What are your hobbies? I love reading (lately that has translated into a love of audiobooks and podcasts), spending time outside, and making art. Recently I have been particularly enjoying making digital drawings for my STEM Puns project.
Why did you become a teacher? While I was doing science outreach work in schools and summer camps, I found a passion for teaching and connecting with learners. Teaching is both fun and challenging in how dynamic it is, and I find that so fulfilling.
Why did you start a teaching blog? I started this teaching blog because I find sharing what I am learning and doing to be extremely motivating. On my teaching Instagram (@madame_i_am), I found that writing helps me to reflect on my teaching, and drives me to continue learning and trying new things while also making it easier to share with colleagues. I have learned so much from other teaching blogs, so I am thrilled to be working on my own now.
What grades have you taught? I have taught K-6 French Immersion in a variety of roles. My practicum placements were K/1 and grade 6. My first contract was covering a maternity leave in a 2/3 class. The following year, my first full year as a classroom teacher was in a 4/5 class. After that, I taught two years of Kindergarten, followed by this past year’s K/1 class. This upcoming year I will be back to Kindergarten.
Where did you get the name for your blog? I go by Madame Allen at school, and a few Septembers ago as a I was thinking of starting my teaching Instagram account, one of my new Kindergarten students called me “Madame I Am”.
I’d love to read your answers to these questions (or any other questions you might have) in the comments!
One of the first things that I (and many of my colleagues) invite Kindergarten students to do at the beginning of the school year is to draw themselves. These first-day drawings are such a special piece of developmental evidence, and they become even more remarkable when seen alongside subsequent drawings from that school year and beyond. It’s truly a remarkable thing to witness this evidence of students’ growth and development.
At the beginning of May I took part in a wonderful session put on by two of my Kindergarten colleagues from our division that renewed my excitement about the power and potential in self-portraits.
More Than Peach Project
Bellen, the Creator of the More Than Peach Project shares a lot of important thoughts and resources on her Instagram page @morethanpeachproject. She has a fabulous line of products that showcase many crayon options for a variety of skin colours.
I plan for at least one self-portrait per month in Kindergarten. Students love to see these up on the wall and in their memory books, and I love seeing them light up when they recognize themselves and notice the increasing level of detail in their work. Here are a few examples of self-portrait activities:
I hope your summer is off to a lovely, relaxing start! I chose this timing for my K/1 post so that I could compile many things I’ve found helpful this year into this one place and make it available to anyone who might find it helpful moving into summer/fall:
Collaboration and connection with colleagues is absolutely key, especially if you are lucky enough to have grade-level colleagues at your school. It’s also great to reach out to colleagues at other schools and through social media. Check out my previous posts (links below) for some examples of great Instagram accounts to follow.
Be intentional with direct instruction, and consider what might be helpful for everyone (such as printing and vocabulary mini-lessons) and what might be better to teach when your Ks or 1s are working independently on something else (such as teaching your 1s a writing lesson while Ks are working on simple letter practice games).
This is a multi-sensory program for learning letter formation, and it comes highly recommended by the Occupational Therapists I have had the privilege to work with. They have some great products like chalkboards, flip crayons, magnets, wood pieces, and Mat Man who is the star of songs & stories and is a great helper for teaching us about how to draw a people. I love the wood pieces because you can add loose parts.
Laurie McIntosh (@mrsmacskinders on Instagram) shares about kindness, connection & fun in Kindergarten. Her remote learning ideas helped me SO much this year. I am looking forward to reading her book Teachers These Days when it comes out!
What are your favourite resources for French Immersion Kindergarten?
This year I have been teaching a K/1 combined class, which has been a great experience for me overall because of the team I work with. (It was also cool because my first practicum placement as a student-teacher was K/1!) I have learned so much from collaborating with my Grade 1 team members – I have been fortunate enough to have three stellar, experienced teachers to work with, and that has been especially helpful during remote learning! Next year I have been assigned to Kindergarten, and I feel a lot more confident in that role with a greater sense of Grade 1.
I have also benefited from resources and ideas created and shared by the fabulous early years French Immersion community I’ve connected with through Instagram. Not having to create these resources from scratch really saved me, and helped me to better show up for my students.
Instagram/Blog Inspiration for Grade 1
Madame Belle Feuille’s blog is an incredible resource, particularly to get visuals and graphic organizers for Grade 1 French Immersion teachers in Alberta
Madame Julianne’s 100th day of school stuff was helpful because the 100th day of school was also Valentine’s Day, and it was right before Pink Shirt Day. I was so glad to have all those hands-on and movement-based activities!
Here are some authors and their resources that have helped me, as someone with white privilege, in my anti-racism learning recently.
1. Aim to financially support BIPOC organizations, creators, artists, and businesses wherever possible.
2. Going into their space means you are agreeing to not treat them like Google or demand emotional labour by processing your understanding and questions in the comments section. Go in to read and listen and most of the time stay quiet.
A few weeks ago my friend Megan Hume delivered a great PD on Google Classroom to our Kindergarten colleagues, and that inspired me to write this post about how it has been helpful for me teaching a combined K/1 class.
Why Google Classroom?
It has helped me collaborate with my two grade level teams during this remote learning experience by having shared grade-level classrooms. I also love being able to reuse relevant posts, because certain things (such as read-alouds and letter sound resources) are great for both Kindergarten and Grade 1.
Scheduling posts helps ease my mind about forgetting to post something on a certain day, and helps make things more predictable for families.
Being able to reuse posts means that I can easily share these resources with parents in future classes that I teach.
Do you use Google Classroom? What are your favourite benefits of using it?
Now that I’ve lost track of which week of remote learning we’re on, here is a post highlighting a few of the resources and activities my Kindergarten and Grade 1 students have found particularly engaging. Each week I make a Kindergarten learning choice menu, and collaborate on a Grade 1 choice menu with my incredible Grade 1 colleagues. Those asynchronous menus are complimented by whole group, small group, and individual Google Meets throughout the week.
ChatterPix: This was an early favourite, and great for encouraging students to speak French. At the beginning of April, one of the parents in my class told me that it was the best thing to happen to them in weeks. We’ve provided a number of prompts including making something from your maison speak, and getting a plant or animal to say why it loves printemps.
Google Slides: I recorded myself (with Online Voice Recorder) saying the names of letters to make letter recognition slides for my Kindergarten students. I also recorded myself saying letter sounds and complex sounds to make slides with the amazing French sound LiPS-style visuals from Centre for Literacy. (They distributed them at Teachers’ Convention so I imagine they would send you a copy for your classroom use if you ask.) One of my students was so excited to use these after our first GMeet with them that he asked me about 50 times when he would get “the cool buttons”.
Screencastify: This Chrome extension has been absolutely essential to my remote teaching for taking videos of all kinds of things!
Google Meets: Each week we have a whole class meeting to read a story together and check in with one another. I also run small group sessions to practice particular language skills such as letter recognition, letter sounds, conversational French, and reading skills:
Reading Raz-Kids books together through screen sharing – I love the pen/highlighter feature, and my students have enjoyed getting to choose “a sticker” at the end of each book because you can put star or smile icons on the page. ⭐😊
Letter sounds Google Slides (see above) – I use these as a pre-reading warmup with my Grade 1s.
Uppercase letter search – I sent them this PDF so students could colour it or families could write their own, and I played on a Google Jamboard while sharing my window. (My Kindergarten families have told me that they prefer low-tech options wherever possible, with Google Meets being the exception so that we can connect with one another, so I opted for paper copies rather than trying to get them an on-screen version.) I sent out a video of myself playing through the game as well in case anyone wanted to play again or could not make it to a Google Meet.
Lowercase letter bingo – my Kindergarten students loved the uppercase search so much that I made a bingo version for lowercase, and we played with the same sort of printable/Jamboard/pre-recorded arrangement.
I’m going to close with this quote I heard while listening to Dr. Jody Carrington‘s online course this week, because I found it really resonated with me and gave me some comfort:
What has been working for your class during remote learning?
I’ve been thinking a lot of this idea of my “Why?” – raison d’être as we say in the French Immersion biz – this week because I took part in a fantastic webinar on Saturday with Dr. Jody Carrington. I made this Sketchnote because I LOVE making and sharing Sketchnotes, and I was thrilled with the positive feedback from my fellow educators. I love this because it’s fun, it helps me process what I am hearing, and it helps me share my learning with others for maximum benefit.
That love of sharing, and getting rolling with Dr. Carrington’s online course this week, inspired me to revive my teaching blog. I’m not about to list all the times this has happened, give one of those “Sorry for not posting in so long” posts, or make any big promises to my blog, but I do have some ideas I’d like to explore in future posts – whether that ends up being here or on my teacher Instagram: @madame_i_am. (I’ve found a really great Instagram community of primary French Immersion teachers that provides me with so much incredible inspiration, and that format has served me quite well in recent years.)
On Friday I attended APPIPC 2016. It was wonderful to meet new people and to see some French Immersion colleagues from my previous school district as well as my Professional Specialization Certificate in Teaching French Immersion program. I learned a lot, and got some inspiration to try some new things. Before I start sharing my notes, I want to share these cool stamps that I bought at the conference:
Simulations globales are educational role-playing activities that are particularly good for Social studies and Science. They allow for the incorporation of oral and written language, as well as art and movement. For example, you can study a given time period by putting yourself into the role of a historic character, and supplement the role-playing with mini-lessons. I am interested in trying them out because they allow for choice, inquiry, exploration, and differentiation.
Educational programs and summer camps help to prevent “summer slide”.
L’apprentissage par problèmes par Nancy Des Ormeaux
Problem-based learning is about proposing problems that are loosely structured, similar to real-life problems to get the brain to find a variety of solutions. The problems are driving questions with a problem that needs to be solved. Learners think critically, analyze, and solve problems. This approach allows for engagement through choice, excitement, active learning, and differentiation. It leads to exploration of why and how questions. Students explain their reasoning and learning process, discover hidden talents, and innovate. Some of the examples that she gave were:
Design a ring for somebody with a budget (science: rocks and minerals, math)
Where would be the best place in our community to hide from zombies? (science: weather, math, social studies: geography, natural resources)
Make a 3-D model of the island in Lord of the Flies (English, math)
Plan a family trip to 5 B.C. attractions on a $2000 budget (social studies, math)
Describe each attraction as a pamphlet, website, journal, prize package, etc.
She mentioned that Rubistar is a great resource for creating rubrics. I am looking forward to trying out some problem-based learning with my class this year!
Have you done any simulations globales or problem-based learning? What are some of your favourite ideas and resources?