Sunday 26 October 2014

5 Photo Stories

Today's lesson was a combination of three separate ideas. The first I learned at my 5 day writing workshop last summer with Richard Wagamese. On the second day, Richard gave each of us a random object and we had one hour to create a story that involved the object and then present it (orally) to the group. He explained that "every object and every person has a story". The second idea came from a lesson I observed on my teaching practicum. I observed a film class where the teacher gave each group of students a prop (in this case they all got an apple) and gave the groups the entire class to create a film designed around the apple. The students came back and showed their short films at the end of the class. The third idea comes from the 5 card story project on flicker where people are given 5 random 
photos and they need to make up a story. I was introduced to this idea through Claire Thompson's blog post on digital storytelling. All three of these contributed to today's "5 Photo Story Challenge". 

Pairs of students were given a random prop (I had a lot of fun collecting the props: There were a number of pineapples and a stuffed panda, an umbrella, a watermelon, a bag of Doritos, some props from the drama room etc.) The students had to take 5 photos with their object which they would then turn into a written story. I drove the students downtown where they had a good variety of settings to work with (the downtown area by the bandshell provides walking distance to shops, forests and beach areas) The variety of different settings combined with the variety of props provided the students with endless possibilities to construct their stories. 

The main purpose in the context of English 12 First Peoples was to help the students practice the elements of a good narrative and hopefully to also move them away from the generic, uninspiring responses that they so often provide on the final essay of the provincial exam. Students who choose to write a narrative often score higher than those who write an expository essay. Thinking beyond the exam of course, the concept of creativity is a valuable life skill, and the element of storytelling is not only a key aspect of Aboriginal culture and perspective but it is increasingly recognized as a key way to convey information whether you are in business or communications or other careers. The next day students wrote their stories on their blogs and will be evaluated using my rubric for the provincial exam original composition essay. I should note that while students worked in pairs to take their photos, they were all individually responsible for writing their own stories.

Student response to the lesson was very positive. When I mark this type up an assignment I really look forward to seeing what the students come up with (which I think is a good sign in itself!). A special thanks to our drama teacher Lori Grant for her constant willingness to let other teachers and students borrow things from her drama room!!

Post courtesy of Naryn Searcy

Thursday 12 June 2014

Cross District Pen-Pals (FSL)

My grade 11 FSL class is mostly boys (very hands on and high energy boys).  Last year, with the same group of students, I realized that textbook/workbook work did not work for them.  This year, one of the things I have been doing with them is activities with other local classes.

For example, there is a section in their textbook about body parts and another section about how to give commands.  I taught the students some commands and the body parts, and then told them to come up with 10 command instructions using said body parts.  For example, " draw a large head with 7 eyes"... "add a pig's nose" etc...  I then told the students to draw their instructions.....

Next, we sent the written instructions to Kathryn Stel's grade 10/11 class at Princess Margaret.  She handed out the instructions, and had the kids follow them....drawing their "monsters".

She then mailed them back to me and I gave the kids their original drawings, plus the Maggie students' drawings.  They compared how alike they were based on how good their instructions were.... I even gave a  little cookie prize to the most similar.

The kids loved the activity because they got to learn the vocab by doing something fun, and by engaging with another class.  They bugged me about the assignment for 2 weeks-right up until they got the replies because they were so excited!

Post courtesy of Lindsay Anderson

Wednesday 11 June 2014

Why Inclusion?

Often people ask why inclusion in classrooms? Inclusion is how we ensure that every child feels welcomed and that their unique needs and learning styles are appreciated, enhanced, and valued by their peers.  Inclusion does not mean that an educator must water down curriculum content and academic expectations.  Inclusion offers ample opportunities to enrich learning for all students, of all strengths and abilities.  Students learn to appreciate, not tolerate, members of their classroom community, and diversity becomes the learning environment in which children can grow and mature as more open minded, and caring individuals.

Our world is changing.  It brings with it the new face of technology, and social media, and complex issues faced by today's youth.  There is an immediate need to develop appropriate social skills that are often lost through the lack of personal interaction amongst many children.  A resource teacher can begin the process of developing social skills with his or her students, however, it is still a controlled and artificial setting of role playing, discussions, and analysis.  The classroom offers a multiplicity of opportunities to observe and implement appropriate social skills amongst peers. Inclusion and promotion of social skills will help turn back the clock of time. It will return us to the core values and leave the cyber world lost in space.

Students with learning challenges who are included in the regular classroom can display higher levels of social support from the majority of their peers.  At Maggie, we pride ourselves on doing things for others.  We are community citizens, and global citizens who understand the intrinsic value and positive self worth through helping others.  Students with special needs develop larger friendship networks through inclusion and learn appropriate social skills under the guidance of the classroom teacher.  The staff at Maggie realize that the benefits are mutual between students with challenges and those more fortunate not to have to struggle in certain learning environments.  Curriculum content and social skill development can go hand in hand when implemented on a regular basis in a classroom setting. 

It is through diverse teaching and assessment methods that educators can set up opportunities for peers to learn from each other and value one another for their uniqueness.  As educators, when we provide a social component to the academic day we help to foster collaboration, cooperation, and the understanding of other perspectives. We bring back the face-to-face conversational skills of listening, give and take responding, and appreciation for others.  In turn, we promote positive self-worth, and improved self-esteem. There is no child that will not benefit from a sense of being valued, being heard, and feeling like he or she matters in this world. All children need to feel like they belong. With collaboration and clear communication between the classroom and resource teachers, the regular classroom can become an optimal setting for meeting the needs of all learners. 

Post courtesy of Jindalee Webb

Monday 9 June 2014

My First Year in Through A Different Lens (Elementary)

I am a new teacher that joined TADL because I have seen the type of teachers that participate in the group, and am familiar with the kind of lessons they create.  I want to create those kinds of lessons, so I am here.  I am still practicing and have used as many strategies as I can to increase students’ engagement and learning.

Some of the things I have tried so far are:

·       Games to practice math concepts

·       Mnemonic device creation to remember facts (acronyms, songs)

·       Adding motion to activities (scavenger hunts / musical chairs activities etc…)

·       Trying to keep things ‘hands-on’ (modeling clay, paper models, experiments)

·       Songs and skits to convey/ check for understanding (some recorded)

·       Lots of group work

·       Trying to incorporate different forms of media in lessons

I am trying to ensure that most of my lessons include reading, writing, hearing, speaking, touching/building, watching, and moving. In particular, I am trying to include a video/audio component to as many lessons as I can. I know there is much more for me to learn, and I am finding that when I try to make my lessons reach as many learning styles as possible, student engagement and achievement increases. From my point of view, the lessons ‘feel good’, and that’s a feeling I am chasing.

Today, my class got to write a song with professional song writer, Lawry Olafsson.  I was worried that some of my students might tune the process out or do something disrespectful during the activity. My students were worried that it would be just a singing class, or that they wouldn’t get much say in the song writing process. As a class, we had a quick talk about our topic for a song, but really didn’t know what we were about to do.

We were all surprised; the students all gave 100% and they got a complete say in the creation of a song that they really like. I was further surprised to see that some students who are generally worried about presentations (especially singing) and sharing ideas, really stepped up to the plate, and made some fantastic contributions to the song or sang loud and proud. Those who weren’t comfortable sharing, were still engaged enough to be muttering their suggestions to friends or to themselves. Over all, the class was so engaged that they were surprised by the recess and lunch bells, and some even wanted to stay inside to work on the song.

The song writing couldn’t have happened at a more perfect time, as we are currently working on poetry. Students were familiar with things like rhyme schemes, and juicy or descriptive words, and were able to contribute to the creation of lyrics with confidence. Our end product was a solid song that met its aim of telling people about Naramata School. I like that the students were engaged, and working hard. I really like the connection between songs and poems that students made, and that they got to use poetry skills that they learned in-class.

Post courtesy of Adam Surina

Sunday 8 June 2014

Scavenger Hunt For Notes

I decided to try something different for the Short Stories unit in English 8.  The goal was to learn the important vocabulary for the unit.  Instead of having the students copy out the definitions from the projector, I posted the definitions around the classroom.  Students had sheets containing only some of the definitions and the objective was to get them up and moving around in order to find the definitions and copy them down onto their sheets.

My quieter class was a bit slow to start; they looked for the definitions closest to their seats so they wouldn't have to move!  They quickly realized that they would have to move in order to find ALL of the definitions!  They did, and they were all engaged. 

My louder and more rambunctious class was up and moving as soon as I said "go"!  I thought it would be a complete gong show BUT they were quieter than ever and completely engaged in the activity!  I will have to make sure I incorporate more of these types of activities in English this year for this class!

Post courtesy of Lauren Vallis

Thursday 5 June 2014

Socratic Dialogue with Back Channel (Grade 12)

My colleague Trevor returned from the ASCD conference with a strategy for teaching Socratic dialogue with an added element of a "backchannel" so more students would be involved. The idea is that in a regular classroom discussion, there is only one person speaking at a time and it can become difficult to maintain the focus of the rest of a large class. Sometimes 5 or 6 people dominate and no one else speaks. Today we set up 10-12 students facing each other in the "inner circle" who had an oral discussion. The remaining students were set up on the perimeter and commented on their iPads using a platform called "Today's Meet" which quickly allows someone to create a discussion forum that is projected up on the overhead. The question we were discussing was "Should the Washington Redskins NFL football organization get rid of its name and logo?" 

Students read 4 articles (2 in support of removing the name and 2 in support of keeping it) and the discussion began. Emphasis was strongly placed on the spirit of "collaboration" as opposed to "debate". It was made clear that the point of the exercise was to collectively work through the issue, and not to promote or defend a particular point of view. Students in the middle discussed the issue for about 20 minutes while the outside circle "chatted" on line and then everybody switched roles. I moderated the verbal discussion and Trevor moderated the online backchannel. 

Results and Feedback

My first impression was that there were significantly more people engaged than there typically are in a regular classroom discussion. Students were more fired up about the issue than I expected (I don't have a lot of NFL football fans in the class and had worried the topic wouldn't be engaging enough) In reality the discussion was intense and at times it was difficult to keep people in the outside circle from speaking out instead of typing. Some students still spoke up more than others but in general almost everyone contributed at least once. One student didn't make a single comment in the inner circle or online. Student feedback on the process itself was generally positive. Some struggled with the technology (and trying to type on the iPads which is quite difficult especially when you are trying to type quickly) and most students had a clear preference for either the verbal or online format. 

What we would change/improve (Trevor and I debriefed after the session)

1. We would try to provide more laptops so students could type more quickly and keep up with the conversation. 
2. We noticed that many students commented online without specific details, for example "I agree with Kadin" (without any specific info about why they agreed.) We will emphasize articulating reasons for opinions in the future. 
3. Trevor mentioned that many students struggled to contain their emotions, and perhaps we should reinforce the concept that regulating our emotions while dealing with difficult issues is an essential part of effective communication. 
4. My husband (who teaches Social Studies) commented that this topic might not be the best one for a discussion as there really is only one side. The team name is unacceptable. Period. Allowing students to consider the arguments in favour of the name won't help move them in the direction of empathy. I'm still undecided. While I was surprised at how many students originally didn't even think the name was offensive at all, I felt it was more important for them to discuss the issue and think about it than for me to simply give them the argument that the name must be removed. For what it's worth, the individual reflections at the end indicated almost all of the students were in favour of changing the team name. 

Overall, both Trevor and I felt this strategy was successful in engaging more students than in a traditional classroom discussion and that it would be effective in other subject areas as well. 

Post courtesy of Naryn Searcy 

Wednesday 4 June 2014

Highlights from Princess Margaret

With the end of another school year comes the chance to compile some of the great work being done by the teachers and students at Princess Margaret Secondary. With 27 members in the group it was impossible to include everything that happened this year in a single video but we did our best! Thanks to everyone for contributing your ideas and bravely sharing your challenges and successes with each other throughout the year.  Thanks as well to the various groups from outside of our district that came to our school, including Ron Canuel from the Canadian Education Association (CEA) who visited in person to present the Ken Spencer Award to our staff. It has been an exciting year.

Tuesday 3 June 2014

Keeping the Virtues Alive - Character Education

Kent and I wanted some way to review the good character traits we had worked on with our classes this winter.  We continued with the ‘Sticking with Good Character’ board, where each student was featured with a picture.   We have a supply of little sticky notes on the board.  The students continue to  recognize their classmates showing good character and write it up on a sticky note.  (John came in early to do homework he forgot – responsibility.    Jenny was having trouble in the skipping lesson but didn’t give up – perseverance.     Bob brought back the ball we borrowed from Division 3 after lunch – trustworthiness.)  

The second review activity was assigning a few students to each of the ‘virtues’.  Each group will be writing a morning announcement to read out over the P.A.  They will define their virtue, say why we should practice it, what it can be like when we don’t practice it, followed by specific ways students could practice it that day at school.  Then they will make a small motivational poster for it using the Big Huge Labs Poster Creator that we will post up on a hallway bulletin board by the water fountain.  We are hoping to bring this activity to the entire school, since our classes are the oldest and therefore leaders. Moreover, it is always great to take the learning outside of the walls of the classroom and make it relevant for our students.

These virtues are abstract ideas and big words for elementary school kids.  By linking them to familiar scenarios and by giving the students specific ways to practice them, the virtues have become something that we can talk about in classroom discussions and behaviours we can recognize.    

Post courtesy of Judy Schneider

Monday 2 June 2014

Stop Motion In History 12

A colleague introduced me to a free app (Stop Motion-Animation Maker Pro) that allows students to create video-esque 'flip books' using white boards, markers, and either a tablet or smart phone.  Their assignment was to select a portion of WWII history and create a short video with voice over that demonstrated their knowledge of a particular battle.

The app itself is relatively easy to use, although I must admit that many of my students navigated through it and learned its nuances more quickly than I!  

The progression worked like this:

1.  After selecting a topic (in the example posted, this student chose the Battle of the Atlantic), students are to make use of their notes from previous lessons along with any other information available (texts, internet sources, etc).  

2.  Using a white board and markers, students draw a series of simple illustrations, taking a picture using the stop motion app, of each illustration.  Illustrations are to vary slightly in degree from one frame to the next.  The stop motion app has an 'onion skin' feature that allows for adjustment of the opaqueness of the camera filter, so that students can see the previous picture under the new photo taken.  This allows the photos to be lined up in order to create that 'flip book' effect.

3.  Once their pictures are drawn and photographed, students are then to record a voice over of information relevant to the images they have drawn, but also including other pertinent details that perhaps couldn't be illustrated.

The final products were excellent with some students drawing very simplistic figures, like the stick figure you see in the image above, while other more artistic students took more time to descriptively depict the scenes they imagined from their chosen WWII conflict. 

Here is a selected piece of work:

 Post courtesy of Lesley Lacroix 

Sunday 1 June 2014

Creating for an Authentic Audience

Last week the Penticton Art Gallery hosted an opening night for an exhibit of work produced by local high school students. The Princess Margaret selection from Brad Gibson's art classes included 3 sections: A mask project (Grade 9/10) A Tea Pot Project (Grade 11/12) and a set of Dry Point Etchings (Grade 11/12).

Brad commented that there are many advantages to exhibiting the student work in a public forum. "It takes the projects out of the context of the classroom and puts them into the professional environment of the art gallery," he said. Students see their work from a different perspective and in a formal display which signifies respect. They also get to observe other members of the public appreciating and discussing their work. Students were aware before they began their projects that these would be going on display at the gallery, and though any work performed by Brad's students is of a consistently high quality, the expectation of a public show was an added incentive for students to take the work extremely seriously.

A second benefit Brad mentioned was that the exhibit allowed him to showcase the wide range of students that choose to take art at Princess Margaret. Students are allowed to enter the art program during any year of their high school career, and with any level of experience. The display showcased the extraordinary products produced by a very varied group of students. After the opening night students were extremely positive about seeing their work on display and valued by members of the larger community. Opening night of the exhibit was well attended and many parents also commented on the value of seeing their child's work on display in a public forum. It was a great reminder of how important it is to provide students with an audience for their work beyond the perspective of the regular classroom.

The show runs until June 15th.

Tuesday 27 May 2014

Atomic Play-Doh (Science 10)

I tried a different activity with students in Science 10 the other day using Play-Doh.  Instead of having the students go through the traditional method of learning nuclear fission/fusion with sketches and nuclear equation notes, I had the students use Play-Doh to model the reactions.
 I was hoping that something tactile such as physically making electrons, protons, neutrons and making the isotope models when constructing the nuclear equations would engage some less motivated students more than the traditional pencil and paper way.  The results were positive.  Although some students worked slowly,  the modelling forced them to discuss the terms and associate the colours of play-doh with the nuclear particles they had associated them with.  This allowed the students to "play" and learn at the same time.  Interestingly, the activity had a wide range of effects on the whole class. Strong academic students started teaching the other students the equations.  Students shared ideas and corrected each other as they worked through the activities.  Some students inquired about whether the atoms needed to display the electron shells.  This further allowed students to use the play-doh to model electron shells and Bohr model diagrams. The activity was a pleasant surprise.  All students participated and there was a significant level of inter-student discussion as well as peer coaching and teaching. I will try it again.

Post courtesy of Cory Hogg 

Sunday 25 May 2014

Elementary & Middle School Highlights

Here are some of the 2013-2014 highlights collected this year from our Elementary and Middle School teachers.

Tuesday 6 May 2014

BC's Economy: Agriculture

Social Studies 10:  Wild Goose Winery 

One of the focuses during Social Studies 10 is on British Columbia's economy and the major sectors that make up BC's economy. For our look at agriculture we discussed different agriculture based activities such as ranching and crop farming. We focused primarily, however, on the Okanagan based activities of orchards and vineyards. With recent discussions in the media about the Agricultural Land Reserve we were able to identify reasons why the ALR is both positive and negative for farmers and the general population of BC. This enhanced students understanding about the need to promote farming, not only in Penticton, but throughout the province. As part of this unit we looked at parts of three different documentaries, No Impact ManEnd of the Line and Dirt. During the documentary Dirt, students were given multiple looks at how dirt provides humans with the basis of all life on the planet and how through constant development we are negatively impacting so much of the dirt on our planet. One of the parts that stood out for most students was when a winemaker in Italy bent down and tasted the dirt. The winemaker said that he can taste many of the flavours of the wine in the dirt. This clip peaked students interests and led us to a field trip to a local vineyard in OK Falls.

On April 28th, along with Naryn Searcy and Christy Bevington, my class went to Wild Goose Winery for a tour of the vineyard and wine making facilities. For many of the students it was their first time in a vineyard. Throughout the tour our guide, owner Roland Kruger, discussed the impact the dirt had on the growth of his grapes and how simple things like a higher abundance of rocks in one area, or clover in another impacts the flavours that winemakers will produce. Roland helped us understand the farming methods that are used at his vineyard, including watering cycles and pruning methods. One of Roland’s greatest fears is that there is a limited number of young workers entering into the field of work. As Roland said, the young energy that these workers can bring to a growing industry can really help make the Okanagan market flourish. Our students were exposed to not only the agriculture of the vineyard, but also the marketing and tourism of the winery.

At Wild Goose Winery our students saw the full process from growing to shipping a finished product. Many of the students in my class are very hands on, the opportunity to pick up pruned vines and touch oak barrels full of two year old wine allowed them to connect the process. A highlight for all students was the opportunity to see the bottling room and the machinery required to produce the 14,000 cases a year that Wild Goose sells each year.

The winery tour allowed our students to see agriculture in action. By having an opportunity to put together information from the textbook, from class discussions and from a field trip, students were able to connect with the topic in a deeper manner. Having just written our test, it was evident that students understood agriculture much more than say another topic like mining which can seem quite foreign to many students in Penticton. As with most new learning opportunities there are things that can be adapted to still provide a richer learning opportunity, but overall this was a very big success and will hopefully be one of the better memories for students in my Social Studies class.

Blog post courtesy of Bo Boxall
Bo's inquiry question: If we offer students multiple outdoor learning activities how will affect student engagement?

Sunday 4 May 2014


I've spent a fair amount of time in Skaha Lake Middle School recently and also visited Columbia Elementary and am always interested on what is on the walls. Last year, I taught in a room now occupied by Lindsay Guza and I must admit, she has done a far better job with renovations. Her walls are alive with student work and ways for students to learn!  

It got me thinking about the ways our walls can be used to teach. In Lindsay's case, there are a few new things at play. First, there is a learning component, with notes pasted around the room for a recent unit of study. Next, there are science fair projects from previous years, meant to inspire students during ongoing work they are doing. Third, there are cool biology projects that showcase student works. Fourth, in a cross-curricular style assignment, students have demonstrated art skills and academic skills as they've drawn excellent pictures of organs. These all add to a vibrant sense of classroom community and learning.  

Judy Schneider is a colleague who is also great at building community. Every time I go to visit, she's like the fairy-godmother, with kids abuzz around her. Of the myriad of ways i've seen her build community is also on the walls of her classroom. Each student gets a poster in Judy's class. On the poster they get to draw a picture of themselves  and they get to list three wishes and a star (three things they hope for and one thing they want to work on throughout the year.).  It is awesome as they can reflect on their goals and constantly look up and see their own potential. What a cool way to build community and to showcase student values and goals. 

Once in awhile a student will come in and ask about a poster on my wall. Over time I usually forget the posters and they become part of the background. However, once in awhile I am reminded of the power of decorations and what we hang on the walls. A police friend of mine recently came to my class to visit and do some community policing (a term for meeting with students and answering questions in order to build rapport with the community.) When he arrived, many of his questions were about he posters of World War 2 that I had up around the room, or about the student work pasted on the walls. It made me realize that students likely see and wonder the same. 

Judith King gave me a map of First Nation's territories last year and I put it up near the doors so that as students leave, it is in a place of prominence. It is also near the front so I can reference it in Social Studies 11. Two students of First Nation's  ancestry noticed it right away  last semester and were enthusiastically showing me what Nations they had in their ancestry. They also taught me some correct pronunciations and mentioned that it was important that I had it up; but also wondered why. They were also intrigued by the fact that the map had some teaching ideas on it.

Visiting colleagues has made me reflect again on the power of the periphery. These items are peripheral to teaching (more so in the high school) but what impact do they have? Should I put statements of values on the class wall? Should I showcase posters of content? How much student work should adorn the walls? How often should posters/student work/pictures be mover or changed to stimulate learning?  Thanks to Judy and Lindsay for making me think about how to decorate my room to maximize learning. 

Post by Jeff Fitton with permission from Lindsay Guza and Judy Schneider

Wednesday 30 April 2014

Play-Doh Sim City

As an introduction to the Geography of Ancient Rome, we first discussed the game Sim City.  I asked students what they needed to put in their cities to make them flourish.  Then, in groups, I had them brainstorm the most important features that they would need to include if they were going to build a city from scratch.  Their goal was to narrow it down to five of the most vital components.  They then had to build their cities out of Play-Doh and together, they had to write a paragraph that explained why they chose each of those five things and why they were important.  Their paragraphs were excellent!

Post Courtesy of Lauren Vallis

Saturday 19 April 2014

I Fought The Law and the Law Won

Often with teaching, there are great opportunities available to partner up with community groups who love to work with schools. However, with the busy schedules that we have, it can be difficult to search out community partners and take advantage of rich opportunities.

The Law society of BC loves schools! They even have a dedicated employee who works with interested schools to do tours of the courthouse, meet sheriffs, do mock trials etc. 

Last friday, my social studies class along with some grade 7 classes attended the Penticton Court House for the trial of the century. Students were going to put the Big Bad Wolf on Trial for mischief, break and enter and willful damage to property. The Law Society has a scripted trial for the three little pigs that includes witnesses, sheriffs, jurors etc. Thus, students each receive a role and lawyers from town assist students with the entire process - for free! And they even provide costumes!  In this mock trial, all we had to do was distribute scripts in advance and then get a bus to the courthouse. They even fed us a free lunch. Students were given a tour of the courthouse, a tour of the courthouse cellblocks, they met with sheriffs and lawyers and then got to go to a real courtroom for an official trial. 

This activity is available to any grade level as well. Earlier in the day, Mr. Robinson from PMSS had been on scene with his law 12 class, re-enacting a trial where Luke Skywalker was being charged with murder for his role in exploding the death star. Unfortunately, Skywalker was found guilty on all counts.  The Big Bad Wolf was acquitted of most charges, on a medical exemption due to his unfortunate case of hay-fever which had resulted in an accidental destruction of houses deemed not up to building codes.

Interestingly, the jury deliberated for 20 minutes. When teachers went into the jury room to determine why students were taking so long (the high school class took 5 minutes), the students were enthusiastically debating over the facts in the case and making supporting counter-arguments to each other. They eventually re-entered the courtroom as a hung jury. The judge was shocked and explained that the script did not account for that. The jury Forman then asked if the jury could re-deliberate. They did and eventually came back with a verdict. Students were abuzz during the entire process and enjoyed a task situation where they got to engage in a real process that many had seen on TV. 

Field trips are something almost every student loves and they are sometimes easily available when we reach out to community partners like the courthouse. Imagine all of the other easily accessible opportunities for taking students outside of our four walls such as the courthouse, Police Station, Fire Hall, Eldercare centres, Elementary school, farms and factories. The list is extensive and so is the potential for rich learning experiences for our students. 

Post courtesy of Louise Ganton

Tuesday 15 April 2014

Tableaus and Technology: A New Twist On An Old Idea

Tableaus are something I've been using with Lit Circle units for a while.  The idea comes from Faye Brownlie's book "Grand Conversations" (an awesome resource if you want to try Lit Circles in class). Tableaus are frozen scenes  (like capturing a still shot in a movie). Students re-create a frozen scene from the novel they are reading that captures a key theme in that novel. In the past I have had students present their tableaus in front of the class, but this year I was short on time, and the novels are also testable material on the provincial exam (for English First Peoples) so I wanted something more permanent that the students could go back to for studying purposes. 

Enter "Thinglink"- a web based program that lets you upload photos and then add interactive links such as text, video or audio. Instead of presenting the tableau in front of the class, each group (or set of partners) took a photo of their scene, uploaded it and typed in the explanations of the various elements of the scene. If you hover over the dots on the scene below you can see the explanation of the scene, the theme it represents etc. In the case of tableaus, "Thinglink" is very effective because it allows the students to add unlimited text without wrecking the picture- (where a program such as "comic life" would not be as effective because it leaves so little room for text). This program allowed me to keep all the benefits of tableaus (movement, visualization, creativity, collaboration) and let students record the information more effectively for long term memory and sharing purposes. I think this is a program that could work well in many different subject areas. If I really wanted students to present in front of the class, it could also become an option for students who were extremely shy and needed an alternative method of presentation.

For examples of traditional tableaus done in a Social Studies 9 class click on this post.

Here is an OUTLINE SHEET that students use to organize their ideas before they are allowed to use the cameras.

Thursday 3 April 2014

You are the Reason We are Here!

I love to go visit classrooms and see what teachers are doing.  Just before Spring Break I was in Lindsay Guza’s grade 7 classroom.  I loved the message on the door.  Her philosophy was very evident to everyone.  You are EXPLORERS!  That paints a picture of what learning will be like when I enter here!  You are respected, important and a role model, inquisitive, valued... and you matter.  And the last sentence… You are the reason we are here! 

Knowing how much it matters that students know their teachers like them, value them and have confidence in them, makes this door a very important message.

There were other things in the room that struck me.  Lindsay shared some of the things she is doing that are hands-on and thoughtful.  She is trying to make learning more interesting and connected with kids lives.  Here is an activity that she described:


   "I gave kids sticky notes and they had to write down information they knew about current electricity, static electricity, and atoms of electricity in general.  Then I asked them to come up and place them in the Venn diagram where they thought they went.  If they weren’t sure they placed them on the outside of the Venn diagram.  Then as a class we went through all the ones on the outside and tried to see if they were in fact part of electricity and needed to be in the Venn diagram or if they could stay on the outside.

I also went around with pink sticky notes as the kids were working. I gave them to a few of the kids who I thought needed more challenge; these sticky notes had words that I thought were more difficult to place on the Venn diagram."  She described the activity as a great way to review the concepts, check for understanding and challenge thinking.

blog posted by Judith King with permission from Lindsay Guza