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