Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Newbie's Guide to Kinderchat

So, you have a shiny new Twitter account, you have found your way to our blog, and you think we are all so cool and fabulous that you TOTALLY want to chat with us on Monday night!?** Problem: you are unclear as to how exactly one goes about joining a twitter chat. Have no fear, we can help!

**UPDATE, Jan 2012: Amy just made a Prezi about how to get started on Twitter as a teacher. It is embedded at the bottom of this post; have a look!**

Step 1:  If you're here, you have probably already done this, but just in case: Go to and get yourself an account.

Step 2: (not critical, but helpful): Follow a few folks. @happycampergirl and @hechternacht are good choices to start with. Checkout the screennames on the kinderchat map for more possibilities. Really, it is hard to go wrong when you follow kindergarten teachers!

Step 3: (not really a step, more like a quick lesson on hashtags): A hashtag is a twitter "label" so people can easily find tweets of interest to them. Somewhere in your tweet, you type the "#" sign, followed by a keyword, with no space in between. (Examples: "Can't wait for #kinderchat in 3 hours!" or "How do you teach children the difference between sleeves and kleenexes? #kinderchat") The #kinderchat hashtag is used throughout the week for all tweets that may be of interest to the kindergarten community.

Step 4: Sometime before Monday, 9 pm EST**, try out a few of the following sites/services to follow the hashtag. I listed them in order from simplest to more complicated. More complicated usually means more features, so play around according to your needs and comfort level. 

  • A particular favourite of kinderchatters, and probably the easiest to use. Login using your twitter acct (if you get a pages asking for your permission, click "YES!") and type #kinderchat in the box at the top. All tweets containing the hashtag will appear on the page, and will update automatically. When you type in your own tweet, tweetchat adds the hashtag for you, which is a nice feature if you tend to forget, like me. 
  • Not as pretty as some of the others, but simple to use, Tweetgrid allows you to follow several topics at once.  It does put ads in your stream, so I recommend choosing a 1x2 setup at first, and ignoring the lefthand column, as that is where ads appear. Click on 1x2, click "Login", click "yes" when asked for permission, then type #kinderchat in the box at the top of your righthand column. Click "search" and all tweets containing the hashtag will appear. Type your own tweets in the box at the top (where it says "Tweet:") Tweetgrid will remember the hashtag for you after you type it in the first time.
  • Hootsuite uses tabs to follow as many hashtags as you want.  It has a LOT of functions, and many kinderchatters love it (I find it a little complicated to set up, but maybe that is just me). In addition to Twitter, it can be linked to a number of other social media outlets: Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, etc. It requires you to create a separate account (whereas Tweetgrid and Tweetchat just link directly to your Twitter account). If you are pretty comfortable with social media, I recommend you play around yourself and decide if you like it.
  • Unlike the others, which are web-based, Tweetdeck is software that you install on your computer. It allows you to follow an unlimited number of topics, sorted into columns. It is also compatible with facebook (And it MAY, in some cases, provide a workaround if your school wireless network blocks your access to the Facebook site. Just sayin...)
Step 4: Check out the topic for the week. We (@happycampergirl and @hechternacht) usually tweet the week's topic starting on Sunday. You can also check our calendar for upcoming topics, and links to related articles. 

Step 5: Just before the chat starts, login to Twitter and the service you are using to follow the hashtag. There is usually a fair amount of banter starting about an hour before the chat begins. Feel free to jump in. Once the chat starts, introduce yourself and join the conversation. Having tech trouble during the chat? Feel free to ask for help, we are a friendly bunch!

For more information about the format of the chat, please visit The Chat page.

We can't wait to have you join us.  See you Monday!

**We acknowledge and apologize for our North-America-centric-ness. Please be patient as we find the very best way to help you all find the chat in your own timezones. EST refers to the time in New York, if that helps you do the calculations...

First Guest Blogger: @Havalah's V-Day Drama

If you follow kinderchat member @Havalah, you have perhaps read between the lines of her tweets recently, and known that she has had some conflicts with two students' parents regarding her Valentine's Day plans. Havalah asked me to share her classroom policy on Valentine's Day with all of you, to get your thoughts and feedback. 

Some important background details:

Havalah works at a public school in Massachusetts, serving a culturally and economically diverse group of children. Her school building is an all-kindergarten school, with 7 classes total. Her district has specific policies regarding social justice and cultural sensitivity in the classroom, although there is some variation in how different teachers interpret those policies (**see addendum below for more on this). The paragraph below was printed in her weekly classroom newsletter a few weeks ago:

Important note about Valentines/Valentine's Day: We will not be having a party or passing out individual Valentine's Day cards. We spend the year talking about being friendly, kind, loving and gentle. I do not expect everyone in the class to be friends but I do expect them to be friendly, helpful and kind to each other and themselves. This is something that I think (and tell the children) that we all strive for every day in our daily lives and it is a constant process, building relationships in all sorts of ways. I want them to be mindful of this process each and *every* day. We do however, take this opportunity to honor and value your child's relationship with YOU! You are most certainly their Valentine-- you are their friend and their strongest supporter. We will be making special crafts to celebrate the love and peace of the day. This year Valentine's Day is arriving in the midst of the 100th Day of Kindergarten, a special whole school science event and with the coming of more snow it will all feel very rushed. Please do take time to feel the love and special bond that you have with your child on these cold, cold winter days.
Thank you as always for all that you do to support your child's education

Havalah has a full slate of crafts and fun activities planned for her class during the week of Valentine's Day, and her students will make a variety of small gifts and cards to bring home to their families. What do you all think? What are your plans for Valentine's Day in your classroom?

Huge thanks to Havalah for sharing her policy, and becoming our first guest contributor. I know I can trust you all to be positive, constructive, and kind in your comments.

Happy Sunday!

Addendum, sent in by Havalah this afternoon: 

**Hi =) It's me, Havalah. Just to clarify a teeny bit- unfortunately there aren't really any policies in the district regarding cultural sensitivity/social justice. I've been in this district 6 years and while there is apparently a policy about December holidays I don't know if it truly exists on paper. I *do* know in conversations that I've had with the Interim Superintendent that he sees our district as being 20 years behind in:
 a)having conversations about culture/tradition/holiday/social justice 
b)policy surrounding it.

My goal in the classroom is to be *inclusive* and *supportive* of all children. This is one way throughout the year that I do so. This is also the first time in the years that I've implemented this policy that anyone has either taken it up with me or gone to admin. with a complaint about it. I know that in other rooms in the building on V'Day kids will be left out- either their parents will not have the time/money, inclination to buy valentines, they'll invariably be left off a list and so on. I do not want this to be the case in my classroom, therefore, this is my way of trying to prevent it from happening. It goes back to making an inclusive space for my class kids each and every day, holiday or not. I *am* trying to be a change agent; in my classroom, in my school and in my district. I teach Kindergarten for many reasons. Not because the kids/content/activities are cute, or the traditions make me feel warm and fuzzy. I teach because I want to help children become thoughtful, kind, responsible and aware of the world around them- the similarities and the differences. I can do that by incorporating some aspects that we as the older generation are used to and by changing others. If it means that the whole of the class will feel included, safe, loved and respected by me doing so, then those are choices that I am willing to make.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Archive to PLAY! Conversation, Jan 24th

Hey Folks

Click here for the archive of tonight's conversation about PLAY. I am so sad I missed so much of it, but apparently, the Headmaster of my school is, in fact, the boss of me... (who knew?)

Happy Reading!
Well, here I was with the whole blog post outlined in my mind and a parent e mail distracted me! And yes, it is after 11 pm and I was going to go to sleep early, but...with my night-owl tendencies and dreaming of #kinderchat here I am!

Tonight's chat was all about Play! To most teachers, children and parents, this seems like a no-brainer in terms of importance and impact on a child's complete education. And it's FREE! No textbook, materials to buy or teacher manuals! Maybe a few of the hotshot newest toys, but we've all seen great things done with cardboard boxes too!

Such wonderful things come out of these weekly Kinderchat conversations. We rolled marbles w @Matt_Gomez, snow painted with @ladyteachkdg and @tori1074 and went snowshoeing with @MariaK and @altheill Of course, this was all filmed by @Mr_Fines on his Flip. :D

It is our greatest hope that we continue to develop the Kinderchat community into a place where we can all feel free to play and to help others experience play as a vehicle to greater learning and joy in life.

Re framing play to help administrators see it as a vital piece of our day may help us extend and better secure its place in future classrooms of our young learners. Google plays, yet our children are being short changed on the very experimentation required for creativity, language development, social skills, discovery and innovation.

Play will continue to be a part of Kinderchat topics and will be discussed regularly. Thank you so much to each one of you who make this the joyful, wonderful place it is to learn, grow, make friends and meet colleagues.

Ok! Goodnight! :D

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Change is afoot!

Welcome to our kinderchat blog! This site is currently very much a work in progress as we move things around, organize information, and develop systems. Being kindergarten teachers, we want everything to have its own colour-coded* cubbyhole. (We are not kidding about the colour-coding -- wait until you see what we have in the works!) Please be patient with us, and come back to visit often to check out our progress. Is there something you would really like to see here? Comment and let us know!

*P.S. Amy is Canadian, so coloUr is the correct spelling. See also: neighboUr, humoUr, rumoUr.