In addition to professional development days, which I was negligent in blogging about this school year, two great Pro D opportunities I had was the collaboration/inquiry time worked into our school year and a book club at my school.
During the Inquiry/Collaboration time, I delved into the question of whether online Fresh Grade (FG) portfolios could improve my communication to parents about their children’s learning. Working with five other teachers at my school, we all found that it was a terrific tool for communicating what we were doing in the classroom and where each child was at with their learning. We could post pictures for the whole class to show parents activities like a Science demonstration, a group writing collaboration, a guest presenter or even a class demonstration of a dance. This provides parents with an insight as to what their child actually does at school and can help them further the discussion if their "what did you do at school today?" question is answered with "nothing" or “I don’t know.” FG also has an announcements feature that allows a teacher to send out an announcement such as a reminder and parents will be notified via a pop up if they have the app and an email. I would say the most powerful feature of FG is the ability to post pictures and videos of a student to demonstrate where they are at with their learning. For example, we posted pictures of drawings, projects, writing samples, and assessments as well as videos of counting, reading, and answering open ended questions. These can then have a note attached to them explaining what the teacher was looking for. If you attach a learning outcome to these activities and assess them as you post them. These learning outcomes and their attached assessment will be automatically used when you create a report card for your students. We all found FG to be such a useful tool for communicating with parents that we are each using it again this year. We received lots of positive feedback from parents.
Another ongoing learning experience that I enjoyed was a book club hosted by our vice-principal, Kim Anderson for Catching Readers Before They Fall by Pat Johnson and Katie Keier. A group of us met regularly throughout the year to discuss the chapters as we read through the book. I found this a great experience! Although I had pretty much learned most of the strategies and concepts brought up in the book through professional development over the last 21 years, it really helped freshen my perspective. There were so many ideas that I came across and realized that I either hadn’t done them in awhile or I had meant to incorporate them into my teaching at some point and then never did. As well discussing the topic of teaching reading to the students who don’t pick it up easily was valuable. We shared our ideas on how to find the time to spend the extra time needed with these learners. I’m very grateful for this learning opportunity!