Saturday, 30 November 2013

ECC Fall Highlights

I don't know how it came to be the last day of November. I'm thinking that the Elementary Connected Classrooms (ECC) is a good example of that old saying, "time flies when you're having fun!" We've certainly had fun while learning in the ECC this fall. Here are highlights from the last couple of months:

From three to four schools!

This year the ECC expanded! Instead of three schools as in the past, we are now a group of four! Last year the offer was extended to the remaining three schools in the district that did not have an ECC class. This was basically an invitation to come and learn what the ECC was all about and, if the interest was high, to join in. Well, Mrs. Patterson, teaching at Cache Creek Elementary took on the challenge and, thanks to her, Cache Creek Elementary students in her grade 5/6/7 class are now a part of the ECC! We have a full screen now when video conferencing and it's fantastic to bring in another teacher with fantastic ideas and a passion for working with students. Plus it's great to have another class full of peers to make friends and learn with!

All Four ECC Schools Onscreen During a Connected Lesson
The Gathering

Late last month, Ashcroft Elementary hosted our first gathering! All four classes met in Ashcroft and headed off to a local ranch to pick pumpkins at the pumpkin patch, run through the 'Haunted Barn' and snack on delicious fresh picked apples! It was a wonderful opportunity to finally meet teachers and students from all four schools in person. Some were shy at first, but that's the norm for the first gathering. It was the first opportunity to build relationships in person and enjoy a shared experience together. Thank you very much Ms Marlow and the Ashcroft Smarties for a great day!

Picking Pumpkins and Taking Photos at the Pumpkin Patch

Most Memorable Lessons

One of the best things about the ECC is that when you have four teachers working together instead of one, the students (and teachers) experience a whole range of lessons, teaching styles and enthusiasm. Each teacher brings their own uniqueness to each lesson and the daily learning environment is enriched because of it. I think, too, that because we are teaching our colleagues' students, and teaching in front of our colleagues, that we ensure our ECC lessons are the very best they can be. And teachers working together and setting the bar high create some very memorable lessons!

I've been leading students through a digital photography unit focused on having students learn about and learn how to use the elements and principles of design. Students love taking photos and they are really learning how to 'see' in a different way: more observant, more careful, more thoughtful. Students are building a bank of photos to be used in a variety of projects throughout the year including image editing in January and Digital Storytelling in the Spring. Finally, sharing student photos between the classes in a powerful way to enhance community building in our unique learning environment!

Mrs. Patterson led students through a series of fantastic lessons inspired by MindUp: mindful seeing, mindful smelling and the student's favorite, mindful tasting! She starts each connected lesson with mindful breathing, playing the chime and helping students to settle in and get ready to learn. Students love it and they are learning a variety of skills and concepts along the way!

Ms Marlow and her students have captured our interest with dramatic group readings of stories during her Writing Power lessons. Instead of just reading the book to students in her weekly connected lesson, she had the brilliant idea of assigning character's dialogue to different students in her class. What emerges through the connection is not only the illustrations and text on the SmartBoard, but also a live, drama performance on screen! This has absolutely hooked students (and teachers!) and we love to watch and here the stories as they unfold!

The most memorable moment, for me, anyway, has to be when Mr. Lewis dissected a cow eyeball live using the document camera during a connected Science lesson. I'm sorry, but there's not much that can compete with that for novelty, cool factor and grossness all at once! Many of my students are still talking about the "best connected lesson ever!" and I'd have to agree that it will be pretty tough to top! I'm guessing though that Mr. Lewis will find a way to set his own personal teaching bar even higher!

Dissecting a Cow Eyeball
One note about the eyeball. We live in ranch country, and this was donated by a ranching family for Mr. Lewis to use for Science and learning purposes.

That's a quick recap of some of the great things happening in the ECC so far this year!

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