Monday, January 30, 2012

Planting The Trees of Kenya

Having just finished our read aloud novel, I turned to picture books last week.  I chose this beautiful book as it went well with both grade six and seven science curriculums.  I also had recently heard a radio interview with Wangari Maathai following her death in September.  This is the inspiring story of a woman who left Kenya to study in the United States and when she returned to Kenya made it her mission to restore trees and self sufficient agriculture to her country. 

The illustrations are gorgeous and my students
did responses on the book and as you can see
did some wonderful art themselves.  I use a
generic picture book and novel response I
made up long ago.  I will post this as a page. I think I have to retype it so stay tuned. They were also inspired to research more about Wangari.
What an incredible role model she was! 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Making Masks

The big excitement this week had to be making masks.  Thanks to the Vancouver School Board's Artist in Residence program, potter, Phyllis Schwartz, is working with us.   For the first time in many many years I am teaching my own art.  The only thing more terrifying would be teaching my own P.E.  And although I like art and I like coaching that doesn't mean I actually feel confident or really enjoy teaching these subjects.  When I found myself teaching my own art, I told my principal that if anyone needed the artist in residence it was me!

Our school, having been an annex for many years, doesn't have a kiln, so our kids haven't had that opportunity of doing much with clay so I thought that this would be a good choice.  Having taken a pottery course myself, I knew how satisfying working with clay can be.
We have a wonderful SEA who has given many children the opportunity to work with plasticine and as a result I have had some amazing projects done with plasticine.  I thought that they would enjoy the opportunity to work with clay.  And they have.  I missed the last hour of their work yesterday as I was involved in a students individual educational plan meeting and forgot to get the camera out again so you will have to wait for a look at their finished masks.

It's been a crazy year due to job action we haven't been able to plan many field trips so it's nice to be able to give my students this type of opportunity.
Before we began the students wrote a bit about their masks and did a bit of research about masks.  I had them write how they felt after the first session and I will have them write again after we work on them on Monday after they have been fired.  Needless to say I have to bring writing into all things!  I know we are all looking forward to Monday afternoon! 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Chasing snowflakes

I write this blog and think about the pictures I should have taken.  We had snow at school and that is quite unusual.  When we had snow at my house in November about 47 blocks away, there was none at school as I am on the edge of Little Mountain and my school is on what we call the south slope with the Fraser only a few blocks away.  This week there was snow and the kids were ecstatic.
Once again the sixth graders were at work with microscopes and I wanted to see a snowflake up close.  Well it never happened too effectively but it was fun trying.

If you actually read this blog on a regular basis you know that we have Grade One reading buddies.  Every Thursday last period the kids read with their reading buddies.  Sometimes we do different activities, making Halloween cards for instance.  This week I thought it would be fun making paper snowflakes so I gave my class a quick refresher lesson during music appreciation and away we went.  Both Angela, the grade one teacher and I thought what a great way to end a day (especially one where we spent lunch hour at a rather depressing VESTA meeting discussing our lack of progress in bargaining).

I really try to challenge my students academically but have to remind myself how important it is to make time for fun and that there are different kinds of learning.  Every year I think how wonderful my class is with their buddies but each time the buddies seem to get better and this year they are just so kind and patient and fun with the "little kids".  As I write this I am thinking that we need to invite the buddies to look through the microscopes.  For any of you using microscopes this is a very useful website.  I have had the kids turn their drawings into mini books, always a fun format. 

Back to trying to study snowflakes with a microscope.  It  is a bit like trying to capture a classroom through a blog.  Hmmm...

Monday, January 16, 2012

Canadian Artists and Microscopes and Order of Operation

Each week I ask my class what the highlights of their week were.  For me, this week there were a couple.

The grade six social studies/art project went really well.  For one thing I finally went totally paperless and the the assignment is only on our moodle site so that all students had to go there to get the information for  the assignment.  I also encouraged them to save all work in a word document and that makes it easy to cut and paste websites for their bibliography etc.  That doesn't mean all my students did this but many did.  The project is fairly simple but gets them using different sources of information and responding in different ways.  They had to "interview the artist, choose a favorite painting and recreate art in the style of the artist. 

  I showed them a simple way to display the project by folding a large piece of construction paper and mounting it on it.  I also like it that the whole project was completed in a week and I was able to have them working on this in the computer lab or classroom while I taught the grade sevens math or science.  Although the assignment was due Friday, I encouraged them to have them done Thursday as we all know how things can go wrong at the last minute.  Most did have the project completed.  We were going to present them Friday but I had had to postpone working with microscopes from Thursday so that I couldn't postpone that again so today is the day.  I did look them over this weekend and discovered one of my students was rather mixed up so that I little reteaching re researching needs to take place.  Oh well.  I am going to post a few pictures I took of their projects. 
 I am going to show you a few more of their projects.  First you can see the art that they did in the style of their artist and then their research and the pieces of art they chose.

Another highlight this week was the grade six students working with microscopes.  They were ecstatic.  That is the only word I can use.  In the text they were to begin with preparing slides of onion skin to look at, but I decided to start with prepared slides that had been given to us by the scientists that visited us last year.  I think that worked out really well because they could get used to using microscopes without worrying about preparing slides.  We will do this this week. 

We had a great variety of slides and it was a great afternoon.  I had a small group as the seven's were doing Social Studies in the library and we had students move from station to station so that they were able to see all the slides.  Students had one microscope for two students and were at a table with two other students. 

Finally a low point became a high point.  I had the worst time with the grade sevens doing order of operations in math.  Why is it students seem to hate to write things down and go through the steps? Anyway we did succeed by going back to whole numbers and then back to decimals and the next day they all could do it.  I also think they began to see that a little method could save them time and frustration in the end.  Hmm... a lesson I often seem to need to relearn...

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Meandering the internet but finding the essential...

Thanks to Pavan, creator of a great blog, Pancakes for Recess, I discovered these great posters by Christian Jackson.  I can't help but think what a great lesson for theme or what is the essential essence of a story, having kids create the image for a favorite story. 

When I was a child my parents bought an Encyclopedia Britannica and I would go to look up something for homework and then start looking at other articles, not always completing the initial homework far later than I should have (in case my students might read this, of course I always got my homework completed eventually...) and I find myself doing this as well on the internet. 

I look at a posting on twitter and that leads me in other directions such as today but many times just like many years ago these meanderings are often quite useful and often delightful. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Back at school...

Always a shock to the system to go back to work after a two week vacation, but I think that as a teacher it is perhaps more of a shock than say, working in an office.  Teaching school is intense, at least if you teach at the grade six/seven level.  They have a lot of energy!  It's a transition for us all to be back.  Long ago I realized you need to start slowly after a holiday but I think I forgot my own advice Tuesday.  That may have been how I skipped a couple of units Monday in Grade Six math and neither the kids nor I noticed!

I also had those terrors of what do I teach next.  The creativity button didn't seem to turn on easily.  But I think I have myself more in gear.  I came up with a rather nice variation of a suggestion in the grade six social studies book.  My grade six students are happily researching and doing mock interviews of Canadian painters.  I stumbled on to a very nice website and let students each pick an artist who they will pretend to interview and then pick a favorite painting and then do a drawing in the style of their artist.  I will post the assignment here for you.  I am also moving into microscopes (something that I always rather dread as much as they love) with the grade six students.

Yesterday they began working on a scientific drawing of salal leaves (given to me when I was buying flowers at The Flower Factory) and then started using magnifying glasses to make more detailed drawing and what fun they were having...)  The Grade Sevens are into Egyptian projects and plaguing me for clay.  As well yesterday I met our artist in resident and soon the kids will be doing making clay masks.  My principal has also signed us up for a story telling project so the fun never ends.

 I signed up for a project to post a picture on facebook every day so I think I may put a few of my favorites here.  Please note that it is definitely the rainy season on the Wet Coast!  Now I think I will take a nap!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A New Year-random thoughts and pictures

I have been very neglectful of this blog over the holidays!  I am just going to say I have been recharging!  I can't believe I have been on holiday for two weeks.  Of course this time of the year is a busy one with lots of socializing.  I keep thinking of the posts I have meant to write but haven't yet.  Well I have a couple of days before I go back to work!  I also need to catch up on my class blog-many pictures not yet posted!

One of the nicest things about a holiday is getting to spend some time in your favorite places.  One crystal clear morning I met friends in Deep Cove.  I got the time wrong and was there an hour early but I had a fine time working on the not yet sent Christmas cards!  Deep Cove has to be one of the prettiest places in this beautiful area and I hadn't been there I am sure since the summer if then.  A great place for breakfast or just a home made doughnut has to be Honey's.

Another evening friends and I went to the Light Show at Van Dusen Gardens, which is very close to where I live.  This show gets more amazing every year and this year they also have their new Visitor's Centre as well.  It was pouring rain when we arrived and I thought perhaps we were a bit crazy but a good raincoat and an umbrella are all you really need.  And I even took a video

Today I am going on my annual walk along the beach in Spanish Banks-something I always do with friends regardless of the weather if I am here and today I think we are going to get off easy as it isn't raining or horrible.  It's a great way to start the new year and I am looking forward to the walk and the year.  Just thinking about resolutions, most of them probably not kept on my part!  But one "truth" I realized awhile ago is that it is important each day to do something you really enjoy and to  feel as if you accomplished something (however small) and that is a resolution I have tried very hard to keep and that is actually not too difficult.   Wishing you a very happy 2012!!!