May 282014

News articles are a great source to connect kids with the broader world and have them investigate the features and traits of non-fiction texts. Furthermore, discussing current events in class is a great way to engage students to inquiry more deeply into concepts being covered in your school’s curriculum. The difficulty has always been find texts written appropriately for children; both in content and in reading level. Here are three that I have found useful.
Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 10.59.46 PMNewsela is the newest kid on the block (just recently being released from Beta phase) and is an incredibly robust news site aimed at the education sector. It is currently free for teachers to create an account. Upon doing so you receive a class code which students then use when signing up. Newsela allows you to adjust the reading level (Lexile) of single news article anywhere from grade 3 to grade 12. This is a amazing feature as the content and difficulty of the same article changes to support high school seniors or elementary students. All articles are adapted from Associated Press articles from major U.S. papers. Some articles even have accompanying quizzes focusing on non-fiction reading strategies.

Behind the News (BtN)
imgresBehind the News is an Australian Broadcast Company show created for school children. The show has been around since 1968 and thus has a huge archive available online. The show has great 2-5 minute episodes on a variety of topics including current events. Some clips are also accompanied by quizzes and discussion cards, which some teachers may find useful. New episodes air weekly on Tuesdays.

Teaching Kids News (TKN) ab90c9309e99f75b4d2b60f8ec32bb32
Teaching Kids News is a Canadian online newspaper started by a third grade teacher from Toronto. The site publishes articles about current events both international and domestic. Reading levels range from second grade through to eighth and are can be categorized using the search function. Each article is accompanied with prompts to assist teachers to use these current events in the classroom. Prompts included discussion ideas, writing prompts, grammar work and work analysis.

Know of other great news sites for kids? Leave comments in the blog section below.

Dec 112013

Recently, I watched the “Power of Quiet” from RSA. The clip focuses on the roles of the extrovert and the introvert in society.  The short advocates that there is an important post for introverts within society and that slowly, we have marginalized the introvert and celebrated the extrovert. We seem to have forgotten that when the two work together they make harmonious music: That the Steve Jobs needed the Steve Wozniaks to succeed.

I love watching these animated shorts because I can often find some portion which can be lifted and applied to education.

In education, we have become very aware of the various learning styles and I think that teachers do a pretty good job making sure that our students succeed regardless of whether introvert or extrovert. Teachers employ techniques like extended wait time, no hands up protocol, and visual thinking strategies to ensure that all students flourish in our classrooms.

What I’m curious about is how are we facilitating the process of educators working with educators?

Do we ensure that all team members are successful in collaborating?

Are we hearing the introverts?

The assumption would be that most teachers are extroverts by nature, but you certainly know a teacher who is completely at ease with 40 seven year-olds staring at them but feel awkward presenting to a room of seven peers. Recently, my team has got rid of computers at some meetings in an attempt to combat that crutch that extroverts and introverts alike sometimes use: technology.

As the short suggests, not all the best ideas come from the loudest voices. I know myself: I’m loud and boisterous (as I’m regularly reminded and occasionally chided by my wife and friends). I’m willing to admit, I like my thoughts to be heard, but I hope they don’t come across as sacred. I want to make sure we all have a voice in the collaborative process and the video has me questioning how we engage with one another in meetings.

We consistently celebrate dialogue as author and journalist Jonah Lehrer suggests in his talk Does Brainstorming Work? The best ideas need to be challenged to be improved through discussion. Can we create an atmosphere of discourse that is comfortable for introverts? I wonder if the same strategies that we use with kids might be useful to employ in meetings? I am, however, cognizant of becoming over prescriptive; with colleagues feeling marginalized and thus tuning out. So, how best to proceed?

What are your feelings?

Is this a real issue?

How does your team establish a voice for everyone?

I guess I have more questions than answers on the topic, but it certainly makes you reflect. Perhaps the best reflection comes with silence.

—- Love to hear your thoughts. Add to the conversation below.

Dec 042013

Schools, by their very nature, are busy places. The best classrooms and institutions hum with the sound of students, teachers and administrators sharing ideas and co-constructing learning.

Teachers are particularly busy managing the traffic that crosses their desk be it real or virtual.

At our school we use technology to facilitate so much of our learning. Not only for students, but also for collaboration between educators.

Whether its the use of email, twitter, wordpress, google docs or wikis, we, as educators, share an incredible amount of knowledge. The unprecedented about of wisdom available can lead to a feeling akin to that of a hamster on a wheel.

It’s not surprising that when teachers come to meetings they find it hard to tune out all the digital noise. It seems, in today’s meetings, technology is omni-present. You would be hard pressed to go to a meeting where there wasn’t at least a digital projector.

As we sit here ourselves, co-constructing this article, we fight the urge to respond to the most recent email notifications or SMS alerts. So how can we collaborate if we aren’t present with those we are trying to collaborate with?

This year as I, Nathaniel, have transitioned to the role of Grade Level leader we have migrated a lot of our administrative documents and meeting agendas to Google Drive. Having agendas on Google Docs has been incredibly powerful but we have certainly encountered drawbacks:

    • If one person is assigned the role of taking minutes, then why are seven people typing?
    • Is everyone engaged in the discussion?
    • What’s the purpose of the meeting: housekeeping or collaboration?
    • Is this collaboration?


Here at WAB we have two types of team or grade level meetings: housekeeping and collaborative planning and reflection meetings. We have found that the use of laptops and online resources like Google Docs have been invaluable for housekeeping meetings.

However, recently we have questioned whether laptops or devices are hindering collaboration.

Screen Shot 2013-12-04 at 2.43.37 PM

Straight away, when we all sat down there was an incredible sense of connection between the team. You could actually see everyone rather than just their eyes peaking over their laptop lids. The meeting was not all roses but some really deep discussion about the unit took place. People came in with some apprehension and were clearly out of their comfort zone.This did lead to some pauses. It seems today the default, whenever people are uncomfortable, is to plug in. Hopefully, without being able to reach for a device people used the time to think and reflect.



In a world full of digital connections, how can we make sure we maintain personal connections? We hope to reflect upon and refine this process for our collaborative planning meetings; exploring our various roles and employing the seven norms of collaboration.