As term 3 begins I am taking a moment to reflect on the year in Grade Three so far. Time sure does fly when you are having fun. I cannot believe that I have already spent six and a half months with my classes and this is the first blog post I have written about being their teacher. The truth is I love teaching both my classes and I am doing all that I can to make sure they have a great year.
I have learned the importance of authentic tasks for students and teachers alike. Returning to school in September with covid restrictions in place was a challenge. I wondered how to get my students excited about learning as they sat in rows and worked independently. Oh yes, and not be worried about Covid either!
Science was the answer! I switched my teaching units around and started the year off studying soil. I could get the children outside, get them moving, and give them a chance to get fresh air. Little did I know that it would be the start of such a terrific year. The whole class got right into learning about soil, and well, we found a worm.
The learning then took a turn, and we started reading and researching about worms. We couldn’t believe how much they helped soil. We collected worms and started a worm compost. I was brave enough to hold some worms and not pass out, and the children loved it. We then dove into growing plants from kidney beans, and the children were excited. My students who found it challenging to sit still during class were fully engaged and loving learning.
Students who hadn’t loved school in the early grades suddenly wanted to learn and didn’t want to miss a class. Authentic tasks are the answer! I presented global math task challenges for students to complete. I connected with a fellow educator in Tennessee, and we got our classes together for a Mystery Number game. The students loved it, and they were completely engaged. The students also worked on Global Math Task challenges that Heidi Samuelson posts each week.
We had zoom calls with students in Tel Aviv, and we talked and learned from each other. We took part in a global Livestream event at the DigCit Summit: the students took turns talking about digital citizenship. My students also took a research project they worked on and shared the information with a class in Taiwan to learn about Ontario cities. All these tasks and projects have been authentic and have enriched the teaching and learning in my class.
I had learned that relationship is the key to getting students excited about learning. It was an important lesson that I took away from distance learning in the spring. I had started the year off trying to build those relationships as quickly as I could. The truth of the matter is I thought we would be in school for a few weeks, and I had to get to know my students fast. I am grateful that I spent 15 weeks in the class with my students before we had a month of distance learning.
I have been working hard to teach my students about digital citizenship over this year. Launching student blogfolios have been the next logical step in learning about being a good digital citizen online. It is crucial to teach children how to use the internet safely and learn about digital footprints at an early age, especially in this world of YouTubers and Tik Tok videos.
My students need to learn the same lessons about posting on the internet. I have watched how engaged and motivated the students are when they work on a blog post or connect with another class. I am excited to see how they will put greater effort into their work and pay special attention to detail. I believe the quality of the written work will improve and the students will work harder to edit before they publish a post. The students are reading classmates’ posts and making comments. It is so much fun to see the children connecting in this way. Perhaps some grandparents will even read a post or two and comment.
I also believe that the blogs will give my quieter students a chance to share their voices and shine. Blogs will also be a perfect place for students to own and enrich their learning. Students will reflect on their learning, document it, and make their thinking visible.
STEM challenges are inspiring students to be innovators and problem-solvers. We are working on a global Public Service Announcement with the Digital Citizenship Institute to teach people how to make good comments on blogs. We are writing a song about peace for the global World Peace Song Project. The Global Act Aloud will have us showing off our acting skills. We also working on a kindness initiative.
In this year like no other, my main goals have been to get the children excited about learning, connecting globally. It is safe to say that we are having fun and learning so much in Grade 3. I am excited to see what the rest of the school year has in store for us.