Posted by: lgatzke | November 25, 2008

Write an Exposition Wiki

I haven’t posted to my blog for quite a while. I feel a little frustrated actually. I have been trying to involve other grade 8 teachers in our district in our class blog without a great deal of buy in. I’m trying once more to link curriculum and technology. My students love this and I hope my fellow educators will find it useful too!

I have created a wiki space that integrates a writing form (persuasive writing) that teachers are required to teach. I believe that such spaces could become great places for student learning. However, one person alone cannot create these spaces. I really need teacher collaboration. Write an exposition is a wiki that teaches students about persuasive writing techniques. We are presently learning about the prewriting part of the process and there are links that help students find graphic organizers that suit them. Please if you are going to teach persuasive writing, have a look at this wiki and collaborate with us. I am beginning to think that the rest of the world doesn’t want to collaborate, that we want to continue to hide behind our classroom walls with outdated textbooks that do not meet the needs of our students.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Posted by: lgatzke | November 12, 2008


Recently my grade 8 classes read an essay about illiteracy in Canada and learned that 1/5 of Canadians were considered illiterate. They made connections and were able to some extent put themselves in the shoes of the illiterate. I created a blog entry that had them relate this information and information from a Stats Canada site about what kids say about nonreaders and reader. You can see some of their conclusions on our class blog.

We’d really like to interact with some folks beyond our classroom walls on this important topic and so if you could pass this on to any interested people, we would really appreciate it.

Posted by: lgatzke | October 24, 2008

One Month In

Last blog I wondered if it was worth the time to run a class blog.  Recently I connected to stories we read in my grade 8 class by talking about the Hockey Night in Canada Anthem Challenge.  I was impressed with many student comments and am encouraging my students to do some replies to their classmates.  Check out all the great comments and leave one yourself.  We would love to hear from you.

Posted by: lgatzke | September 5, 2008

Beginning the School Year

The 2008 school year is off and running. This fall I’ve begun working in a new school and have really been thinking about our education system. Last spring I invited the students who would be entering my class to check our class blog over the summer and contribute. I have continued to make these invitations the past two weeks. It’s been interesting. Only two students blogged this summer. Three more have picked up the invitation this fall. So….if I do the math it means that a little less than 1/5 of my students have blogged and I would have to say that only 2/26 have visited the blog regularly. Hmmmm! With the amount of time I have spent creating a wiki to support our new math series, checking my blog and writing posts, creating an online google calendar (by way I love Google Calendar…I am able to color code my whole family, a student calendar and school calendar and keep track of everyone’s schedule) to keep my students up to date, I can’t help but have some questions about this.

1. Is it worth the time and effort….it appears that the technology has not engaged any more kids than any other instructional strategy I have tried?

2. All of the participants to date have been girls. I wonder if blogging is too much like journaling which in my experience boys are less engaged with than girls?

3. I have so many ideas about integrating technology into what I teach. However, I face the age old problem of having one mobile cart of ten laptop computers shared between 535 students and I only teach 1/2 time. I am wondering how effectively I can truly integrate technology.

4. Lastly, other than the last month, I have been blogging for about seven months in this blog. I seem to be writing mainly for myself and I believe that this reflective component is a good thing. However, I get very few comments on the blog. I am beginning to think that few people want to spend time discussing educational instructional strategies. In other words perhaps, I should go back to reflecting in my head and get another life away from the computer.

I suspect I won’t find any answers immediately. However, I am concerned about the claim that technology motivates our learners and I think this topic really warrants some discussion and research.

Posted by: lgatzke | August 15, 2008

Trail Ride

This post is for all my friends that I interact with. It’s a funny story about a trail ride that I took yesterday in the Yukon. Those of you that know me from our face to face classes will have a good laugh imagining me on a horse.  I can’t help relating blogging to this.  How else might one share a humorous incident with people that one never sees any more face to face.  I also shared this story on my classroom blog.  Hope my students get some laughs too!!

I am in the Calgary airport heading back to Regina. However, I have to write about an exciting incident that happened yesterday. My son really wanted to go on a trail ride. Now, the only time I have rode a horse was twenty two years ago in Banff on my honeymoon. I thought it would be such great fun and wanted to go all day. My sister-in-law who has a horse warned me that a whole day would be a long ride and talked me into a three hour ride. THANK GOODNESS!! I was so soar after that ride that I could hardly walk or even left my leg for that matter. I guess I also need to mention how scared I was when the horse got a little speedy. Needless to say I haven’t been on a horse since.

Sebastion our guide (from France) met us at the stable and casually mentioned that they had turned back during the morning ride because there had been a bear on the trail. Since I had already paid big bucks for an hour ride AND my son really wanted to go, I put my trust in Sebastion. My son and I had great difficulty trying to get the horse to turn the way we wanted it too. In fact, my son said, “Mom, I don’t think I should be doing this….it doesn’t seem very safe.” After some instructions from Sebastion, we finally got across the road to the trail. Sebastion was busy babbling in French to one of his co-workers and I had no idea what they were saying. I was quite worried when I saw the co-worker give Sabastion a can of bear spray. (We had just been at a National Park the day before and read about a walker on a hiking trail that was attacked by a bear). It was too late to turn back….

Away we went. It was actually more enjoyable than I expected. My horse stayed right behind Sabastion’s. Pat’s however, stayed quite a ways back and I was concerned about that AND I was still concerned about the bear. I know that bears generally don’t like noise so I decided to start chatting with our guide. It turned out he was an interesting young fellow who has been travelling for the last ten years. This is his first year in the Yukon and he doesn’t know if he will stay because the winter is harsh.

About 1/2 way through the ride, Sebastion was happy to share with me that the bear must have left because we had just passed the place where it was feeding on berries in the morning. Not ten seconds later, I glanced to my left and said, “oh, oh there he is.” The bear was not more than twenty five feet away but sheltered by tall grasses. I could just see his head. He was sniffing the air and Sebastion said, “he is checking this all out.”

Yes I was scared, but my son was still quite a ways behind us and Sebastion kept going. Pat told me later that his horse stopped to eat some grass. He too saw the bear but more than just the head. He tells me he gave the horse a good kick (that’s how you get them to go forward) and said “get going horse!!” The horse must have sensed something because he caught up to us rather fast.

Although Sebastion said that the bear incident was over, I couldn’t help but keep babbling to him asking him all kinds of questions hoping to make enough noise to keep that bear away from us.

We arrived back at the stable safe and sound and am I ever glad the ride was only an hour. I could barely get off my horse because my legs were so sore. I don’t think I’ll be on a horse again any time soon.  I also won’t be camping in the mountains in a tent….EVER!

Posted by: lgatzke | July 7, 2008

Active Minds, Active Bodies Wiki

I’ve been working on getting a resource together for teachers that integrates technology, reading, writing and active living. I am pleased to say that the Active Minds, Active Bodies wiki has come along nicely. Check it out. There are downloads as well as demonstration lessons and online examples. Dr. LeDrew and I have sent proposals to present our work at two conferences next year. Here is hoping our proposals get accepted.

I am excited to be teaching grade seven math, health and physical education. I hope to continue creating wikis to support the district Math Makes Sense series. For health and PE, I’ll integrate writing by using this new wiki. Please feel free to comment or add resources to any of these wikis. Watch for grade seven ebooks this fall on the wiki.

This is my final class for my graduate studies.  I did it….yipee!!  As I think about the past two and 1/2 years I must say that I have learned a lot. I am particularly pleased with how I have been able to take my learning from my last class with Dr. Alec Couros and apply it to my final course. If I do any more course work, it will probably be in the online learning forum. I like the freedom of these courses and I love being able to share my work with others. I must be in the final 1/3 of my career, for I feel I have knowledge to share with others. Web 2.0 provides me with the tools to do so.

My current course with Dr. LeDrew is coming to an end. There is more work to be done on the Active Minds, Active Bodies wiki. However, I must stop and reflect on what has been done.

I believe that learning becomes more meaningful for the learner when subjects are integrated. Students in grade 1 and struggling students in grades six and seven learned simple playground games. They were then introduced to procedural writing through immersion, problem solving activities and demonstration. Here is what I have learned.

1. Formal report card marks in reading and writing did not improve. I have no data to suggest that there is improved student achievement.

2. Student engagement improved tremendously. These students were totally engaged every time they came to my class. (1 hour on one day and 1 & 1/2 hours on another). On Friday MJ finished his book. He printed it and sat with me to edit and revise. Then he willingly did the changes that were needed (technology makes that easy). We created a PDF version of the book and imported it to Imovie so that he could add voice and music. He was fascinated. When MJ went back to his classroom, he was proud of what he had done and shared it with his classroom teacher and other students.

3. Students looked forward to my class. I would see them in the hallway and they would ask me if they would see me today.

4. For the most part, students helped and supported each other. I could spend more time teaching individually.

5. There were ten students that attended my Learning Studio class. It was not overwhelming. It provided great chances for group collaboration. A trusting learning community was formed.

I have been transferred and so cannot carry on my work with these struggling readers and writers next year. I look forward though to integrating active living and technology in my first health and PE units in fall with my grade 7 class at my new school. Wish me luck!!

Posted by: lgatzke | June 15, 2008

Active Minds, Active Bodies Wiki

A number of years ago Dr. June LeDrew wrote an active living alphabet book. This “On the Move” series of alphabet books encourages healthy, active lifestyles for young children through the use of descriptive sentences and colourful pictures of children in active living situations. When June and I met, I discussed how the books nicely lent themselves to teaching reading and writing. A project began to create “A Resource for the Reading Teacher“. After conversations with myself and another graduate student, June found out that teachers generally buy most of their resources from their own pocket. Dr. LeDrew secured a grant that enabled her to create 400 kits. The kits were distributed to teachers throughout the province after they attended a workshop given by June regarding health literacy and active living.

I began using the kit with students that I work with and found it great for integrating active living, reading and writing. I added a technology component. The PDF version of the resource has been available on the internet for quite some time. In my former role however, I discovered that even though teachers had a valuable resource, they didn’t seem to know how to do word sorts, teaching procedural writing using a problem solving (constructivist) approach, use Iphoto for making ebooks.

As I reflected with Dr. LeDrew, I said that a one hour workshop is okay PD. However, in my experience just in time support is an absolute necessity to educational change. I suggested we show demonstration lessons in our workshops. After my course last semester with Dr. Couros, I saw the power of wikis. I began using them in my classroom.

This has brought me to my current project….an Active Minds, Active Bodies wiki. Check it out. I am doing the leg work for organizing this resource. It is my intention for it to be a place where educators can go to get classroom ready materials for integrating active living, reading, writing and technology. Something I love about a wiki is the potential for collaboration. So…it is my hope that others will contribute their ideas to this wiki as well. To be quite honest, I haven’t had much luck with this so far. The closest I have come to such work is in my online graduate course work with Dr. Couros. However, it was a required part of our course work.

Never the less, if there are not folks that share their work, there will at least be a comprehensive wiki that educators can access for free for resources, demonstration lessons, background information. And that’s not all bad!

Posted by: lgatzke | June 14, 2008

Iphoto Books Encourage Stuggling Middle Years Writers

My teaching assignment as a teaching administrator involves working with grades 2, 4 ad FIAP students in physical activity, grade 1 reading groups and a group of struggling readers in grades 6 – 8. If you have been following my blog these past weeks, I hope you have concluded that I believe in and encourage integration of subject areas and meaningful student learning. During this course with Dr. LeDrew, I have been able to demonstrate through my blog that integration of reading, writing, technology and healthy active living is meaningful learning. My students have been highly engaged in procedural writing activities about simple games. By taking pictures of games that we are learning during physical activity time, I was able to facilitate engaging writing and reading activities, which led to published work using technology tools to do this. On Friday, as I watched my middle years struggling writers find pictures for their games and then use their procedural plan to write books using Iphoto, I was impressed. They were engaged for 75 minutes and they told me that they really enjoyed using this tool for their writing.

After learning about the text structure of procedural writing, I modelled using a graphic organizer to ensure I was able to capture the steps of the procedure.

After this short modelled lesson the students went to work completing their own graphic organizer.

The graphic organizers proved to be useful in two ways. Each step allowed the writer to find a picture to go with that step. The writers were quickly able to find a series of images that could be used in their book. After the pictures were found and imported to Iphoto, the writers began writing their book. Having a picture for each step enabled the writers to be successful writing the words. The pictures served as a scaffold even for these middle years students.

We are running out of time (only two classes left). I hope that some of the students will be finished their books. They really want to make movies and luckily it is easy to do with Iphoto. We will turn them into Quicktime movies.

I will be teaching physical education and health to a grade 7 class next year. I plan to start the year with an active living unit. Students will create playground games for younger students and make pictures books that give instructions for playing their game.

Posted by: lgatzke | June 8, 2008

How to Play Hopscotch: Published Work

Publishing is the last step of the writing process. In an earlier post I discussed how using digital pictures provided a scaffold for grade 1 students to write procedures. On Friday, the students published their work using Voicethread.

Publishing work using Web 2.0 tools can provide am authentic audience for children. Checkout “How to Play Hopscotch” by a group of 1st graders. In this presentation, students read the sentence strip they had created. So in this whole process, the students first learned how to play the game. Then they were immersed in the form of procedural (instructional) writing. After learning about the parts of a procedure, students went to work writing one step of our game (on sentence strips). Digital pictures guided them in their writing. Even the struggling kids didn’t have difficulty writing the step. The sentence strips and pictures were used for problem solving activities. Students organized jumbled pictures and then organized jumbled sentences to go with the pictures. Finally they published their writing, in this case using a web 2.0 tool called Voicethread.

The kids had fun doing this but the bonus is that I did too!!  By teaching students about games during writing time, they were learning about how they can stay active by playing these simple games at home.  Many students commented how they were playing hopscotch at home.

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