Saturday, March 26, 2011

Into Spring Break and Thinking of Gardening...

It's interesting how one's life changes in a week. I am out of school, which takes an amazing proportion of my time.   One nice thing is that spring has definitely arrived on the west coast.  I am back in my garden trying to prune and get rid of excess leaves etc.  I am really not a great gardener but I do love to see things grow.  I moan and groan as I plant bulbs often in horrible weather  but love to see them spring up (what a pun).  I just noticed a new book, Sugar Snaps and Strawberries by a favorite garden blogger,Andrea Bellamy. so I think I might just have to go out and try to buy it.  Maybe I will be inspired to grow more things I can actually eat other than herbs, tomatoes and lettuce.  She's having a book launch party at Barbara Jo's on Monday but I unfortunately (or fortunately for me)  will be in Seattle.

One thing about not going anywhere too exotic is that I am catching up on things, but the more I catch up the more things I find to do!!!  I check off things on my list and the list keeps expanding!!!  Right now off to deal with my taxes!!!  Anyway just wanted to share some green thoughts with you and a couple of pictures from my garden.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

And it's now Spring Break...

Once again I am behind on my blogging but of course I have the best excuse, report card writing!  Report card writing is probably what teachers hate most!  And I am no exception but they are basically done so I can have a report card free spring break! 

A year and a half ago when I went back to the classroom the first set was pure torture as the new version of Silhouette and my old Mac seemed incompatible so that I ended up using Word and finding it tortuous work.  Unlike high schools, there are no simple report card comments to hit for elementary teachers.  Now at least I have my criteria basically set so that makes life easier but never simple. 

The other hard part is trying to teach and then having to turn your head to report card writing!  I notice I seem to get significantly crabbier.  Oh well!!! 

This week was as fast and furious as they come.  Thursday Division One and Two had a great couple of hours with scientists from Cardiome who did an amazing job really showing the students how science relates to every day life and all the career possibilities as well.  There were hands on workshops and demonstrations, a perfect introduction to our Chemistry unit.  The day culminated in getting to play basketball with some of the UBC basketball team.   

Then the class presented their Ancient Greek projects to their classmates, Ms. Wong, and myself.  Once again they did a great job, surpassing their Egyptian projects and they did it all in a couple of weeks (half the time they had for the Egyptian projects.  Of course, we ran out of time and had to finish  off the presentations the next morning. 

We also had another great round of lit circles on Friday.  My class loves reading and discussing their novels and do a very credible job.  

Then they were able to present their Greek projects to several other classes.  I hope this will inspire our younger students!  I loved it when one of our very lively grade two students exclaimed wide eyed, “Your class is wonderful, Ms. Kezar!”  In addition to models and posters, almost all students had slide shows, incorporated video clips, and made use of Glogster.  Our next step is to incorporate Prezi (not that I know how to use Prezi)… 

The technology in school can again be a frustration.  We ended up using my Mac Pro  when we presented to our own class, as students at home have better, more up to date equipment than we have at school.   

The great thing about project-based learning is that students are so engrossed in what they are doing they hardly realize it is work.   In every case students were ready to present so that all deadlines were met.  I may have to nag them about other homework but not about their projects. 

After the presentations, there was a lunch time meeting of our Me To We Club that most of my class is involved in.   After students told about their project to build a school in India on a Punjabi language radio station, they received enough money to complete the project.  This was announced at the meeting so that was really exciting for the kids and their teacher sponsors.  

 Then we had a pizza party to thank our Peer Helpers and Hall Monitors for their good work around the school.  I am really not sure how my class managed PE class.  Fortunately it was badminton so it wasn’t too strenuous an activity.  And I sailed away to Salt Spring thinking that I don’t feel quite ready to retire.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Canada Reads

Well I completed my fifth Canada Reads selection, Essex County by Jeff Lemire. It was really different, being three interconnected  graphic novels, about a individuals living in a farming area in Southwestern Ontario. It also had lots to say about relationships  and quite a bit about hockey.  I did feel a definite connection having lived on the family farm until I was eight and having a childhood where Hockey Night in Canada was a fixture (although of course I was a Habs fan).  I have to say although it was a black and white graphic novel I loved it.  That seems to imply if it's graphic I like colour. Hmm...

To be honest I haven't read many graphic novels and mainly those aimed at younger readers!  I have gone to a couple of excellent workshops on them and it seemed to be that Jeff has mastered the craft.  I found the stories haunting, sometimes heartbreaking but infused with a warmth and credibility.  Just thinking that this might be an interesting book to look at with senior high school students.
So my conclusion, all of the Canada Reads selections were excellent.  Not a harsh critic am I?  And again thanks to North by Northwest book club for the prizes!  There is nothing I like better than books, except free ones!!!

always just too many things...

I just don't have time to blog as much as I would like to do so.  I am going to try to do a few short blogs to catch up once again.
In the classroom, we have moved onto Ancient Greece.  Last year I did Mesopotamia and India and our teacher-librarian, Alanna, did Egypt (I was working with the Grade Sixes so missed Egypt-one reason I enjoyed it this year).  We did a bit on Greece due to the Olympics, but because so many of the class got hooked into reading with the Percy Jackson and the Olympians, I felt I had to do Greece.  Now my doing Greece seems to be mainly finding links and resources (with Alanna's assistance) and giving guidelines  and then away they go. They love projects and really are becoming good researchers.

The time line is short, presentations to be done March 17.  Needless to say the clay is disappearing out of the stockroom and they are learning all about Greek architecture from the ground up. It's bringing me back to my days university days studying Greek drama and remembering later how my Greek trip was interrupted by the government being overthrown.

  I am also  hoping that they will also do some interesting incorporation of technology in their presentations.  I have to say the speed of our computers can be frustrating for all.  Good thing they have better technology at home!

We finished up our Egyptian lit circles and we are moving on to just regular ones.  There is nothing my kids like doing more than talking about books.  We have had some great discussions and I have had surprises about what they enjoyed most. 

Math has been interesting.  Just thinking about it, gives me a headache.  Rotating figures really seemed too much for my brain or demonstration powers yesterday so it ended up with students just teaching each other.  I swear some of my students are much better at this than I.  That seemed to go amazingly well.

Other issues this week were having a student who seemed to be being left out of the mix.  This inspired me to finally use an amazing new book,The Junkyard Wonders, a true story, by author/illustrator, Patricia Palacco.  This is just an amazing book about the class that Palacco herself was in, a special class for students with physical and learning problems, who ended up doing amazing things.  The kids loved it.  It was a difficult read as I found myself trying not to cry in parts.  

The one thing that kind of bothers me is that despite all the talk around formative assessment, my students have been subjected to the Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA)  (try negotiating half writing and half not) and now the local high school is making them do the Canadian Achievement Test for placement purposes I guess.   I ended up having the whole class do some of the FSA (just not submitting) and trying to use this for my own assessments, but I can tell you the process is flawed.   Also if a student has been in Canada for two years, full mastery of English reading and writing usually isn't possible!  I have to tell you though some of my students writing was brilliant! 

Not a short blog!!!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Every week should have a highlight...

I think the neatest thing last week was my class and its bake sales.  Well none of the basketball teams lost a game either so that was probably more of  a highlight for them!!!  And then there were the Egypt projects being shared with other classes but back to the bake sale.
In earlier blogs I mentioned Honey Halpern's volunteer work in Uganda at the Stand Tall Primary School in Uganda and then how she came on her return to talk about her experiences there to my class.  Last week my class Students' Council did some organizing and three days of bake sales took place.  The result was $124 was raised.  Since then I have had several great e-mail conversations with Nicole who is involved with the school about how the money will be spent.  I was also able to share our class blog and a fascinating video about the use of kids and computers.  There are times when the speed of the internet is wonderful.  I am going to share a couple of pictures of the kids in Uganda and our kids today.

In case you didn't gather, mine are the ones not in uniform!  I can't help but think how neat it is that my children, almost all of whom, have parents who came to Canada from all over the world, now reach out to the world.   (Display of fabric art that kids did with their clever art teacher-not me...)