Thursday, March 21, 2013

Visits from Friends

We are very privileged to have a visitor from Pennsylvania, USA at the moment. Flat Tyler is from Mrs Tina Schmidt's class and he has come to find out about our children and our school. We are all very excited and the class teacher  has been taking photos for a slide show that the children will present to the rest of the school on Tuesday.

These global projects are wonderful for developing literacy in a real world way. The children have to read about their friend and write about their adventures and they do so in a motivated and unstressed way. They also learn about continents, hemispheres, day and night and time zones by participating in global projects. This particular class are now going to make their own flat friends and send them out to classes around the world.

We have another Grade 2 class waiting for the arrival of a Travelling Rhino.  Through this project they will be made aware of the plight of rhinos and the scourge of poaching.

Our other two Grade 2 classes are participating in a Global Pen Pal project in Edmodo. Edmodo is a Facebook social network look alike for children. It is a closed environment but through the class teacher we are able to make connections with other classes.

We are excited about all the connections we are making and the children love to pore over our large wall map of the world and a big atlas we have in our library. Technology helps us to flatten our classroom walls and make connections whilst we learn and grow.  The technology at our school is only available in the lab where we have 17 six year old PC's and an internet connection but it's amazing what one can do with a little. My dream for our school is to have a laptop and a large monitor for every classroom so that teachers who catch the vision for integrating IT into their lessons can do so. One day ..... 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Literacy, both language and computer

The children are continuing to enjoy coming to the computer lab and appear to enjoy their lessons. The most amazing group is the Grade 1's. After only eight weeks they are able to navigate around a folder during "fun" time. They even manage the multi-step shut down in Letterland now. It save so much time between classes. I'm a happy teacher. This week for our class activity they did initial sound phonics where they had to "click and drag" a picture into a box with the correct initial sound. They did it quickly and with aplomb, leaving me feeling like I'd given them a dumbed down lesson. I see they are now ready to step up the pace - they are reaching a level of computer literacy where we can begin using the computer more as a tool for learning. Now for some keyboard skills .....

Grade 2's are writing introductory messages in Edmodo as part of the Pen Pal project. Our cluster of four schools (three in the USA and our class) is just getting started. I am using this activity as a language literacy activity. Grade 2's are still practicing writing sentences in class. The finer details of capital letters, full stops or question marks are not entrenched yet. In their computer lesson they have to type their introductory sentence correctly because, as I tell them, the "whole world" can read what they have written. They love that and it motivates them to try hard. I read somewhere that teaching is 90% acting and I've put that hypothesis into action this week. I have introduced lots of actions in preparation for their sentence such as reaching up tall for a capital letter and stamping a foot for a full stop or drawing a large exaggerated question mark in the air for a question mark. I have a green teddy bear named Fred who helps me demonstrate. Learning is fun when Fred is showing off.

The beauty of typing their sentences is that I can go around to each child and help them edit out the errors immediately. It's so much gentler and more friendly than red marks on the child's book in class.

The grade 3's have been busy with a project on bullying. They worked in pairs and made presentations in response to some questions I set for them. We watched a YouTube video as part of the project.  I had one group act out the video scenario in assembly one Friday and I then showed a slide show that had been done in class. Bullying is a universal problem and technology helped us get a message to the rest of the school.  I then asked them to write a reflective blog post responding to the question: "What I have learned about bullying".

Through contact with teachers in the Global Classroom Project we have been able to add links to other classes on our blog roll. Now the children can go to blogs in other countries and we are learning how to make suitable blog comments on other students' blogs worldwide. The emphasis is on friendly, positive and encouraging. We are laying the foundation for digital citizenship.

My extra mural activity this year is co-ordinating the chess clubs. Our children are so enthusiastic about learning to play chess and I am thrilled because I know the value of chess as a thinking tool. This week we were privileged to have a student from Nelson Mandela Metro university come and coach our players on the basics for two sessions. The response was exciting and of course very noisy but I can say that although the noise level at times was a bit loud they were totally engaged and discussing their moves with one another.

Lonwabo Charles asks a student to tell him if his move is correct. 

Intense concentration and some discussion. 
One of the ways I find the computer useful for chess coaching is if there are too many children for the number of chess sets we have I put some of them at the computer where they can play a downloaded 3D chess game from  At least I know that they are not able to make illegal moves whilst playing on the computer - but it's hard to watch a number of "live" games going simultaneously.