Sunday, May 27, 2012

Roller Coaster

Not literally, only figuratively...That is what this time of the year often feels like as you go roaring and twisting into the end of the year.  Sometimes you have to just hang on and trust in the process and hope to safely reach the end.

Yesterday we had a great Human Eyes workshop. Neelam talked about how we are like icebergs in that you can't really see 90 % of us.  After the discussion of what you can see etc. , the children wrote on post it notes, "If you could really see me..."  They could choose to put them in a tray to share or they didn't have to and they were anonymous and then each student picked up one to share with the class and then she posted them on the board. 

I am sharing a couple of them here with you.   Later the children wrote wishes for the themselves, their families, and their communities. These could not be material wishes.  They were also rather lovely. 

This series of workshops has been great with a nice combination of active activities as well as activities that have really made them think.  My class doesn't always have the best listening skills but they are always enthusiastic and caring!  I am also been struck by their openness and acceptance in thee workshops. 

Unfortunately, when re returned to our classroom just two doors away my newest student had had her ipod stolen!  I always tell students if they bring devices to school that I am not responsible for them but this child only came from the Philippines a month ago and is living with her mom for the first time in seven years as her mom came here to work and she stayed with her family there.  Her ipod is an important link and "security blanket" for her.  I was quite sure who had taken the ipod but it wasn't until after 3:30 and a session in the principal's office  that the ipod was back and we were sure it was hers and the culprit finally admitted it was as well.  In the craziness of the afternoon, I searched in my head for the silver lining.  It probably won't surprise you that everyone wanted to help. A search team located the ipod case, others tried to track the ipod, worked on clues etc.  And of course I felt like we were on that roller coaster.  We all know that the student who took the ipod has some issues but he is generally very kind, and he may not be trusted but he will be forgiven! 

I have a big field trip to UBC Monday.  Do I take him, leave him, or what?  I am taking him, told him he will have to earn his way to the big day at Playland and put him on garbage duty for the week, and a meeting with our Police Liason Officer is scheduled.  The end of elementary school is hard, a big transition, and if you have to move to a new community away from all your friends it is even more difficult.  I had his sister for two years, a very easy student, and we know his mom does her very best...He also has some serious learning problems.  Sigh...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Catching up with last week...

Let's see... maybe I need to do this when I am actually in school... When it is a long weekend you kind of lose the thread.  I did have intentions of starting my report cards but that never happened...  And can you believe the sun is shining after two rather miserable rainy days?!  I just could not bear doing serious gardening the weather was so miserable!  The first two days were fine but had my deck power washed on the Friday and seemed to be doing various errands, and then Saturday I did get my deck furniture out before I went to Salt Spring for the day to go to a memorial service for a friend's mom.  It was a great day for ferry riding!  Anyway the sun is shining and I am thinking about what I would like to write. 

The kids are doing China projects and Extreme Environment projects and I am thinking that my guidelines are perhaps a bit vague.  We will see how the projects turn out.  One thing I have had to think about lately is concentrating on and appreciating  the process and not worrying so much about the product.

The story telling project continues on and the big presentation will be June 9th.  I think the kids are improving as story tellers, becoming more confident.  Anyway here's information on the big event!  I hope that they get a good turn out and that the class all actually turns up.  The expectation is that they will be there from 4:00 to 5:00 on Saturday afternoon at Moberly Arts Centre!  A rather quick project was a picture book based on the story.  Foolish me gave the only copy to Naomi so that I am thinking perhaps we should do another one for us!  Each child illustrated "their line".  Moral of the story make a copy before you laminate or bind!  I don't even have a picture of it!  One of the real challenges of teaching will always be the fact fact that students work at different rates!  I literally didn't get the last picture until the last minute!  

At school sometimes everything seems like a "rush"!

 Big excitement last week was also the Hip Hop performance.  For a couple of weeks Mike, our hip hop instructor has worked with classes on hip hop.  This was a huge success last year and just as successful this year.  Most of the teachers also "learned" a hip hop number so that we performed as well!  The gym was filled with parents madly snapped pictures and videos...

We ended the week with buddy reading, always a neat thing to do!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Student Engagement

There has been much written about student engagement or the lack there of.  And as I sit in my empty classroom on a Professional Day I think about it.  First of all, as has been noted many times this year I have a very enthusiastic class.  Now they are not always the best listeners but when they engage they engage. 
 In my last couple of years we have done lots of project work and one thing I realized is that they didn't even really regard project work as work.  They would spend hours making models for example. 

Yesterday when I told my Grade Sevens we were going to next study Ancient China they were excited.  I had felt behind in science and had been focusing on that for a bit so had taken a rest from Social Studies for a couple of weeks.   We read together the first few pages in the text and I was very aware that China has changed rapidly in the ten years since the text was written.  I told them they could do mini-projects on the different dynasties and they were off.  I had gathered several good websites on China in preparation for their big projects  so they were able to explore those sites.  Having the ipads in the classroom meant that research could begin immediately.  I sometimes become impatient with moodle but it's an excellent way to post assignments and links.  No one can say they lost the assignment either!  I am also able to easily access projects from other years and update them.  I also put up videos and links that I think they will find interesting.  I am following the Smithsonian now on Twitter and posted their top ten mysteries of the universe for instance. 

This morning I was putting together a project for the Grade Six students on extreme environments and I even found a webquest on this.  Wow, a ready made project all set to go!  It was helpful with great links but I always tend to want to step it up so I am letting them convince us of what a great extreme adventure it would be.  I shared with them the website of the company that is helping my friends and I organize our trip on the Camino in Spain.  I am looking forward to what my students will produce.  They did great projects with our teacher-librarian on Poverty and I will share a few of their posters. 

No worries, we have what are probably boring math classes and they read real books every day.  We all need quiet times and we even need to learn to be bored gracefully!  One of my goals of late is to only have to say things once! 

Monday we went over to Moberly Arts Centre for our seventh session with Naomi on story telling.  I don't think initially I knew what I was getting us into but I am certainly glad I was the teacher who happened to be in the office at the right time.  Monday they got to meet and listen to a performance poet, Zac Jackson, I hope he doesn't mind if I share some advice he gave them.


They worked on their story and had their first audience, another story teller, Mike, who is a friend of Natalie who has helped us with movement.   They were thrilled he loved the story and understood it and appreciated that he told them the part that did confuse him. 

I love reading what my students write about their sessions.  This all means so much to them.  They are now creating a picture book of the story.  They each have written down their lines (subject to change of course) and are illustrating them.  At the session they basically "wrote" their lines and made a statue of it.  Prior to the session I think I mentioned that we had written and performed dialogues withe the characters.  Two groups presented their dialogues to Naomi and Natalie Monday as well.  Ah... involvement, engagement...

As promised from a couple of blogs ago-here is a sample of their trifolds that they did about the Reel to Real Festival.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Workshops anyone?

As the school year goes on, time seems to go more quickly.  As usual our class has been busy.  In the last couple of weeks we have had many workshops it seems.  We did one entitled Peace It Together, that was a nice connection to a couple of the films that we saw at the Reel to Real festival.  The kids really enjoyed discussing big ideas connected to how conflict can occur and how resolution is possible.  To learn more about this project check out their website.  As a teacher the trick is always how can you take the big ideas and really see them in the reality of your own context but through workshops like this and the series we are doing through Human Eyes I hope that it all does come together.

We had our second Human Eyes workshop as well the  that week.  The kids are really enjoyed this series and were disappointed that we didn't have one this Friday.  One of the lessons I keep learning from my students is how they do welcome the Big Ideas.  They are always willing to participate as well in whatever is planned.  It's a great way to be!  For me personally this workshop series is interesting as when the project was conceived I was working at the school board with Angela Brown who was our Anti -Racism consultant at the time and I remembered her excitement about this project as it began.  One reason my students really enjoy this series is the active involvement.  In our last session they looked closely at how you can prevent violence, how you give and get support.  The students really enjoyed the drama exercises and we were able to follow them up in the classroom as well.

This week (technically the week that just passed) instead of going to the Moberly Arts Centre, Naomi and Natalie come to us for our storytelling workshop.  And as is typical sometimes in schools. although I had booked our music room for the workshop other people thought they had the room  booked as well!  It's a good thing Naomi and Natalie are good sports as we had to do some shifting from room to room and I forgot that not everyone knows about recess so our time was a bit shortened.  More drama and movement...

Once again I can't underestimate how these wonderful these interactions are for my students.  This whole story telling project has been so amazing.  My students have had so much fun just using their imaginations.  Plus imagine getting to be part of the Vancouver International Storytelling Festival!  Having the Moberly Arts Centre in the neighbourhood has been such an asset.  Today we are off there and we are going to get to watch a community elder prepare a dish and we get to see how our onions are growing.  We have also been working on drama in the classroom so that the students have written skits based on their story and a couple will be preformed for Naomi!  And just wait until she sees the kids latest writing and art projects for her!

Well there is lots more to write about-the Grade Six students' amazing projects on poverty that they did with our teacher-librarian, the Grade Seven's Roman projects, more about the ipads but I really need to go to work so stay tuned...