Sometimes, my best ideas come to me at the last minute, and they often come to me when I least expect them… in the shower, while driving, or folding laundry. They usually stem from something I heard, read, or saw, and with my life being so busy and none-stop, I think creative ideas hit me when my mind is able to be still for a little while.
Last week, I was honoured to speak at our division’s Ignite evening, and although I was nervous beyond belief, I think it went well. More importantly though, I left that evening filled with inspiration. It’s no surprise then, that the very next morning while putting my makeup on, I was hit with and idea to incorporate #REALyouSnaps and #BookSnaps into my classroom in an authentic way, something I had been eagerly waiting to do. I didn’t want this to be a one-off lesson though, and wanted to make sure I had the time to properly explore these powerful ways to reflect and show learning before exposing my students to them. Light bulb moment.
The Background of the Story
My colleagues and I have been busy planning our next big writing project, along with many other projects that will tie into it, for our Exhibition Evening at the end of March (check out last year’s Exhibition Evening by clicking here). In a nutshell, the students will be tasked to write a French information book about Manitoba animals and they will then transform our three classrooms into these animals’ habitats. As my colleagues and I brainstormed ideas of research and what this process was going to look like for our students, we tossed around the idea of taking images of each animal and adding labels to them so that students had access to this information when they began to write. We weren’t sold on this idea though, because not only would it be a lot of work for us, we didn’t want students to simply recopy each labelled image to make their written pieces. I could also hear John Spencer‘s voice inside my head telling me “Don’t do for students what they can do for themselves” from his, and A.J. Juliani‘s incredible book, Empower.
Fast forward to the Ignite, I ran into Thaddeus Bourassa, a colleague in my division who I’ve never had the pleasure of working with directly. He spoke last year at our Ignite evening, and although our paths have crossed a few times, we really mostly know each other through Twitter. Whenever I am in his presence though, I gravitate towards him. I just know that he is a gem of a teacher and that I can learn so much from him. As we chatted that night, I told him that I hadn’t forgotten about having him in my class when I introduce #BookSnaps to my students, but that it would probably have to wait until the spring since I was busy focusing all of my energy on getting ready for Exhibition Evening. You see, Thaddeus changed rolls this year and is no longer in the classroom. Although he is ROCKING his new roll, he shared with me earlier this year how much he misses the kids. That’s when I told him that I’d be happy to have him join us anytime, and that’s when the idea of him joining us to learn more about #BookSnaps came about; something that he wanted to learn more about because he wanted to be able to share it with the teachers he now supports.
Wednesday was our Ignite. The next morning, the idea hit me and I immediately direct messaged Tara Martin , author of Be REAL and creator of #BookSnaps and #REALyouSnaps, to see if she would be willing to Google Hangout (GHO) with my class again this year to introduce #REALyouSnaps. I then also direct messaged Thaddeus to see if he could join us. Seriously, everything fell into place! Tara was free on the Tuesday morning, and so was Thaddeus – his only free time that whole week! Not one week after the original light bulb moment, we were ready to roll!
With no pre-exposure to Tara Martin, #BookSnaps, #REALyouSnaps, or any notice that we’d have a guest in class that morning, my students came into the class on Tuesday morning and were examining our daily schedule and raising eyebrows at the sight of a tall man in our class. They already knew something special was going to happen. As soon as morning announcements were over, we had a quick greeting and I proceeded to explain to them who Tara Martin was by linking her to Dave Burgess, who we were blessed to have read to us earlier this school year for Pirate Day, and explained to them what #BookSnaps are. I then told them that we weren’t going to do #BookSnaps today, but that we were going to do #REALyouSnaps. I asked them what they thought that might be now that they knew what #BookSnaps were. Smart little cookies figured it out very quickly! I told them that Thaddeus (or Mr. B as the students called him) was here because he, too, wanted to learn about #REALyouSnaps and #BookSnaps.
We then joined Tara in the GHO. She read Exclamation Mark by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld and helped us to see that we are all unique and have our strengths which should be celebrated and utilized! She then explained to us how #REALyouSnaps were born and how they are a fantastic way to show the world our unique selves. With a few examples and then a few questions from students, we were off and running and ready to create our own #REALyouSnaps.
I showed the students my #REALyouSnaps and then Thaddeus modeled how to make one by making his own. This was an incredible moment for my students because they actually walked him through how to use Seesaw exceptionally well. They were the experts on how to get started. A few tips and tricks later and the students were ready to grab an iPad and get started. Each and every student who was in class that day completed their #REALyouSnaps and we had a blast looking through them afterwards and comparing them. We also loved sharing them with our families and are excited to share them with YOU, the world! Let us know what similarities and differences you see, not only in our own #REALyouSnaps, but also compared to what yours looks (or would look) like! Finally, we are over the moon to share them with Tara, who hasn’t seen them yet. Tara, thank you so much for helping us learn that we are all special, unique, and awesome! And to Thaddeus, thank you for your help with this lesson, but even more so, thank you for your excitement and for modeling that learning is continuous!
Our next steps are to use #BookSnaps while we research Manitoba animals in order to prepare to write our information book about these animals. Now that the students have done #REALyouSnaps, they have all the tools they need to make their own labels on images of animals! These kids are owning their learning! Stay tuned to see how the rest of this project unfolds over the next two months!