Wednesday, January 30, 2013
The next 11 years I spent teaching mainly grade six at the same South Vancouver school. But of course I didn't just teach reading and writing, there were all the other subjects, as well as all the other duties of being a regular class teacher, but writing still was an important part of my program, and I generally did creative writing with a grade seven class as well.
Then I moved into a district position where my job was to help other teachers with their writing programs. It was a great learning experience for me as well, learning about the six traits of writing, and bringing that piece into the equation. I also still got to spend time in classrooms, especially bringing the oral piece into writing. Several classes enjoyed being involved in "poetry slams".
And then once again I went back to my "own" classroom. I often was glad I had all those files of ideas! And writing in my room occurs every day in different ways, but today as I glanced at my books, and last week when I was at our Literacy Day and chaired sessions given by Lori Jamison and Adrienne Gear, I certainly was finding many "holes" in my writing program.
What am I noticing? Most of my girls write passionately! They love to read and write. My boys generally like to read, but probably not as much, and their writing to me needs some elaboration. There aren't many what Adrienne calls "triple scoop" words! I know it may be time for some poetry! Poetry always improves word choice!
The classroom teacher juggles many balls. Currently we are in the midst of Ancient Egypt projects! And then there are Science review and learning about how to find the area of a circle. Occasionally I seem to work in some French and I am trying to look at some new Ipad apps.
(First picture from a report, a sample they wrote about author, Melanie Jackson's visit.
The second, is taken when my students were writing with their grade one buddies about going skating)
Tuesday, January 8, 2013
It changed as I moved back into the world of full time teaching and since I was a grade seven homeroom teacher for the first time at a new school, again it reflected my learning. And I am just one of those people who if I go to the work of learning, am happy to share, for what it is worth. I also found it was a great way to keep a record of that learning (and may I note, often constant re-learning).
Along the way I also started a blog for my class where I tried to keep a picture journal of our learning adventure as well. And I get behind with that as well. I sometimes just forget to take pictures. I also created a moodle site for the class, a moodle site that totally crashed this year (no fault of mine I swear) and had to start all over this year where I post assignments and links and the class can comment, ask questions etc. And yes, sometimes it all seems a bit much. So one of the other sites may slip or slide, but that's okay, we are human.
Because I don't just teaching reading, the scope of what late literacy may mean got a bit wider. I have had to teach science again, learn about the Ancient World, get my head around grade seven math etc. And because I could have technically have retired while I was still a consultant (if not on full pension) I have known that this stint teaching wasn't going to be a long one, I think I have truly valued it more. I used to wonder why people didn't retire when they could but I have understood that now.
Teaching doesn't pay well as a profession and often seems to be the least respected, but there is magic.
The Wizard of Oz.
I love Carousel Theatre productions and this was no exception. The kids particularly loved the Munchkins who walked on their knees.
So many fun memories the last week. Our primaries did a musical and of course who can resist those real munchkins? And as is typical of my school, all the intermediate teachers were there to help the night of the concert without being asked. My class sensed an entrepreneurial opportunity so that they sold hot chocolate and chai and snacks to the adult attendees at both the afternoon and evening performances, making almost 100 dollars to donate to the food bank.
This class has raised about 1100 dollars this fall for a variety of charities plus participating in the Me to We penny drive and a couple of food bank donation rounds.
They also did amazing cut paper video stories on the ipads with Videolicious, thanks to our great teacher -librarian/art teacher!
And as always time with our buddies was really special, exchanging cards and small presents. And I don't think any of us will forget Harjot's baking cookies in "his" cafe. We did have one mishap with Dwayne getting injured walking one small dog.
Someone asked me recently if I was changed or had great revelations doing the El Camino. And I had to say no, not really although it was meditative walking like that, and some of it was hard, some of it was easy, and there were few flat surfaces and an awful lot of ups and downs, a great deal of beauty, and times when I could hardly see at all due to rain, but there was a feeling of great companionship, and it was deeply satisfying. And you know, teaching seventh grade has many similarities to walking the El Camino except no certificate at the end of course!!!
Saturday, January 5, 2013
Before school began I went to the Matisse exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery so that I thought I could use this as inspiration to begin the year. I happily gave Allison my nice book on children's art and Matisse. (Sorry the book is at school). Anyway my class has really enjoyed doing art with Allison and they have done some great work. When she started a unit on Picasso it reminded me of one of my favorite picture books by one of my favorite picture book artists, When Pigasso met Mootisse, by Nina Laden. I have always loved her books and having had the opportunity to hear her speak at an International Reading Association conference, and discovering she lived in the Seattle area, I was able to invite her to a couple of the Young Writers' Workshops our reading association used to host at the Vancouver Public Library for families. Not only is she a wonderful artist and writer, she is also a lovely person.
Needless to say my class loved the book as much as I did. I also was able to give them some other interesting links about the real relationship between Picasso and Matisse. This was an excellent link with lots of information. This is an interesting video interview about the exhibit of the two at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Now if you feel inspired to do some art teaching I also found this good link as I was trying to find the name of the book that I lent to Allison about Matisse. And the book is Henri Matisse: Drawing with Scissors: Masterpieces from the Late Years by Olivier Berggruen and Max Hollein.
My class did response booklets on the book and I am currently wondering what I have done with them! I think they may be tucked away somewhere at school because they were so neat and thoughtful, I really wanted to send them to Nina. As you can see their covers reflect the style of their favorite artist. I have to say the class was quite evenly divided on their preferences about the artists. The book also reminded them of another picture book we had studied, Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, a book with characters who are animals based on famous people.
I continue to be amazed by the power of picture books. And I am also convinced that some of my talented students may be picture book authors and illustrators themselves one day!
Friday, January 4, 2013
One thing that has been hitting me each week has been our lit circles. I have worked with lit circles for many years and even done workshops about them but to me they have both a magic and elusive quality to them.
Teaching at SFU many years ago, I had my university students do lit circles and share their reading with each other. For many, it was the favorite part of the class, and when they saw the joy of reading and sharing books with each other, I knew that this would become a part of their classroom teaching as they could see its power.
I have always been a strong believer in lit circles but honestly they aren't always easy to execute. At one point I gave up having groups read the same books because everyone seemed to need a different amount of time to finish their reading. I also had trouble monitoring all the groups. Then I decided to just have them share whatever they were reading in lit circles, doing this once a week, after I had "trained" them. This seemed to work well. I still often bought several copies of books as I found the kids liked to read what their friends were reading. I would also have a class novel going as well where I would do more direct teaching.
After four years at the school board, I came back to teaching and didn't initially do lit circles until the seventh graders kind of demanded them, having done them in sixth grade. I chose to use strategies picked up from Faye Brownlie's book, Grand Conversations. If someone finished the book earlier than the others they could move to another book and circle. I think I was doing this when the sixth graders were doing something with our teacher librarian. I kept all my sixth graders for the second year and they do were eager to do lit circles. This time we were just heading into unit on Ancient Egypt and I managed to have an assortment of books on Ancient Egypt. Some kids finished six in six weeks and others two but that was okay. Then we moved into an assortment of contemporary novels.
The lit circles meet once a week and set their reading goal for the coming week. They are to write a response to share with the group when they meet. I have group evaluation forms to help keep them on track and some guiding questions.
As usual I have had other surprises, reluctant at first, my all boys' group started reading Stargirl and found themselves, much to their surprise, loving it. I had to go order copies of the sequel, Love, for them.
I have really been pretty hands off in my approach. I occasionally join the groups but they have been really quite goal oriented. I think Lit Circles are another great way of encouraging reading.
My ESL/LAC group has loved doing a novel study in the library. They have used a favorite book of mine, After Peaches, by Michelle Muldar that touches on the working conditions of migrant workers in BC. It is about a girl and her family who are refugees from Mexico.