Tuesday, December 27, 2005

book suggestions

This is a very funny story. When creating writing opportunities for young adults, it is a fun way to start. It has a twist ending. Not for the old-fashioned or traditionalist. For fans of the Paperbag Princess!

The Tale of Desperaux. (Now a movie) This is a wonderful story of bravery. It includes flashbacks, which render the story quite interesting.

Even my gr. 8's like picture books! Follow the Drinking Gourd

Hana's Suitcase. A story of the holocaust.




The Gravesavers by Sheree Fitch


A great story about Nova Scotia, strong female role model for teen girls.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Election Canada 2006

Canada Federal Election 2006
1. To begin: here is a basic information page in Powerpoint overview I created - based on the book:

Canada VotesAlso: on-line user-friendly guide to voting in Canada: CheckI Can Vote!
2. Next, check out my class page on the
Election : Here are some vocabulary words you should know:

Vocabulary

election
political party
candidate
voters
polling station
electoral officer
incumbent
platform
scrutineer
by-election
ballot box

enumeration
electors
parliament
returning officer
tabulation
campaign manager

polling agencies
Leader of the Opposition
Whips
Cabinet

Thursday, December 8, 2005

Parent-Teacher Interviews part I

Today we planned our student-led conferencing. I had some students create a planning/organizer using Kidspiration. It was their choice to use the same graphics, or change them. A template was created by one of my wiz kids, then place in the handout folder on the Board’s server. Students saved it to their files.



During the conference they follow the plan, speaking of their learning modalities to demonstrate their intrapersonal intelligence. This is a hit with parents, to place their child in a leadership role. Part of the tour always involves a demonstration of their school web page. This, too, encourages families to give the child some one-on-one time. So lacking in our busy lives.

During LA classes student filled out their learning reflections sheets, which they I prepared previously:

  • What do I do well?
  • What must I improve upon?
  • Which good things do I continue to do?
Pages 1, 2 and 3 allow the kids to prepare their thoughts.
They didn’t understand why they needed “stories”, as I called them. I told them that it is better to confess to their errors, admit what they needed to fix and plan on fixing it! It is better that this message comes from them, rather than from me!
Some students are disappointed in their marks. This is an opportunity to discuss how to improve marks, what the marks mean and how to set goals.
Hopefully, it is a time for students to show off their best work. I like to have them show their rough work, too. I do not believe that presenting just their best work is an honest picture of who they are as learners. I like to collect all of the work, save tests, gather data on all of their activities in the school, including good and bad behaviour.

I try to call every family before the end of September. We usually have an Open House BBQ during which we meet. I ensure that each family has previously received a phone call, normally with good news about what they do well. It is important that kids rise to the challenge.
In past years, when I seemed to have more time, I used to send home an  affirmation letter. If parents can look at the positives then they will be spending more time reinforcing expected behaviours, rather than spending precious interview time disciplining their children. So often we go home to our own kids and try to correct all of their faults. We need to laud their good works!



Parent-Teacher Interviews part II

What can I say? There is pressure on all sides. Everyone is there to talk and work with the student. I try to call all families before the end of September. This isn’t always possible.
During the conference I ask the students to lead. Then the parents can ask questions of me, once they understand what the student is doing in terms of behaviour, attitude and academics.
One is always thrown by certain questions. After a 20 minute presentation to be asked, “How is my child doing?” As if we can fake what is going on in the student’s portfolio of work. I ensure that we keep rough drafts to show progress.

This week I was thrown by a question. The parent thought the child’s marks were too low. I re-explained the rubrics: level 3 means “achieving at grade level”, which translates to 75%. Level 4 means that the child is exceeding grade level expectations.

One father explained that he would spend an hour and a half re-teaching algebra, for example, and at that point his child understood it. He thought that I wasn’t teaching it very well and needed to re-teach it.

After the father began to explain how he thought I was not teaching well enough, I knew I was getting a little upset. I told him that I would take his advice into consideration. Unfortunately, he wasn’t finished. I excused myself, saying that I wanted to get a pen and paper to write this down. In truth, I wanted a moment to get myself together. Returning to the seat I had vacated, I wrote down a few words. He proceeded to go on about a particular problem and how he explained it to his son. I then interrupted and asked him, since I had other families in the room working on their student-led conferences, if he would write these things down for me at home.



I was so shocked. What can you say when a parent wants to tell you how to do your job? I could have defended my teaching and my teaching practice. I did not. I believe that this parent ahs the child’s best interests at heart. I do not believe that HE believes that he understands learners, learning and the learning process. The behaviour of a child in a class of 25 is very different one-on-one with a loving parent who has know this child, his learning style and in the peace and quiet of a home. I had to hold onto all this, while not becoming upset. I can just imagine me going into a lawyer’s office and proceeding to tell the lawyer who is working with me how to handle my case.

I let it all go and we then went over to the computer to show the family the child’s web page. I must admit that I could not help but show the work we had done with much pride. What is really funny is that I had taken digital photos of the work we had done in class on algebra. We worked through 25 questions together. Brainstorming solutions, I was modeling my thinking, purposefully putting down the wrong answers, seeking student corrections, working through to the right answer. It was one of the best lessons I had taught, since I had worked with a couple of learners, asking them to solve the problems with me on the board. They are allowed to use “lifelines’ and get help if, for example, they are trying to figure out an algebra problem and they are stuck on the details of (8 x 9). This really works for me and for the learner trying to master algebra, rather than times tables.

While we were doing our tour of the website I showed the father the other work other students had been doing. Some of my students have created honourable, simple, websites. Other sites are exemplary, incorporating sound and flashy images, with a great deal of content and 3 or 4 page stories. I have different expectations for each child. Being fair does not mean treating everyone the same. "THERE IS NOTHING SO UNFAIR AS THE EQUAL TREATMENT OF UNEQUALS" I teach everyone differently, depending upon what they need.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Assistive Technologies

Nov. 28 - Assistive Technologies

Today I had a great day training session with Roy Cooper, who came to tutor me and my student, J, on his Special Equipment laptop, scanner and printer. With the laptop comes Kurzweil, Dragon Naturally Speaking (DNS), as well as Co-Writer, etc.. It is a wonderful opportunity to integrate e-learning, incorporating state of the art technology.

While I firmly believe that we should be making the best use of technology,I was skeptical. My Principal went out and bought me a new powerbar. I had to clear the room at the back to squeeze it in. But - this laptop will likely help inspire this student as he participates in text-to-speech and speech-to-text technology activities. My mind is percolating with ideas for its use- so many ideas so little time. We sent the student to his science teacher to retrieve work and determine how he could best accommodate his needs and LD.

Mr. Cooper spent the morning with the two of us. We worked at the voice recognition software (DNS) and trained the computer in J’s voice. I think this software has lots of possibilities. We made a great deal of progress. J and I worked with the various programs. We triained the computer in voice recognition. I was most excited about it. J read some text, while the software learned to understand his inflection. J, for example, says aunt as /AWNT/, as some folks do. The key is in helping the software match text to whichever pronunciations the user has adopted, accents and phrasing included..

J, in fact, has a slightly British accent, and with time and regular use, the recognition dictionary will more reliably predict, and therefore match, J’s speech to particular words. The text J read explained some of the process in which he was participating. Quite clever! It was such a leap into cyberspace for the both of us. As we worked, you could feel the energy as we became increasingly eager. My head was spinning for more and better applications of this software trick. J would not take a break, though we offered him some! I have never seen such dedication as this. I had to send him on an errand to get him up and going. I can remember having to limit my children’s computer time when they were kids. I have three children and we would give each a half hour of computer time. This, I believe, is important. It can’t be good to sit at this machine for too, too long!

It’s funny that my Ontario Ministry of Education publishes documents on helping encourage boys to read. “ Me Read? No Way! I have never had the problem. I ask them to pre-write, I give them manageable task and often have them working at home, writing work down to e-mail to me at school. We love to take turns typing out work, creative or expository, I often I bribe them with spending time on the computer! It is highly motivational for all learners.

At lunch we shut down the computer. Roy and I had an animated discussion of further applications of this software. We spoke of current research in spelling, typing speeds, the lack of need for such applications as typing tutors. We spoke of the research, new software, SmartBoards, and other electronic devices. I was most excited at the prospects. When we returned, we connected the laptop to the ethernet, in order to access the Kurzweil resources. A very exciting venture.

We spent the afternoon training *MY* voice, in order for me to give help to Jomario, and figure out how to make this software work for other students. My principal, a three-story intellect, kindly gave me a release day for this purpose. I had to. There was so much to learn. My class worked merrily behind us, in the room for most of the time. My poor supply teacher managed well. I guess it is like student teaching – after awhile he didn’t even notice us.

Much to my dismay, I hope you realize how calm I am....those who know me know I am not known for this, even now, a day later. After our animated lunch discussions, when Roy sat on the computer with me, to train me as the teacher, the computer could not find any of J's files. In fact, all of the work we had done in the 3 1/2 hours was lost, as were MY voice recognition files. Something had gone horribly wrong.

My files had similarly disappeared. The issue arises in that all of our classroom and YoT computers are imaged generically through the Board's server. The Board's server, in fact, re-imaged the computer and took all of the data away, connected the laptop up to the "G:" Drive, rather than the C: drive, that we had used in the morning. The hard drive is bare of his specially purchased software. It was beginning to be somewhat worrisome.

I am not sure how to solve this problem. This is a laptop which, according to his IPRC & IEP, can and will be used. “assistive devices” The Ministry of Ed. has sunk a great deal of money into this venture I was challenged by making the process and the products work. I wanted J to save his files to the school's server, where we save all of his data on a regular basis.

I am now going to have to retrain his laptop, after reinstalling the software, which was wiped off his hard drive when it was reimaged. It automatically looked for the server files, not the hard drive files.

My dismay is palpable. I was able to run off to choir practice, to find some stress release. What an intense day it was. The good news is the next day J had all sorts of ideas of how to help his friends with his new laptop and software. He has such a good heart. He wants to share. I know he will spend some more time with me retraining the laptop, once we figure out a firewall or something. Geeks ‘R us!

Friday, November 25, 2005

Integrating Music Appreciation: K'naan part II

The Dusty Foot Philosopher (2005)It will never cease to amaze me. With the best intentions the lesson doesn’t exactly fall flat but could have been tons better! This was a good lesson- don’t get me wrong- but it wasn’t great and I totally forgot to use the information I had already gleaned in preparation.

2005

I bought the CD “The Dusty Foot Philosopher”, by K’naan. With a large multicultural presence in our school, I thought he would be a good role model. I wanted to help the children, although they fancy themselves to be nearly-adults, to reflect upon the music to which they listen and the graphic images they see on Hip Hop and Rap artist’s music videos! Someone has to educate them on what it means to be in “the ‘hood”, what life is really like. When they saw the CD cover this is what they thought to songs would be about – not mindful of the reality of the words. They hear words like “pimp”, “gay”, and “whatthehell” and use them in conversation not knowing what they mean.

Teaching Rap is an excellent page by some creative teacher. It outlines the structure of a poem/song, applicable to many genres and it reviews metaphor, simile, symbolism, etc. It also has a great rap about creating rap. We had spoken of symbols both of the days we had been examining the poetry in this song, they could pull it out quite easily, either by clever teaching by previous teachers or by listening to so much media!

I modeled the reading of K’naan’s “Wash It Down” song, giving the students printed copies. (I had the permission of K'naan's manager at the time. He were thrilled!) They were impressed that I could read it as quickly as the artist. Many do not read well or fast. We listened to the drumbeat, which is a wonderful sound. I took my djembe into the class.
As we chanted (is that the right word?) the first stanza in Wash It Down, I mimicked the drumbeat. I placed a student by the CD player with instructions to be DJ and rewind the song when we made it to the end of the stanza. By the third playing of the first verse they had the drumbeat going on their desks.

I assigned them the task of creating their own poem/rap. I had not taught this skill yet, I assumed (yes – trouble, I know) that they could do this. It was difficult. I should have prepared this part and scaffolded it a lot more, or created a group verse first. Even with a lot of work in prewriting skills, it was a bit of a reach for them. We should have talked about the number of syllables in a line, matching the lines; we only touched on internal rhymes, which they purportedly understood.

I guess it was some progress. Two groups, self-selected, and an individual, managed to put together a verse, I played the drum for the first group, and the other two appointed a drummer.

We copied the rhythm from the song, at first, then as they became more confident and asked to try the drum. They found it as tricky as I. I did take a set of beginner lessons last year and have a vague understanding of slap, pop, etc, rather impressed the kids, I’ll tell you!

By the third set of students, they thought they might try accompanying their peers with their rap. What a blast. It was a painful process, however, exacerbated by the fact that I did not break it down into a manageable task of assigning 4 or 8 lines of verse, checking out the syllabification. I learned my lesson, which is 90% of teaching: lifelong learning!

Music

Messy Room assignment

We began to brainstorm a writing project. The germ of the idea was taken from a book. The goal was to write an expository piece of writing about “How to clean a messy room”. I tend to think creatively, since most writers write about what happened to them before they turned 13, I knew I had some ripe ideas brewing in my grade 7 and 8’s classes.
I gave them the option of either writing it in a purely expository form, step 1, clear the floor, etc., or, as I spoke with one student, E., we came up with the idea of having something go wrong as he was cleaning his room. Evidently, we have creative imaginations, since E. decided that we could have a monster mess up his room.
I asked him to close his eyes and took him into his bedroom in his imagination. As E. sat there, eyes closed, others were giggling, he said he heard giggling from his closet. I asked him to look in the closet and see what was in there. He said they were “monster people”, we had written stories the previous month on “monsters”.

On my bulletin board I have a poster on the “S words” and I used this to generate more ideas from him: sound, site, shape, surface.

E. described them; I was looking for adjectives and more descriptive words in their writings. They have “bubbles on their heads”, he said. I kept asking him questions about them, he said giggled and they were like humans only 20 cm tall. The other students were interjecting silly comments, I was afeared of losing them during the session. Nevertheless, I kept on!
I brought E. back to the room -from his closed eyes and his imagination, and he jotted down some quick words about his creature. We had to figure out what to call them, I wrote the two words on the board: monster people. We took off the /ster/, fiddled around with the word People” and decided he would call them “Monpopples.”

I sat and scribbled notes as E. dictated to me the story. I use a keyboard almost exclusively – I do not have good handwriting! I do mean they were scribbled jot notes. We then went down into the lab, and a day later he was able to take my scribbled notes and translate them into a story. I was amazed.
What was truly amazing is that the next day another student, T., an artist, not so much a writer so far, brought in a story with 8 paragraphs, which he had divided into chapters. Who knew?! He had used the general idea of the story writing exercise: a creature interfering with his cleaning his room, which was very well written and included cover art. He had listened to the process and formed the story in his mind as I worked with the other students It was the most amount of work I had ever gotten from this young artist. Beautifully printed on three sheets of paper, stapled, including cover art.
I promised T. I would take the drawing home and scan it for him, for his web page. I had to white out his last name, since OCDSB Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) policy states that we should not post the last names of students. I sat during my lunch break and typed out 5/8 of the story to get him started, the spelling wasn’t so much invented spelling as homonyms!

During his LA class he typed the rest of the story, I helped him spell check and we posted it to his web portfolio .

I find that getting them started on the typing really assists the slow typists. Quicker hunt& peck typists also do not mind typing a story for a peer, if it helps them get going. I have one student who does not write at all well, and we use peer typists on a regular basis. We brainstorm writing ideas, do pre-writing and put together the kernel of the story. Some prefer to write on the keyboard, some prefer to do a rough draft on paper. Whatever works for the student works for me!
I had a long day, but a good day. After handing our report cards, I went home greedy for my weekend!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Incorporating music into Language Arts Curriculum II: K'Naan

Last week we listened to Wash it Down, and Soobax. I asked the students to glean what they could from the words. Some recognized the Somali language, as it is a class of multicultural backgrounds. They had questions of their own, but I began to get the words and the ideas to flow:

  • What do they know of the writer/singer?
  • Where did he come from?
  • What is his message?
Today we talked a out the words of K'naan's song "Wash it Down". I am not sure I did all of the poetry justice but we culled a lot of hidden meaning from the words.
The Dusty Foot Philosopher

K'naanWash It Down – Free listening lyrics at Last.fm

Listen to K'naanWash It Down (full track) for free.
Some of the phrases gave them trouble, others were very clear to them.
""tension, the stressing disorder"
"hazardous accidents driving with negligence"
"too many beverages"
We could not figure out 'Stephanie or Erika', or "hassling creditors", but after discussing credit and debit, they wrestled with the concept of owing money.

I asked them why they thought K'naan used war 4 times in the first stanza. none of them came up with my conclusion, emphasis. I love looking at it from their perspective. They thought to emphasize it. One thought was that it was like the repeated firing of a gun.

I asked them why people use language. They had a great deal of trouble getting past the language in the song in the classroom! I know they use these words in the hallways and on the play yard! We compared the language and the topics they hear about in rap and other artists, i.e. one student asked if the song was going to be about "the 'hood". My belief is that we have to speak to them, as adults, to help them understand the values that they are being exposed to in the music they hear and the music videos they watch and the violence they see on TV and in the videos they rent.

I plan on doing an Internet Safety lesson next week. I know that they are chatting with friends and engaging in risky behaviour. I only hope I can help them understand the dangers out there. We have already talked some about Bullying. The next step is to help them engage in safe behaviours on-line.
What an interesting discussion! We came to the conclusion that people swear to get attention, to make a point, to convey emotions, to "be kewl".We compared language we would use with family vs. friends.

What was really interesting was comparing their reactions to seeing these words in print and seeing them in the classroom. We discussed the different synonym and Euphemisms for words that describe words like "vomit". I held them back from thoroughly exhausting all references that they could dream up - there were several! Language has proven to be a difficult problem at school. I hear "what the hell" so much.

I did a bit of a role play by pretending to be a student responding to a request by a parent, i.e. being asked to pick up "doggy do" from the back yard. How would be describe the experience to our friend, when complaining about having to do it! This helped explain euphemisms to them. They understood my point.
Wikipedia says: "A euphemism is an expression intended by the speaker to be less offensive, disturbing, or troubling to the listener than the word or phrase it replaces."
Tomorrow we will go back to the words of Water and revisit them, having viewed the DVD after speaking about the first verses. My daughter, a hydrogeologist, has spoken at length to me about this topic. After a time this morning they were anxious to see the DVD. They were fascinated in seeing the making of the video. Horrified to see the garbage and the ramshackle buildings.

The second time I delivered this lesson, with the gr. 8's, I thoughtfully asked them to find Kenya and Somalia on the maps in their planners BEFORE we started. [duH with a capital "H"!] I should have thought of that the first time, working with the gr. 7's. Sometimes I think I have never done this work before. Start with what you know - place the concepts in their minds before you deliver the new information. I already did the research and found an excellent map. Wikipedia isn't too bad a source. We did speak about the politics of Somalia. We compared what happens in Canada when you disagree with the politicans and you are fighting for power. Most chimed in with "an election" when I posed the question! Most timely, seeing as they ought to vote on Tuesday to begin the process.

We were shocked to read of the death of one of the workers in the Health Care Facility. They were further impressed with the work of the clinic featured on the video, located in Kiberia, Kenya. My grade 7's were charged with using math to figure out how old Ms. Festo was when she died. They determined she was only 39 and that her children were now motherless. Tabitha Atieno Festo, 1965-2004.
Maybe, sometime, one of my students will make such a difference in the world.
"The truth is the work" -K'naan

Further research:

See also: Integrating music into Language Arts Curriculum

Oprah. did a show on child soldiers
She spoke with Nelson Mandela about the AIDs issue in Africa.
UN Special Session
From 8 to 10 May 2002, more than 7,000 people participated in the most important international conference on children in more than a decade, the Special Session of the UN General Assembly on Children, at which the nations of the world committed themselves to a series of goals to improve the situation of children and young people.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in his opening statement to the General Assembly, addressed the children of the world. "We, the grown-ups, have failed you deplorably," he said, adding, "One in three of you has suffered from malnutrition before you turned five years old. One in four of you has not been immunized against any disease. Almost one in five of you is not attending school. We, the grown-ups, must reverse this list of failures."

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Messy Room

"Messy Room" Cr. Wr assignment

This assignment is due on Wednesday, day 5.
You are to write either a narrative or expository writing on "How to clean my room". you may have to use creative liberty or a lifeline, judging by the state of your lockers!
As always, feel free to send your work by e-mail.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

geometry

Yesterday we had some issues with geometry. After reflecting upon the problem, while my husband nuked our leftovers, I realized that we neeeded to do some more graphic work. I found a great site In addition, I connected Regie Routman's thinking: as we work through text we need to demonstrate to the students how we wrestle with a problem. Today, when we go over the work, I will ensure that ALL students are listening, or at least not distracting others. I realized, after viewing the Allan November video, that we must be able to be creative in our teaching.

This is a page with cartoons that demostrate concepts in a visual way. We have created cartoons of our some spelling words in the past, science words we were wrestling with. This is a great way to connect meaning and geometry!

I worked out the problem out loud, confirmed what I already knew about the angles within the shape, and modeled how it is that students work with a problem. I also realized that they do not understand the vocabulary. With 5 ESL stage 2 and 3 learners once they meet a word they do not know, whether they understand the concept or not - the solution will be lost to them. We must slow down the teaching process to accomodate ALL learners. My problem, then is the speed at which smoe students learn. We had a massive work session two days before, during which they worked within their peer tutoring, cooperative learning groups and I could see some of the less able students tutoring others who were totally stumped by one vocabulary word.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Computer Aided Instruction

One of my students has qualified for an ISA-funded laptop, scanner and printer. This is called "Computer Aided INstruction" (CAI). The purposes of the equipment includes, but is not limited to

1) Scan difficult -to-read text, save it to his laptop, and have the computer read it back to him. [I am not sure how this impacts CanCopy rules, but that is another issue!]

2) Dictate work into the microphone and it will write the text for him. [It has to be programmed to understand his voice and his speech patterns. But the trainer tells me that the program gets better at that -with practice.]

While he and I unpacked it this a.m. my SELC gr. 7's took turns reading a story. C told them not to interrupt and the mission was accomplished. I gave them each a paragraph to read. They read just that paragraph silently, then stood when it was finished. When all were standing and ready, R began with the first paragraph. While we pre-discussed difficult words (daguerrotype- we're into photography!!), I asked them not to help each other or otherwise interrupt and decode the word until their peer NEEDED a life line. At that point the reader may call upon a peer to help. As they read and worked, J and I unpacked and hooked up and positioned and repositioned the computer on the table. Suddenly, I turned around and realized the class was silent. They were now working on the follow-up activities attached to the Reading Comprehension task. [You know how in the absence of poor behaviour you don't notice when they are being good?!]

At one point C, not know for being quiet, had to tell one student to be quiet and to take their turn -he was quite keen on it all! At another point, C told another student to get back on task. In discussion, he told another student that we cannot be jealous of J's computer, since it will help him and that is good. I promised the kids we will figure out how to integrate it into the daily work of the day. I also promised that I would explain to others how we will make this work. I am hoping that we can get Kurzweil and Dragon Naturally Speaking for all of us to us. (It is OSAPAC-funded software, free to all OCDSB schools.)

See Allan November

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

being 4REAL-Kenya

I just bought a DVD called4REAL. It arrived last week, the educational version! K'naan, one of the featured artists, has been heard and seen on many media shows, played at Live 8, too. I played the DVD at home yesterday and I will be thinking of playing it this week, depending upon how the day goes!
My students are in the midst of creating an interview page for the staff, as well as doing research projects. Busy times, but I want them to be aware of the world around them. 4REAL, also on the web, speaks of the work people are doing around the world to provide relief to women and children.
My students are keen to discuss their research project topic; War, Eva Olsson, the Holocaust, Rosa Parks. (She died last week-one student is doing research on her!).
I used this in class because I wanted to reach the students.I know they listen to such music and I wanted to talk about it -using their language.
In class we talked about the language of K'naan's songs from his Dusty Foot Philosopher CD. We discussed the fact that many students say, "What the hell?" all the time, especially when a teacher dares asks them to do work! The work ethic is interesting in Canada. What with outsourcing, the developing world developing, and work being sent off-shore, overseas companies providing help lines, an East Indian company providing homework help to North American students. Many of my students tend to tackle the "easiest problems". I am trying to generate some ethics and standards in their value systems. Trying to teach ethical behaviour on-line and in their behaviour as consumers. They wanted to share with me all the place they can get bootleg music. I spoke to them of intellectual property and rights. I hope I made an impact.
It was an interesting discussion that evolved around K'naan's life, work and his music. I played the songs, asked them to see if they could figure out who this man is and where he comes from. Several recognized the language and knew it was Somali. I am trying to encourage them to use their ears more and their mouths less often. Some have the attention spans of crickets! I am trying to get them to sit still and sit and listen they did! Such an interesting group
Many of our ESL kids have either fled other countries, or have come to Canada for the work that their parents do. Language is such a barrier. I find that a simple lesson becomes lost but for the meaning of one or two lost words. Or in students that are tired and need more sleep. I worry for them. The 4REAL video is terrific. It was taped in Somalia, explains some of the Civil War, but, mostly, the tragedy of civil war to civilians. It shows the work that people are doing to help victims of war. I hope to show it to the kids Friday. People helping people. I am sure it will lead to some more literacy opportunities. Many have written poems and stories and their responses to the Remembrance Day unit.
Many of the kids are so keen to work on their web pages at school - when I can help them with the HTML- that they type their creative and expository writings, or their research projects at home, then e-mail them to me, in order to effectively use computer lab time. Then they sit in the lab, work away at details, and show their works to chums, who then teach it to another friend, and so on. Their energy is inspiring.
Electronic communication if more effective with parents. I can "talk" to them, take photos of their kids doing "good" things, check in with them briefly, without leaving 3 or 4 phone tag messages. I am pleased with the progress of the group. The Virtual Tour is coming along. Kids are coming to me to ask to take photos. They are taking photos of the D&T work. They are finding reasons to read and write and think.

Integrating music into curriculum

I just bought a copy of 4REAL, it arrived last week, the educational version! K'naan has been featured on many radio talk shows, played at Live 8, too. I played the DVD at home yesterday and I will be thinking of playing it this week, depending upon how the day goes!

They are in the midst of creating an interview page for the staff, as well as doing research projects. Busy times, but I want them to be aware of the world around them. They are keen to discuss their research projects, War, Eva Olsson, the Holocaust, and Rosa Parks. (She died last week-one student is doing research on her!).

In class we talked about the language of K'naan's songs. We watched the video, an amazing story of violence and poverty. I wrote to the publisher and got permission to reproduce the text of the songs. The video was perfect to help them understand what a refugee camp was like. We mapped Somalia, and tried to understand its climate, weather and topography and how it shapes a people.

We discussed the language in the songs, and the fact that many students say, "What the hell?" all the time, especially when a teacher dares asks them to do work! Language has a powerful influence and they seemed to understand why he has earned the right to some of the language in the songs: powerful, moving stories of horror.

It was an interesting discussion that evolved around K'naan's life, work and his music. I played the songs, asked them to see if they could figure out who this man is and where he comes from. Several recognized the language and knew it was Somali. I am trying to encourage them to use their ears more and their mouths less often. Some have the attention spans of crickets! I am trying to get them to sit still and sit and listen they did! Such an interesting group.

Many of our ESL kids have either fled other countries, or have come to Canada for the work that their parents have found. Language is such a barrier. I find that a simple lesson becomes lost but for the meaning of one or two lost words. Or in students that are tired and need more sleep. I worry for them.

Many of them of them are so keen to work on their web pages at school - when I can help them with the HTML- that they type their creative and expository writings, or their research projects at home, then e-mail them to me, in order to effectively use computer lab time. Then they sit in the lab, work away at details, and show their works to chums, who then teach it to another friend, and so on. Their energy is inspiring.

How I miss teaching, finding sources and resources. A writer, new to me, is working on 'Modern Day Pirate Tales'. You wonder how things could possibly get worse, but they do - as those in desperate situations take desperate measures.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

research project

Students are currently working on a Research Project. The details have been worked out by planning and preparing, using various graphic/semantic organizers and scaffolding the work. The individual work sheets are housed at: http://www.jilks.com/portfolio/ResearchProject.html

The first step was to gather 3 or more resources. You must include three different types: electronic, text; including books, magazines, newspaper articles, and include human and graphic resources. Use the maps I handed out to you! They will help you place the ideas you are talking about in a geographical context.

The research theme and main topic could be an Historical Even, [see http://www.jilks.com/portfolio/historicalevent.htm] or it could be a person who made a difference in terms of peace, resolution of conflict or aiding humanity. Some topics include WW I, WW II, the Vietnam War, weapons of war, Hiroshima, Sir Winston Churchill, Corrie ten Boom, Anne Frank, children of the Holocaust, Rosa Parks, etc.

The main part of the text should include at least each of four subtopics. See your handout for those details. The length will vary with the skill of the researcher/writer, but at least a paragraph for each topic.

The evaluation rubric is here: http://www.jilks.com/portfolio/ResearchRubric.htm

The bibliography resource will help you cite sources clearly. See your planner or our school board web resource: http://www.ocdsb.ca/Student_Res/search/refer.htm .

Class, any questions?

Friday, November 11, 2005

Remembrance Day

Friday, November the 11th, was a major day Remembrance Day. We had a great day; incredible ceremony. The choir sang, the band played. There was a slide show, created by our CCT teacher.

The Wednesday before Remembrance Day we had a guest speak at the school: Mrs. Eva Olsson, holocaust survivor. She had a big impact on the children. You could hear a pin drop. The student will be writing letters to her - the first has been written. A beautiful letter, which he hand wrote, with little help from me. Then we went to the computer lab and we typed it up.

We spent the last part of the day picking up garbage from around the school. We sorted it out with rubber gloves and tallied it all. On Monday, with the help of a computer-savvy student teacher, we managed to create graphs and put them up them on our web site.

I am trying to find reasons for these kids to use technology. It seems to be working! This kind of thing also gives them reasons to learn how to type, a class I took in gr. 11, back when dinosaurs ruled the earth! Typing tutor is becoming less and less useful. THese kids have used keyboards since they were in elementary school. They can "hunt and peck" as fast as they can move their thumbs, too. I look at the adults around me who can type messages in their PDAs. Times they are achangin'!

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Report Cards

Our reports are housed on the school server. We had a power failure last Sunday and our marvellous CCT spent Monday and Tuesday recovering files. Not all were recovered and I lost half the data of my completed report cards. The Board was asked to send the back-up files that they save. 10 days later they told me that they could not find them.

I had a release day last month to work on SE PRo and IEPs for a half day. A supply teacher was hired, while I tried to get the IEPs completed.

We had a power outage that day for a couple of hours. When power was restored I could not open the files. It took me an hour to figure out that I had to use a "recovery" button to recover what was lost.

OK, so maybe that ISN'T comforting, but many of us are in the same boat; paddling with our hands like stink, paddles are overboard, sailing into the sunset, Water is being rationed, food is dwindling,. Our GPS is wonky, dunno the direction of the shore. The ITs are all in the rear of the boat examining it, God bless 'em! It needs an upgrade, a patch or... They will figure it out!

There is a hole in the bottom of the boat, water is leaking in, can't see the hole for the paperwork that is similarly swamping us.

Can't hear myself for the kids asking questions, -parents are demanding to know what in-the-heck we are doing, I know what I'm doing, I have been doing it well for more years than they have been alive, but I can't speak clearly becuase there are so many acronyms floating around obstructing my view and my mind's eye (SELC, LST, IPRC, IEP, TWEA, L.D., ADD, ADHD, ASD, ESL, ELD, OCETF, OTF, CTF, ODD, CCAT, GCEC, DD, TAG, TIPS, CCEE- can you see them up there?) and all these letters are emblazoned on Four Blocks..... weighing the boat down -ballast we do not need and....
- all of us are just hoping to make it to shore (or to December!)!

The captain, bless him, is cheerily encouraging us forward. We have chocolates in each of our mailboxes -he smiled as he passed by this morning. I feel fine!

We have a marvellous Remembrance Day ceremony planned.

A colleague gave me a compliment yesterday.

A student smiled when I gave her a reward for staying on task for the first day this semester. really...

Another student said, "AHA!" after I clarified something for him.

It was a good day, yesterday -mostly. What report cards??!!

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Welcome

Welcome!

This is a new venture for me in the world of cyberspace. Although, my class has its own web page at: www1.ocdsb.edu.on.ca/jilks we are going to jump into the world of blogging with this initiative.

This blog site only contains monitored postings, parents can feel safe that the intent and the purpose of the site: to post information on assignments and some of the more important events in the class room. I wish to reflect upon my teaching practice to further improve it.

We have been having fun reading, writing, taking photos and creating authentic learning experiences through the world of cyberspace. Students are keen to record what is going on in their world. I am pelased to be able to create this interactive experience.

We have had a smashing first term what with visits from all sorts of guests and presentations.

I plan to have a topic page for ongoing projects and ensuing questions. Keep posted for more details!

Ms.Jilks

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