for students to create 3D objects in playdough. Hopefully we will have snow soon and we can do some 3D snow creations. We use sensory bins and students work with 3D objects and experience different textures. What more can I do to help the students move from 2D to 3D?


Parent Communication and accessibility

Friday, October 25th, 2013

I had the pleasure of attending Aviva @avivaloca and Aaron @bloggucation ‘s session at ECOO 2013 on parent communication. Aviva is very passionate about her students and works very closely with her families. She blogs, tweets, emails and does weekly phone calls. Her junior class is also involved in broadcasting from the school and they use http://105thehive.org/   Aviva also described how she uses LiveScribe pens to record planning sessions and shares those sessions with her families.  She finds multiple ways to engage with her families.

I also engage in daily emails, a class blog, hand written notes, biweekly newsletters, SKYPE and phone calls as methods of communicating with my parent community. I have a lot of success in emailing out a quick photo of a child learning and sending it to their parents at work or home. I receive a lot of positive feedback from families. “It makes my day, when I get a photo of … while I’m working at my desk.” “I love showing my colleagues what my daughter is doing at school.” I think all educators will agree that parent communication is essential and an important aspect of our role as educators.

As I attended ECOO 2013 I heard a lot of wonderful conversations, presentations and keynotes. The emphasis was always on students learning and the technology tools were secondary. However, there was one thing I noticed that was not always in the forefront of our conversations. Accessibility for all parents, specifically parents of those who are English Language Learners was not a focus in our discussions. Karen Lirenman @Klirenman recently posted a blog entry and she talked about how she now included a translation widget on her blog. I have been reading and trying to figure out the best way to include translation widgets on my class blog and have not yet had success. I’m sure I’m missing something obvious. I welcome suggestions but at this point I can locate a link but my wordpress class blog does not make it easy for me to create a widget. I consider myself pretty techie and this simple process is a stumbling block for me. I wonder why as educators we are not demanding our blog sights to include translation widgets in the list of choices to add to our blogs. Why is it we can add cluster maps but not translation widgets?

I am sure in time I will find an easy way to add the widget to my class blog. I welcome any suggestions in the comment area. However, that’s not the focus of this entry. I ask educators to please consider all families of the students in your classrooms. How can we use technology to make it easier to communicate with everyone?  How are we being equitable in our communication methods? I know I will ask myself each time I create something for families, I will question how can I ensure this meets the needs of all of my families. Will you too?


update- Thank you to the support team at Edublogs. I contacted their help email support and received a quick reply. The support team even put the translate option on my blog. Thank you!

Now I need to figure it out for my class blog.


Gears, gears, gears (The components of a literacy block)

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

I have worked in various roles including curriculum consultant, literacy coach, Literacy@School teacher and oral language steering committee member. The focus and the components of a literacy block is always at the forefront of all of my work. I strongly believe in the Gradual Release of Responsibility model. (Modelled, Shared, Guided and Independent practise)

Often in conversations I hear people refer to the pieces of the puzzle of a literacy block. Yes, I agree there are many pieces of a literacy block, but I also know that a teacher can have all the pieces but still not be utilizing the components effectively. Over the years I have heard, “Yes, I do a read aloud everyday, we are working on an author study. Yes, I also do shared reading, we have a poem a week. Yes, I do interactive writing, it’s about the child’s buildings.” These are just a sample of comments that have made me reflect on the professional development messages that have been relayed to teachers. I believe that it is much more than having the components of a balanced literacy, it’s about linking the components together. I don’t mean by theme or topic, I mean explicitly linked, so the skills that are being addressed in the read aloud, match or compliment the skills in the shared reading, which scafffold the learning for the guided reading and interactive writing lessons. These skills are then transferred and scaffolded during the independent reading and writing times.

This might seem obvious but I have seen colleagues work so hard in preparing lessons in each of the areas of the literacy program but not yield the results of their hard work. I was recently watching a student use the app Geared 2! That graphic had me thinking and reflecting on my current practice.

The image struck me as more appropriate to use when referring to the gradual release of responsibility then a puzzle image. I current teach a full day everyday kindergarten program and I am seeing the importance of connecting each of the gears together to create effective readers and writers. One of the joys of teaching Kindergarten is you get to see the moments when the  lights go off and hear the immediate connections young learners make in the moment.

Here is an example of how consistent instruction is threaded throughout the gradual release of responsibility in our classroom. Our read alouds this week have been about seeds in order to assist us in our wonderings about seeds. The read aloud focus has been on understanding how the title matches the story and the picture on the cover. My prompting has been on understanding that the author selects a title that makes sense for the book. For example, we have a book about the lifecycle of a dandelion and the photo on the cover is of a dandelion not a photo of a dinosaur.

In shared reading we are looking at a simple pattern text about the life cycle of a pumpkin. The focus is on looking at the picture thinking about what we see then tackling the text. Students are learning that the text matches what is happening in the picture. We also do interactive writing daily in our block and currently we are learning that our words must match the photo or drawing we have selected. We are doing writing about the photos of the seeds we have collected.

The interactive writing is posted in a wall story format and later students independently reread the wall story and work on matching the text with the picture. In guided reading students are learning how to look at the picture first, think about what would make sense, then read at the text.

Independently students are writing/drawing responses to the read aloud. Our prompting is “make your picture match the story we read today.” During independent reading the students are doing their picture walks and thinking about the meaning, then reading the text.

The common thread is making sure the children understand that authors and writers match pictures with the words. The topic may be seeds but that is secondary to our instructional foci. Seeds is just the vehicle we are using to generate interest, but the focus is still on making the text match the photo. Some young children do not know this obvious connection. They need it explicitly taught. This is a very simple example, but for our youngest learners they need us to guide them and help them make these connections. Educators need to be very explicit about linking the focus of each component of the literacy block.  We have gears that need to operate in conjunction with each other.

photo 1

Thank you for reading my reflections. I welcome comments and feedback.

Looking Closely

Saturday, September 28th, 2013

A new school year has begun and I have been carefully watching my students in order to determine a direction for our whole  class inquiry. This past August a group of Kindergarten and grade one teachers gathered on Twitter and brainstormed some ideas. Heather McKay @HeatherMMCKay started a  Google Doc and together ideas were generated on some directions we could take with our classes. A series of books by Frank Serafini  titled Looking Closely is the begining provocation for our learning. Heather McKay created at collaborative blog for teachers to share ideas and connect.

I’ve read two of the books with our class and we have gone on a few wonder walks. It was slow getting things sparked but I finally feel we have a spark that will lit a fire in our learners. My colleague Jennifer Greenham covers two of my preps and she is supporting inquiry in the classroom. She read the book A Sleepy Seed by Dianna Hutts Ashton. She facilitated a list of wonderings and we are working from the list to generate some new learnings. Students have been naturally finding seeds and bringing them into our classroom. Our science area is now filled with milkweed seeds, apple seeds, maple keys, burrs and sunflower seeds.

I have been thinking about ways to move from our own class inquiry to a global inquiry. This is where I need your help. It is currently autumn in Ontario and we see many seeds in our fields and gardens. It is also harvest time and it is easy to gather seeds from foods. Soon we will investigate pumpkin seeds, squash seeds and other harvest vegetables. One of the wonderful things about our We Can See Project was connecting with others and learning about their school environments. Students could compare and contrast their school yards and the weather. I’m now wondering if ‘Seeds, seeds, seeds’ could launch a global inquiry in which we share the types of seeds we see in our school yards, neighbourhoods and lunches. The Maple Trees are changing colour in Ontario and maple keys are falling to the grown. Milkweeds are opening and blowing through our schoolyard. What changes do you see? What types of seeds do you encounter in your day?

If you would like to SKYPE with our class or send us a class book/movie/Pic Collage on the types of seeds you encounter that would be much appreciated.

Leave a comment and lets connect. I can also be reached on Twitter @techieang


ECOO 2013

Monday, August 19th, 2013


Please join Jocelyn Schmidt @MsSchmidt_YR and I as we engage in a conversation about ways to use Global Projects in the classroom. We will highlight our We Can See Project http://wecanseeprojectsharingspace.blogspot.ca/ and talk about ways we found to connect with classrooms and educators around the world. Come and learn how you can take this simple concept and create an engaging Global Project to meet the needs of your classroom.

Media Projects

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

This month I visited Paris and I spent many days wondering museums. My daughter loves fashion so we went to the Musee des Arts decoratifs for a quick visit. I was delighted to see an exhibit about advertising. I had spent the week viewing so many different types of art. The advertising exhibit was quirky and fun. As soon as I saw the first display of fans, my head began designing media lessons for my class next fall. As I walked through the exhibit my mind began racing about all of the missed opportunities that present themselves. I feel very passionately that educators need to teach students to read all texts, regardless of their form or purpose. I am always seeking opportunities to gather media and bring it in the classroom. I think students of all ages need to understand the meaning and purpose behind texts on clothing, shoes, bags, food items and bill boards. Our children are immersed in a society of constant text and images and we need to help them navigate the texts. In our province, we have a full media literacy strand in our Language 1-8 document. I hear many teachers complain that they haven’t ‘done’ media  yet and need a project to do before the next reporting period. Many educators struggle with locating items, designing lessons and coming up with media creation tasks. As I walked around the advertising exhibit I wished I could have captured it and showed my colleagues some of the wonderful ideas. Here is an outline of what I saw and what it could mean for educators in their classrooms.

There was a display of key chains over time. Yes, simple key chains that showed images and texts from different advertisers. It was a history of products over time. There was a beautiful display of fans. Simple hand fans made of paper, cardboard and tissue. The fans showed art work over time but it also showed advertising of events. Fans that were distributed at sporting events were displayed. I recently attended a grade eight graduation in which the attendees were given cardboard fans  with the program and graduates names listed. The fans had a stick inserted in the middle and were very functional for a hot evening.

There was also a display of Perrier cans. Yes, advertising on cans. Coca Cola cans displayed the World Cup images over time. There were shopping bags with logos and texts showing stores throughout the years. There were bottles showing different shapes and advertising different products. There were endless examples of items that could be deconstructed and possibly recreated with students of all ages.

I strongly believe that it’s important to make learning opportunities as authentic as possible. Simply don’t pick an item off the list but watch and observe your students. What opportunities are presenting themselves in your classroom each day? Do the students wear lanyards with advertising? Do your students bring in Smart phones with covers? Do your students bring in paper or plastic bags with logos or slogans? Do your students have key chains from special events? Do your students bring in chip bags that have advertising or contests? Do your students have stickers on their laptops or stickers on their binders? Could you start a conversation about what you see in your classroom? Gather examples, go online and find photos of other examples of the same product. Could you then deconstruct the advertising and have students make their own? I encourage you to look for opportunities that present themselves and work with your students to develop some media lessons that are meaningful to them.

Here is a summary of times that could be discussed, explored, deconstructed and then recreated. I would love to hear your ideas of what you do or did with your students too. Lets share and more importantly lets start collecting items we see over the summer and gather together media pieces for opportunities that might present themselves throughout the year. The Olympics is coming up and lots of companies start displaying items creatively. Look for pop cans, bags, and food items that advertise the athletes.  I encourage educators to go beyond the traditional, ‘design a poster.’ Seize the moments that present themselves each day.

Here are some possible media items with links to some examples for you to view to help get your creative juices flowing.

Bags or known as bagvertising
key chains


shopping bags, cloth, paper, plastic


Food items- packaging

Pop cans

Water bottles (Andy Warhol cans of Perrier)

Smart phone covers

Laptop cases or skins

iPod covers Slogans or a fun commercial on duct tape cases




Or look at one product over time and investigate the many ways the company has used items to advertise their product. For Examples,

Coca Cola



Ritz Crackers

The links aren’t intended for classroom use. Please preview and select your own images suitable for your class.


Special Someone

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

In our class we created many projects that reflect students’ feelings about the special people in their lives. My kindergarten students selected a special someone and then drew a few things on a planning page. They used the app Explain Everything and drew a picture of their mom (special someone) while they were talking about the special things about the person.

There were two challenges. One, it was hard to find a quiet space for students to record their ideas. Two, some students struggled to talk and draw at the same time. It was actually funny to watch. I had a parent volunteer or a student helper or sometimes myself sit with the child while they recorded the movie. I have permission from this family to post this very personal and special keepsake.

Special Someone

1. Planning page of sketches

2. Use the app Explain Everything.

3. The student draws and talks while recording.

4. Save.

5. Export to Dropbox.

6. Email a link from Dropbox to the family.

What digital keepsakes do your students create?