Saturday, December 3, 2011

Kiel School's IdeaPaint Contest Submission: Interview with Annika Levitt

Annika Levitt's first grade class at Kiel in Kinnelon
Annika Levitt's 1st Grade Class, Kiel School, Kinnelon
Have you checked out Kiel School's IdeaPaint Contest Submission? Pretty cool, don't you think? Here's an interview with Annika Levitt, Kiel School First Grade Teacher who, with her students, put together a contest entry.

First, some background information.  Annika Levitt began her teaching career in 2005 in Westfield, NJ where she taught 2nd and 3rd Grade at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School. She graduated from The College of New Jersey with a B.S. in both Elementary Education and Psychology.  She joined the Kinnelon District in 2009 and has taught at both Stonybrook and Kiel Schools in a range of classrooms.

Her favorite quote : "The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires." ~William Arthur Ward

C.B.: Annika, could you give me more background about the contest?

I came across the contest searching through the web on a Saturday afternoon the third week of school. Since I had just set up the classroom, I was in the process of searching for ways to maximize our space. We have the smallest classroom, but I wanted to be creative. Originally, I thought about painting on that chalkboard paint, but was not sure how that would work. Then I saw the video for IdeaPaint, asking for a school or small business in need of more space and… voila, I was sold.

C.B.: What caught your attention about the contest?

Two words: “maximize space!” I was always taught, as a teacher, that the classroom environment and set-up is crucial for learning. Over the summer I must have changed the room 10 times until it felt “just right.” I played the goldilocks game (too big, too small, etc.), except there was never a “too big!” The contest seemed doable and right up our alley.

C.B.: How did you get the students involved? 

I decided to bring it up during a morning meeting with the students, the Monday after discovering IdeaPaint. I showed the kids the contest video on our Smart Board.

Every Monday we explore a new poem. Sky-Lynn, one of my students, raised her hand and said, “Why don’t we just write a poem about IdeaPaint?” As I often try to do, I listened to the voices of my students.

C.B.: How many students participated?

The contest required a “handful” of students to participate in showing off the classroom. To make it fair, I picked names through a computer generated random selector we use in class. 5 students were featured in the video, but we ALL had a speaking part.

C.B.: How difficult was it to put together the IdeaPaint contest submission?

After we made it into Round 2, IdeaPaint asked for a second submission of the teacher/representative and more footage of the room. Here is the second IdeaPaint submission link. I shot that video while the kids were at recess, highlighting our classroom “nooks & crannies.”

C.B.: Thank you, Annika! What an awesome process and submission. I hope your class wins!

You might also enjoy this recent video from Kinnelon Patch's Ariana Cohn-Sheehan: Kiel Class Needs Help Winning Whiteboard Room Makeover.

Don't forget to vote a few more times for Kiel School's first grade entry for the IdeaPaint contest!

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