Monday, April 28, 2014

Instagram in Kindergarten!

Instagram MOM Session from emalkoske

Leah Obach and I had the privilege of sharing Little Hands Extended (project-based learning and the tech tools that support it) at Awakening Possibilities in Winnipeg earlier in the month. We gave our presentation at the Minds on Media session, which featured a number of concurrent presentations in a large room. Erin Clarke was presenting just across from us, and although I was never able to hear her entire presentation, I caught enough snatches of information to capture my interest. Fortunately Erin shared her presentation on her blog, 200 Awesome Days and I have embedded it above.

Instagram was a hot topic at Awakening Possibilities--many people were using it to capture the many amazing sessions at the conference, and many people were talking about how it can improve and support learning in their classrooms. I have used Instagram personally for about a year now, and I find that it fulfills a creative need for me as I edit and share images with friends. But how would I use it in kindergarten? I spent some time researching how Instagram could look in a kindergarten classroom and got some great ideas. I decided that using Instagram in my classroom could help me achieve the following outcomes:
-develop students' emerging writing skills as they caption and hashtag pictures
-create an authentic purpose for writing
-capture and share our learning with parents and other kindergarten classes
-provide an artistic medium for students to express themselves creatively
-to appreciate and share the beauty around them
-learn about other classrooms and geographic regions around the world
-develop an understanding of the world around us as we plot the classrooms we follow on a Bing map
-meet curricular outcomes by participating in challenges such as this one. Thanks Zoe Bettess!

 Last week I decided to dive in and use Instagram for the writing component of our guided reading lesson. First of all, I created a private class account, @olcskinders, for my little ones to use. I began by sharing my personal Instagram account with my senior kindergarten students, talking about the kind of pictures I shared, the captions I wrote, and the hashtags I chose. Then I showed them how to take a picture in Instagram, crop it, and use filters. They caught onto this instantly, so I handed out their devices and gave them the job of taking one photograph and returning to the circle. Together we wrote captions and chose hashtags, and the students were so excited with the results of their first Instagram efforts. Together we looked at everyone's pictures, and began to have some discussions about digital citizenship. Who could we take pictures of? Could we use people's names in the caption or hashtag? As I have signed permission forms from all families, here were the rules we came up with to get started:

1) Take interesting pictures that are neat to look at or show our learning.
2) We can only take pictures of the people in our classroom, not the rest of the school.
3) If we want to take a picture of a staff member, we need to ask them first.
4) All pictures need a caption. We cannot use the person's name in the caption or hashtag.
5) We can hashtag our Instagram pictures with our names so people know who took the picture.

I also decided that we would let our students' families follow us, but we would not follow them back (as all content they post may not be appropriate or interesting for kindergarten students).

 Our first Instagram pictures turned out great!
After using Instagram for one day last week, my student teacher and I decided that students needed a word wall to help them print frequently occurring words in captions and hashtags. Miss Anderson did a fantastic job of creating this one!
This morning, we decided to explore a couple of fun apps that Erin Clarke recommended in her Instagram presentation. I was super impressed how quickly my little ones caught on to using Color Splash and making collages! Wow!
My students are already reasonably proficient Instagram users, so what are our next steps?
-continue to develop our ability to write captions and hashtags
-improve our ability to post quality, interesting images
-develop our ability to read and respond to comments on our pictures
-explore apps to enhance our use of Instagram
-implement a rule similar to Erin Clarke's--for every image you post, you must comment on someone else's image

Take a look at some of our first Instagrams!


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Discovering Discovery Bins

In the past two years, through my involvement with Manitoba Education's Early Childhood Unit, I have been incredibly fortunate to meet a lot of wonderful kindergarten teachers. I have learned something from all of them, but Connie Lowe is a new friend who has had a real impact on my classroom practice. Learn more about what happens in her kindergarten classroom by reading her blog, Adventures in Kindergarten. I'd heard her talk about the discovery bins she uses in her kindergarten classroom, and one night over supper I quizzed her about them. She explained the concept and directed me to her Pinterest page which was full of great ideas. I returned home, excited to try discovery bins in my classroom the following week!

Discovery bins, as their name suggests, encourage discovery, exploration, and investigation. They feature a variety of materials, and the teacher may include an example of how the materials might be used. Discovery bins can promote fine motor development, creative expression, and literacy/numeracy skills. The activities are open-ended, and there is no right or wrong way to interact with the materials. We spend the first 30 minutes (more or less, depending on student engagement) of the day exploring our discovery bins. It is such a pleasant way to start the day--the students are so eager to work with the materials that they rush to do their morning jobs and head straight for the tables!

Here are some of our discovery bins so far...
First day of pattern discovery bins included a variety of materials as well as examples of patterns. Later in the week, I provided strips of paper and students were encouraged to describe their patterns using letters, numbers, symbols, etc. The old keys I included were absolutely fascinating to the students. They loved examining them and had a lot of questions about where they came from. When I told them they were found in the drawer of a captain's desk from an old naval ship in Scotland, they were even more interested!
 Paint samples, foam board, paper trimmers, and glue were provided for students, and led to many engaging sessions as they created their own mosaics.
 Egg carton ten frames, cubes, and paper to print number sentences showed me how capable my students were of creating and representing equations. I was shocked! Later in the week, I added dice and spinners to generate numbers for equations.
Sometimes discovery bins can be just TOO exciting and engaging...exploring buoyancy led to altercations over boats and marbles, and the students were overexcited for the rest of the morning. Lesson learned!
Exploring magnetism was a great topic for discovery bins. Later in the week, I added small plastic bottles and containers with iron filings inside. Some students decided to sort the materials based on whether or not they were magnetic.
Geoboards, elastics, and pictures of shapes were a fine motor activity as well as an opportunity to explore shapes. Later in the week, I added dot paper so students could draw pictures of the shapes they created. These discovery bins were a good example of how students access discovery bins at every level--some students were completely engrossed stretching elastics around the pegs and never created any shapes. It was great fine motor development at the very least!

So what do I do while my students are engaged with discovery bins?
  • I circulate around the room and observe.
  • I ask questions to encourage students to investigate further, become more involved with the materials, and hopefully challenge them to take their learning to the next level.
  • I make assessment notes in students' Evernote folders
  • I take photographs of what students have created and post them to our classroom Facebook page, Twitter account, and Instagram
  • I encourage students to use their iPads to photograph their work. We are just learning how to make photo collages on our iPads and use Instagram, so that is an exciting new way to share what we are doing with discovery bins.
I encourage all kindergarten teachers to expand their classroom practice with this student-led and highly engaging approach--my students and I look forward to discovery bins every morning, and they have been a great addition to our kindergarten program!

A year later--read my student teacher's post on how discovery learning has evolved in our kindergarten program!