A Day for Kids to PLAY IN MUD? Is this just too KOOKY?
I promise after listening to Tim Vidler speak on ABC Radio – You’ll … “Get It”
A Day for Kids to PLAY IN MUD? Is this just too KOOKY?
I promise after listening to Tim Vidler speak on ABC Radio – You’ll … “Get It”
I hope you don’t mind my indulgence. It has been a fantastic few weeks at our little school. We have been running an intimate and innovative program for our Middle School girls (aged between 11 and 14).
These are confronting years for our young ladies and we have identified the need to focus on our girls in this age range. Families are needing support to cope as their girls deal with the new pressures of adolescence; confidence issues, body image and representations of beauty, healthy attitudes to food and exercise, complicated relationships (parents, “other girls”, and attraction/s to others) as well as the stresses of school, building success and coping with the technological presence of social and electronic media. It is no surprise that anxiety and stress are a growing community issue.
If our young people don’t have the tools to deal with these issues, they are simply not in a position to be able to learn.
The Middle School team consulted and researched widely to target a program that would offer the girl’s the confidence to address these issues within the school environment. Staff worked to collate a library of POSITIVE centred readings, video clips, podcasts, songs, feature articles and short stories centred around the themes we had identified and addressed POSITIVE solutions to HELP Girls… Kaz Cooke, Maggie Dent (our patron), the “Dove” media packages offered some great provocations; as well as best practice readings from Relationships Australia and other professional support organisations.
These “readings” have been broken into five weekly reading packages which will be delivered as a “girls only” group in a fully integrated English program. We have secretly employed the mums who also completed the reading program, complete with homework for Mum AND daughter.
Mother and daughter study, discuss, read and reflect on the weekly readings TOGETHER before they come to school to share their thoughts with their “Reading Circles” group. The package integrates perfectly with English, Health, Electives, Zentangles and our Girls group and is informed by the pastoral care focus we have throughout the school.
The series culminated today (Friday the 6th June) with a special surprise event! The girl’s arrived to find all their mothers AT SCHOOL accompanied by our special guest; Kate Wilson – our amazing “spoken Word Poet” – a passionate young lady who has much to say about the issues we are addressing. You can view a sample of her work at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rK46nILY-rw – she was truly MAGICAL!
Most significantly – each mother shared about a moment from their own childhood where they had to face a challenge lead to a POSITIVE; something that was special to all of the girls – they were invited to present their snapshot through a medium of their choice; a dance, a song, a poem, a story but REAL and from the heart.
They also gave their daughter a handwritten letter in which they communicated and celebrated the BEAUTY they see in their daughter.
We are sold on the belief that schools must work with parents in partnership toward developing our young people – not JUST in an academic program but multi-elementally. We are excited that our school has been in an intimate position to RESPOND to the needs of our children in partnership with our wonderful community.
I have a confession. Even though I am an English teacher; I have struggled to teach and celebrate some poetic forms. (I will spare you my list of 1,000 exceptions which spring to mind as I am typing). I do; however, love teaching the DEVICES of the poet! We were very blessed recently to have access to the wonderful “Spoken Word Poet”, Kate Wilson (you can see her blog here: http://www.kwpoet.blogspot.com.au/).
Kate’s quiet demeanor coupled with her passionate and genuine enthusiasm was impossible to avoid. Far from being the Drama Queen; Kate delivered with the right balance of humility and substance. As a group of teachers (we really are the toughest of classes) we were inspired by our visitor’s ability to scaffold the delivery of poetic devices within our workshop and season with a wide range of her self-composed morsels (and examples from the best in the field of modern “Slam Poets”).
More importantly, Kate got us WRITING. Individual, small group, large group … WRITING. The groups were “popping” with puns, lyrics, stretched metaphors and beat-box-beats – WRITING but from the platform of speaking and listening (nice).
Since this is MY blog, I will share a couple of our “small group’s efforts”, based on the tasks we were assigned 🙂
TASK / INSPIRATION: An Apple and a Shakespearian Parody?
When I shall die,
Take me out and pluck my seed from my rosy flesh of little stars,
And I will grow to see the face of heaven.
The world will make love beneath my canopy,
And carve their names in my flesh.
Pay no worship for the garnish of my sister fruit,
For when my children fall to the earth .
I will rise again!
We also enjoyed Kate’s “pun” activity. We were assigned the word “Bread” and had to make as many puns in a short-story as possible… can you count them?
A SLICE OF LIFE
My uncle, Brian Free, was an in-bred Tasmanian farmer. What a delight! Tip-Top Baker but he didn’t always make the crust, many said he was half-baked; going against the grain and rubbing people the wrong way.
He fell in love with an organic, wholemeal hippie-girl from Rye. It wasn’t long before she had a bun in the oven and she agreed to marry him because she loved the way he rolled. In all, they had five flour-children … Yeast-Free, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Nut-Free, and a son blessed from another relationship.
We don’t want to put a damper on our story but Brian became a dough-bludger; taking Abbott’s bread. It’s a sad slice of life.
Ultimately, there is a lot to take back to the classroom!
Last year, I had the great pleasure of spending some quality time absorbing strategies and approaches through Ritchhart, Church and Morrison’s wonderful book, “Making Thinking Visible” (see previous post https://theteacherlounge.wordpress.com/2012/03/20/cultural-capital-or-culture-clash) … this was closely followed by the opportunity to spend a little bit of time with Mark Church during his visit to Perth, Western Australia.
This had a significant impact on my approach to teaching in the English classroom. I recently promised that I would post an overview of a project we commenced at the start of semester one (2013) – Writing A Class Novel.
I have the benefit of leading a team of secondary teachers who work collaboratively to integrate learning in a Year 6-12 context. We had decided on a broad focus for the semester which informed an array of learning experiences across curriculum disciplines; “Forensics”.
This allowed for a variety of explorative activities to unpack the complex world of forensics, criminology, the ethical implications of law making, detective fiction, exploration of anatomy and decomposition. Our investigation included creation of crime scenes, a visit from two forensic police officers, blood stains analysis, finger printing, “mug shots”, fibre analysis, handwriting analysis, utilisation of composite sketching, entomology (e.g. harvesting maggots) for recognition of time of death… students participated in an archeological dig to “resurrect” half a cow which was buried on school grounds at the start of the year. The “novel” task was delivered in a multi-age classroom for Years 9-12.
I have not ventured on this kind large-scale, corporate writing project (with a class group) before; I have no trouble with large projects with a more “dramatic” flair but a commitment to a large writing-based task was daunting; I remember the cold shiver that went down my spine when I announced to the class that we would be starting the novel project.
College students (Year 10-12) had comprehensively studied the detective genre through the works of various “famous” writers and were challenged to commence a three month project – to write a full 20 chapter detective novel (25,000 words). The task required that students work together as a class in the creation of plot, characters, crime, complication and resolution but also determine who would write each section / how they would establish “flow” between the chapters (since students decided that each student would work on an independent chapter).
As the teacher, I determined that the project would be “facilitated” by me, I would provide instruction and resources on novel composition and guide students in terms of the “structures” that would be required (pov, character, crime choice, genre “expectations”, etc.). Division of labour would be determined by the students. Even in the early stages, the task required the surrendering of fantastic ideas and tested the student’s resilience and abilities to respectfully reject their own and others ideas! As students become more committed to the task, it was harder to surrender long-held-on-to ideas; the process was often wild and frustrating and for some there were tears!
“It was a difficult process, trying to choose and eliminate ideas, especially when people were passionate about them. It was frustrating to have to deal with people who weren’t listening properly; or who contributed ideas that weren’t realistic or constructive! My chapter was the climax of the novel. I wanted it to be good so as not to let down the rest of the people who had worked so hard on it!” (Student 1 Reflection)
The initial planning / plotting and character development took only 3 weeks, the process of writing / re-working / scrapping and editing took two months of solid and concentrated effort in and out of class.
The student’s decided that they needed to establish an editorial team who took responsibility for the overall “flow” of the novel and worked with individuals to polish and hone individual chapters. It was difficult to “let this happen” – as the “English” teacher – I wanted to jump in to rescue on many occasions.
“I will never volunteer to be an editor again! It was too much pressure; I hated proof reading [my friends work] I felt like I was being really mean all the time – I tried to make it better by adding smiley faces [on their work] – I don’t think it made much of a difference!” (Student 2 Reflection)
And yet, from the OTHER side of the fence …
“I am not a confident writer. The fact there was an editing team to help out and to proof-read and edit my chapter made all of the difference. They told me if my chapter was ready for submission- it made me more confident to go up to the other people in my class (peers) and ask questions – I felt better organised as a result.” (Student 3 Reflection)
The rich experiences provided by the whole teaching team gave students a genuine respect for the role of police and detectives – rather than the more “romantic” beliefs many of the students had, had; based on their home viewing of TV Police/Detective Drama. Students insisted on capturing “compassionate” and “real” investigative characters and to show special consideration to the “victims of crime” in their writing.
In order for the students to write authentically about the crime scenes from the novel, we integrated the reproduction of authentic “crime scenes” into the student’s Science investigation. Students closed off local streets to reconstruct the scenes they had “imagined” and “discussed” in English. Students used “evidence photo numbers” at the mock scenes. Students photographed all evidence, bagged mock evidence and created diorama “maps” of the scenes. These were used to write and present reports for their Science (and English) curriculum but also served to fully inform the credibility of the narrative for multiple writers.
As chapters were submitted to the editorial team, we finally had a “read through” together in April.
“The pressure has started to build but we are now reading out all of the drafts for the first time and I must say I am pleasantly surprised by the quality of everyone’s work. … This has been an amazing experience and all of my doubts about this task have vanished!” (Student 4 Reflection)
“My favourite part of the process was when we read the chapters in order. I wasn’t only amazed at the fact that we had written a [novel] … but also at the sheer quality of the writing from a young bunch of people” (Student 5 Reflection)
By June, students had completed the written portion of the novel and then moved to consult with a “publisher/printer” to explore packaging choices – paper choices / cover options / font / layout / recognition of authors / cost of commissioning art work for the cover / deciding on title / distribution options and ebook publication options.
We do not yet have a printed novel in hand but students are now in the final stages of pre-production and their “pre-release” of Chapter One was a great success at a local educational conference. I will post again when novels are available for purchase. J
The novel project has helped students to appreciate the depth of research, investigation and angst involved in developing a novel. Documenting the student’s learning journey has also reminded me of the confidence I can have in students – and to keep student expectations … higher!
We wondered how we could explore; Fascism, Communism and Democracy through the use of visual codes and we came up with the following idea … using SMARTIES. We modeled the work we wanted the children to produce to see how it might look. We were pretty sure the kids (Year 10s) would like the obvious “pay off” at the end! THEY DID. Here’s our “everyday language” version with visual representation! Let us know if you try something similar!
CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW:
You may also like: GOVERNMENT HOROSCOPE
I like Todd Whittaker’s book What Great Teachers Do Differently: 14 Things That Matter Most. It asks, “What makes a great teacher?” and seeks to identify the operational features of “great” teachers and how they may differ from less effective teachers.
There has always been great debate about the secrets of teacher effectiveness; some focus on behaviour management, student expectation, hands-on engagement, environmental factors … the list goes on.
According to Whittaker; these are the “fourteen things” that “great” teachers DO that other teachers DON’T! (a paraphrased approach – forgive me Mr Whittaker!);
1. They keep PEOPLE first and PROGRAMS second.
2. They determine strong and clear expectation from the very start of the academic year; with a focus on consistency.
3. They determine to minimise the LIKELIHOOD of student misbehavior.
4. They take responsibility for student learning and maintain high expectation of student performance and engagement.
5. They take ownership of their role as the “variable” in classroom which matters the MOST.
6. They are great ambassadors for their classroom and their school. They create and promote safe, happy communities.
7. They look for the positive… always!
8. Relationship, relationship, relationship – they can rebuke caringly and can say sorry liberally.
9. Keep small “inconveniences” and “disruptions” SMALL.
10. No matter what – there is a reason they are doing what they are doing. They have a focus with purpose.
11. Their decision making is filtered by the outcomes for the students, not the outcomes for themselves.
12. They always believe the best of their students – every child is “good”.
13. They keep standardised testing/s in perspective.
14. They care, they care, they care.
I would like to add a few other observations, some from my own experience and some from others who have sought to investigate this question. What qualities would you add to the list?
15 They establish learning environments that are student-focused; not control focused (https://theteacherlounge.wordpress.com/2012/06/04/building-learning-environments/)
16 They build parental bridges EARLY.
17 They promote meta-cognition.
18. They complete the tasks they ask their students to complete – they DEMONSTRATE the literacy process (e.g. they write a paragraph with the class, they show HOW they construct sentences – not just the finished/polished version/s).
19. They link learning with student interests and abilities.
20. They embrace new technology.
21. They stay positively connected with other educators BOTH within and OUTSIDE of their discipline.
22. They embrace a range of strategies for different learning styles, genders and the labyrinth of ‘special needs’. They allow multiple forms of “assessment”.
23. They build knowledge and understanding from what is ALREADY known.
24. They have an attitude of life-long learning; they know that THEY have not arrived. I would add “self reflection” as an integral part of this.
25. They look for mentors and are prepared TO BE mentors to others.
26. They understand that they can’t always do all 25 of these things … and they can NEARLY live with that!
I promise, I am not “representing the teaching fraternity” by writing this… I haven’t consulted with my colleagues; in fact they may well feel VERY differently from the views I express here. I do want to express some of my thoughts from my own teaching experiences over the past twenty years.
I understand that by doing so – I open the door for “20 Things Parents Want to Say to their Child’s Teacher”; and as a parent, I may well write the reply myself. 🙂
I hope there is something that you can reflect on. Thank you for allowing me to be so candid – I feel cleansed! Now I will read it back to myself with my PARENT hat on – and will make some adjustments myself.
This is the eighth-grade final exam from 1895 in Salina, Kansas, USA . It is taken from the original document on file at the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society and Library in Salina, and reprinted by the Salina Journal.
The examination was 5 hours long and broken-up as follows;
Grammar (Time, one hour)
1. Give nine rules for the use of capital letters.
2. Name the parts of speech and define those that have no modifications
3. Define verse, stanza and paragraph.
4. What are the principal parts of a verb? Give principal parts of ‘lie,’ ‘play,’ and ‘run’.
5. Define case; illustrate each case.
6. What is punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of punctuation.
7 – 10. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.
Arithmetic (Time,1 hour 15 minutes)
1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
2. A wagon box is 2 ft. Deep, 10 feet Long, and 3 ft. Wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
3. If a load of wheat weighs 3,942 lbs, what is it worth at 50 cts/bushel, deducting 1,050 lbs for tare?
4. District No 33 has a valuation of $35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?
5. Find the cost of 6,720 lbs. Coal at $6.00 per ton.
6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent per annum.
7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft long at $20 per metre?
8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance of which is 640 rods?
10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt.
U.S. History (Time, 45 minutes)
1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided
2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus .
3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
4. Show the territorial growth of the United States .
5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas ..
6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton , Bell , Lincoln , Penn, and Howe?
8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, 1865.
Orthography (Time, one hour)
1. What is meant by the following: alphabet, phonetic, orthography, etymology, syllabication?
2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?
3. What are the following, and give examples of each: trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals?
4. Give four substitutes for caret ‘u’.
5. Give two rules for spelling words with final ‘e.’ Name two exceptions under each rule.
6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: bi, dis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, sup.
8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare, last.
9. Use the following correctly in sentences: cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane , vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.
10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks and by syllabication.
Geography (Time, one hour)
1 What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas ?
3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
4. Describe the mountains of North America ..
5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia , Odessa , Denver , Manitoba , Hecla , Yukon , St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco .
6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U..S. Name all the republics of Europe and give the capital of each.
8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give the inclination of the earth.
Gives the saying ‘s/he only had an 8th grade education’ a whole new meaning!
A little over a year ago I posted about my delight in discovering SCHOOLOGY (READ FIRST POST HERE); I was asked to complete a quick review of our experience, one year on;
For us, Schoology was initiated as a means of assessment/homework communication between teachers, students and parents. I looked at a LOT of platforms before deciding on Schoology … a year on … I have had no regrets.
It is important to note that, like all platforms, it does require some significant time to establish and administer – with particular careful attention to the privacy and communication settings. Once up and running, the core administration time is lessened with some upkeep required for semester changeover, new arrivals and exiting students.
The platform offers significant capacity (Function capacity is well explained on the website along with some great videos – https://www.schoology.com/about.php).
I was attracted to:
I liked the ability to stagger the functionality so user were familiar with each “phase” we added over time. E.g. as students and parents have become more confident with the space – we added student blog function (WITHIN SCHOOLOGY) , student comment on course materials (MONITORED) – ability to access grades and roll.
You may ask what it doesn’t do well… it doesn’t train the parents for you :). In most schools this is done VERY poorly or as a one-hit-wonder with little consideration of on-going-induction (personal rant). Administrators have to be willing to sit down with parents LONG after the excitement of the platform has worn off, and reteach how to access/utilise the platform fully. Easily the most “administration hours” are in this area but I do believe it has been well worth this investment. By showing a full commitment to this process; parents now believe that we won’t be “flipping” to the next exciting thing that comes on the market – a frustration for many parents (and staff!).
There is a need to keep selling this to the parents/students and remember that some students will still need to keep a paper diary despite your best efforts to keep things well organised. Also, a BIG WARNING, if you don’t have organised teachers who will commit to use the platform – don’t do it! Training staff is important but it is intuitive to use for the basics and then time needs to be invested in expanding functionality (e.g. quiz, test, roll, links, files, dropbox function, etc.).
As you can tell – I love this platform! Here are some comments from a member of our staff about their experience with Schoology:
As a part-time teacher Schoology has enabled me to communicate with the students when I’m not at school. Also, I have been able to set up quizzes and comprehension tasks, the results of which are recorded automatically into a grade sheet for me to evaluate later. It has also been useful for setting due dates on tasks and for some students who keep losing their handouts I can upload course info, tasks and medical forms to schoology for them to download.
Going back to my first point, I particularly like the way we can post updates (like a news feed in facebook) this is really handy when new things come up or to remind students and parents about coursework or events. It is fairly labour intensive in the beginning to understand how to travel around the software, but with some time and effort and coaching from Paul it began to earn its keep. All of the teachers use the software regularly. Schoology works for us because we all use it and are dedicated to using this software as part of the communication between students and parents.
For College and MS it is great to be able to keep in touch with what the rest of the staff are doing as well as using it to communicate with students.