It's Elementary!

by Jamie Forrest

Final Reflections December 8, 2010

Filed under: Class reflections,eci831 — Jamie @ 1:47 am

This presentation was inspired by my love of reading and my search this term of spreading my love of reading…  It was created using Storybird and the artwork created by Storybird artist Pascal Campion.


Reflecting December 7, 2010

Filed under: eci831 — Jamie @ 3:54 am

Looking back over all the posts of the semester about my final project, I felt a little sadness. When I read my first posts, I had so much vision and wanted to do so many things that just didn’t materialize.

Having said that, I am very pleased with what HAS been accomplished. I did a lot of research, reading and learning. I did a lot of collaboration with others. I was able to create a space where my kids could share and that space has received a warm reception by students and staff alike.

At the beginning of this course, I wrote a lot about QR codes and about how I wanted to use them as part of my project. Unfortunately, this didn’t go far mostly because of a lack of access to the technology needed. I haven’t abandoned the idea, it was just put on hold until we (at school) can figure out how to make the project feasible. I hope to continue to learn, to blog, and to progress to help this project grow, morph, and evolve into something that works for our school.

So, if you use QR codes in your school, what do you have for students to access the codes? We cannot count on kids having their own SMARTPhones, so we need to set something up that is permanent and accessible for students. Something that will not be easily broken or that will easily walk out of the library… Any suggestions?

Thanks so much for any help you can offer and thank you for following me on my journey this semester. I hope you will continue to stay with me beyond this class.


Final Project – Resource Center Wiki December 4, 2010

Filed under: eci831 — Jamie @ 7:16 pm

I have always loved reading. For as long as I can recall, books have been my entertainment, my escape, my joy and my fascination. One of my earliest school memories is of my elemetary school librarian and her undermining my first grade teacher for me. She used to talk to me for hours and hours about the books that I read with my mom from the public library… I was reading chapter books by the box and non-fiction books about gymnastics I could get my hands on (especially about Nadia Comaneci)! However, my grade 1 teacher did not believe me. She told our class that we were only allowed to take books from the Easy section. We were, under no circumstances, allowed to take out chapter books or non-fic. I was so sad! My librarian used to tell my teacher that she needed my help during the recess and allow me to sign out whatever books I wanted. It was that small bit of kindness and those talks about books that fuelled my love of reading.

It was from this fire started so many years ago by my school librarian that as an adult I have always sought book clubs to join. I have always been a part of some kind of face-to-face book club. As I have gotten older and “adult” responsibilities have taken over the lives of my friends and myself, our book club meetings have become more and more infrequent. That is when I found Goodreads. I have connected with other readers through this website. We have shared reviews and comments. I have discovered new books. I have created a list of books I WANT to read and have a running record of books that I have read. It continues to fuel my personal love of reading.

I want to find ways to pass on this sharing and love of reading. Although I am not our school librarian, I do as my librarian did with my own students. I also try to have as many conversations as possible with older students on supervision or in the hallways. I thought that creating this wiki might a space, like a mini version of Goodreads, where I can share my love of reading with the students. They can in turn share their love of reading with me and with each other.


Background Information

I know from my own personal experience that talking about the books we read with someone else can create motivation for reading in students. However, I wanted to find out if there was any research out there about how talking about books can motivate students to read. Following are direct quotations from five articles about reading motivation (in italics) followed by my own thoughts.


Alfie Kohn – How to Create Nonreaders: Reflections on Motivation, Learning, and Sharing Power

  • What a teacher can do—all a teacher can do—is work with students to create a classroom culture, a climate, a curriculum that will nourish and sustain the fundamental inclinations that everyone starts out with: to make sense of oneself and the world, to become increasingly competent at tasks that are regarded as consequential, to connect with (and express oneself to) other people.
  • I shudder to think how few novels I would have read over that period, and how much less pleasure (and insight) I would have derived from those I did manage to read, without the companionship of my fellow readers.
  • Let students sample a work of literature, then generate their own questions and discussion topics—for themselves and one another.


The message I got from Alfie Kohn’s tongue and cheek article about how to create non-readers was the same message that I have heard throughout this course. We need to step back from our roles as the be all and end all fountain of information in our classrooms. If we are telling our students what to read, what to think about these readings, and even what questions we should be asking about them, we will make our students hate reading. We need to provide our students with their own choice of books to read. We need to provide opportunities for discussion about their reading. As a teacher in Saskatchewan, I know that there are certain themes, certain messages that we need to cover in our curriculum. It is not always possible, during instruction, to give students complete free choice. This is why, during other times, it is even more important to provide this free choice and the culture of sharing. As a companion to this article, I found this poster, titled Unlucky Arithmetic: 13 Ways to Create a Non-reader. It was created by Dean Schneider and Robin Smith and published in March/April 2001issue of The Horn Book Magazine.



Gerald Lesperance – A Different Kind of Book Club

  • Since many of the students at Whitman were already involved in recreational reading, they were attracted because they found validation in their love of the written word.
  • The book club inspired them to increase their reading volume and to experiment with a broader range of literature.


This article was about a book club in a community that, from what I understand in the article, was a fairly isolated community. The book club was based around trips. They would, for example, plan a trip to see an exhibit. They would put together a list of recommended readings on the topics related to what they would see at the exhibit, they used the trip as the time to discuss what they read. There were no required readings (there is that idea of choice again)! The outcome of this was that the students read things they never would have picked up before. They engaged in reading because they had people to talk to about what they were reading. I think that this idea of a recommended reading list, but free choice within that list is one way that we as teachers can ensure that we cover the themes we need to touch while still providing choice to our students.



Carol A. Corcoran and Abby Mamalkis – Fifth Grade Students’ Perceptions of Reading Motivation Techniques

  • Another way that the power of the classroom can be shared is through peer-led discussion groups
  • In these peer discussion groups, teachers serve as a facilitator instead of an evaluator.
  • In fact, student choice, within the teacher’s well-established classroom structure and requirements, is very important to motivate students to learn.
  • Although the majority of students in this study identified being a good reader as important, very few of these students expressed that reading is something they like to do. Indeed, they expressed that reading is a boring way to spend time and they do not tell their friends about good books they have read. The results of this study underscore the value of and need for more frequent teacher read-alouds and literature discussions at the intermediate level.


Once again, student choice in reading seems to be so very important in increasing student motivation to read. Discussing literature seems to be equally important. Although the discussions mentioned in this article are face-to-face, I think that the influence of f2f discussions can equally be established through web 2.0 groups as well. If it is the students picking the readings and posting comments online through the wiki, can the same motivation to read be established? That remains to be seen.



Linda B. Gambrell – Creating classroom cultures that foster reading motivation

  • The teacher should let us read our own books and tell about them in a group.

  • Opportunities to interact socially with others.
  • Children frequently commented that they chose a book because someone had told them about it.
  • Students who engaged in frequent discussions about their reading with friends and family were more motivated and had higher reading achievement scores than did students who did not have such interactions.


Once again, choice and discussion come back in this article. I particularly like the chart of the engaged reader in this article. That is truly the ultimate goal of reading teachers: for our students to be ENGAGED readers. Creating motivation and providing social interaction are two important elements in this.


J. Worthy – “More than just reading”

  • Social influences and interactions can help enhance students’ interest in reading for pleasure.
  • book conversations with teachers and peers have been found to be beneficial and engaging
  • Students value the recommendations of teachers and family members as well as their own peers
  • Students’ reading choices were often influenced by families, teachers, tutors, and peers. Many of the favorite books had previously been read in their classrooms and/or by their tutors


Again, social interaction can increase student motivation for reading. It is the last point from this article that plays most directly with the wikispace. This space can be used to find book recommendations for further reading.


About the project


From my personal experience and from the readings mentioned above, for my project, I decided to create this Resource Center Wiki. Along with this wiki, I created two forms through which students can submit book information. The first form is used to collect book reviews and the second form is used to collect book suggestions. The wiki is organized in such a way that students can search for books based on the type of book. Currently, only the AR English books are further broken down into reading level. As more books in the Non-AR and French sections are added, these will also be broken down into these three categories: Easy, Fiction, Non-Fiction. There is also a discussion section.


At first, I was adding new books to the bottom of the list, as you would write a normal text. However, I quickly realized that if a student checked the wiki regularly for new books, they would have to scroll through a lot of books to get to the new ones. So, I decided to start adding the new books to the top of the list. I created a template from which to copy and easily paste the information needed in the correct format. I played around with several different ways but I wanted to make it as easy as possible so that this job can be transferred to our library or tech leadership teams (groups of students from the senior grades taking on responsibilities).


I am hoping to eventually use the discussion group to create a virtual book club with the students. I would like to use a survey to pick the book and use the discussion are to post comments about the book as we read.


There is one area of the wiki that I am really NOT pleased with. I wish that the books could be searched in more than one way… I am not sure if this is possible in a wiki. I will continue to explore different ways to use the wiki or other means for creating this type of place for sharing reading.


I am always welcome to suggestions for how to improve the wiki!



Resource List


Corcoran, C. A.; Mamalakis, A. (2009, September 22). Fifth grade students’ perceptions of reading motivation techniques The Free Library. (2009). Retrieved December 04, 2010 from grade students’ perceptions of reading motivation techniques.-a0209103174


Gambrell, L.B. (1996). Creating classroom cultures that foster reading motivation. The Reading Teacher, 50(1), 14-25.


Kohn, A. (2010). How to create nonreaders: Reflections on motivation, learning, and sharing power. English Journal,

100.1, 16-22.


Lesperance, Gerald. (2002). A different kind of book club. American Educator, 26(1), 42-48.


Worthy, J., Patterson, E., Salas, R., Prater, S., & Turner, M. (2002). “More than just reading”: The human factor in reaching resistant readings. Reading Research and Instruction, 41(2), 177-202.



Further Recommended Readings


Burke, A. & Hammett, R.F. (Eds.). (2009). Assessing new literacies: Perspectives from the classroom. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing.


Kajder, S.B. (2006). Bringing the outside in: Visual ways to engage reluctant readers. United States: Stenhouse Publishers.


Miller, Donalyn. (2009). The book whisperer: Awakening the inner reader in every child. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


Moss, B. & Lapp, D. (Eds.). (2010). Teaching new literacies in grades K-3: Resources for 21st-century classrooms. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.


Preamble to final reflections November 27, 2010

Filed under: Class reflections,eci831 — Jamie @ 5:36 pm

I have been doing a lot of thinking about this class… I have learned a lot about being a connected teacher, a teacher in the 21st century, about personal and professional development and about Web 2.0 tools. I have learned a lot from the mentors in this class to whom I am very grateful. But honestly, I think that I have learned more from my fellow EC&I 831 classmates. I have obviously learned from all of you, but for me, it is the classmates with whom I have connected on Twitter that have made a huge impact on me.

I have learned a lot from Jud and Lisa who I would consider the pot stirrers of the class. Although I don’t yet know about or understand everything that they say, they have pushed me to think about things from different points of view. They have pushed me to Google things and learn more than I would have before.

I have learned a lot from Ola. The questions she asks has pushed me to go further in my own thoughts about the use and application of Web 2.0 tools in language instruction.

Sometimes in Education, we get so wrapped up in our little world that we forget that in collaboration with people outside the direct field, we truly can learn a lot. I thank Jen for reminding me of this.

I have learned a lot from Linda. I love reading about her community and her experiences. I have enjoyed reading about her learning journey in this class.

I am a little in awe of the work that Dani has done this semester. The risks that she has been willing to take with her students using Facebook are awesome! I applaud her for this and for the fact that she embraced the role of model so whole-heartedly with her students.

I have truly enjoyed working and collaborating with Angela. We are alike enough that I find in her a kindred spirit, (though we have never met), yet different enough that I learn from her daily. I have really enjoyed reading about her journey with blogging. I have used her ideas and research she has done in my own classroom.

Finally, the person who has probably had the biggest impact on my teaching in the classroom is Shelley. Her total transformation has been awe-inspiring. Her willingness to just jump in, two feet first, has been incredible. Her blog posts about turning over the control to her students have taught me a lot. They have inspired me to try and figure out ways to use those same philosophies with my little ones.

Inspired by Shelly, I tried something in my math class the other day. I taught a math lesson about place value. We talked about changing 100s to 10s, 10s to 1s and 100s to ones. At the end of the lesson, I asked the students if they felt they understood. Only half said that they did. Instead of teaching another lesson or assigning worksheets, I decided to turn over the learning to my students. I told them that I would be available for questions, but that it was up to them to figure it out. I sat back and saw magic happen. Some students went to eTools on my SMARTBoard and worked together to figure out that 3h+4t+9o = 349 but that 2h+14t+9o = 349 also. Some students sat together around base 10 blocks and counted the little blocks in a hundreds block, just to make sure that I wasn’t lying about there being 100 ones in a hundred block. Some students asked their friends to explain it to them. Some students challenged each other by seeing how many different ways they could make 349 with hundreds, tens and ones. Some students took out their textbook and read. Finally, some students came to me and asked me to explain it again, writing examples in their own notebooks so they could see them later. At the end of the period, I again asked the students if they understood. All but 3 (and they were the 3 that get extra support) said that they did. It was hard to let go, there were a few bumps of little arguments along the way, but it was overall, an amazing experience. Thank you Shelley to inspiring me to just let go!


Avoiding temptation

Filed under: eci831,New Learning,Opinion pieces — Jamie @ 1:33 pm

Yesterday I had quite the conversation with a teacher friend. It started out about an incident that had happened with a student that day and led to a discussion about why teachers might be resistant to the idea of giving students freedom to learn and explore on the internet, even with instruction on appropriate behaviour.

The teacher in question had outdoor supervision and left her cell phone in her classroom. The student entered the classroom without permission, took her cell phone and phoned the last 5 numbers. At each number, he either left messages full of expletives or when someone answered, proceeded to call them a bunch of names, including expletives. One number was a parent from her classroom, one was her husband. Both immediately called the school to let the teacher know that something had happened. When the student had been found out, this teacher said that the student’s response was “I knew it was wrong. It was just too tempting, I couldn’t help it!”

Photo taken by Shahram Sharif at


And there, my friends, is the crux of the problem with the internet and web 2.0. This is why many teachers and administrators are scared. For some reason, many of our students know how to behave appropriately, they just don’t. We got to talking about what we can do to change this attitude in kids. How do we get past this with our students? I think that for most students, teaching and modeling appropriate behaviours will be enough. However, what can we do with those students who find the inappropriate use of the tools “just too tempting”? In this day, it would only take one student doing something questionable to raise the pitchforks and torches against the tools themselves without understanding that it is one child making a bad decision and not the tool that is the problem. For those of you who use these tools, particularly in elementary school (grades K-8) have you had problems like this? What have you done to prepare the students against these problems? How have you (and your school) reacted if something came up? I’d be interested about what both teachers and administrators think. Although, suggestions from anyone are welcome! Thank you.


My Role as a Teacher November 22, 2010

Filed under: Class reflections,eci831 — Jamie @ 2:01 am

I have been thinking a lot about the roles of the teacher that Stephen Downes talked about last week. Here are the roles that he had slides for:

The Learner, The Collector, The Curator, The Alchemist, The Programmer, The Salesperson, The Convener, The Coordinator, The Designer, The Coach, The Agitator, The Facilitator, Tech Support, The Critic, The Moderator, The Lecturer, The Mentor, The Connector, The Theorizer, The Sharer, The Evaluator, The Bureaucrat, and The Demonstrator.

It was also mentioned in the chat that we may also be The Storyteller.

This is a pretty comprehensive list. I have been all of these at some point or another during my career in the classroom. However, as I walked back into my classroom this week, there were some other roles that kept popping into my mind as I was working with my little ones: Parent, Social Worker, Food Bank Worker, Religious Advisor, Comforter, Nurse, Friend…

I haven’t been teaching that long, relatively speaking. However, in my 10.5 years of teaching, I have seen a change in my role as educator. Yes, I still need to cover curriculum, assess, plan, and everything else I learned in university… But now, it is so much more. Our schools (especially at the elementary level, and in core areas) have come to be counted on to take on these roles more and more. If a child doesn’t have lunch, we make sure they eat. If a child has problems at home, we have to solve them. If there is no Religious teaching at home, we (in a Catholic School) are expected to teach the Religious teachings. We are the safe and soft place for a lot of these kids to be. When most kids celebrate holidays, I always have students who cry about what they may face at home. On a daily basis, I have kids call me mom.

So, what is my role as a teacher? It is all of this. I try to give these kids everything that they need to be successful in both their academic careers and in their lives. If that means getting them food, I’ll do it. If it means playing social worker, I’ll do my best. If I have to wipe up bloody noses, teach what Jesus did, or give a hug, I’ll do it. If it means I get called mom every now and again, I’ll take it as an honour. I’ll learn with them, lecture them, guide them, coach them, connect them, share with them, and present the world to them on a platter (or computer). I am a teacher…


If you can’t be there…

Filed under: eci831,Opinion pieces — Jamie @ 1:06 am

…Twitter just may be the next best thing.

Tonight was a very interesting experience. I, of course, watched the Saskatchewan Roughriders play for their spot in the Grey Cup. Normally, it would have been my husband and I at home, watching the game. This year, it was my husband and I and a whole crowd of Twitter fans. We shared celebrations, heart attacks and celebrations. We shared pictures (like the one below) and opinions. Truly an enjoyable social media experience.