Sunday, December 18, 2011

Book making and the end of term

School is over for two weeks.  One term ended.  I lost my voice last Saturday and spent a quiet weekend in more ways than one.  I probably should have taken a couple of days off work but there just seemed too much going on.  What other job do you have to plan to be away? The planning for another often seems more work than being there yourself and then there is the catching up when you do return.

Other than being rather tired, it was a good week.  The week before, we began writing picture book.  This process starts with the students looking at good picture books (and I have lots) as well as thinking about the stories they liked when they were younger.  Students wrote stories and planned storyboards with their pictures.  Then finally go to final copy.

  The books all were finished more or less on time and we were able to share them with the grade one reading buddies Thursday afternoon.

At the beginning of the year I was a bit bemused by the lack of artistry of my new class.  Although I would never call myself an art teacher lots of drawing does occur in my room, and these books were really well done.  They were really proud of them and were taking them home to share.  All you need is construction paper, card, and wrapping paper, scissors, a ruler, and imagination.  I learned how to make these in a workshop long ago and have helped many classes make books over the years.  It is a very satisfying process!

Having buddy classes is great.  We made up simple presents for the first graders and as you can see they were proudly wearing their bell necklaces.  I made up packages for my class and some of them were wearing bell necklaces the last day as well.  I think this all partly started with my favorite Christmas picture book,  The Polar Express, when the boy only wants a bell from Santa's sleigh as a gift. 

As I may have mentioned due to our job action, we didn't do report cards this term and what a blessing that was.  These take hours and hours of our non teaching time at the elementary level.  We still had to figure out marks just not share them formally.  I keep parents informed if there are problems through the students agendas and meetings if necessary.   I always have my class do their own report cards with comments so I shared my marks and comments with them this week and they filed these in their portfolios.  The students' marks and my marks were quite close, but I think this helped eased some of their anxieties.

We had a party Friday but between recess and lunch as we had a holiday assembly in the afternoon.  We had Secret Santa ( and everyone brought their gifts and all seemed happy-they didn't have to participate if they didn't want to do so), they brought food and drink,  listened to Christmas music, etc., and everything was cleaned up by lunchtime.  Yeah!!!

Students Council had a successful food drive, my class brought in the third highest amount with 187 items (no party unless they had 100 items, always an incentive).  Our class diligently sold Paperblank journals for the last couple of weeks and raised almost 400 dollars for the Nepal Library Foundation.  They were also thrilled to get old leftover day planners and journals as an unexpected reward. 

They have also been excellent Hall Monitors and Peer Helpers.  Kids feel good when they see themselves making a difference.

We had a lovely Christmas concert (in our multicultural school I am not going to worry about labels).  Since the principal does choir with all the students and we have had two more talented musicians join our teaching staff to help with this, everyone gets to participate.  We also had some talented solo and group and class performances.  By the time we got our chairs back to the classroom, it was basically time to call it a day!  I was exhausted and fully planned to leave early and come back next week to sort life out, but a couple of my students wanted to help so I am basically planned and ready to go for January when I left at 5:00 (and I wasn't the last teacher to leave I can assure you).  It was a good first term but I am definitely ready for a vacation.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Great Inventions

Well this week the grade six students presented their multimedia projects on Great Inventions.  As I watched these presentations it reminds me that we really need to look at what our aims are when designing projects.   I was a bit bemused about what they thought were great inventions (a bit candy obsessed).  Perhaps, I should have stuck to the suggestions in the Social Studies text book.  I also sent them for a period of research in the library so I imagined that they would have used a few print resources.  That did not generally happen.  I also didn't specify how many resources they had to use, and some only used one or two and seemed to be heavily dependent on Wikipedia.  I can see we need to do some work on search engines.  Quite a few did do their bibliographies correctly. 

Rather than have each present to the class, I let them present in the computer lab with half the class presenting and the other half watching their classmates' presentation and evaluating as they went.  Having presentation one at a time can be quite time consuming and often involves waiting for technology to kick in. 

But generally I was quite pleased.  There were a couple of presentations that I thought were quite perfect.  Now several students didn't come with their evaluation sheets so I docked them marks for that.  Most students did do multimedia presentations.  Most did prezis, some used bitstrips to create cartoons, There were quite a few models.  Those who did posters did a neat job.  One student created a big book.  Most students were knowledgeable on their subjects, some very knowledgeable.

We invited a grade five class to see their presentations.  Their regular teacher was away and they aren't the easiest group so I planned carefully.  Two students went to each presentation and then in about three minutes moved to the next (my class knew where to send them next).  That worked out really well.  I was a bit concerned because the one presentation I hadn't seen was because this student had been away.  It was supposed to be about  the invention of video games but mostly focused on Modern Warfare and had a few too many guns on that prezi and not great information.  I think I need to have a conversation with his parents about how he is spending his spare time and if they have closely looked at this game.

I do think the project was a good experience.  The students got lots done in a couple of weeks and learned how to use different media as well as learning how inventions came to be.  As a teacher, what I want most, are students who want to learn and know how to find information.  I think we have had a good beginning. 

The grade sevens (I don't currently teach them Social Studies)have been begging for projects so they are researching decomposers for science.  Stay tuned...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Some Days Are Better Than Others

Yesterday at the end of the day, I have to admit I wasn't feeling overly successful.  I was telling a fellow teacher that, and she asked me, "Are you wishing you were retiring at Christmas?" and I said, "No, I would feel like a complete failure!" 
Today I had cajoled a friend,Val, who has just retired as a high school home economics teacher to come in to teach my class how to make peace dove Christmas ornaments.  Another friend, a retired teacher, came to help as well.  Now a project that Val thought would take an hour took all morning and I was still finishing up with a few when my class had choir in the afternoon, but it was a total success.  At the end of the day everyone had a peace crane and knew a heck of a lot more about sewing than they did previously.  Most of them really hadn't sewn anything until today.
Of course I should have taken pictures but I was just a bit too busy so this blog will get finished tomorrow because I know you will want to see the finished project.  I am writing this today because who knows how I will feel tomorrow and the experience won't be so immediate.
Today was wonderful.  They were really  proud of their creations.  They were in the zone of creation  and were working well cooperatively.  The usual stars weren't necessarily the usual stars.  They were also experiencing the exhilaration of trying something new and succeeding.
I had the joy of having "an expert" enable me to do something out of my comfort zone, teaching sewing.  Val was great, figuring out how much fabric we needed, providing the pattern, cutting fabric pieces etc.  and then providing the model and instructions and coaching.  Sandy, both a teacher and an accomplished needlewoman, was great cutting thread, helping thread needles etc.  I could never have pulled this off without them being there.  You may remember I am teaching my own art this year for the first time in decades!
I think one of the funniest moments was when Renfil couldn't remember Val's name and called her Mrs. Beautiful. 
I think we often try to do too many things in a teaching day and  we lose the thread of what is really important.  This may be why I was feeling rather fragmented on Wednesday.  Anyway thanks to my friends,  we all had a great day today and I am looking forward to tomorrow!

Heroes of the Olympus and other young adult reads...

I thought I would review a few YA novels I have been reading lately, appropriate for more sophisticated readers in my class.  I just finished the second book in the Heroes of Olympus series, The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan.  I loved it as I did the first in this series and I now am looking forward to the the third in the trilogy.  Many years ago I discovered The Lightning Thief and thanks to the movie, last year, my class were all keenly reading it.  That book turned some of my class into readers.  One of my students I actually nicknamed The Lightning Thief.  I must admit I think I read the first couple in the series but not the rest but lots of my students  read the whole series.  Then last year the kids and I discovered the Kane Chronicles.  And these were so perfect as we studied Ancient Egypt. 

In the new Heroes of Olympus series in the first book, The Lost Hero, we meet three new demi-gods, one Roman and two Greeks.  The Roman demi-god, Jason, has lost his memory, somewhat disheartening to his two friends, Leo and Piper who are Greek demi-gods.  All three find themselves transported to  Camp Half-Blood from where Percy Jackson, the lightning thief, has disappeared.  The three, Jason, Leo and Piper, end up going on a quest to once again save the world.  Their rather windy adventures take them from Quebec City to Chicago to finally near San Francisco where of course they are victorious but more battles will occur.  

In the Son of Neptune, we find Percy, who like Jason, has had a memory loss, and he finds himself in a West Coast Roman camp for Roman demi-gods.  There he teams up with two Roman demi-gods (one actually from North Vancouver) and they end up having to go to Alaska via Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver.  In the last book, these six gods plus Annabeth, Percy's girlfriend, are to go to Greece for the final battle.

I thoroughly enjoyed both books and look forward to reading the third.  

I also read the sequel of The Maze Runner, , The Scorch Trials.  This  series is now a trilogy with a prequel coming out.  Again I was swept away by the story.  I often think I am not much of a fantasy or science fiction fan but then I find these books I really do enjoy.  

My current read is Bruiser.  I have read a couple of Neil Shusterman books along the way and once met him and found him very charming, a fan of our racetrack because you could watch the ocean and a horse race.  I had not read anything recently though The Schwa Was here was a favorite in my class last year.  I somehow thought of him as a humorous author, but Bruiser has humour but it is a very serious book.  Initially Tennyson is very upset because his twin sister is interested in a guy thinks he is a loser, but when he follows home he realizes the situation is much more complicated.  Told from the points of view of Tennyson, a lacross player; his sister, Bronte; and Brewster and even his younger brother, we learn that Brewster is a truly unique person sensitive beyong anything you have ever seen.  I am absolutely fascinated and really enjoying reading.  I can see why it is winning many awards. 

I am not very systematic about the books in my classroom.  I am very careful of my favorite picture books but any of the other books, I just want read.  It's always interesting what disappears, and disappear and reappear they sometimes do.  Right now Dormia has gone missing and it's a signed copy to the class.  I know these are important books.  For instance, Anne Frank's Diary is another that often seems to walk away.  Somehow it's also reassuring that there are books that still can't stay on the shelves.