Sunday, November 30, 2008
Saturday, November 29, 2008
In our schools we now have a number of students who follow Islam, some Hindu believers and also of the Buddhist faith. One way that schools acknowledge this diversity is to include units of work that look at the beliefs and celebrations of all of these faiths. Last year, when I was teaching Year 3, we did a really fascinating unit "Kaleidoscope of Cultures" where we did just this. One significant part of this was when we visited Places of Worship around our city. We learnt a lot from seeing these places and hearing from people of various beliefs. But these units of work are not included in the curriculum every year, as students do not to revisit this to such a degree each year. Some teachers then feel awkward about teaching Christian celebrations in the absence of the celebrations of other religions.
If teachers do decide to celebrate Christmas with their classes, they are then faced with the question of how they will accomplish this. Do they then go with the secular approach - Santa, reindeer, gifts etc, or do they reflect on the Christian belief and the story of the nativity? Often they will select the secular - choosing the least offensive approach to people of other beliefs. In the past, I have tried to mesh the two (secular and religious), and throughout the year I explain the other beliefs and celebrations of students in the class at times like Ramadan. I haven't found the ideal answer yet, but I am interested to hear your perspectives.
Friday, November 28, 2008
Fun this week:
First 'Classroom Chat' - On Monday, after school, I interviewed my two team teachers about their experiences as beginning teachers. We discussed the challenges and support they experienced and celebrated their successes. We also reflected on our hopes for next year. We are in the process of editing and hope to have it up sometime next week.
Making Geckos - We looked at geckos on Flickr and painted our own cardboard geckos. (This tied in with 'Are We There Yet?')
Constable Kenny - A local police officer brought 'Constable Kenny' to our school to talk to the K-2 classes about traffic safety.
Cooking 'Uluru Buns' - My class reached the next star on the goal chart and was awarded an Aussie cooking session using recipes from an old Kraft Cheese recipe book. I showed them the choices and they voted for their preference (I graphed the results as we went along). The cooking session went well and the buns were delicious.
Real travel journal - Prue from 'My Life as the Good Twin' sent us some scanned images and text from the travel journal she had as a child when she travelled around Australia. It was a lot of fun to read about her story of Kakadu and Uluru. The kids were fascinated.
Market Day - The Year 6 students organised a whole bunch of stores for the rest of the school to buy from. There was a really great variety of things including a petting zoo, obstacle course, guessing competitions, skill testers, and PLENTY of junk food. The kids in my class were very sugared up by the end of the day.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
We all wanted to make an artistic representation of boab trees. Bec suggested we blow ink with a straw to make the branches of the tree, and we were all keen...at that point. When the day came for my class to do the art activity, I was ready to tear my hair out. I felt I'd been tug-of-warring with my class all day and didn't think it wise to hand out ink and straws to my students! Instead, we used crayon for the background and simply painted the trees with black paint. Kim loved the illustration of the boab trees from the book "Are We There Yet?" particularly the detail in the rocky ground. She wanted to explore this concept with her class. The following pieces of art are the demonstration paintings that we used with our classes. As you can see, what started as one idea, became three different products as we brought our own perspectives to the task.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Saturday, November 22, 2008
We also watched this BBC video of looking for witchetty grubs and digging for honey ants. It tied in really nicely with the section of the book about Alice Springs. (Unfortunately, it has embedding disabled).
It was quite an artistic week with students designing their own "possible creepy creatures in Tunnel Creek" pictures, watercolour paintings of Uluru at different times throughout the day, and crayon sunsets with black silhouttes of boab trees.
We searched for some photos of the places we 'visited' and printed them out. Students photoshopped themselves with a friend into these places using old-fashioned cutting and pasting with real scissors and glue! They then made up a story about their adventure in this place. Some stories were very exciting with lots of problems along the way.
A couple of students' relatives have sent us postcards of the places where they live, so we are getting to find out about different places that way. One student recently travelled in QLD, so he brought along his photos to show the class as well. I love the way that the wider community gets involved with our learning and students explore the topic from their own experiences and interests.
Next week we head further north in NT to visit Kadadu, Darwin and a few other places along the way.
Here is an outline of the sessions:
Our Favourite Ice-creams
- As a class we chose 8 options for favourite flavoured ice-creams.
- I provided each student with a class list.
- Students asked each other what they're favourite flavour was and wrote the flavour (or code for the flavour) next to that person's name. They continued until they had interviewed everyone.
- I provided each student with a blank 2cm square grid.
- Together we wrote the title for the grid, wrote the flavours along the bottom of the grid, and wrote numbers 1-10 up the left side of the grid.
- Students used their data collection on the class list to colour in the columns on the grid.
- We discussed which flavour was most popular, least popular, and other information students could find out from the graph.
Cars in the School Carpark
- We formed a list of colours we expected that cars in the carpark might be (including 'other' as a possible option).
- We wrote this list on a piece of paper.
- We went into the school carpark and walked along the rows adding tally marks for each car we passed.
- Back in the classroom we wrote a numerical value for each set of tally marks.
- I provided each student with a blank 2cm square grid.
- Together we wrote the title for the grid, wrote the colours along the bottom of the grid, and wrote numbers 1-10 up the left side of the grid.
- Students used their data collection to colour in the columns on the grid.
- We discussed which car colour was most common, least common, and other information students could find out from the graph.
- We discussed possible things that students might like to investigate.
- In teams, students decided what they would investigate and considered possible options for people to choose from. All investigations fell into the "favourites" category.
- Students went around and collected data by questioning students.
- Students presented findings on 2cm grid paper with title, numbers and options.
- I discussed the information with the students in their groups.
For further improvement, I would probably ask the groups to present their findings to the class. I forgot to copy off the class lists for the group investigations, which made the data collection a bit messier for my students. I was feeling stressed by the end of it, and the kids were sick of working with their groups. Perhaps tighter structure would have made this more successful, or perhaps it would have worked better if they were in pairs instead of fours.
It would also be fun to carry out an investigation over a number of different groups of children in different schools. Definitely something to keep in mind for next time, once I have connected with a few more schools.
Some investigations to graph at home:
- Items in the dishwasher
- Toys in the toybox
- Times the television is on during the day
- Types of books on the bookshelf
- Sport statistics
Please feel free to leave your own suggestions of fun things to graph in the comments box.
So, what was the result of my break from blogging, emailing, twittering, etc? Hopefully nothing long term.
- My amount of visitors diminished (nothing new to look at).
- I had things to tell parents of the kids in my class, but no time to email it to them (very frustrating).
- I felt flat. I tried to keep up with a few blogs that I follow, but I didn't feel like I was learning enough.
Now that I'm back on board, I'm hoping to get a few blogs done over the weekend, I'm downloading the podcast from the K-12 Online Conference, and I'm keen to catch up on my readings of everyone else's blogs. Oh, it feels so good to be back. I think I'm addicted!
Friday, November 14, 2008
Later in the week we visited the bottom half of Western Australia, watching YouTube videos of The Pinnacles...
Quokkas at Rottnest Island...
and Turquoise Bay...
We also watched a flickr slideshow of Western Australian Wildflowers.
Students then made postcards about these places and painted the pictures with watercolour paints. We put envelopes into our journals to store the postcards (in the style of The Jolly Postman book which we read recently in class).
We also found an online Geography flash game to use for practising locating the states. My only gripe with this is that it doesn't include the A.C.T.
During our lesson in the computer lab we used Google Earth to zoom in on places in South Australia and Western Australia. Students were quite excited to be finding the places that we had been 'visiting'.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
I taught my students this basic script:
1. Tell the person how you felt when they did what they did.
eg. "When you pushed me I felt annoyed and it hurt my arm"
2. Tell the person that it was disrespectful:
eg. "It was disrespectful"
3. Tell the person what you would like to see happen in order to move forward.
eg. "I'd like you to say 'sorry' and not push me again"
At this point, it is up to the 'offender' to respond with apology and/or appropriate action as suggested by the 'offended'. I often find that students will then turn the tables with the 'offender' describing how they have been offended.
For the most part, students in my class can now work through this quite well on their own. I do, however, step in when one party refuses to listen, acknowledge the impact of their behaviour, or responds aggressively to the discussion.
This strategy is based loosely on Restorative Practices - Corridor Questions, but I am trying to get my students to own the resolution rather than having to guide them through questions step by step.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Today we did a pretty standard "count your laps between the goalposts" kind of deal. I ran (jogged) with them (despite not having the right shoes for it AND being in a tight skirt!) I think I counted 16 laps for myself. As I ran, I realised how independent my students have become. Everyone kept moving for the whole time - there was no grumbling, and students were self-directed in terms of when they ran and when they walked for a break. At the end of our 10 minutes, everyone came over to the "stretching bars" (part of the playground equipment where we do our stretches) and did the stretches, changing legs on my count. Sometimes these days, I even let the kids do the counting for themselves. Everyone is now used to the routine and has developed their fitness as a result. I notice that my students are more likely to run for other purposes throughout the day as well.
As my class is the only Junior School class that gets out there first thing in the mornings, I wonder what will happen for them as they head into year 2. At our school they will be moving on as a group, despite the fact that we have three classes in the age cohort. I wonder whether through sheer "power of numbers and influence" they will be able to encourage their new teacher to take them out for a run each morning. I wonder whether they will choose to do it for themselves if not given the opportunity in class time. I wonder whether it will have any impact in the long term!
If nothing else, I know that it has improved their fitness for THIS year, and improved my start to each day!
Saturday, November 8, 2008
The main focus for this unit of work is for students to learn some Australian geography - in particular the locations of the states, capital cities and a few common landmarks. We believe that this is a bit 'above' the standard level for Year 1, but feel that our children are up to the challenge. We're hoping that they will actually learn even more than this through the course of the unit as we follow the interests and experiences of students in the class.
Setting it up:
Pre-test - Last week we began with a pre-test to see what the kids already knew about the location of states and capital cities. We gave them a blank map of Australia and had the state and capital city names on the board for them to copy the spelling.
Travel Diaries - We gave the children new workbooks which will be their 'travel diaries'. On Friday students made covers for these using art styles inspired by the book/theme: My class made orange/red covers using paint and black and white oil pastels (to imitate the cover of the book); 1S did dot painting of various Australian animals; and 1N traced templates and painted geckos. The children glued a map of the "Are We There Yet?" journey into the front cover of their books. They also worked on a title page.
Travel Groups - Given that we've now finished the main assessment for the year, I decided that I am willing to move the desks back into groups rather than rows. My class is generally chatty, so the rows were helping to manage that, but for the rest of the year I'd like to give them opportunities to work cooperatively again. The work is going to be highly motivating so I feel that should be enough to keep them on task.
So...I asked my students to choose 1 friend, and then I put them into 'family' groups of 4. They will be 'travelling' in these families during our unit, so I got them to design their caravan and make a list of all the things that they will need to take with them on the journey. It was great to see them working on this and the discussion was really fascinating to listen to. For the most part, the groups were working together with all members doing their fair share, but I realise that I am going to have to put some structues in place to ensure this happens. I think I'll have to pull out Spencer Kagan's "Cooperative Learning" for a refresh on how to make this work.
This week we will head off on the journey. I popped into the travel agent today to arm myself with some brochures, and I'm hoping to pull some materials from the internet tomorrow. We start out in South Australia - somewhere I've been, but have limited souvenirs from. We haven't got everything planned out to the letter yet. That's one of the exciting things about this unit and the team I am working in - some of the most creative ideas are coming from us as we go along.
I'll keep you informed of how the journey pans out.
We year 1 teachers, spent most of Tuesday together doing the moderating. It was a fun day, and we got to know each other a lot better while we waded through all the work. We were a lot more productive than any of us would have been alone. That's the great thing about this year 1 team - we work so efficiently together.
I'm not really sure what the recipe for success is when working in teams, but this team has it. We all started at the school this year, so knew very little about 'how things are done' at the school. In a lot of ways I think this helped us to bond together. We shared frustrations when we found out we had been doing things 'wrong' or had completely 'forgotten' to do something.
We've worked our way through the year together, improving things as we go and making things that little bit more efficient each time. We've already started planning how we can do things differently next year. It's rewarding to see how we have progressed.
Right now we are excited about the new unit of work we have just started. We keep coming up with extra ideas to make the learning even more fun. But that's the next post...
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
I wasn't sure what to expect as we headed up the corridor to the senior hall. When we got there we were met by a darkened hall with modern music, a smoke machine, and fancy light show. It raised my expectations immediately, and they were not disappointed once I got my class seated and settled.
The set was well designed and the costumes effective. I was particularly impressed with how well the show connected with students emotionally. That is the beauty of theatre - it's not like watching television - it connects with you on a much deeper level. I kept an eye on my students while the show progressed. One of my girls was brought to tears by the scene where Hercules was stolen from his home by the evil Hades. She quickly wiped them away and continued to watch the show. One of my boys had a twinkle in his eyes as Hades fought Hercules. He was swinging punches in his spot trying to help out Hercules as he fought!
One thing I really loved about the show was that it not only told the story of Hercules, but also presented the message that a true hero is not about outer strength, but comes from the inside.
What a great start to the new week!
Here is the promo for Alpha Shows. Other videos are available at YouTube or at the Alpha Shows Website.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
To demonstrate what they had learnt about childhood in the past, I got my students to take turns pretending they were an old person who had come to tell the class about when they were a child. I wanted to see if they could remember a few things about the key topics we had covered. It might have worked better if we hadn't had such a muddled week. The kids presented points for most of the topics, and some did a REALLY great job, but generally they were tired and bored during the presentations.
We also made "Olden Days Photographs". Students drew pictures of things they'd learnt about during the unit of work. We did a coffee wash over these to make them look old, and then the kids went over the outlines with black texta or oil pastel.
Early in the week we planned a "Olden Days School Session". My class brainstormed things we'd learnt about school in the past and considered some ways we could make this work in our classroom. I later looked at a book about school in the past - in hindsight, it would have been great to have looked at this with the kids prior to the day.
Setting Up for Olden Days School
On the day I dressed in a long brown skirt with a white blouse and tied my hair back in a bun. I stuck up sheets of chart paper around the room to represent blackboards (one grandparent told us she used to have blackboards all around the walls). I put a crayon on each desk to represent chalk. I also put a little medicine cup on each desk to represent ink wells. I found some old readers (only from the 1980s) and put them out on the desks - one per child. I separated the desks and put them in rows. I borrowed a big brass bell from one of my teaching partners. I set up a 'fireplace' at the front of the room using a couple of red/orange scarves.
When the normal school bell rang I met my class in the usual place and rang the brass bell. I used a very 'strict' sounding voice to get them standing straight in line. I told them to come in, put their bags on their hooks and stand behind their desks. I then played the British Anthem (as it was also our anthem in those days) on the Smart Board and modelled standing with my hand over my heart and singing. The kids quickly followed my lead and joined in with the words on the Smart Board. (I know, I realise the irony in using the Smart Board!)
I marked the roll and then instructed students to begin reading from their readers. I called on them one at a time to stand and read aloud from their book. We then had a spelling lesson. Students were called on to move to the 'blackboards' around the room and to write the word that I said. After we had practiced many of the spelling words, we had our usual spelling test. This was soon followed with dictation. As they wrote, students dipped their pencils in their 'ink wells'.
We then went outside to do breathing and stretching exercises. This was quite quick and straight-forward and then we played "Ring a Ring a Rosey". On return to class we had a singing lesson (singing Daisy, Daisy), did some Geography with a big map of Australia, and recited some Maths times tables as a group and some students individually.
By this point it was only 10:30 and I was completely exhausted! We still had half and hour until lunch, but I decided it was time to call it quits.
Discussing the Differences
While the class munched on their fruit break we looked at the book I'd found about school in the past and discussed some of the things we'd experienced during the simulation. We worked on a class Venn Diagram to compare school today with school in the past.
I was amazed by how much written work we were able to get through in the session, but I was also aware of where this system was falling short. During the simulation my class weren't discussing anything or sharing any ideas. They were simply parroting what they knew I wanted to hear. When I called on some students to read aloud they felt really self conscious and couldn't benefit from my support in a 'safe' environment.
And so, we've come to the end of the unit. I've taken down some of the displays and am looking forward to starting the next unit of work.