Saturday, March 10, 2012

Story telling

This is my day to catch up on posts.  Prior to the strike we had done three sessions of storytelling at the lovely Moberly Arts Centre and because of the strike we had to postpone our next session until after the March break.  Our sessions will eventually culminate in the planting in  the herb garden  fiery herbs and participating in Elemental on June 9.

 Each session the students have done exercises to help them with story telling, they have listened to stories and had guest story tellers work with them but a part of each session we have been working on our "story", a very interesting saga of a bear and a scorpion who travel from India to Egypt to Austria to New Jersey and back to India with many adventures and challenges along the way.  Each student has contributed to the story and moved the action forward.  I can't really totally explain how involved the students are in their story and what a sense of community this gives them.  They can hardly wait to return to work with Naomi, our facilitator and storyteller.

At the last session they finished the story and Naomi talked about mapping it-a rough sketch emerged.  When we came back to class the students drew their own  maps  and wrote about the map or their experience with these sessions.  As I looked at their maps I really wanted to share them with you.

I feel very fortunate that these students have been able to have this wonderful experience. Due to our not collecting money as part of our job action, field trips have been almost been almost non-existent this year and all experiences are so enriching to my student' lives.  This experience has really allowed them to tap into their imaginations as well as work together to create magic or fire!

I will quote Alfred...
Day 1
The storytelling session yesterday was fun and interesting.  I did some research on the stone soup story and found out that the version Naomi told us is the French version because of the soldiers.

The gift I am bringing to the next session is my creative imagination.  Ever since I was young I always liked to imagine stuff even in stories.  For me, it is easy to imagine something.
Day 2
The second day was great and I liked the chicken and fox story that Melanie Ray told us.  Melanie was a very good storyteller because she really put lots of detail like the expression and the tone of her voice the character spoke with.  The story we did at the end was funny continuing the bear and scorpion story.
Day 3
Making the third part of the story was very fun because of imagination.  I really want to keep going with the bear and the scorpion story because there could be an adventure anytime.  Naomi is really good at storytelling and I hope to hear another story from her or someone like Melanie again.

working with clay and writing about it...

This is a blog entry I started and didn't finish.  Since I wrote this we have done two more sessions and we now have the final products.  The students have actually now started Clay Diaries Part Two!  But for now I will share Part One, an entry actually written in mid February with an update at the end!

We have now had three sessions (well actually five now) with our artist in residence, Phyllis Schwartz.  We had a two week hiatus due to her being away on holiday and our long weekend.  So far the students have done masks and hand built projects of their choice.  They have had a marvelous time and are eagerly awaiting her return to work with glazes and decorate their works of art.

When I was a consultant I was often told how great it was to have me in a classroom (okay at least sometimes) and I loved being in those classrooms.  This year having Phyllis teaching the children, I realize how much  kids benefit when someone has knowledge and passion about a subject and in her case, much patience and appreciation of the children's efforts.  I, as  a teacher, so appreciate how she can do what I really can not.

I want to freeze the experience a bit for my students and I have found that the best writing occurs from what experiences kids actually have.

Before we began working with Phyllis, I had the kids think about masks,  look at examples of different kinds of masks  and do a bit of research into masks (thanks again, Wikipedia).  During the project I had them keep "Clay diaries" writing shortly after they had worked with Phyllis each time.  Then they edited these and did drawings of the steps of their progress and published them. 
I think we were all pleased with the results and I will share a few here.

 This is to show you the covers!

 Samples of a bit of their writing!

Since then we had Day Four when students painted their masks.

Day Five they put on the glaze.

And finally they arrived back at school from our strike to find
the finished products that we put in the show case yesterday!

Making the most of a two day week!

This, of course, was a week like no other!  We spent the first three days on strike.  The positives were that I got more fresh air than I normally get on a week day, and I actually quite a bit of an opportunity to do some garden clean up and have a bit more exercise.  I was fortunate to be on the afternoon shift so that I missed the terrible weather early Monday morning.  I am not going to make much of a political statement here except to say it would be nice to be able to reach an agreement without having to go on strike.  It would be nice to work in a province that I felt really valued public education...

To say that my students were excited to be back at school Thursday would be an understatement.  They may not all admit it but they love being at our school.  Thursday was absolutely crazy.  Phyllis had dropped off all our pottery so that was very exciting.  Each group was supposed to prepare a recipe demonstration in French Tuesday so I had all those posters and some ingredients in the class as well.  Then the grade sevens had Ancient Greek projects due Thursday as well.  I should have taken a picture.  What with the ipads as well my class was very crowded.

At some point class size was actually reduced and we also had to make schools wheelchair accessible.  Classrooms were made smaller and halls and washrooms bigger and schools stayed the same size.  Then the government made classes bigger again but new or renovated classrooms were still smaller than classrooms in the good old days.  My classroom does not have much space so it's always a bit difficult when I have a lot of "stuff".  Whoops I wasn't making any political comments!

Back to those Ancient Greek projects.  The Grade Sevens only had a couple of weeks to do these as I hoped to have them brought to conclusion prior to the break.  Having three days off made it a bit more difficult for them but most of them did get finished on time.  We are moving on to Ancient Rome but I have actually posted the project now so that they can get started if they want during the break.  They begged me to let them so that is a good sign.

We finally finished our French unit on nutrition and the culmination is the recipe demonstrations.  We did a rehearsal Thursday afternoon with students reviewing rubrics to evaluate the presentations and then together we evaluated after each groups' demonstration and discussed them.   Friday we had the final demos with the food.    Now I wish I had videoed some of them.  Some were quite hilarious.  There were some very interesting cutting techniques used on hapless apples and oranges.  In some ways it's been a bit of a tense week so a little laughter was a wonderful thing.

Lunch was a meeting of the Tech Committee to go over guidelines and procedures with the ipads.  It's been great having them in the classroom but they will be moving to the library so that  all classes can book them out and there will be a wireless router with the cart. 

We ended the afternoon with an Intermediate Sports Assembly.  In our small school it's amazing how many students are able to participate in sports every season thanks to our amazing P.E. teacher and other teacher and SEA volunteers who coach. 

The end of the day came and I had students reluctant to go home.  One kept saying how bored she would be.  This is a student who was born in India, moved to Austria so she speaks German, and three years ago moved to Canada.  As I said, a group made me post the Ancient Rome assignment on moodle so that they could get started over the break.   A couple of students are going away but most will be in town, and with parents working and not a great deal of money for extra activities life isn't overly exciting for them when they are not in school.  

I really don't know if our government really understands how much school means to many of our students. 

I am very much looking forward to my break (and note I received my pay statement when I got home with about $1200 deducted from it for our strike and please note we aren't paid for the summer).  I know I keep making political statements!

Despite not doing report cards this year, I don't think I could work much harder than I do, the idea of ten days in Florida sounds wonderful, but as crazy as it sometimes can be, I will really miss my students. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

More fun with ipads...

Every week in my classroom is honestly kind of amazing.  Each day has its ups and downs.  I sometimes feel as if I live a year in a day!  But all in all they are amazing.  I sound absolutely sickening at times I know, but I truly love teaching and learning.  As you know I am having trouble with the concept of retiring even though I know that there are other interesting things out there I can do.  Please note my enjoyment of teaching is not currently enhanced by our government's proposed legislation or its refusal to value and appropriately fund education!

 Yesterday I decided to let them try out Videolicious on the ipads.  I divided the class into three and each period one group had the ipads.  With a partner each student was able to go around the school and make a video.  Now I can assure you that there weren't any academy award presentations but they certainly had a great time and we had lots of laughs watching them.  Later two of the girls showed one of our teachers how to videotape her student teacher teaching!

I have to say I am kind of now hooked on ipads as an educational tool.  The sheer portability of them is amazing and that you can shoot videos with them is wild.  One minute we are using the calculators to do their math, then play a game, where through fish eating numbers (Motion Math, Hungry Fish) you get a great idea of positive and negative numbers. You can read a book, play the piano, research for your Ancient Greek project and write up your notes.  You can present projects to others easily and it's really great for working collaboratively.  Thanks to sites mainly recommended on Twitter I have some amazing applications.

My latest favorite is The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore, based on the academy winning animated film, this interactive book is amazing.  Last period Thursday we had half the reading buddies using the ipads with half the class, while the other half did their usually reading.  Friday last period we switched.  Needless to say they had a great time.

I feel we have come a long way in a short week (well more accurately perhaps I know lots more about ipads than I did before and often the kids are giving me pointers.  Many of them have ipods and the system is basically the same.)  It's going to be hard when we have to share them with the rest of the school.  Currently I am the only classroom that is wireless but eventually we will have a wireless router that can go room to room apparently.

At one point yesterday I looked at one of the girls and asked, "Is this the craziest class you have ever been in?" and with a smile she said,"Yes!" as two of the boys piped up and said it was the best ever, that it was awesome.  I think we have engagement!