Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tech Tips Tuesday

I thought that today I would mention the tech tools and resources that I called on in my first week back at work. One of my challenges has been remembering what some of the online tools and resources are called, and after that finding that they have changed since I last used them! Some of the resources below were already being used by the teachers in the classrooms I share.

Information sources:
Talking Textiles - This contribution from "The Children's University of Manchester" provides interactive activities and quizzes that help students to develop an understanding of textiles including how they are made and decorated.

How the Body Works - This Kids Health site has movies, quizzes, articles, word finds and activities to teach students about the body systems. I used this with the Year 5/6 students who will be writing explanations of the respiratory system later this week.

Behind the News - This ABC program was used in both Year 3 and Year 5/6 to expose students to recent news and to create opportunities for discussion around current affairs.

Study Ladder - (previously Smart Kiddies - and wow, what an upgrade!!) I used this resource for interactive whiteboard activities for Maths lessons, but there are now activities in a great range of learning areas. Study ladder is free for all my purposes, but for more information on costs see the pricing chart.

Math Drills - I used the free black line masters for fractions to use with my Maths class.

Classroom Organisation:
Super Teacher Tools - I used the Group Maker tool to create random pairings of students in my Spelling and Maths groups.

Lesson Design:
When creating interactive whiteboard pages for my lessons I returned to the Flickr Creative Commons for images to bring the pages to life.

Back to Teaching

I've been back at work a little over a week now and my world hasn't fallen apart. My little one hasn't cried as I've left to go to work, and while he is happy to see me when I get home he doesn't seem to be concerned that I wasn't there all day.

I've been enjoying the company of my colleagues and given the collaborative nature of my school, I haven't actually had to do much planning yet. I've been surprised by how many things are second nature to me. It felt almost as though I walked out of the classroom on Friday and back in on Monday.

Just a short post today as it is my day with bub and it's time to get him up from his morning nap!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Countdown

So, my little one has just had his first birthday and my maternity leave has drawn to a close. I have just four days left before I walk back into the classroom and begin it all again. For the remainder of this year I will be working three days a week - one day in Year 5/6 and Year 4, one day in Year 3 and one day in Kindergarten or relief teaching.

People have been asking me how I feel about going back to work - whether I think I will cry, whether I'm ready, or whether I'm keen to get back into it. I'd have to say that I have mixed feelings. I'm pretty sure I'll cry, but I'm looking forward to seeing all 'my' other kids again, and I do think I've reached a point where I feel ready.

I have been very fortunate to have enough maternity leave, annual leave and long service leave to have seen me through a whole year at half-pay. It has been a luxury that I've taken full advantage of. I've enjoyed spending time with my son - going for walks to the park, swimming at the pool, meeting up with other mums and bubs, visiting the library, playing with toys, rolling around in the backyard having a wrestle... It has been a pure delight to watch him change from a teeny-tiny baby reliant on me for EVERYTHING to an active, playful little boy with a mind (and will!) of his own. And while we probably won't be able to enjoy such a leisurely pace in the future, we will still enjoy many special moments together.

I look forward to getting back to work in time to see my Year 4s from 2009 as they graduate to high school. I look forward to catching up with my Year 1/2s and seeing how much they've grown and changed in the last year. I look forward to the mental challenge of teaching and the companionship of other teachers. My passion for teaching is as strong as ever - it has just been dormant for the past year!!

So, am I ready? I think so. I've ticked off most of my to-do-before-I-go-back-to-work list. Now it's just a matter of doing what I can to take the pressure off the first week - things like cooking up a batch of baby casserole to freeze, packing a baby bag for babysitters, and trying to get the place looking pretty clean and tidy.

I'd like to say that I'll let you know how it goes, but I think I will be a bit preoccupied for the first few weeks. We'll see...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tech Tips Tuesday

Animated Online Books

Another site for online books was brought to my attention this week. Story Time For Me currently has 30 books in its library and 1-2 books are being added each month. The stories are animated and narrated with options for students to read at their own pace as well. Most of the stories have a moral for children to learn - some more explicit than others. It would be wise for teachers to view the stories in advance to select those stories that portray the messages relevant to the needs of their students.

A word of warning - this site contains quite persistent advertising for personalized books that can be purchased. These may be a bit distracting and deter student attention to the text. Teachers should be mindful of this when using the site and monitor how this impacts on student learning.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Beloved Library

The Mummy Bit...

Being a big believer in reading to babies, I started to read to mine in the womb. Yes, a little bit extreme, I know, but it helped me to keep the habit going despite all the many challenges of starting out with a newborn. We also began visiting the library regularly to change books. I can't rave enough about how great the library system is and how fantastic to be able to enjoy such a vast array of books at no cost. We have been borrowing board books, picture books, CDs and parenting books and magazines.

Our library also has story time for under school aged children, and Giggle and Wiggle for the babies.

The Teacher Bit...

I never cease to be amazed by how much my students enjoy their visits to the school library. They get so absorbed in their search for books of interest and they love to share their finds with their friends. They love to be exposed to great reads and to seek out books by the same author.

Selecting Good Books

One way of selecting good books to read is the trial and error, quick flick method. We have found a few gems this way including Isabella's Garden by Glenda Millard and Rebecca Cool and You and Me by Giovanni Manna. We've also walked by the display table on the way to the door and picked out a couple this way too.

Another (perhaps more efficient) way is to draw from book lists of recommended books. I purchased Don't Leave Childhood Without... A guide to the best books for children and have been working my way through the books listed. I log onto my library's website from home and request items from the list. The library texts me when they arrive and then I just pop in to pick them up. (Much easier than trying to find the books by looking through the shelves myself!) I've used this book when teaching to find a novel my students might enjoy hearing read aloud. 1001 Children's Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up is another resource that could be helpful for this.

Of course, it's also nice to see some of the newer books that are coming out, and to go with a few that are being noticed for awards. The Children's Book Council of Australia is a great source for these gems, although it may be more difficult to get your hands on a copy through the library system.

In wrapping up...

Don't forget the beloved library as a resource for encouraging children to develop a love of reading. It is free and convenient, offering a great range of material.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Not just another mummy blog

One concern I have with beginning to blog again is that I don't want this to become a Mummy blog. From time to time however, I may like to share some of the insights I have gained as a mum or thoughts I have on educating children from an early age. These posts will be tagged "early starts" and will have their own link on the side bar.

After much consideration, my husband and I have decided to avoid creating an online presence for our son - through photos etc, and instead allow him to decide how this will be done later in his life. We are both somewhat tech savvy and enjoy the latest gadgets, and plan to share these with him, but we also want to leave his options open so that he can forge his own online identity without any embarrassment relating to what his Mummy posted on her blog during his childhood.

So, you won't find any identifiable photos of him here. You'll just have to believe me when I say that he is a sweet looking boy who often gets comments for his unusual amount of hair and big blue eyes.

And this is not another Mummy blog!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Returning to the Blogosphere?

It has been too long since I last contributed to this blog. As I sit here typing, I am trying to spark up a bit of commitment to what I have started and deep down want to continue. I liken it to someone returning to work after having won a million dollars. Of course, if you won a million dollars you would want to take a break, get away for a while and enjoy what most people could only dream of, but in the end you might want to get back to doing some of the other things you are passionate about and that have given you something to work towards.

Having a child is something that I have always dreamed of and feel incredibly lucky to be experiencing. With the birth of my son, I have been enjoying the special time that we have together while I am on leave from work. I am now halfway through my leave, and I realise that I also need to begin thinking about and planning for my "what next?". On top of that, my little one now has more of a daily routine, so there are points throughout the day where I could jump on the computer and write a post, read and respond to emails and all those other things I've struggled to find time for.

And so, I hope that this is the start of something that will gain momentum again in the weeks and months to come. I look forward to sharing with you and catching up on what I've missed!