Goodbye Canada, Nimefurahi Kukuona Kenya

Photo Credit: GVI, David Petts

Photo Credit: GVI, David Petts

Tomorrow I will be flying off to Mombasa, Kenya to spend my summer teaching through Global Vision International. I am hoping to update my blog when I can or the end of August will see a flooding of postings from when I get back! So there may or may not be a hiatus of postings, that I will know as it happens. But for now I shall say “Goodbye” to Canada and “Nice to Meet You” to my new home for the next 60 days in Kenya!

To see an overview of the work I will be doing with GVI just follow the link! 🙂

http://www.gvi.co.uk/programs/volunteer-orphanage-kenya

 

 

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As LiD comes to a close this year, I look forward to the “depth” of next year!

As Learning in Depth comes to a close in many schools in Delta this year, I can’t help but wonder what’s going to happen next year. I’m so excited to see these students finally start to get into the “depth” part of Learning in Depth.

We’ve seen these kids just start to scratch the surface of what learning in depth intends. Students have been answering the Who, What, Where, and When type questions with posters and power points of facts that relate to their topic’s main idea. But now, with this foundation just starting, I’m hoping to see students start asking the How and Why questions that I feel is the basis of all inquiry. Here’s where I’m hoping to see some interesting stuff!

This is why I would urge those schools that are choosing to change topics – not to! It defeats the purpose of depth! A year may seem like a long time and there are worries that students are going to hit walls and become stuck but please, let them! They need to hit bottom and work their way out of it. The struggle will be good for them. And you’ll be so happy to have let them struggle because the development of their knowledge tools, their thinking and questioning will benefit!

We’re just at the beginning stages of the LiD process and we should really see where this type of learning could lead. I’m still excited and I’m even excited to talk to students about what it means to be stumped on something you’re an ‘expert’ on. I’m also excited to hear from those who have been working on this project for an entire year but still don’t know a whole lot about their topic.

Maybe this will jumpstart those students into trying harder and taking it more seriously. Maybe it will be a little overwhelming feeling like you don’t know anything about something you’ve spent a whole year learning. But theres an awesome quote I love about this “I don’t know much about it.. I only started learning about it decades ago” 

So please! Keep the same topics and encourage deeper learning, deeper questioning, and something a little deeper than poster making! Have I mentioned depth and deep learning enough in this post?

When Teachers Blog/Tweet it Shows Students They Care

I’ve been preparing myself for my Volunteer trip to Kenya where I’ll be teaching in Children’s Centres in Mombasa for 6 weeks. To do this I’ve been doing the pre-departure course work from Global Vision International on Teaching English as a Foreign Language and I’ve picked up a few resource books myself. One in particular, “The ESL/ELL Teacher’s Survival Guide,” seemed appropriate not only for my trip but for my own career at home as ELL students are numerous in the schools that I have worked at.

The authors of this book, Larry Ferlazzo and Katie Hull Sypnieski, start off this guide by outlining the three R’s that make up a positive and effective learning environment. Relationships, Resources and Routines. What I failed to notice, and what these authors pointed out to me, was that blogging is an easy and effective way to show students you care about them inside and outside the classroom.

“In today’s world, many teachers already blog and write about their teaching experiences. However, they may not take the extra step of sharing this writing with their students. This can be powerful on a number of levels, but in terms of relationship building, it shows students that the teacher things of them outside of the classroom.”

They are so right. Whenever students would ask me about Twitter I would usually say, “Yes I have Twitter and even a blog, feel free to follow me but I tweet and write about education/teacher stuff – you might not be interested.” But, students should see you on Twitter and your blog posts because it shows students how methodological you are in how, what, where and why you teach and how you learn. 

I did have students come up to me one day and say they found me on Twitter and that I tweeted a picture of my water bottle from class (students put a post it note on it reminding me to drink more water and not just coffee).  I explained to them how happy that post it made me, because even within our short two weeks together we had a community started where we took care of each other and got to know each other. I thought it was wonderful.

I now realize that this twitter-verse and blog-overse is not just for me to develop and network with other teaching professionals. But is also a way to show how connected we are with our students and that we are very focused on doing our very best to provide our students with classrooms we feel they deserve. 

“Taking a few minutes to write about the class (whether it is a simple reflection on how a lesson went, how a student demonstrated an exceptional insight, or sharing a few success and challenges from the week) and then sharing this writing with the class can increase trust and respect between the teacher and the students.”

So I’m urging teachers! Please, if you don’t have time to blog – because yes, it does become something of another job on its own, please tweet! Share your thoughts, your learning moments, things that inspire you and ways to change our classrooms for the better! Use hashtags to join the conversation!

There’s a great twitter cheat sheet to help you out found here: http://www.learningunlimitedllc.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Twitter-Cheat-Sheet-Tool-4-Learning-Unlimited-by-Kimberly-Tyson.pdf As well, some Districts have their own hashtags that are very helpful to guide the conversation to be specifically about their Schools. For Delta: #sd37 #deltaschools #deltalearns. Non district hashtags but helpful ones for my purposes: #inqBC #LiD #LiDinaction #BClearns

Here’s a reminder though, Hashtags are only as effective if they are being used! They can be great promotional tools for an upcoming school wide event, a district initiative, or if theres a topic you want to really learn/chat about with other professionals about. This is why some districts, like Surrey, can be so connected on Twitter because they seem to have agreed upon hashtags for their district that they use: #sd36learn #surreylearns #sd36 #edcamp36

So, If you can’t blog, tweet! Even 150 characters can go a long way to show that you are connected, learning, and caring about your students and your school. Adding a hashtag in between those 150 characters will help your thoughts be found and connected with in a much more efficient way too!

“Celebration of Inquiry” a Showcase of Delta’s Inquiry Progress

Delta School District had their “Celebration of Inquiry” Day today where Schools could set up examples of how their inquiry questions/projects worked in their schools. This was a way to share ideas, examples, some good food and great conversations. As … Continue reading

A Metacognitive Approach to Science & Inquiry

A students hilarious but true commentary on how to use the Scientific Method - please note the lack of thinking!

A students hilarious but true commentary on how to use the Scientific Method/ how to “do” Science! *Please note the inherent lack of thinking

In reflecting on the Science Fairs that I’ve attended I can’t help but ask: Whatever happened to inquiry in Science? It’s part of our standard PLOs in BC but this is one thing I found to be missing in all of these projects that test a hypothesis. I usually ask “Why did you do your experiment? How did you come to your question?” And what I usually get back is either a blank stare or  “it was in the package/online.”

The emphasis of science then, ends up on the doing but not the thinking, which I feel is the biggest shame. The essence of science and of learning is the thinking! Experiments (the doing) are done because of questions – the how and why – inquiry! Yet can be ignored in some science classrooms.  The process of thinking and questioning is being overlooked or underemphasized.

So often students are asked to use the scientific method. Which they do quite effortlessly once they’ve found an experiment from a quick google search. But how can we have our students try doing the first step on their own when they haven’t been given instruction on how?  Asking questions is a skill to be taught and explored before we ask students to even start using the scientific method in a deeper way.

An activity I would like to try is taking a metacognitive approach to science. A student would take a scientist, inventor, creator (whoever who has used the scientific method to test a hypothesis) – and instead of replicating how they came to their conclusion, dig around and discover how they got their essential question/ hypothesis and what the process of thinking is like.

This way, whoever the student chooses will act as a model for how to think. The student will have to research the life of that person, what affected their scientist enough to form that question, what connections, observations and reasonings their scientist would have made. By examining the process of thinking and question making, students may begin to understand what they must do when forming a question of their own and how this process creates the meaning behind the experiment. Why does it really matter if an egg floats or sinks in salt water? Why was answering that question important in the first place? It all comes down to the scientist and how they thought about it. Their thinking made that question an important one to answer.

Having students think about their thinking while their reading is a skill we teach day in and day out of our literacy programs (especially with the use of Adrianne Gear’s Reading/Writing Power kits). Metacognitive readers are good readers! But.. good thinkers make good scientists! 

 

Lets Teach our Students how to be People – Not ‘Boys’ & ‘Girls’

This past week I was acting Teacher Librarian in a school and was left “Once upon a Motorcycle Dude” by Kevin O’Malley to ready to the little ones. Partway through reading the story I was getting upset because of the stereotypes being portrayed and reinforced throughout the book. But, much to my relief, was pleasantly surprised.

"Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude"

“Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude”

We have a Princess in distress because her ponies (almost all 8 of them) are being stolen by a mean giant. The story is being told by two kids (a boy and a girl) who just can’t agree on how the story should go. In the boys story instead of a Prince it’s a ‘cool motorcycle dude’ who only helps the Princess if her father agrees to have the Princess make gold thread every day for him. He agrees and the Princess is left to “just sit there and make gold thread” while the ‘cool motorcycle dude’ gets filthy rich!

The girls story includes a princess who has all these Princes trying to help her, but to no avail they cannot. She decides to “go to the gym and pump some iron” to become a ‘Warrior Princess’ and to fight the evil giant herself.

The two characters creating this story end up agreeing that they could fight the evil giant together. But then the female character adds that they fall in love and get married and have a little baby girl, which the boy ends up changing to be a little baby boy.

While I’m not 100% on board with the message this book brings as I still feel it’s reinforcing unfair stereotypes  .

Females… Males…
– Concerned about love, marriage, babies, ponies and want things to be pretty/ cute – Don’t care about love, marriage & romance in stories and want to look cool and tough
– Are passive and cannot choose for themselves – Don’t need female help
– Need men (father, prince, motorcycle dude) to help them. – Take from others for their own gain (money)
– End of the story has the female’s pony being saved by the male & a wedding. – End of the story has the male being “filthy rich” because the female makes him gold for the rest of his life.

I do like how it tries to break through some of them and has the Princess choosing to help herself and be strong. Although, the story doesn’t change much of how males are being unjustly represented.

What was interesting and very bothersome to me was the reactions of the kindergarten and grade 1/2 students upon hearing this book. Most boys only liked the male characters point of view and really liked the tough motorcycle dude. These young boys also found the girls story to be silly and unbelievable since it would “never happen” and is “wrong.” The girls reaction was positive to the princess being the heroine in the story.

Princess saving herself and giving the option to the Prince to make his own thread, but does not have him indebted to her like he did in the Boy's story.

Princess saving herself and giving the option to the Prince to make his own thread, but does not have him indebted to her like he did in the Boy’s story.

It’s alarming seeing how early stereotypes and notions of what’s considered normal or outrageous are set into these young minds. It’s totally normal to have a ‘cool dude’ only do things to become rich and take things from a woman who now has to spend the rest of her life spinning gold thread for him. Yet it’s completely outrageous to think of a girl fighting a giant on her own and saving herself. We need more examples of what’s normal for men and women in the books we read  to these students and in the lives around them.

It’s bothersome to think that a story featuring sensitive but strong Prince who is saved by a sensitive but strong Princess would be “wrong” to a child. Perhaps the focus should be being good people and not being a ‘good boy’ or a ‘good girl’ whatever those stereotypes might be.

Boy's definitely wouldn't be interested in "love" or have that be part of their story

Boy’s definitely wouldn’t be interested in “love” or have that be part of their story