Sunday 16 December 2012

Self Regulated Learning-What is it?

It seems that one of the buzzes around the province these days  is around "self regulated learning".  I have been fascinated listening to the conversations and though I have heard speakers talk about it, and have read some of Shanker's work, I never seem to quite get the whole picture.

This week, I had the opportunity to talk with a professor, (Dr. Nancy Perry from UBC)  whose area of expertise is Self Regulated Learning.  She has a very straight forward approach that I could absolutely understand!  She prepared a handout that is adapted from an article she wrote in The Reading Teacher.  This is her summary:  

Self-regulated learners are:

1.  Metacognitive - they are aware of their strengths and weaknesses as a learner, they are aware of the task demands, and they are aware of strategies that they can use to solve problems and cope with difficult tasks.
2.  Motivated for learning - they engage in learning, they focus on deep understanding and personal progress, they are willing to try new challenges, they persist and they view errors as an opportunity to learn.
3.  Strategic - they have a repertoire of strategies, and they know when to use them.

Wow!  This is great.  Much of this is what we are working on in Through a Different Lens ... without knowing it!  We are looking at helping students become more confident learners... how?  through understanding their strengths, through becoming motivated and engaged, and through thinking about how to apply what they know to different academic and social tasks.  There are many blogs on our Different Lens blog that illustrate teachers using strategies to help kids become more aware.

Dr. Nancy Perry goes on to say that self-regulated learning occurs in classrooms where:

1.  Students have a lot of autonomy - choices, control over challenges, opportunities to collaborate and responsibility for evaluating their own work.  
2.  Teachers provide instrumental support - through establishing routines and consistent participation structures, where they teach and model learning and problem solving, where they guide students thinking and performing, and where they guide student choices, provide information, feedback and encouragement, and where they talk about learning and self regulated learning
3.  Teachers engage in non-threatening evaluation practices - where evaluation is on-going and embedded, where it is a process not just a product, where it focuses on personal progress, and where it encourages learners to participate in the evaluation.  

Again... I see so much of what we are trying to do embedded in her words.  Giving students choice and opportunities to work with others, providing support and modelling learning, and using alternate ways to evaluate progress. 

by Judith King

Wednesday 12 December 2012

Sticky Notes + Peer Assessment = Engagement

As a teacher of writing, I am always looking for ways to encourage students to a) get excited about writing b) develop the skills to self and peer assess.  Luckily, I am quite able to steal other people's ideas and adapt them to make them my own. Recently, I used an approach that I learned from Sheila Graham, a literacy helping teacher (recently retired) from our neighours, SD #23.  In this lesson, students are given a bare-bones paragraph, in this case based on a teacher ripping his pants in class. In small groups, students re-write the paragraph focusing on building on the "idea", adding descriptive details, developing the plot, assigning names and adding to the setting, all to create a more engaging, interesting paragraph.  As much as I might think this idea is madly exciting, this is not always so much the case for the kids. Here is where the sticky notes come in! Students are each given 5 small sticky notes (one for each group). Once the paragraphs are complete,  groups are rotated to another desk grouping, leaving their newly-written paragraph behind. Each group reads the work of each of the other groups as they rotate around the room. On the sticky notes, students are to write some form of positive "I liked the name you chose for the teacher", "Your story was funny!", "You described his pants well."  

What I noticed as students went from station to station is a) they were really engaged in the reading of each other's work  and b) they could not wait to get back to their station to read what their peers had written. 

There was some risk involved in this lesson. What if the students didn't write anything? What if they couldn't find anything positive to say? What if the group wrote something inappropriate?  None of this turned out to be problem, but these questions did cause me pause at the start. 

All in all, a worthwhile activity.  I think next time, now that students know from the start what it looks like, the engagement might be even better! 

This post is courtesy of Andrea Devito. 

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Whiteboards in Spanish (Spanish 10)

Today we worked on using questions in conversation by working in pairs on the whiteboards. Each pair made a simple sentence in Spanish, like "I am going to go to the park. " "Voy a ir al parque." Then students rotated around the class making a new question on each board. Where, at what time, with whom etc. The students were also practicing IR+A+Infinitive to make the future. The students had a hard time switching between you in the question and I in the answer.

After the activity I asked the students if they liked the activity. All of them like the movement in the activity and being able to "think" with a partner. Some of the students said they learned a lot. I noticed that the students were engaged and I could  see where they were having trouble. I had also asked the strong students to help the weaker students and not do all the work themselves. They were good teachers!

Post courtesy of Anita Mosher

Monday 3 December 2012

I want more cell phones (Law 12)

Yep...that's right...I said it...and am writing it.  I love cell phones.  I really love smart phones.

Was trying to teach some basic legal terms - tired of the usual.  Broke the students into groups of 3 making sure each had a phone that could take a photo.  Not hard, as almost everyone had one.

Then, each group randomly got a term from the text - and then had to figure out how to teach it.

Some emailed me photos, one put two videos on u-tube - a few found photos online and sent them to me.

I then put up the photos/videos/links supplied to me onto the projector and each group gave a definition and an example for their term (templated note sheet had gone out before this).

The results weren't perfect - but it was a first - and it worked far faster than I had imagined.  Less than 20 minutes was needed for all of the groups to do their work and when I saw the images from the group working at constructive and direct discrimination I came to the conclusion that computer labs will soon be things of the past.

Don't give me computer labs, give me cell phones.

Post courtesy of Dave Searcy.

Monday 26 November 2012

Math-o-lantern and Learning (Math 8)

So often in Math education we compartmenalize the student's learning.  We do our Integer unit separate from our Fraction unit, which is separate from our Algebra unit, and so on for the year.  The more reading I am doing on Math education, the more I am starting to question this organizational strategy for Math.  When my husband and I put in new underground irrigation we used all our Math skills inter connected, and I wonder if we set up students for "real-life" math problems when we just focus on one or two skills at a time, instead of using all our number and reasoning skills at once.

So with this in mind, I thought that I would try something new.  With Halloween coming up, I thought that I would use pumpkins as a Math unit.  And really I was not too sure what I was going to do with them, but I wanted to do a thematic approach to math and measurement skills.  The more I researched, the more I saw other teacher units using pumpkings and bring in measurement, grouping, graphing, correlation and so forth.  This seemed like a fun hands-on activity that might bring some zest into our Math classroom.

On our first day of our pumpkin unit, I asked the students what we could use a pumpkin for in Math.  I wanted to see what they come up with as far as skills we could look at and study.  Most of them went right away to the idea of measurement,  so that is where we started. I asked them to collect 8 pieces of data on their pumpkin and to make sure that they were doing a proper mathematical diagram to symbolize what the number represented.  As this went, I realized that the idea of drawing a 3D shape and then putting on the proper dimensions with arrows and lines to show what you are truely measuring was a great place to start.  So then we spent the next day talking about how to set up diagrams, show 3D measurement on a 2D sheet of paper, etc.  Then we went on to look at the internal measurement potential.  Day 3 was counting seeds, grouping seeds, and looking at fraction diagrams.  Day 4 was using fraction equations to season and roast the pumpkin seeds (yumm!), and then day 5 was carving a Math Symbol pumpkin face!  

The feedback that I got back from the students was very positive.  

A couple of learning moments for next time.  In order to have the carving done on Halloween I ended up rushing through the graphing portion.  I think that I would maybe try to double block Math during this unit, so that I could spend more time on the graphing day.  That is still an area that students really struggle with.  We also ran into the issue of rotting pumpkins (with a weekend in there the pumpkins were gutted and inside for one week...too long)  But on the plus side, we had some beautiful mold to look at under the microscopes.  So and math in one lesson!  What fun!

This post is courtesy of Shona Becker

For another example of a thematic unit in math see the following 2 posts:

Christmas Toy Project Part I (Math 9)

Thursday 15 November 2012

Happy Math (Grade 4/5)

Today I tried something new in Math!

I have been doing warm up practise with my students using small chalkboards in class and they have been enjoying that, but today I tried something new.

I took the class outside and gave them sidewalk chalk (given to our school through the Different Lens project)
I held up a small white board with a problem on it (and I verbally repeated the problem) while students copied it down on the ground using chalk and then solved the problems.
We did our math questions all over the school ground using different size and colours of chalk and they LOVED it! (See attached pictures :)

Most students stayed on task but I could easily see those who were not. Also, I could quickly tell who was understanding the concept (subtracting 3 and 4 digits) and who was not.

It was a great day for happy math in my class!

Post courtesy of Kendall Kulak

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Edible Rational Numbers (Math 9)

I had thought about doing a foods lab before, but it never came to fruition until this year.  We decided to make Rice Krispies squares because it is a simple recipe and the cost of the ingredients were not too expensive.  The icing was made before class (two different colours to represent positive and negative rational numbers) the butter was pre-cut into tablespoon blocks. 

The concepts that were explored in the lab:
Positive and negative rational numbers
Adding and subtracting rational numbers
Doubling a rational number
Dividing a rational number in half
Placing rational numbers on one large number line

Students were placed in groups of 4 in order to participate in the lab.  Each group was responsible for representing one positive and one negative rational number.  Teams were given one square 9”x9” pan and one similar sized circular pan to use to represent each of the groups’ assigned rational numbers. 

Students place numbers on the giant number line 
Basically there are 5 components to this lab:  1. Paper Assignment   2.  Making the Rice Krispies and dividing the product evenly into one square pan and one circular pan 3. Dividing each pan into the appropriate parts to represent the two different rational numbers.  4.  Each group then placed the two rational number representations on the large class number line in the appropriate location.  5.  The exercise concluded with a class discussion and review of the final number line.

I asked the students to reflect on, and provide feedback about the lab during the following math class.  Here are some of their thoughts/feedback they provided:

“I liked it because it showed how it (rational numbers) relates to real life”.

“I liked the foods lab because it was a learning hands-on activity.  It was cool to see the big number line and where all the Rice Krispies squares fit on it.  It was a nice break from the textbook, and it was helpful to visualize”.

“It was yummy and fun! It was a good way to work with other students”.

“It is fun to learn in different ways instead of from a textbook.  It’s a really nice break and I wish we did them more often.  I actually did learn from placing them on the number line.  It was a really good idea!”

“I think having a foods lab is a wonderful idea for us to get a delicious hands-on math lesson!  Two thumbs up!”

My conclusions: The food lab was a worthwhile departure from a regular lesson because it engaged students in learning about rational numbers in a dynamic and meaningful way. The exercise fostered communication within groups and between groups resulting in as deeper understanding of the concepts. Since most (if not all) of the students enjoyed the lesson I would definitely try the food lab again.

Post courtesy of M. Berrisford

Sunday 4 November 2012

Richer, Stronger, More Active Classrooms-Oct. 19th Pro-D

On Oct. 19 we had 55 teachers meeting for the day at Maggie and Skaha Lake.    The focus of the day was on active, hands-on and meaningful tasks to engage all our learners.  The sessions included tableaus, project based learning, how to use novelty and variety in the classroom to change things up, mask making, white boards and technology - (including digital cameras, comic life and movie making).  Teachers who were not part of the project began to understand what we are trying to do in the project, and those in the project learned new skills and ways to engage students.  The response overall was great, and the day flew by. 

What was interesting to me as I moved from session to session was the active engagement of the teachers and the laughter in a number of sessions.  Everyone seemed to be having fun or listening intently.  Teachers were working together to create tableaus, working independently to make a comic and sharing and laughing with others, or asking questions and being curious.  By the end of the day we saw samples of movies about their staffs, magazine covers made with digital cameras, masks and comics.  We heard conversations about how to use these activities/strategies from kindergarten to grade 12 - in electives and content areas, and we had comments like "come here and look at this", "this is so much fun!" ... it sounded a lot like kids!

It was great to see people taking risks and trying things they might not normally expose themselves to.  Why?  Because they know that some of their students would love to be involved and learning in these ways.  For many of our students these kinds of activities help them to connect with school - they become engaged and interested; they want to participate; they enjoy themselves.  Eric Jensen in his book "Teaching with Poverty in Mind" shares research that shows that when kids are engaged in learning - the negative behaviour in the class decreases.  He talks about engaging instruction as "any strategy that gets students to participate emotionally, cognitively, or behaviourally.  Engagement happens when you as an instructional leader stimulate, motivate, and activate.  Engagement can result from fun games, intellectual challenges, social interactions and your own enthusiasm" (p 134).  One of the premises of his book is that kids in poverty come to school with many disadvantages behaviourally and academically, but we can change and influence this in many ways.  One, of a number of strategies,  is through providing engaging classroom practice which "includes them and their interests in the process" (p. 134).

by Judith King

Sunday 30 September 2012

Be A Master Learner

The more I think about it, the more I realize that "Why School" by Will Richardson provides a perfect frame for our thinking as we begin the second year with the "Through A Different Lens" project.  The continuous references to the way in which our world is changing only reinforces the need for teachers find new ways to meet the needs of learners. As Tony Wager states, "There's no competitive advantage today in knowing more than the person next to you. The world doesn't care what you know. What the world cares about is what you can do with what you know".  In response to this, Richardson states: "We need adults in classrooms who can serve as outstanding role models for learning".  If our goal is to prepare our students for a world of abundance where they must constantly “learn, unlearn, and relearn” then we as teachers must also model this concept.   I’m going to share 3 quick examples of teachers in my school who are demonstrating this mindset. These three (among many others) are willing to take risks,  try new things, and embrace different approaches to classroom instruction  to make the learning for their students as meaningful as possible. 
Students using Comic Life to explain safety rules in Science 9
Tim teaches science 9 and recently decided to try a software program called Comic Life. Tim identified a need for a more active and hands-on way to start his class so he designed lessons that had students collaborating, visualizing, taking photographs and then using the software instead of just answering questions out of a textbook. The lessons were very successful and Tim noticed that many students who had not previously been engaged were now taking an active role.  The success of these new ideas led Tim to explore further options in his classroom such as the use of flip cameras in class and adding active, hands-on components to his unit tests. He reflected on his results and shared his ideas with others during collaborative time and through his personal blog. 
Building 3D globes in Socials 9
Within the first week of her Social Studies 9 class, Shauna was tired of complaints about how sick students were of colouring and labelling maps, so she searched for something different. Shauna has a background in art, so she applied her knowledge of paper mache and designed a project for her students to build globes  instead of the traditional maps. Students collaborated to identify correct regions on the globes and then demonstrated their understanding of geography in a 3D format.  The project gave the students a unique understanding of scale and proportion, and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. 
Across the hall, Melissa is always looking for ways to make her math 9 class more active and engaging.  When her school ordered a class set of whiteboards she was one of the first to ask to use them.  Melissa designed a lesson where students would work in teams and move around the room constantly interacting and consulting with one another in order to problem solve. She wasn’t sure how the whiteboards would work out,  but she was willing to take a risk. The lesson was successful, and she reflected afterwards that she just needed to adjust the timing of a few of the activities before she tried it again.
Using whiteboards for the first time in Math 9
A finished globe

What these teachers have in common is that they are all learners. They aren’t afraid to learn a new concept, apply it to a new situation, reflect on what happens and then tweak the results. They each saw a situation where what they had been doing previously was not as successful as it could be and they changed course. They looked at their classroom through the lens of their students and made adjustments to allow for a different way for students to explore their understanding.  To be clear, what is important is not the technology, or the whiteboards, or the hands-on activities. What matters it is that the teachers involved determined there was a need to try a different approach (whatever that approach might have been) in their classrooms and they replaced a previous practice with something different. They were willing to learn and unlearn and relearn, and model the attitudes that we need our students to embrace. 

A final key component is captured by the following tweets (from the #whyschool chat last Tues).

The teachers described earlier are also all willing to share their journey with others. Through the use of cameras, video, blogs and face to face conversations they share their ideas and get feedback from students and colleagues. By documenting what happens in their classrooms (which includes successes, failures, and student feedback) they are not  only evaluating their efforts for their own students, they are also contributing to the experiences of their colleagues. Those teachers can in turn apply and adapt the ideas to their own contexts, and return the favour by sharing their own experiences.  The result is a professional culture where teachers are constantly exploring their own practice and engaging in professional conversations with concrete examples of what it might look like in classrooms. Students don't just reap the rewards of individual teachers improving their own practice. In our building students will benefit from a staff working collectively to enhance the learning environment of an entire school.

Wednesday 27 June 2012

Friday 15 June 2012

Original Songs to Review Content-Socials 8

In this lesson, students were asked to review facts about the medieval unit in the style of a Troubadour (medieval singing entertainer).  Students were given the option to write their own music and lyrics, or use a program called Garage Band to write their own lyrics to a popular song's beat. If students were uncomfortable with any type of musical performance they were given the option of displaying their understanding of the information in another format but all groups chose to incorporate music in some way. Students played guitar, sang, wrote raps and one even played the french horn!

The video posted is of option A.  Very high engagement with the students.  

Here are the words to their song that they made up!!!!
Long ago in the land of France,
There was a man who took a chance,
On a lovely lady that caught his eye,
But she said no, started to cry, didn't know why she said no, but she did.

One day in the land of France,
I saw a serf in his underpants,
He was pulling carrots and tomatoes you see,
To bring to the chef to make a meal for me,
Cuz I'm the king, I'm the king, ohh yeah, I'm the king, yeah I'm the king

Do you wanna be a knight,
Yah I wanna be a knight,
Then you gotta do it right,
If you wanna be knight,
Then you gotta serve me well,
 I won't make your life a hell,
Be loyal always,
In my fields where cows can graze,
Cuz I'm the king, I'm the king, oh yeah I'm the king
Yes I'm the king

One day there was a boy named Greg,
He was very sick cuz he had the plague,
He had a fever and buboes too,
He smelled so bad,
Yes he smelled like poo,
Cuz he had the plague, he had the plague, oh yeah, the deadly plague, the deadly plague

So the doctors and the nurses started healing the sick and wounded,
To protect them from this disease,
 Carried by the rats and the fleas,
To give them hot fluids and they gave them lucky charms,
 Put them in the oven, with mercury where it was warm,
Cuz he had the plague, the deadly plague, oh yeah, the deadly plague, the deadly plague

Do you wanna be a knight,
Yeah I wanna be a knight,
Then you gotta do it right,
If you wanna be a knight,
Then you gotta serve me well,
I won't make your life a hell,
Be loyal always,
In my fields where cows can graze,
Cuz I'm the king.

*This is all true!!!!*

Post courtesy of Lindsay Anderson

Thursday 14 June 2012

Creative Assessments

I am the type of person that does not like a count down.  I find that if I am aware there are 'only' 8 classes left I tend to slide in my focus and energy.  As a result I challenged myself and the students with something new.  With my focus this year on assessment I figured that would be a good starting point.  I took the ideas of student choice, movement, social media, creativity and put them in a blender.  What resulted were tests that challenge and excite the students rather than bore them and strike fear in them. 

Scissors and glue section of the SS 10 test

For my 10s I decided to give them some scissors and glue while writing their test.  Normally I have a multiple choice question which asks them to link a major company to a region.  Here I gave them five and asked them to glue them to the correct region.  In a post test survey of my students they all said the liked this section as it gave them an opportunity to 'move'.  JS: "It gave me a chance take a break during the exam.  I didn't feel like I was writing an exam, rather doing a worksheet."  CS "Having to connect them without the answer in front of me made me think."  These were among my favourite comments.

T-Shirt Question
Another question I used on my Geography 12 and Socials 10 class.  Here I employed choice and creativity.  The idea was to use text and images to create an advertisement which explains two of four resource ethics (12s) or two of three types of unemployment (10s).  Students appreciated the options and the mental challenge. 

Twitter /Facebook Conversation/Play Dialogue 

Another one I used was referencing a cartoon (deforestation) and having two of the earth's four spheres engaged in a dialogue discussing the impacts deforestation has on them.  

Here are few things I learned from this process.  I need to expose students to this type of testing earlier (I did this last minute and didn't quite prepare my students and as a result I spent a fair bit of time clarifying what was asked of them).  While I use non-traditional teaching methods I need to give students an opportunity to practice making slogans or developing a dialogue.  

Another observations was that I loved marking these exams.  I will say it again, I loved marking.  I normally loathe it.  This time I was excited to see how students had responded, what ideas they had created, connections they made etc.  Both tests were marked in a night and I am notorious for taking a number of days to return tests.

From the students perspective they liked the options, appreciated the challenge, believed it was like writing a work sheet and felt relaxed.  All aspects of test taking I value.

Moving forward - I am going to look into using more diverse and non-traditional means to test students.  While it is important to clearly link them to learning outcomes; the students responses to them should be personalized and diverse. 

Friday 25 May 2012

The Results Are In! (Part 1)

We have been tracking the results of this project in so many different ways...from surveys to student and teacher reflections, and with both anecdotal and numerical data. Nothing is more powerful however, than the testimony of the actual students. Interviews are being conducted though June, but here is a sample of some elementary and middle school kids.

Thursday 17 May 2012

Tetrahedral Kites-Math 8

We just finished our unit on volume and surface area of prisms.   I wanted to do something fun as an end project, and I decided on two activities:

1.  The first one was to build a more complicated 3-D figure out of a given net.

2.  The second one was to build tetrahedral kites.  It has been a real success, the students are really into in and they just want to keep building them.  It has been a great way to help the students recognise how to build a 3-D object and learn about volume and surface area of them.  We are still working on them and planning on flying the bigger ones (photo #2) and then making one really big one and attempting to fly that.  We will be doing some calculations on surface area and volume of the different sized kites as well.  I will attach another video of flying the bigger kites next week.

This post is courtesy of Pam Rutten.

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Contacting Home

Last week was a tough week, it felt like my students and I were a few days away from summer break.  Not only were they arriving late, but they were unprepared (no books, pens, pencils, paper...) for the class and during class time they were unfocused.  I was frustrated and angry they had quit 5/6 weeks before the end of the year - it took two days of wallowing in my misery to break out of it.  By the third day I was tired of focusing on the negative; I did not want to dwell on things or students who were not working. 

So I took some time out of my lunch to email six parents a positive email about their child.  Instead of marks I focused on the child's work ethic, behaviour in class and interaction with peers and staff.  All were relatively brief but to the point:   "Contributes to class culture" / "Independent worker" / "Self motivated" / "Wonderful sense of curiosity" /  "Helps others after completing work" / "... proud of your son / daughter". 

I received three emails in return.  They thanked me for taking the time to send something positive home,  reaffirmed the comments I sent them (how proud they are of their child), and in return offered some insight as to how myself and my course were being received at home.  My favorite response came from a dad who called me at 3:01 on Friday.  First of all he wanted to make sure that the email was written by me and second to thank me.  It just happened that he and his son had planned a dinner out that night and he was excited to have a reason to celebrate on a Friday.  It had been a long time since he had a positive contact home about his son.  He was a bit taken aback and asked a number of questions to make sure I wasn't blowing smoke.

In writing these emails a couple of things caught my attention:

a.  We are in the business of human relationships.  Regardless of curriculum, course etc... the foundation of teaching is the connection with the student and hopefully the parent.
b.  As parents, regardless of age, we worry that our son / daughter is doing the right thing, making the right choices, behaving in the way we raised them.  Rarely are we given positive feedback that eases our worries.  It felt like a sense of relief from the parents who replied.
c.   I was surprised how each parent had some feedback for me.  We tend to forget what happens in our classroom is often relayed back to parents, friends... 
d.  To be completely selfish - this was a rewarding experience (on a number of levels).  When I was young and new to the profession I would call roughly 75% of all the students I taught to let their parents know of something positive.  I am going to make a goal of emailing / calling as many parents as I can - 5/6 a week.  
e.  When the students returned to class the next day all six of them thanked me for sending the email.

I would encourage you to try and do something similar.

Post courtesy of Russ Reid

Thursday 10 May 2012

Writing Case Studies

All the  elementary and middle school groups met yesterday morning to work through their case studies.  It is a pretty intense process but the feedback was very positive.  The teachers felt it helped them to pull all their information together for the year so far, and that it was a great way to look at the growth of the students they have been focusing on.  It helped them to clarify what is really helping their student grow in academic confidence, in their relationships with others or the teacher, in learning to work with others, in figuring out that they have strengths to contribute to their classroom community.

Some of the stories revolved around the importance of a strong and supportive relationship with the teacher, or the power of finding out you have strengths that you can offer your peers that they may not have seen before. Sometimes the key was the idea of success breeding success - that once a student starts to believe they actually CAN do some of the work in a variety of ways, they are more willing to attempt more traditional work. With other students movement and hands on learning were extremely motivating.

Again, I am so lucky to work with a group of teachers so willing to look at their own practice, take risks, explore ideas, try new things, and tell the stories!

Post Courtesy of Judith King.

Wednesday 9 May 2012

My Favourite Lesson

I don't know if I have ever had a more consistently successful lesson than playing Cranium at the end of a unit. If you have never tried it (personally) then I highly recommend getting the real game itself and playing it with friends and family . In Lit 12, King Lear "Kranium" is the wrap up review activity for our unit on King Lear. Students play on teams of 3 against other teams of 3. If students are in groups of 2 then both kids need to be fairly outgoing or confident in the material. Kids and adults alike love this game as it combines elements of drawing, sculpting, acting, and answering knowledge questions. Usually it is a good idea for the teacher to make the groups to ensure a balance of students who are confident with the "role playing" options. Students who are not comfortable with role play can choose the drawing, sculpting, or knowledge questions instead. For Literature class the questions are based on key themes, characters, symbols, and important plot events. In our school, Cranium has also been used in socials classes as review for unit tests, but the potential is endless for subject areas and grade levels.

Friday 4 May 2012

Coat of Arms T-Shirts-Socials 8

As part of the medieval unit, this lesson was on heraldry.  Students learned that knights originally started having coats of arms on their armour so that they could tell who was an enemy and who was a friend on the battlefield.  Different animals, colours, and other symbols were used to reflect family values.  Students created their own coat of arms design that reflected their own personal and family values.  Many students ended up having conversations with parents and grandparents about the project, and a number of students wrote their personal motto in a grandparent's language of origin. They used the medieval colours, animals, and symbols as a guide, but were also able to use modern day symbols.  Students then had their designs pressed onto t-shirts.  They got to be like knights, wearing their own values, setting themselves apart in the classroom. The students did an incredible jobs on their shirts, and there were so many artistic students.  The students were completely focused on their projects and you can tell how much care and detail they put into them. Not a single student missed the deadline for getting their t-shirts pressed. Once they were wearing their shirts they explained what each symbol on their shirt represented. 

Post Courtesy of Lindsay Anderson

Thursday 3 May 2012

Crime Scene Investigation-Science 7

The above is a video of a lesson on Viscocity.

Mrs. Vallis, Mrs. Rutten and I developed a unit on Liquids for science class. To teach Viscocity and about jobs involving liquids, we set up a murder scene, complete with Crime scene tape and blood splatters. The students had to use some knowledge of blood splatters/patterns, critical thinking, and teamwork skills to solve the murder, which they did, with little help. They had to then write up a "police report" of guided questions to reveal their understanding.

It was awesome to see kids working in a hands on way with the material and smiling a heck of a lot in the process. 

Post courtesy of Jeff Fitton.

Wednesday 2 May 2012

Meiosis Movies! (Science 9)

Students filming their video
Building a cell with yarn, play dough, toothpicks & construction paper
Students creating the cells before the film shoot

In Science 9, students worked to document the stages of Meiosis by creating cells (using play dough, yarn and construction paper). They then wrote a script to document the process and recorded it on video. Observations from the lesson:

1. The groups of 4 worked well. Students who were shy did not have to be on camera. (Teacher noted after ward that next time he would ask that each group member do the voice over for ONE of the stages).

2. Students were on-task and engaged for the entire hour and 15 min.

3. The teacher designed the groups but also took student preferences into account.

4. Students were not given access to the cameras until their scripts were checked and their cells were designed.

5. The process itself of making the videos was so successful the final videos didn't actually end up being that important.

6. On the unit exam a week or so later, the class did very well on the stages of meiosis. (Note: on a future post the teacher will describe how he designed an active component to the the test and had students actually build the cells and verbally explain the process during the test itself).

Tuesday 1 May 2012

Learning from the Student Teacher

Students begin on the full mat

The habitat is shrinking and students have to fit into the new space
Less and less habitat
Finally the students can no longer all fit...
One of our student teachers finished his practicum on Friday, so in his honour I am publishing one of his lessons that I had the chance to observe. The lesson was on the consequences of global warming and the destruction of the environment, and the teacher began the lesson with a huge blue tarp spread out in the middle of the room.

What I enjoyed about the lesson the most was that the student teacher didn't give his students any information in advance. The students were curious from the moment they walked in the class and saw the desks moved out of the way and the tarp covering most of the floor. He had the students arrange themselves on the mat and then kept kicking them off and folding the mat into smaller and smaller portions. The questions kept coming and he refused to answer:

What's the mat for?
Why are we doing this?
I don't think we're all going to be able to fit on there..

Then the questions became more purposeful...

How small is the mat going to get?
Does this represent something?
Is this connected with our unit?
Are we allowed to help each other fit?
Is there any other space we are allowed to go to?
Does this have something to do with animals losing their habitat?
Is this about the polar bears?
Is this about the ice fields?
Is this about pollution?
What happens when we don't all fit anymore?
Where do the people who don't fit go?
This isn't a good situation.
Are the people who can't fit on the mat the animals who become extinct?
Are the people on the mat the animals that evolve and adapt?
Are the people left on the mat the actual humans who kill everything else?

The students were curious and engaged throughout the first 40 minutes,  and the activity led to a good discussion about the environmental consequences of irresponsible human behaviour. The students were also moving around the classroom for most of the class, so it was a brilliant choice for a last block on a Friday afternoon.

*Note: Student faces have been blurred as we did not get every student's permission to post the photos.