Ms Eppele's Blog

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Getting the Blogs Rolling

Okay, so I have been really trying to get the students into blogging. I have to admit I am finally seeing some improvements in their blog writing. Something I have observed with the kids is the ownership they have over their writing and the excitement that arises when they see that someone has commented on their post.  I am seeing how much an authentic audience helps encourage more thoughtful writing and at the same time I have seen how some students need to work on their “thoughtful comments” to each other.

I have been reading William Kist’s book, The Socially Networked Classroom;

It is full of in class activities around the New Literacies, many of these activities I can see doing in my classroom next week. I am going to try the Snowball Activity on pg 37 to create some discussion around comments to each other. I would like the students to come up with the dialogue on what makes a comment a good comments and what makes a comment a bad comment.  How can we make our comments meaningful to the writer?

Here are two blogs from two different students in my class on Remembrance Day and  comments left from other students. One student uses words and another uses images.

Naiya\’s Blog     and      Kai\’s Blog

Here is one, where I can see how the subject can engage the writer. A beautiful piece of writing Sohpia\’s Blog

I can see how that students are improving in their blog posts by simply going back and reading when we started. I think I may want them to write a few more posts and go back and read over them. I would like to know their thoughts on their development.

I can not put Kist’s book down, for it has me even thinking how my blogging techniques need to be worked on. How am I coming across in my blogs, are my blogs too long, to short, too all over the place?  This learning adventure I have my students taking with me is a wild one with ups and downs. I am quickly seeing that this Personal Learning Project on blogging is guiding me to my next field study.

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Assessment and Differentiated Learning

I had a major AHA moment about a week ago around assessment and my method of marking Math Makes Sense math tests.  Every year, I try to pick one thing out of the MMS program to try.  I love the program and find value in they ways it teaches and supports all student learning, but I was always afraid when I looked at the teacher guide assessment section.  It looked mean, scary, and very time-consuming.

I have always marked math tests the way I was taught, x for the wrong answer and a check mark for a correct answer.  This year I asked myself, why do I do this? I honestly think it is because it is quick and easy and I thought it told me if the student “got it” or not.  I do not assess my students reading comprehension or writing techniques with right or wrongs, I have been using rubrics forever, so why am I now doing it with math tests. In fact, I even assess two big math questions, I assign the students, a week using a rubric!  What is stopping me from using the MMS test rubrics?

I am currently involved in facilitating a learning team who struggle with the Math Makes Sense program.  I am encouraging them to try small parts of the program, what kind of teacher would I be if I did not take a risk myself?  So, I decided I am going to do it!  And let me tell you it took a week to mark! However, that was because I had to walk away many times when I got overwhelmed or frustrated and as a result I was stunned. Yes, stunned at what I saw.  I have been sharing my findings with them and I have to share something that one of the teachers said to me. The teacher,  said that he noticed the test score averages were always higher with the Journey tests compared to the Math Makes Sense tests. I asked what does that tell you? What are the tests asking the students to do? How are the tests related to the BC Prescribed Learning Outcomes in math? And for me it made me feel that I will definatly be using the MMS rubrics when assessing tests from now on.

The rubric breaks the test into four categories;

Conceptual Understanding   – Shows understanding by explaining and/or demonstrating:

–   the pattern of place positions (right to left)

–   the meaning of each digit in a given numeral

–   contexts for estimating

–   estimation strategies (sums and differences)

–           compatible numbers

Procedural Knowledge – Accurately:

–   writes a given number with proper spacing (no commas)

–   expresses a given numeral in expanded notation

–   writes the numeral represented by expanded notation

Problem-Solving Skills – selects and uses appropriate estimation strategies for:

–   making predictions

–   checking reasonableness of an answer

–   determining approximate answers

Communication – Records and explains reasoning and procedures clearly and completely, including appropriate terminology


   After going back and reviewing the students work and results, I was hit with a gigantic truck! Wow, the program really is focused on differentiated learning and reaching all learners.  It became very evident that the students who have learning disabilities were amazing at explaining how they got to their answer, they communicated their conceptual understanding very well, however their accuracy was off. When doing the rubric these students who normally receive a large numbers of Xs and tend to get 5 out of 30 were in fact demonstrating that they had a conceptual understanding, were selecting the correct problem solving strategies, and were communicating their learning. As one of those students said to me, “Wow, this is great I have never gotten a C+ on a math test before!”  His confidence went up, and he has been engaged in the recent math lessons since.

   The other big truck I ran into was the students who normally do exceedingly well on their tests were unable to communicate their conceptual understanding or their problem solving strategies. Their tests were all answers, no explanations which they were all reminded to do.Many of the students erased their strategies from the test. Yes, I was able to see that they did arrive at the correct answer however I have no idea how they got there! Where was their demonstration of their learning?

    I created a letter to parents to explain how I assessed the math tests and went over it with the students. I think this may have been the very first time where I did not have a comment written back to me, on the tests I send home to be signed, that questioned how I could have marked a certain question wrong.  I also had a meeting with one of my LD student’s parents, and they right away started complaining how the Math Makes Sense is not good for students with LD.  I pulled out the student’s test and went over the rubric, and explained my findings. That in fact this resource is perfect for this LD student, she did extremely well explaining strategies and that it was the basic math facts she was struggling with.

    It is good to note, in starting my next unit, Unit 3 Multiplying and Dividing Whole Numbers, I have started with first mastering the basic math facts first! This is a direct result of really understanding where the students need support from the unit 2 math test.  This assessment did take me a long time to assess, but as a result I have a better understanding of the each of the students learning and needs. I can now see where I need to go. I need to focus on the basics and the communication of their learning. I have shared with the class that I am learning to use this new assessment tool as well, and I have found that they have begun to ask me better questions when we are doing assignments. I would like to think it is their way of taking ownership of their learning. I have looked at the rubric for the Unit 3 test and oh boy I think that one just might take me a little longer. I know it is worth it for the students’ learning and engagement in math.

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Differentiated Learning and Our Learning

I Twitted this week; we need to teach students to become Mathematicians…not to just get the right answer. But first, as educators we need to get that idea…  

So a funny thing happened to me last week. I had a member of our school community come to me in the early morning to solve a math problem I had sent home the previous night. She went on to tell me that in the daycare there were three students of all levels and parents pondering the elusive math question.  In fact the next day other parents were sending in what they thought the answer should be.  The member was excited to finally talk to the  teacher to get the answer to see who was right and who was wrong. She even had written equations and answers from the other individuals.  I smiled at her, and said that there was no right or wrong answer, and that they were all right. She looked at me like I was nuts and even had me show her the answer key which stated “answers may vary.”  Then I explained to her that they were all thinking mathematically, they were all using strategies that they knew, they were collaborating with one another, they felt passionate about the question…they were all mathematicians even though they all went about solving the problem in different ways.

I loved having that discussion that morning, it helped me in a few more moments that week where I had to explain to teachers that math is not always about just knowing the right answer, that it is far more than that and that is where teaching math becomes a little more interesting.  I was helping our mentor group last week and the discussion was around Math Makes Sense.  I had our district guru come in a do a presentation on the ins and outs of the program, which I might add I was shown something I didn’t know about the program even thought I have loved it and used it for over five years!  After his presentation he and I had a discussion with the group on what teachers need to do is use it they way they want to and feel comfortable with. We were able to share with the group that the two of us do not agree on certain areas….and that was okay.

After he left, I sat down and listened to the group and showed them a variety of ways they can explore the program. One of the mentors was very excited to use it and she had great success when she did her first unit launch with her class. I talked with her a week later and she was in awe with what the kids did with the launch and how she really got a chance to stop and listen to how her kids think.  She would not have gotten that by simply directed the students step by step through the lesson, She saw that letting go allowed the students to let go of their apprehension around mathematical thinking.

I loved that shared this with me and I can not wait to hear what the other mentees did at our next meeting. In fact I have signed up to do more pro d and have invited them to join. It will be so interesting to hear what observations the teachers come back with, good and bad.

Differentiated learning is not just about how the students learn, it is also about how individual teachers teach. We as teachers all have our comfort zones and some of us venture out of those zones more often than others. I think it is important to understand how we teach, how we feel about how we teach, how we reflect on the way we teach, and how our teaching affects us and our students. Then we can take the time to stop, observe, listen, and engage with students in how they learn.

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Blogging – Choice, Opinion, and Self Regulation?

Something has been pulling at me since I have started to learn and understand my new grade five class. I was not sure what it was until I started to think of my last year’s inquiry on student wonderings.  I thought about my little grade ones and twos who loved to ask why, who wanted to know more, who loved to find and create new wonders for us to explore. Then I started to really look and listen to this year’s grade five group, and it hit me. These students are not comfortable asking questions of themselves or those around them. They look at me with suspicion when I ask them for their opinions or their thoughts.

I give a journal assignment every Monday morning. The students are given three choices; First question is generally around an opinion they have (What would you rather have a teacher that is fun and does not teach you much or a strict teacher who teaches you great things? Why? Or what would be your ideal teacher?), the second has to do around creative writing (Imagine you found an egg in the playground….) and the third is free choice (here most write a creative story or about their weekend.)  What surprises me is that I have a class full of creative writers and students who tell me how boring their weekend was. When I ask their opinion of the students they all stare at be with blank looks? Some of them ask why is it important for me to know their thoughts.

Then I had my students blog, well comment on another classes blog.  At first the students were a little hesitant.  I went over netiquette with them, and asked them what they would like to see if someone commented on their writing.  Some students went with it, while others stared blankly. I then encouraged them to ask questions of the blogger. It took some time, but the kids slowly started to type. Once they did one they were asking to comment on more, which of course I said go for it.

The SEA in my room observed a great thing happen during this blogging time. She noticed a student who she has worked with for many years become a writer. The SEA was very proud of this student. She wrote out what she saw and experienced, ” A little girl who have very low self-esteem blogged yesterday.  She found someone in New York that said their dog was their best friend.  She was so excited to respond because her dog is her best friend.  This girl would not write much because she has a learning disability and to see her blog like that just gave her a new purpose.”

Will having the student create their own PLN help them explore their own learning? Will it give them purpose to ask more questions of each other and themselves?  Does asking questions go hand in hand with self-regulation? Can social networking help the students see themselves as thinkers? Will blogging encourage students to explore their thinking and learning?

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Twitter and me.

So I started using Twitter about a year ago, and too be honest I really did not like it bit more importantly I did NOT get it.  I had and still have many questions around it.

Why is it there? Why do people use it? Why do people like to tweet? Why do people read tweets? What is Twitter etiquette? How will Twitter help me in my practice? How can I teach it to kids when I am still so unsure about it?

I seem to get many followers, which I find funny considering I have only tweeted twice and in both cases I posed questions that just never got answered. As I read tweets this week, I came to a quick realization, I need to use Twitter to find my answers. I need to use networks (PLN) to research my questions and wonders. I decided to really focus on the #mathchat for a variety of reasons.  1. I love to teach math 2. I love watching students change their outlook on math 3. I like to help and support teachers to embrace the new teaching/learning of math.

Going through #mathchat I found a few things that really stuck out for me.  First was a tweet about a great online interactive math tool for students,

Then I came across a TED video by Conrad Wolfram and his ideas behind teaching kids real math. This is something that is dear to my heart.

Finally I found a great tweet, that says it all to me when teaching students math.Math is emotional and it is a good idea to remember that. I was that students who would become so frustrated with math I would break down and give up.It wasn’t until I had two amazing math teachers in high school who took the bad experiences and helped me see math in an entirely different way. To this day I keep them in mind whenever I start a math lesson.


Never underestimate the power of one bad experience to hinder students’ learning. That’s when math becomes an emotional issue. #mathchat
Okay, so I may be slowly converting to become a Twit or is it a Tweeter? For me I think I will stick with the one #mathchat and stick with my daily blogs.  Here are a couple of blogs I have read this week;

Teaching Students to Ask Their Own Questions

One small change can yield big results



Twenty Tidbits for New Teachers

By Lisa M. Dabbs, M.Ed.
And she tweets too! Maybe I should follow here as well.
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Curriculum 21

   What does this mean? Thinking about the new curriculum that needs to be implemented many of us, thought well of course it needs to be implemented. Many of us are trying to understand the 21st century learning skills, but this to me is taking it further. It makes me wonder if we have it in the curriculum will more teachers would learn and teach more of the skills needed in this shift in our learning culture.

     There was a comment in the article that mentioned that students are waiting for teachers and curriculum to catch up. (pg 211 Frank Baker)  We as educators need to adapt our practices in the classroom in the wake of the new literacies that are arising now and in the future. Once again ensuring that our students have the skills and understanding of learning to learn. The student is able to develop their skills as change continues to happens.

    The Feedback Loop in the David Niguidula’s article on e-portfolios made it simple for me in the diagram he provides. I created the same diagram here;


The e-portfolios do not only provide the teacher with and idea of the student’s learning, but it also provides the teacher feedback on their practice, assignment designs, and participation.  The teacher can reflect on what their practice and change their curriculum map. (Another term that is new to me and I love!)

I would like to leave this blog with a quote from the article “21st Century Literacies”.

“As new technologies shape literacies, they bring opportunities for teachers at all levels to foster reading and writing in more diverse and participatory contexts.” pg.2

I need to be more reflective on my own practice to understand what 21st strategies am I already using and understanding more on the why I am using them. I know I am direct with the students in the skills I teach them, I tell them the what, the why, and the how.  Now I need to recognize the how in order for me to add to my field study.

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Is it Really More to Teach the New Skills Needed Today?

From Jenkin’s White Paper;

“…textual literacy remains a central skill in the twenty-first century. Before students can engage with the new participatory culture, they must be able to read and write.  Youth must expand their required competencies, not push aside old skills to make room for new.  Second, new media literacies should be considered a social skill.”pg 19

In our literature circles, on Friday the idea that we are not moving away from teaching the basics of reading, writing and math but we are adjusting to the new technologies being introduced in our ever-changing learning culture. I know for myself as I read through the White Paper I kept making connections to things I already do in the classroom. Reflecting on my own practice can see where I can extend my teaching to better enable the students to explore new technologies.  I think many of us are feeling like we have to cover so much ground to ensure the students are getting the best education we can provide them. This makes me think about something I heard at a workshop once, that there are no curriculum police. We do not want to teach something because we have to, because it is in writing that we do.  I can’t help but think we are doing a huge disservice to our students,if we go over everything just to ensure we can check off that yes we covered that.

We want to create a rich and open learning environment. I want to see the students take a hold of their learning and inquire what is meaningful to them.  We all know that students pick up on how we are feeling like that, so of course if we are rushing through a unit, which we don’t like, they are going to get that it really is not that important. If the teacher is lacking the passion behind learning, what do we expect the students do?

I know this blog seems like it is all over the place, but that is where my brain is right now. Going back to my title; Is it Really More to Teach the New Skills Needed Today? With the new literacies/multiliteracies, why wouldn’t we want to enrich our teaching skills and renew our passions for teaching? Through my own classroom experiences, I know that the excitement of learning needs to come from me first, to ignite students in their own passion of learning.

This little youtube Video really resonated with me in thinking that we as teachers need to teach the new literacies as well as what we are teaching now; reading, writing, social responsibility, math, etc…


New Media

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Its Multiliteracies…

    While discussing Pahl and Roswells, Chapter Two “Multimodal Literacies:New Ways of Reading and Writing,” with my group this book popped into my head. We were discussing the idea of using pictures books in lessons and how we do use them in the class. At first we were questioning what came first; the new detailed non-fiction picture books or the internet? I kept thinking to of the many Reading Power Workshops I have gone to over the year, about reading non-fiction. I couldn’t help but think that all the non-fiction reading strategies we teach the students can be used with the internet. That was my duh! moment! Why on earth did I not see the connection before?

   I am thinking about the fake internet sites, that Taryn had given us; and

   I see that we can use all these new technologies with the students, but we first need to be looking at the how and why of using them. We need to me able to teach students how to use the different modes of literacies, and how to use them effectivley. But first we need to learn first, or do we? I would like to see the students bring in new modes to the class, to teach us what they know.

   Having the students bring in artifacts, similar to what we have been doing, and share with the class who they are. The students are able to bring in their different domains of learning into the class. It is a great way for me to gain a better perspective on how each individual learns and about who they are as individuals.

   I am starting to think about how to adopt learning multiliteracies lessons into my classroom this September. It would be great to see what the students think of their literacy world.  What insights will they provide me in understanding the theory behind multiliteracies. Will it make them more aware of the different modes of literacies and identify their own literacy domains.  Hmmmmm….now I am actually looking forward to September!

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Multiliteracies and My Brain

   Okay, so today my brain proved itself to me.  After reading “A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies; Designing Social Futures, last night I truly believed I was not understanding what it was trying to tell me. In class today, after discussing the article with my amazing group, you know who you are, I began to connect the dots or in regards to the article the multiliteracies!

  Since I know how my brain works, I have decided to blog a couple of diagrams of how I see the theory behind multiliteracies, which I might add is not in my spell check!  So forgive me if I misspell it.

Six major Areas of Designs when Thinking of Multiliteracies;






Multimodal – is the tying together of each design and their relationships

Here is another great way for me to understand;

From the Peel District Site

Types of Mutliple Literacies
computer literacies -software
web literacies -interenet
digitial literacy – cells, emails, msn
visual  literacy – graphics, text, TV
audiotory literacy – radio, conversing
home  literacy – routines and chores
community literacy – bus schedules
social  literacy – manners and etiquettes
work literacy – procedures, routines
curriculum literacy – school subjects
Reading through this I can’t help but think this is something we, as educators are already trying to do. We strive to reach all the diverse learners in our classroom. Multiliteracies, to e is attaching a name to the designs we use to reach the learners in our classroom.

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What to Reflect on?

Okay, so we just had our second day of class and I am already feeling overwhelmed and behind.  I know it is our learning journey, but many us put a lot of pressure on ourselves. I think it is time to sit back and think exactly what I want to be learning this week and what it is I want to take away from this journey.

A key quote that has stuck out to me today was from the article we read last night,

Defining Literacy and New Literacies
Leu, et al. (2004)

   The quote really had me thinking about a lot of things that teachers struggle with. It also made me feel a little bitter when Leu made the comment that teachers do not have an incentive to learn the New Literacies, because we are too worried about the standardized testing. Of course that was the States, but  me I can see how some teachers, here in BC, get caught up in checking off the PLO’s as they teach them.

As Cammack (2003) points out in her review of Alvermann’s (2002) edited volume, “differences in technology use and perceptions of value between teachers and students can effectively act to block change in the integration and use of technology in literacy pedagogy.”

I agree with this quote from Cammack. I see it in classes in the school where I teach. My question is how can we change this? How can we provide more professional development for teacher? I have offered many informal training sessions for the staff I am on. Some teachers will join for a week or two, and but generally it usually is only one or two that keep it going. I do not think it is a lack of incentive or motivation,  I strongly believe it is a lack of time.

Just thinking about how I started today’s blog, I am overwhelmed and I have to admit frustrated. What do I do when I am feeling this way? I shut down and I simply can not do it. Sure, professional development is something we need to address when it comes to New Literacies, but we must also think of baby steps and time. We want teachers to feel excited about learning new things, in order for them to provide their own incentives for their own learning.  Like Leu said in is article; “The continuously changing technologies of literacy mean that we must help children “learn how to learn” new technologies of literacy. In fact, the ability to learn continuously changing technologies for literacy may be a more critical target than learning any particular technology of literacy itself.

Students not only need to “learn how to learn,” as educators we do too.

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