Math Everywhere Learning Retreat 2019

Our first-ever KG Education Learning Retreat is in the books!  We are so grateful to the 10 local educators who trusted us with leading a day of professional learning for them.   It was incredibly exciting to see our vision for professional learning become a reality.

As a team, Devon and I have been leading workshops and sharing presentations for over a decade.  We enjoy working with fellow educators to share ideas and grow our teaching practices.   When we launched KG Education in May 2019, we had this vision of a new format for professional learning.  We wanted to combine professional learning with wellness practices, so we dreamed up the idea of a learning retreat.

What is a learning retreat?

Our learning retreats include a unique blend of professional learning, wellness practices and community-building. 

  • We are both passionate about ongoing learning and professional growth.  We know that teachers need high-quality professional development, so it’s a priority for us to offer meaningful learning opportunities for educators. 
  • We’ve learned the value and importance of teacher wellness, so our learning retreats integrate wellness practices such as yoga, movement and mindfulness. 
  • Finally, we’ve experienced the benefits of connecting with colleagues, so we aim to foster community-building among participants. We offer retreats to small groups of educators, so we can work together and get to know each participant!

What does your day look like at a learning retreat event?

For our Math Everywhere Learning Retreat, we began the day with a gentle yoga class, followed by a nutrition break. Next, we shared ideas for rich math learning and did some math together! We enjoyed a delicious lunch at our local restaurant, Brierwood Creek Cafe & Grill, and then had some workshop time for hands-on creation and sourcing of math activities. After an afternoon break for coffee and snacks, we closed the day with a few yoga poses and a mindfulness practice.

 

“This was a fantastic day! The wellness portion was a great start and end to the day, helping with focus for the day. Thank you for practical resources to use immediately in my classroom!”

– 2019 Math Everywhere Learning Retreat participant

How can I participate?

If this sounds like a professional learning day you’d enjoy, sign up for our newsletter and you’ll be the first to know about our next learning retreat!

 

 

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GRA19: Discussion Questions for Stella Diaz has Something to Say

Global Read Aloud is one of my favourite learning activities!  I love seeing students explore rich literature and connect with other students to share their perspectives.

I pre-read the book and I’ve created weekly discussion questions or prompts for Stella Diaz has Something to Say  by Angela Dominguez

Stella Diaz (1)

Feel free to use any of these questions/prompts for discussions in your class or with your partner classrooms!  I like posting a question or prompt on Padlet or Flipgrid each week to keep the connection going between partner classrooms, but many of the prompts would also work for in-class discussion or video calls.

Week 1: September 30- October 4: Chapters 1-4

Stella is really hopeful that she’ll make a new friend.  Tell us what you like to do with your friends.

Stella can speak English and Spanish.  Do you know another language?  Can you share a word or phrase?

Week 2: October 7-11: Chapters 5-7

Stella talks about some special foods she likes, such as jicama.  What are some special foods you and your family enjoy?

Jenny has an idea that Stella can overcome her shyness by asking others questions.   Ask your partner class a question.  Remember to come back to answer someone’s question and see if someone responded to yours.

Week 3: October 14-18: Chapters 8-10

Stella eats, sings, dances and laughs with her family.  What does your family do together?

Stella writes her own book.  If you wrote a book, what would it be about?  Why would you choose that topic?

Week 4: October 21-25: Chapters 11-13

Stella and her family celebrate the new year with a trip to the Wisconsin Dells.   How does your family celebrate special occasions or holidays?

Stella wonders about her mother’s Christmas traditions in Mexico.  Research different holidays around the world and share how one country or culture celebrates a special occasion.

Week 5: October 28-November 1:Chapters 14-17

Stella is nervous about the spelling bee, but she tries it anyway.  Tell us about a time you did something that made you nervous or something that seemed challenging.

Stella is inspired by the author she sees at the library.  She thinks she might want to be an author too.  What do you dream of doing or being?

Week 6:  November 4-8: Chapters 18-End

Stella has accomplished a lot.  Share an accomplishment that you’re proud of.

Stella is very interested in marine life.  What interests you?  Tell us about it!

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Passion for Teaching Leads to Opportunity: Crossroads Newspaper Article

We were very excited to be interviewed by our local newspaper, Crossroads This Week, to share about what we’re creating with KG Education!   Check out the article below!2019 Crossroads Article

Hunter, B. (2019, September 13). Passion for teaching leads to opportunity . Crossroads This Week, pp. 7.

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3 Tech Tools to Try This Year

Hey everyone,   it’s back to school time here in Manitoba and we’re planning for an exciting year!  Technology infusion is an important aspect of our teaching practice, so we wanted to share some of the tools we’ll be integrating this year and WHY we think they’re so great.  To us, tech tools are powerful when they support rich, meaningful learning for students, so the tools we use are typically selected based on what we hope to accomplish with our learners.   Here are 3 tools we’ll be using this year…

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Flipgrid

We like that this tool allows our students to share their voices, connect with others and document their learning.   Students login to your “grid” and film short videos in response to a prompt or question.  The videos are shared with others who have access to the grid.  Flipgrid is a great option if you’ll be connecting with other classrooms this year and it is accessible for all ages.   For young learners, we recommend the Student ID setting, which allows students to login with a QR code.   For older learners with access to a Microsoft or Google email account, the “School Email” setting works well.

Sign up for a free teacher account here: https://admin.flipgrid.com/signup

SeeSaw

We like that this tool gives students a variety of options for documenting their learning.  We also like that SeeSaw is setup for sharing student work with families.   Students can login with a QR code or email address and post pictures, video, annotations and more.  There is also a great library of activities available for educators to use.

Get started with your free account here: https://web.seesaw.me/

Skype in the Classroom

Video calling is a great way to connect your classroom.  Skype video calls with another classroom can be wonderful learning experiences.  Skype in the Classroom also offers awesome virtual field trips and connections with guest speakers.   My favourite virtual field trip is the experience with Yellowstone National Park.   Our students also have loved playing Mystery Number Skype with other students over the years!

Join the Microsoft Educator Community and check out Skype in the Classroom here: https://education.microsoft.com/skype-in-the-classroom/overview

 

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What do teachers actually DO on summer holidays?

We’re nearing the end of another blissful summer holiday.   We are very fortunate to have a 2-month stretch of holidays to enjoy all of our favourite activities.  So, what do we actually DO?   We’ve created this video to answer just that question!

Things We Do on Summer Holidays

  • Yoga (and/or work out)
  • Travel (we love to experience other places!)
  • Read (anything we want, not just books for school and learning!)
  • Make appointments during the day (it’s awesome)
  • Teach (yoga, horseback riding lessons, teacher workshops…)
  • Socialize (we actually hang out with people, even on “school nights” aka weekdays)
  • Nap (it is glorious)
  • Spend time with our favourite people (our family and friends actually see us)
  • Spend time with our pets (horseback riding, dog-walking and more – it’s bliss!)
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The Future of Education

We were pleased to be invited to write an article on our thoughts about the future of education which was featured in the 100th anniversary edition of The Manitoba Teacher Magazine.   Click the link to check out the full issue!

A Letter to the Teachers of the Future 

As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Manitoba Teachers’ Society, it is exciting to look back to see far we’ve come in this great profession.  It is also exciting to look to the future of education and think about where we will go next.   Reflecting on our past and looking to our future, we have drafted a letter to the teachers of the future that expresses our wishes for the future of education.    

Dear Future Teacher,  

Congratulations on being part of such an esteemed profession.   You are fortunate to have a career that allows you to impact the lives of young people every day.   We know your education and training have been rigorous and that you are well-prepared to meet the demands of this special calling.   We just wanted to let you know how far we’ve come as teachers and to encourage you to continue developing the diverse, challenging and rewarding field of education. 

A long time ago, students sat in dull classrooms in rows of desks and recalled basic content that they’d memorized through rote learning.   Schools were like factories, meant to churn out employees for the workforce.  A shorter time ago, those classrooms grew brighter; there was flexible seating, a pursuit of student interests, and differentiated instruction to meet the needs of different students.  As internet connections became more robust and technology became more prevalent, a shift began.  There was less emphasis on rote memorization and more focus on fostering thinking skills.  Students began to develop the skills to source and manage information, rather than just recall information.  The goals of education began to change and so did the pedagogical practices of teachers.     

Now we see you embracing what we once called “alternative pedagogical approaches”.   You are allowing students to direct their learning through inquiry, project-based learning or problem-based learning.   Your students are excited and motivated to learn because they have a real purpose for learning.   They collaborate in their efforts to achieve the common goals of their projects.   Your students develop a thorough understanding of various concepts related to their projects or inquiry and you marvel at the skills they build as they progress.   These students are thinking deeply as they cooperate, negotiate, solve problems and make a difference in their local and global communities.   We are so proud of you and your students.   It is refreshing to see that students are doing work that matters while also becoming literate and numerate.   This is how we envisioned education back in our day.   

The other cool thing about how you teach now is the blurring between subject areas. (Do you even know what we mean when we say “subjects”?)  It is incredible how your students are developing knowledge and skills in a variety of areas as they pursue projects, tackle problems and undertake inquiry!  Did you know?  Many of us used to split our school day into blocks of time and teach only certain content and skills during each block.  Imagine…. we would teach only math skills for the first 80 minutes of the day until an obnoxious buzzer rang signaling the change to recess break, followed by another annoying buzz to indicate that it was time to teach literacy skills.   These buzzers continued throughout the day and so did the changes of subject.   In our time, we started to see that teaching subjects and skills in isolation was perhaps not our best approach, but we are sure glad to see you’ve got this figured out.   Your approach of teaching students what they need to move forward with their projects seems so productive.   It is evident that our commitment to developing numeracy and literacy skills has continued in your time, but we like how you are blending those skills with student interests.  Please keep facilitating those projects, encouraging students to address authentic problems and fueling student curiosity with inquiry!     

We’ve been working for a long time to extend learning beyond the classroom.   We had a strong understanding of why partnerships were necessary and important, but in the early stages, partners were usually brought in to support special projects and initiatives.  I’m sure you can’t believe there was a time when families, educators, community members, policymakers, experts, and other classrooms didn’t work together seamlessly and interdependently.  These partnerships, supported by technology, have enhanced education in Manitoba’s schools.   We are delighted to see that even remote and rural classrooms are now interconnected.  Your students are learning outside of the classroom.   It‘s great to see that your students are independent learners who learn and grow using online resources, the people around them and the abilities that you’ve fostered in them.  This is really what we imagined when we used to talk about “turning walls into windows”.   

And what about play? In our time, play-based learning was an accepted practice in Kindergarten classrooms, but we hadn’t quite figured out what playful learning looked like for learners of all ages.  Looking back through the years, the disconnect between the play-based practices of Kindergarten and the teaching and learning in later grades is apparent.  I’m sure you can’t imagine a time when learning wasn’t playful and engaging.  We’re excited that the playful learning in your school is fueled by teacher and student passions. In your teaching practice, we see that learning is a joyful and holistic process that isn’t segmented into times for work and play.  What a wonderful way to learn! 

In our time, there was much debate over if and how technology should be used with learners.  We stressed over implementing a balanced approach and ensuring responsible use of technology.  Looking back, we are sure you recognize that this was a necessary stage for the education system to navigate, as traditional tools gave way to technology tools.  We’re sure you see the uncertainty that teachers and families felt when faced with these new ways of teaching and learning.  As you scan your classroom of engaged, respectful learners who understand how and when to use technology, be mindful of the turbulent past.   It was a challenge to effectively infuse technology in our time and we are excited to see that students and teachers in your time find technology to be an ordinary and everyday part of life both in and out of school.   We are happy to see that what we called “acceptable use” is now the norm and that the education system is truly harnessing the power of technology to improve teaching and learning.   

Despite the huge changes that have taken place, there are some things that remain constant for those who seek to guide young minds.  It’s funny to think that there was a time when we discussed the possibility of robots replacing teachers.   It seems a foolish idea when we consider the uniquely human traits that are needed to excel as a teacher.  An abundance of patience, persistence, and caring, a willingness to meet each child and family exactly where they are, and an unflagging dedication to change the world are the timeless tools of the educator.  Your skills are irreplaceable.   

You and your learners will face challenges that we cannot anticipate in our present times.  However, please know that your work as an educator will contribute to raising a generation that is equipped to make the world a better place.  When you teach your students how to think rather than what to think, you are preparing them for a future unknown.  When you help raise compassionate and caring young people, you are shaping the citizens that will lead the way for many great things. 

Teacher of the future, you are doing vitally important work, just as those who came before you.   We understand that the pace of change can feel frustratingly slow, but know that the small steps educators take forward have immeasurable impact.  Thank you for everything you do and please know that you and your students are making our dreams for the future of education come true.   

Sincerely, 

Devon and Leah 

Passionate teachers of the past


 

Caldwell, D., & Obach, L. (2019). Letter to the teachers of the future. The Manitoba Teacher, 187(6), 6–7.

 

 

 

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Encouraging Teacher Wellness

As we develop KG Education, our goal is to incorporate wellness in our vision of professional learning for educators.   Taking care of ourselves needs to be an important priority (for all people, not just teachers), but it is all too easy to ignore/skip/not prioritize our wellness activities.  I am passionate about my work as an educator and there have been many times when I’ve ignored my own wellness in pursuit of some goal or task related to my work.  I have made some gains in this area and *often* (not always) do better at making time for my own wellness.   We hope that we can help other educators make time for wellness by integrating wellness practices with our learning retreats.  Something I read recently really got me thinking about the importance of self-care and how we perceive it…

This summer, I traveled to Fiji with my husband.  Travel is often a form of wellness for me as I’m good at truly taking a break and recharging when I have somewhere sunny to lounge in the sun and read for hours (and no access to my home or my work).   There were many hours of sun-soaking and reading on this trip.  One of the books I started reading, You are a Badass by Jen Sincero,  included a quote that really resonated with me.

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“The better our bodies feel, the happier and more productive we are.”  YES!!  I think one of the reasons that we can ignore our own personal wellness is because we sometimes look at it as a luxury.    For me, this quote puts that notion into question.   Is wellness something fun and extra and luxurious or is it a way to ensure our happiness and productivity?  I think that we can be much more productive as educators if we are taking care of ourselves.  If you’re like me and you sometimes have difficulty making time for wellness, try thinking of it this way: looking after yourself will increase your productivity, therefore resulting in better work (even though you took some time for wellness rather than work).

Summer holidays make it pretty easy for me to incorporate wellness:  I do yoga and workout, I ride my horses, I spend time with family and friends.  When I have all day to fit these things in, it seems pretty doable to look after my body.  (Sometimes I even actually do some work too 😉  )  Some of you are already back to school and some of you are thinking ahead and preparing for students to return in September.  As we approach this back to school season, it can become harder to make time for self-care.   Are you feeling it already?  We get it.   We struggle to find balance between work and wellness too. 

So… As you begin planning for a fabulous year of teaching and learning, we encourage you to make a plan for taking care of yourself too! We’re big fans of yoga and walking.  We both enjoy travel and reading.   I love horseback riding and Devon enjoys time with her dogs.   We’re trying to include wellness in our daily lives and we hope you will too.   What wellness practice will you include in your back to school routine?  Drop us a comment and let us know your game plan for self-care this year!

 

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