Monthly Archives: March 2012

Unexpected Character Education

Unexpected Character Education

This week, my Grade 1 and 2 students have been working in groups of seven to plan, practice, and produce the Reader’s Theatre production of Sheila Rae, The Brave. We’ve been performing many plays in class, but this was one of the hardest ones yet. There was a lot of text, and many of the words were difficult to read. The students really needed to use what they’ve learned about spelling patterns to sound out the new words. Many of the students have also been working on fluency in reading, and they practised their lines a lot to improve fluency and add expression.

Yesterday, the groups decided how they wanted to perform the play — be it acting it out, doing a puppet play, making a Common Craft video, or any combination of the above — and then they recorded their performances as well. It was great watching again what they did as I uploaded the videos last night.

Embedded in each performance, you can see and hear character education. You see students taking responsibility as they learn the lines and review the difficult words so that they all perform well. Students also accept the strengths and weaknesses of each of their group members, as they encourage them throughout the process and assist them with difficult words. You can also hear the students that take initiative to ensure that their group reads at the same time, when necessary, and keeps up the pace throughout the process.

These are great examples of where the process is more important than the product. Students will get a chance to reflect on their performances and set new learning goals as a result, but regardless of this reflection, the fact that they all worked together to perform such a difficult play is incredibly admirable!

Have you had any experiences like this before? I’d love to hear about them!

Aviva

Making Writing Meaningful

Making Writing Meaningful

As part of our Grade 2 TLCP (Teaching Learning Critical Pathways), my students are learning about procedural writing. Our big idea for this cycle is, “How might routines and procedures be important for everyday life?” I’ve really been trying to use this big idea to guide our writing activities.

This TLCP is all about learning a specific writing form. Weeks ago, we generated the Success Criteria for this writing form, and since then, the students have used the success criteria well to become successful at writing procedures. The big problems seem to be that they forget to include an introduction or conclusion and that they do not expand enough on each of the steps.

I can have the students write procedures again and again and again for me, but eventually it gets boring. I want the students to see the value in this type of writing. It’s important that they know there’s a reason for procedural writing. This was the reason behind yesterday’s writing activity. (You can see the finished procedures on the individual student blogs.)

As a class, we generated this list of different procedural writing topics:

When one student mentioned writing how to use the Livescribe Pen, I got excited! I told the class that many teachers and students at the school are using the Livescribe Pen, but this tool is new to them. I explained that if some people wanted to write how to use this tool, I would share their post in Memos to All Staff. Then maybe their procedure could be used to teach others how to use the Livescribe Pen. At this point, the students were sold! 🙂

Then a student spoke to me about writing a procedure for how to use Gamestar Mechanic. When I showed the class this website earlier in the new year, I mentioned that I learned about it on Twitter. This student remembered what I said. He asked me if I would tweet out his post on how to use Gamestar Mechanic, and then maybe he could teach other people on Twitter how to use this website. Wow! Awesome!

This started the conversation. Students were talking about the best audience to share their work with and the best way to share their procedures too. This was no longer just a writing activity for me. The engagement factor increased when the students had a real audience for their work, and they had control over the topic and the tool that they used. Students really got excited today though when I showed the class the comment on the Livescribe Pen post that two of my students published yesterday. Everyone was so happy to see that Miss Barton, one of our wonderful Grade 3 teachers, left a comment.

My students couldn’t believe that a teacher wanted their help. Just to make things even more exciting, Ms. Stretton, one of the amazing Grade 2 teachers, came by today and asked if these students would help her out as well. With these two requests, the students finally saw the value in procedural writing: others were reading what they wrote, trying out new ideas, and asking for help to clarify their thinking.

Other students wanted to get this same response to their writing too. They were really looking at what they wrote and how they explained their thinking. The students were trying to be more specific as they elaborated on the main idea in each step. Yes, many of the students can still continue to work on adding more details to their introduction and conclusion, but they are getting better.

In a tweet this afternoon, Jean-Louis Bontront, a high school chemistry teacher in Windsor, Ontario, made this suggestion:

Thanks Jean-Louis! This is exactly what I did here, and I’m so glad that you suggested that I do so too. Watching the students writing yesterday and today showed me the value in giving students choice in their writing and giving them a real audience for their work. Our big idea for this TLCP is not just writing on paper — it’s really happening, and this week proved that to me!

How do you get students to see the purpose in writing? What difference does this make to their writing skills? I would love to hear about your experiences!

Aviva

 

What do you notice?

What do you notice?

In class, we’re working on identifying three-dimensional solids and describing the properties of them. On Monday, our wonderful math facilitator, Kelly McCrory, came into our classroom to do an activity on three-dimensional solids. Below is an Animoto Slideshow of many of the three-dimensional solids that the students made out of playdough:

What do you notice about these solids? Describe their faces. How are they similar to each other? How are they different? It would be great if you could leave us a comment and help us with our learning. Students in the class are encouraged to leave a comment too and share what they’ve learned as we start this new math unit.

Thank you, Mrs. McCrory, for getting us thinking and talking about math!

Aviva

Skype Literature Circle

Skype Literature Circle

This year, I’m fortunate enough to be involved in a Virtual Mentorship Program thanks to Dean Shareski (@shareski) in Regina, Saskatchewan. My students have connected with two different teacher candidates in Dean’s class. Rebecca Rink, the teacher candidate that they Skyped with today, decided to run a small group literature circle during my literacy block. These three students are going to read and discuss Kevin Henkes’ Chrysanthemum. Today the students made predictions about the text and engaged in a conversation about their predictions.

This is a short video of the end of the Skype call.

I love the fact that this Skyping opportunity allows my Grade 2 students to develop their reading comprehension skills, as they have a meaningful discussion about the text with each other as well as with Rebecca, who’s over 1,000 miles away from us. Next week, the students will be reading the book, and then having a follow-up conversation with Rebecca, as they make connections to the text, ask and answer questions about the book, and begin to understand the author’s meaning behind the book. What a wonderful, curriculum-related, meaningful reading activity! Thank you, Rebecca, for giving my students this great learning opportunity!

For those of you that haven’t read Chrysanthemum before, what do you think the story is going to be about? Why? Feel free to share your predictions here. I can’t wait for Part 2 of this great activity!

Aviva

Snowballs Play

Snowballs Play

For shared reading this week, my students have been working on learning a play called, Snowballs. The students read the play throughout the week, and provided descriptive feedback on their reading. Each time that we recorded our reading, we reviewed the next steps from the previous time, and worked on perfecting our oral reading skills.

Today, I put the students in groups of 6 or 7: our largest groups yet. They had to create a video of performing the play. The students could choose any way to present the play that they wanted, from Common Craft videos to puppet plays to live performances to any combination of the above. They had to decide this as a group, choose their roles, prepare, practice, and then record. It was incredible to watch!

Making Plans For The Play

Deciding On Parts

Making Paper Bag Puppets

 

Early on in the process, I tweeted out,

Students had to collaborate. They had to problem solve. Leaders emerged in each of the groups, and all of the leaders approached things differently. One student got a pencil and started writing down what the group members agreed on. Another leader helped group members compromise, so that all students got what they wanted. Another one facilitated oral discussions and had students repeat back what they were going to do before they got started. I worked with all of the groups and asked questions throughout the process, but the students owned the project, and it was wonderful to see what each group did.

Below are the three completed videos.

As we continue to focus on descriptive feedback both as a class and as a school, we’d love to hear your descriptive feedback after watching these videos. What do you like about each of these performances? What do you think that the students can continue to work on for future performances? Thanks for your help!

Aviva