Increasing bar chart.

Katie Fortin June 12, 2018

Using Seesaw to Expand the Walls of the Classroom

Katie Fortin

Kindergarten Teacher

I always struggled with trying to find ways to have my kindergarten students transfer their french language skills from the classroom to their homes. Even though my students live in Montreal, a city where French is the dominant language, they live in small communities where they are mostly only exposed to English. I noticed that they were making such progress in the classroom, but I wanted them to speak the language everywhere!

So, in my first year in working with a BetterLesson coach, Romain, we set this goal: Find a way to bring the French language into my students’ homes and the world around them.

1. Find the Right Tool

I needed to explore different tools to achieve my goal. I selected Seesaw because it is an online platform for building students’ digital portfolios, but can become so much more than that. Quite simply, Seesaw could be anything I wanted it to be, and it felt like the right tool to support me in reaching my goal.

Here are some of the features that Seesaw offers:

  • A variety of ways to document and share learning.
  • The ability for students to share and receive feedback on their work from classmates, parents, teachers, or anyone who has access.
  • The ability to engage in a virtual discussion via the class blog.
  • The ability for each student to make a portfolio of their work throughout the year.

2. Support Students To Use The Tool

My next step was to support my students to start using Seesaw to demonstrate their language development. I taught my students how to take a photo of themselves and post the picture to Seesaw. I posted an instructional video in Seesaw in French so my students had the opportunity to practice their listening skills.

3. Provide Students With Opportunities To Use The Tool

Once my students were comfortable using Seesaw, I had them post other images throughout the year and describe those images using the French vocabulary we had studied, building an individual portfolio of their progress in communicating in French.

Once students posted their videos to Seesaw, we would listen to each other’s recordings, providing praise and feedback to each other. At the same time, my BetterLesson coach, a native French speaker, would comment on each students’ video in Seesaw. The students loved reading his comments, and more importantly, it helped my students practice their reading skills in French!

4. Use Seesaw To Differentiate Instruction

Seesaw was an effective tool for helping me differentiate instruction. It provided a way for my students to achieve success at their own pace and demonstrate mastery of their success in varied ways. Each student began at a different place using the tool — some were able to record themselves speaking in French with little help from me, and others needed scaffolds in place to help them speak the language. They also had choice in how they wanted to demonstrate their work — by using sentence frames, by working with a partner, or by speaking independently. For example, one of my students was too shy to speak in front of the class, but by using Seesaw, she was able to demonstrate that she was improving in her speaking skills.

5. Expand The Classroom Walls With Seesaw

Seesaw expanded the walls of my classroom. For the first time, my students were able to communicate with other French speakers such as my BetterLesson coach, Romain. It was the first time that my students realized that French was not just a “school language,” but rather language that people speak all over the world.

6. Share Your Learnings With Your Colleagues

I had such success with Seesaw that in my second year of working with a BetterLesson coach, Valerie, I wanted to think of ways to share my knowledge of this tech tool and other tools with my colleagues inline with their classroom goals, much as I had done the year before.

Valerie and I set goals for me to meet with my colleagues regularly and lead them in PLCs around integrating certain tech tools such as Seesaw. I was able to use my knowledge and expertise with Seesaw to support my colleagues. I supported two of my colleagues to use Seesaw with their grade 1 and grade 3 students as a way to show their students’ progress in their communication skills, specifically on pronunciation of French sounds, vocabulary, fluency, and clarity of message. They expanded the walls of their classroom in different ways than I did the previous year by asking their students’ parents to comment on their child’s seesaw posts in writing or verbally. The students loved listening to and reading their parents’ feedback on their hard work.

Without the support of my two BetterLesson coaches, I might not have found a way to reach my goal of expanding the walls of my classroom. And, I would not have had such knowledge of tools to support my colleagues in our technology initiatives.