educational

The Doll People Room Transformation

Posted on April 22, 2019. Filed under: educational, Grade 1 & 2, room transformation, teaching and learning |

“Room transformations” have been going on for a long time, but Hope and Wade King, authors of the Wild Card, have popularized it in recent years through their book and workshops. This is how I turned my classroom into a dollhouse for two full days of themed adventures in grade 2.

First, our class read the novel, The Doll People for the last two months. I would read aloud one chapter during our classroom “Quiet Time” three times a week. The students, both boys and girls, were really into it. It’s very Toy Storyesque but with a female protagonist. ūüôā

the doll people

Once we had finished the novel on the Friday, I surprised them by letting them watch Toy Story on the afternoon of the Monday. We used Mentimeter as a backchannel during the movie, and they compared similarities and differences between the two stories. We are 1:1 in my grade 2 class, so everyone had an iPad that they could type their answers into. We would pause every 30 minutes or so to look at some of the answers that had come in to give others ideas if they hadn’t written anything yet. The answers weren’t always super clear, but after the movie was over, we went through each answer and the child was allowed to explain what they meant.

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A screenshot of some of the answers I was getting throughout the movie.

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On the Tuesday, I gave the students a “clue” to what was going to be happening on Wednesday. I photocopied the page out of the novel that looked like Auntie Sarah’s journal entry with spiders drawn all around the outside of the page. I handed it to them right at the end of the day and told them it was their “clue.”

The next morning when the students showed up, I didn’t even let them in the classroom. I was dressed as Tiffany Funcraft, and I took them right upstairs to the art room to paint their doll people. My principal had let me¬†buy some wooden dolls off of Amazon. We used water soluble acrylic paint and little paint brushes. There were 40 dolls in the package, and I only have 22 students in my class, so most students got 2 dolls each.

When they finished, we came downstairs. I had turned my classroom into Kate’s (the human character in the book) dollhouse. I made the classroom door into the front door of the dollhouse, and set up five rooms; the parlour, the bedroom, the kitchen, the library, and the attic. In our school we have accordion dividers in each pod. I borrowed three and moved them into my classroom, partitioning off each section into a dollhouse room. The breakout room connected to our classroom became the attic.

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I knew the kids were going to be excited, so I gave them time to just play around and pretend. They went through each room and were just giggling with joy. They loved it.

While the students were playing, I had my friend Jann, a retired colleague of mine, pull students in groups of 4. I had brought some dress up clothes for the kids to dress up in, and she was taking pictures of them in front of a green screen.

Then the students used the app, GreenScreen by DoInk¬†to insert themselves into some dollhouse pictures. Jann said she didn’t do any of it for them. She just gave verbal instructions, and they did it all. That’s the nice thing about the app. It is very child friendly!

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The results were awesome, and I actually printed these pictures out and glued them onto black construction paper and gave them as gifts at the end of Thursday as a little reminder of their time as dolls over the two days.

Before lunch, we went back to the upstairs art room and worked on acrostic poems with our new wooden doll’s names. I used an example with Annabelle, the protagonist. ¬†The rest of the students came up with their own doll names and wrote about what their doll was like through the acrostic poem. Some were very creative!

On Wednesday afternoon, Auntie Sarah went missing, and the students had to complete a variety of tasks to find her. There was a code they needed that they could only get by doing double digit addition, they had to get past “The Captain” (the cat from the story) by creating a cat on the Osmo tangram app, they had to find the rhyming words from the story in a bunch of other words that didn’t rhyme using iCard Sort,¬†and they had to go on a QR scavenger hunt (we use the QR reader app Inigma¬†to eventually find clues that would lead to Auntie Sarah. The kids had a blast completing all the activities. It was sort of like an escape room, but not…

On Thursday, I showed up as Uncle Doll. ūüôā

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We spent the entire day preparing our own doll stories and then recording them. To storyboard, we used the app, Paper. This app is amazing because it still works on the iPad 1s. ¬†Each child was responsible to create 5 “pages” for their groups’ story. 1) Beginning: Introduce characters/setting. 2) Beginning 2: Character traits and goals 3) Middle: The problem 4) The problem continued 5) The resolution.

The students could draw and/or write in this app which made it perfect for differentiation as some kids found it way easier to type… as they don’t love art. ¬†Others hate writing and so they were able to draw their scenes out. Because every member in each group was writing out their story in a different way, they could use everyone’s storyboard to piece together what was going to happen in the group’s story.

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This drawing was done on an iPad1 where there is only one drawing option available. It is the calligraphy pen highlighted on the left hand side of her iPad.

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When they were done collaborating and co-creating their doll people stories, they got to take a doll house. (I had borrowed 7 from friends and colleagues for the day.) They went to a quiet corner of the school and recorded their doll people stories in the doll houses.

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The trickiest thing for them to learn was to keep the iPad close enough to the doll house so that they didn’t get each other in the shot. They had a blast using their own wooden dolls that they had created to act out the stories. Some of them used Seesaw¬†to record and post their videos.

Others used the iPad’s camera roll, and then iMovie¬†to splice the clips/scenes together.

By the end of the day, everyone was so excited to share their stories with the rest of the class.  Since this was the last day before Easter break, I took the last half hour to get the students to help me take down our dollhouse classroom. The students were heart broken that we were taking it down, and they kept asking if we could set it up like that again sometime.

I might do another classroom transformation before the end of the school year… I will see. ¬†Upon reflection, I think I would find a way to keep the tables together and not partition the classroom so much though. I found it difficult to manage all the children in different rooms at one time. I needed to have some type of perch where I could see all students at once. Something to think about for next time.

Any comments or suggestions? Please comment below!

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Princess Culture and Early Childhood Education: Application

Posted on April 11, 2017. Filed under: Anti Oppressive Ed, eci814, First Nations, Grade 1 & 2, Kindergarten, Masters, Privilege, Race, teaching and learning |

In my last post, I ended with some questions about what we, as teachers or early childhood educators, could do to combat the racialized and gendered messages that our

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“Disney princesses” Photo credit: Ricky Brigante via Flickr

students are being¬†bombarded with in their Disney princess/superhero culture. We need to remember that racial understanding makes its way into our classrooms without effort.¬†‚ÄúRace is a structuring principle that must be interpreted in classroom interactions, not as a naturally occurring phenomenon but part of the assumptions that ultimately inform how people construct their world‚ÄĚ (Leonardo, 2009, p. 233).

Our students have racial constructs already formed by the time they get to school, and many of those constructs have been influenced through their parent’s opinions, and the movies and shows the children have been exposed to. Unfortunately,

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Photo credit: Disney UK

we can’t wait for Disney to change their ways and¬†disrupt the dominant discourse, because even though they are starting to try, by releasing movies like Moana, there are still many issues with movies like these portraying Indigenous people.¬†It is going to require educators to take a critical look at the hidden and lived curriculum students are stepping into school with, and learning how to deconstruct these narratives with their students.

In my grade one class last year, we had talked a lot about male and female ‘gender roles.’ ¬†I didn’t have to give many examples before the students started chiming in with what the “world” tells boys and girls they can or can’t do. During our talking circle, students were giving examples such as, “People say boys can’t have long hair,” or “Girls like pink.” ¬†I don’t think there was one student that day who didn’t participate in the talking circle; every child had experienced some type of gendered scenario where they knew how boys and girls were supposed to act. ¬†It was neat watching them agree and sympathize with each other as each child gave examples of what they knew about gender and how it didn’t sit right, even in their little six year old bodies.

I decided to take this lesson a step further with my students¬†because “to children, the boundaries between reality and fantasy life are often unclear (van Wormer & Juby, 2015, p.¬†591). ¬†Kids don’t always understand that the behaviours on TV shows or in movies shouldn’t be imitated in their own lives. I wanted to try and¬†help my students¬†look critically at¬†the gendered and racialized scenarios they¬†see in movies, and deconstruct the message while relating it¬†to their own lives.

The first clip we watched was Gaston’s song from Beauty and the Beast. Take a look if you need a little refresher.

When I chose this clip, I knew it would have a lot of the gendered physical characteristics  of males, and I was hoping the children would notice.  After we watched the clip, I asked the kids what Disney was telling them about men/boys. Sure enough, the kids picked up on so many of the physical qualities.

“Boys have to be strong.”

“Boys have to have big muscles.”

“They are¬†hairy.”

“Boys eat a lot of food.”

“They drink beer.” (Oops, I may have forgot about that part of the movie!)

Then one student pointed out something that I hadn’t really thought about, but was so prevalent.

“Boys¬†like to fight.”

Wow. How had I missed that obvious behaviour from the clip? Clearly Gaston was fighting with the men in the parlour, but I was more focused on the kids finding physical characteristics of what men “should be like.” This led us into a great conversation about violence and how boys are pushed into more of a violent social construct than girls.

We then looked at a couple other princess clips; one of Snow White, and another of snow whiteCinderella. The students were even quicker to find gendered stereotypes of women which included body image, a woman’s “roles,” and standard of beauty. ¬†Unfortunately we don’t have to look far to see the media pushing women in one gendered cinderelladirection, and it mostly has to do with the beautification and sexualization of girls/women. ¬†Our class had a really good conversation around this topic, and it even led into how they can be safe/protected online. ¬†Many children recognized that inappropriate images of women are scattered everywhere on the web, and many children openly admitted to¬†seeing these while they were using the internet in their own home. We discussed how “the world” sometimes treats women’s bodies as objects, and that is not fair or right. I reminded them¬†of what they could do if they ran into inappropriate images/videos while online (close it immediately, tell an adult etc.) I try my best to¬†incorporate digital citizenship lessons throughout the year as we use quite a bit of technology in my class, and I know students run into these situations at home as well.

The last part of the student’s assignment was to re-iterate a stereotypical message they knew about boys and girls, and then offer an alternative. For example, “boys CAN have long hair,” or “girls can wear blue and boys can wear pink” etc. The students left empowered, and I had a student come back the week after and tell me how his sister was telling him something about a “girl colour,” and he told her there was no such thing as girl or boy colours! What a precious example of social/gender de-construction.

Unfortunately, I did not dive into an extension of this lesson that included race… but I wish I would have. ¬†I think deep down, challenging gender constructs was more comfortable for me than challenging racial constructs, and so I left it at that. ¬†Now that I have more anti-oppressive grad classes under my belt, and feel a little better versed in my understanding of Whiteness, identity, and erasure, I am willing and hopeful to tackle more lessons of this sort when I head back into the classroom after mat leave.

However, Leonardo (2009) does warn us that “whites must learn to be racially sensitive about contexts when race seems a legitimate theme to invoke and ask why it was relevant to them then and not other times… Whites can participate in building an antiracist pedagogy against white mystifications, and displacing white racial knowledge from its privileged position of classroom discourse‚ÄĚ (p. 239). This makes me wonder what it looks like to challenge the “princess/superhero” culture in specific lessons, but support it on something like a school dress up day.

Last year we had a dress-up day called “Disney Day,” where, you guessed it, students were encouraged to dress up as their favourite movie character.

Not surprisingly, all students either dressed up as a character, or wore a shirt that had a superhero logo or character on it. ¬†Looking back, I’m again reminded at how prevalent and engrained the Disney culture is in these children’s lives. I would never consider boycotting the Disney day, as I know these types of days are extremely fun for students. ¬†But if I could do it again, I would choose¬†to have some critical discussion around gender/race as a reminder before the day. The children can learn to spot Whiteness, erasure, and cultural appropriation. This type of day would be the perfect time for them to practice their awareness in this area.

Furthermore, an asset-based, positive¬†way teachers can disrupt the princess/superhero IMG_2265culture in their classroom is by offering other cultural/linguistic alternatives. Mary Caroline Rowan in her article, ‘Resituating Practice through Teachers’ Storying of Children’s Interests’ explained how she used Aotearoa/New Zealand learning stories to impart traditional Inuktitut words to preschoolers. It “could serve as a means of first recognizing and, second, deepening Inuit cultural and linguistic approaches to early childhood education” (2013, p. 180). Incorporating First Nations, Inuit, and Metis languages through storytelling is a valuable pedagogical tool teachers can use to help combat ‘White ways of knowing.’ Rowan emphasizes that using Indigenous methodologies

“facilitated the development of a practice of making learning stories that I hoped would make Inuit knowledge(s), patterns, and meanings accessible and, in so doing, make spaces in ECE practice for Inuit ways of knowing and being” (2013, p. 180).

In what other ways can we make spaces in ECE practice for Indigenous ways of knowing and being? How¬†can we disrupt the dominant discourse of princess/superhero culture and acknowledge the ways in which it directly influences student’s understanding of themselves and each other? I am only entering the beginning of this journey, and am hopeful to walk beside other early childhood educators who believe in this work as well.

References

Joseph, A. (2016, Dec. 2).¬†With Disney‚Äôs ‚ÄúMoana,‚ÄĚ Hollywood almost gets it right: Indigenous people weigh in.¬†Salon.¬†Retrieved from:¬†http://www.salon.com/2016/12/03/with-disneys-moana-hollywood-almost-gets-it-right-indigenous-people-weigh-in/

Leonardo, Z. (2009). Reading whiteness: anti-racist pedagogy against white racial knowledge. In B. Ayers, T. Quinn, & D. Stovall, (Eds.), Handbook of social justice in education. (pp. 231-248). New York: Rutledge.

Rowan, C. (2013).¬†Resituating Practice through Teachers’ Storying of Children’s Interests in V. Pacini-Ketchabaw & L. Prochner, Resituating Canadian Early Childhood Education (172-188). New York: Peter Lang Publishing.

van Wormer, K. & Juby, C. (2015). Cultural representations in Walt Disney films: Implications for social work education. Journal of Social Work. 16(5), 578-594

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How Indigenous Learning Stories Can Combat Colonialism

Posted on March 27, 2017. Filed under: Anti Oppressive Ed, baby, cultural, eci814, educational, First Nations, Masters, Privilege, Race, Unsettling the Settler |

Mary Caroline Rowan discusses Indigenous learning stories in her article, “Resituating carol rowanPractice through Teacher’s Storying of Children’s Interests.” Rowan believes that learning stories can be a device to impart Indigenous knowledge and practices. The “learning story” derives from Aotearoa/New Zealand and is a structured, narrative style observation¬†story that documents children’s actions and incorporates them into a story that walks through a¬†child’s interests, ideas, and emotions. ¬†In her chapter, Rowan uses the learning story model, and incorporates¬†Indigenous vocabulary words that support Inuit culture.

(Warning: understatement of the year…) Colonization has had a strong impact on the¬†Canadian¬†Inuit’s culture. Through strict policy and violence, the Inuit people were forced to attend Residential schools where they were taught White ways of knowing and denied access to their language, culture and families. ¬†“Inuit approaches to living have been systematically undermined in relationship with a southern society that believed that it knew best how to use the north, how to develop its economic potential, and how to improve the moral, intellectual and material lives of its inhabitants” (Rowan, 2013, p. 175).

The Inuit language and culture have been silenced through years of colonial policy and forced assimilation. Rowan’s approach to her research is rooted in the understanding that “locally based social and cultural knowledge(s) provide a foundation for meaning, understanding, and strength at the community level” (Rowan, 2013, p. 174). ¬†She journeys down the path of decolonial theory to find ways to incorporate this local knowledge and disrupt hegemony in her early childhood education action research. Through the practice of transformative pedagogy, “which recognizes the value of home and community knowledge” (Rowan, 2013, p. 180), Rowan chooses to write two learning stories that use traditional Indigenous knowledge and language.

Rowan uses Hugh Brody’s research (1975 & 2001) many times in this chapter. hugh brody¬†Brody was a British anthropologist that visited the Canadian Arctic in the 70’s. Much of his work influences Rowan’s theoretical approach. Brody (1987) wrote, “The voices of the people must be heard; their words breathe life into our understanding. We cannot know other cultures by looking at them; we must hear their accents, absorb their intonations, and¬†enter their points of view” (p. xv). This is vital to Rowan’s work with Indigenous children. ¬†In her learning stories, she enters an Inuit child’s world and writes about kamiik, (sealskin boots) illu, (a snow house/igloo) and a play structure on a local playground.

Through her stories, children were spurred on to wonder and question about other traditional¬†cultural practices. One child “really wanted to see the quilliq (stone lamp) lit.qulliq This eventually led to an important event that involved the lighting of the quilliq” (Rowan, 2013, p. 182). I believe this is the magic that an engaging story can hold for a child. It begs them to enter into the story, and wonder and question in much deeper ways. The amazing thing about a learning story is that the children reading it are the centre of the story. It is their behaviours and actions that are documented.

When I decided to write my own learning story, I decided to centre it around my five month old daughter. ¬†I am currently on mat leave, and do not have a classroom where I can use my students in the story. ¬†I decided to take pictures of important events in Adelyn’s day where I saw her learning and engaging with her environment… AKA my home. ¬†Because I didn’t want it to only be applicable to our family, I tried to use objects or experiences that could transcend culture. I openly admit¬†however, that by being a White female settler, I am already working within a privileged, dominant discourse.

However, I tried to write the learning story in a way that allowed the opportunity for other languages and cultures to insert their own local vocabulary/understandings. On each page I underlined a word that I thought could be traded out for something more culturally appropriate or local if applicable.  For example, I wrote about Adelyn sleeping in her crib.  I know that many other cultures use moss bags, boxes, bassinets, parents bed, etc. Those reading/translating this story are encouraged to switch the vocabulary when necessary.

On the topic of translating, I guess I should mention that I had some friends/family translate the learning story for me into their own language. ¬†I am so privileged to have acquaintances from many cultural/linguistic backgrounds, and thankfully many of them were willing to help me translate the story into their own tongue. ¬†By the time the story was finished, it was translated into 7 (almost 8) other languages: Inuktitut, French, Korean, German, Mandarin, Spanish, Swahili, (and Cree is on the way). But considering Brody’s quote about “hearing their accents and absorbing their intonations” (Brody, 1975, p. xv), the story was not finished yet. ¬†Through technology, we now have the capacity to actually HEAR other languages being spoken. I asked each friend to also record themselves reading the story in their language so I could import the recordings into the ebook. ¬†This was successful, and now beside each translated line, there is a button one can click to hear the sentence being read in the corresponding language.

Again, I know there are still many faults with this process and product. By inserting other languages over a White, privileged experience, I am inviting minority groups into my dominant narrative rather than the reverse. I realize that this project is occurring because of a chapter I read while taking my Masters degree at a University. (The ivory tower image can’t be much stronger than that.)

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“Ivory Tower” photo credit: Billie Grace Ward via Flickr

I also realize that it is quite problematic that the book I have made is available in ePub format which is best read on an iPad, eBook reader, or a computer with the correct software installed. I know this type of technology is not accessible to everyone, and by doing this, I may just be perpetuating a very privileged group’s access to these materials.

That said, in offering this story in more than one language, I hope to accomplish some inclusivity. ¬†I am sending a copy of my story to each of my friends/family that helped me translate it, and I hope it will be read to their children and children’s friends in their home language. ¬†I am also hopeful because of my story’s¬†ebook format. Because it is an ePub, it can be opened in the¬†Book Creator app so that the pictures can be changed. ¬†Perhaps someone would like to take out the picture of my daughter, and insert one of their own child in their own environment. ¬†This ePub format also allows the story to be printed for those that may not have access to an iPad, ebook reader or computer. ¬†It does lose the ability to hear the languages being spoken, but the written text in the different languages will still be there.

 

I will leave you with a few questions that I have pondered throughout this work.

  1. How can I (you, we) ally with other Indigenous peoples who are wanting to “breathe life into their understanding.” What does it look like for me (you, we) to support the amazing work already being done by Indigenous people who want to keep their traditions, culture and language alive?
  2. In what ways can I, as a white settler woman help disrupt hegemony and colonial thinking among settlers? In what ways can I¬†infuse Indigenous ways of knowing into my teaching, or my every day life?¬†What stories will I read to Adelyn that don’t have her (or people like her) as the central focus?
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Bound by the Clock

Posted on March 20, 2017. Filed under: eci814, educational, Grade 1 & 2, Masters, teaching and learning |

This week’s reading talks about how since the clock has been invented, people, families, institutions- including schools, have been bound by time. I have felt this in my own life, and in my own classroom, and I know¬†others feel this tension as well.

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In their chapter, Valuing Subjective Complexities: Disrupting the Tyranny of Time, Sherry Rose and Pam Whitty discuss how student freedom can be felt when their teachers do not strictly adhere to the clock. Even though teachers may pedagogically disagree with stringent teacher led behaviours, their classrooms tend to run strictly by time and schedules:

The schedule and its component parts become taken for granted scripts for organizing time. Passed on from one year to the next, ritualistic routines such as calendar time, snack time, outdoor time, and field trips remain embodied and unchallenged” (Rose & Whitty, 2013).

Not only is our school day run by clocks and bells, the curriculum is actually designed through subject minutes. Each subject is designated by a certain amount of minutes, and some subjects are clearly at the top of the academic hierarchy because they have more minutes imposed. This contrasts Ken Robinson’s creativity TED talk we watch last week:

Thankfully, since the Saskatchewan curriculum has moved to outcomes and indicators, I have noticed that teachers have more freedom with how their day can be organized. (Although I have heard this can change depending on which principal you have.) The principal at my school was pretty relaxed when it came to day/week/year plans. We could schedule our days pretty freely, and the only way our day was bound was to our prep times where other teachers would come and take the kids for Music, Phys Ed, or French.

On the other hand, my friend who works at a different elementary school had very strict timetable checks done by her principal. That principal wanted his teachers to tally how many minutes each subject was getting and total them at the bottom of their weekly plans. Each total had to be in line with the Sk curriculum document subject minutes, and their plans had to be handed in to the office and checked by the principal. Yikes!

I feel like Pre-school/Pre-K has a little more flexibility in how they structure their day than a grade one class, but I am going to share a couple things I do in my grade one class so that I am not as bound by the clock.

  1. I have a routine run by familiarity not time. Every morning, the very first thing we do is Morning Carpet Time. This title is more for the space we are using rather than the
    Mystery Word

    This is a slide from my Morning Carpet Time Smart Notebook File.

    structure or content of what we are doing. I have a Smartboard file called “Morning Carpet Time” that has around 30 interchangeable slides that I use throughout the year. My students get used to going through about 8 slides every morning. ¬†Sometimes I switch the slides up daily, sometimes weekly, and sometimes monthly. They range in subject matter, but I have to admit, they do tend to have a math and literacy focus. ¬†When there is a new slide, I teach them what they are supposed to do with it, and then from that day¬†on, the helper of the day leads the class in all the Smartboard activities. This “Morning Carpet Time” does not have a time limit. Whenever we finish the slides is when we move onto our next activity.

  2. The students have come to learn that the bell does not dismiss them; the teacher does. Though I know young children have a desperate need for Recess, (as they should,) my class has learned that just because the bell goes, does not mean that they get to jump up and run outside… Especially when another class member is talking or sharing. The students have learned that if one of their classmates has the floor (or the teacher), they need to show respect and wait until that person, or that activity is finished. We have ‘worked’ through Recess in the past, and it is not a big deal. I can always take the students outside for a movement break later, or we can do one in the classroom when needed. Please don’t think that I am saying Recess isn’t important. I think it is vitally important. Students NEED to move, and have freedom of play, and be OUTSIDE… all I am saying is that the bell for Recess should not drive our interactions and emerging activities.
  3. I have mostly¬†changed¬†our visual schedule from subjects to activities. Rather than writing “math” on the visual schedule slip, I write “table activity.” This allows
    visual schedule

    Very similar to what my visual schedule looks like. Photo credit: Michelle, a special ed teacher

    freedom in navigating the ins and outs of the day. ¬†If one activity goes really well, and I would like to continue it rather than moving to the next activity, I can use the next “table activity” time on the schedule to have the students keep working. The students are none the wiser, and I don’t have any ‘schedule loving Sally’s’ who say, “Teacher! Why aren’t we doing Health right now? Aren’t we supposed to be doing Health?” I also don’t have any times in front of each activity. The only thing on the schedule that would give students a sense of what time something is happening would be the Recess and lunch strips.

These are just a few things I have found that work for myself and my classroom. Are there any tricks that you know of that help your classroom not have to follow the clock to the minute? Please share in the comments below!

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Classroom Interactions Online

Posted on March 7, 2017. Filed under: digital citizenship, Eci834, educational, Genius Hour, Google Classroom, Masters, Social Networking, teaching and learning, Technology |

As I was reading through this week’s assigned chapters, I became very thankful that Alec and Katia know this research well, and have shown our class, by example, what online learning should/can look like. As I was thinking about learning communities, I decided that one of the reasons why I feel our class’s learning community connects so well is because of the systems this class has in place to connect with others.

  1. Zoom live video. I can’t think of a better tool to feel like part of the class without a classroom. Even if most students don’t speak out loud during the classes, the live feature of being able to see everyone if you wanted, really helps with accountability and presence.
  2. Zoom chat. I compare this to when the chapter was talkingzoom about the MSN chat. Having the chat option during the live feed really builds community as there can be joking go on, side conversations and little comments here and there that not only make people feel like they are contributing, but encourages participation.
  1. Zoom breakout rooms. These short small group interactions help put faces to names, and allows you to feel like you know at least a few people on a more personal level. Usually during these breakout sessions, you at least find out what grade the other people teach and possibly one or two things about their classroom.
  2. Twitter chats. Using a class hashtag is an effective way to have asynchronous twitterconversation and sharing with classmates. Because of it’s ‘favourite’ and ‘retweet’ options, you feel connected with other members of the class even when you are not speaking face to face.
  3. Google+. Because of its closed/private discussion boards, Google+ can feel like a safer social media sharing platform than Facebook or Twitter. There isn’t a chance of anyone else (besides those in the class) that could read the posts. I think this helps people feel secure when they share something.

I love Shweir’s definition of participation in regards to online learning communities. He says participation is

“social interaction, especially participation that promotes self- determination, respects the autonomy of members and sustains the community” (2002).

This is important as it moves past the definition of raising your hand- virtually, or face to face. ¬†I also¬†know from my own experience that mandatory participation and participation marks don’t automatically equal engagement. There have been discussion boards and conversations that I have been involved in only for the sake of that participation mark.

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“Power Law of Participation” photo credit: Ross Mayfield via Flickr

Pedagogically speaking, I really feel like we need to move past participation marks… into finding ways for authentic participation and engagement that promotes a growth mindset. Our group has decided to use Google Classroom as our LMS. I have been learning about the different ways Google Classroom allows students to get involved within that platform, and I have been thinking about ways to use that platform to the best of my ability.

google-classroom

Our group has decided to use blogging/pingbacks as a way for students to interact with the teacher and each other. We have also thrown around the idea of having the students use Twitter or another similar tool to connect with each other. (Rochelle’s post this week confirmed this is always a great tool) BUT the more I think about it, the more I feel like Google+ might be the better option because we chose Google Classroom as the LMS, but I could be wrong. What do you think? Should our group use Google+ as an added learning community just because we are using GC as the learning management system? Do you think that kids will buy in more, or have a better understanding of how the tool works because it’s created by the same company?

This journal article talks about how gamification and student competitiveness can boost student learning. I know that I love a healthy competition between friends or classmates. That is why for my module, I chose to have the students share their score from a digital citizenship game¬†that they will be taking part in. I created a Google Form for them to input screen-shot-2017-01-29-at-11-15-26-pmtheir answers. This game is a fun way to make dig cit choices, and because there’s really no right or wrong answers in this game, sharing their score is a healthy way to promote participation and a little competition within their learning community. Along with the score, they will be writing how they think they could improve their score if they played the game again. ¬†This way, they are also sharing tips and tricks ¬†with their classmates¬†that will share their knowledge on good digital citizenship behaviour.

 

I believe the best way to have student interactions that are meaningful, relevant and supportive, is to have the students engage with relevant content and actually care about what they are talking about. I think our group has a hand up in this sense as our group is

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“Genius Hour” photo credit Denise Krebs via Flickr

doing Genius Hour which is where the students get to learn about whatever they want! Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of ways to make curriculum fun and engaging, but I am very excited to see¬†how the students will build a specialized learning community throughout this process.

 

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Deficit Thinking Results in Bio-Medical Interventions

Posted on March 1, 2017. Filed under: Anti Oppressive Ed, cultural, eci814, educational, Kindergarten, Masters, teaching and learning |

Reading through this week’s chapters was a sobering reminder that I’m not as de-pathologizing as I would like to be. ¬†The explanations on the biomedical approach to literacy is literally how I have done my job in grade one for these past 6 years. The DRA mentioned in chapter 3 is the exact tool that we use in our division for scoring children’s reading. As I was reading their explanations of how it is used, the stories were all too familiar to me.

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Screen shot from our online reading program called Raz-Kids which is a resource created to help kids achieve grade level.

The tool itself can be neutral and just another way we assess students, but the categorization, labelling, and decision making that is based on these results is troubling. In my experience, this can become the only tool that we use to gage student’s literacy. It becomes the be all and end all and we work towards hitting that numbered goal rather than looking at the child’s literacy strengths and literacy needs from an asset based approach. ¬†Because the division only looks at these ORR levels, it unfortunately drives teachers like me to work to get students to “grade level.” Don’t get me wrong, reading at grade level is an important thing, as there are statistics that show if children aren’t reading at grade level by grade 3, they have a higher risk of dropping out of school. BUT- listen to the language I just used in that sentence. It is all deficit based language.

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Ways to see who is not reaching the skills required.

How would things change if I came at reading, writing, and basic literacy from a completely asset point of view? What if we built off of the children’s strengths culturally, linguistically, socially? How would my literacy instruction change if I cared less about a number and more about individual student growth? Would I spend less time testing and more time observing the student strengths and trying to work from those? ¬†How do we move past the standardized test when that IS the test that schools/divisions/governments base achievement on?

I just asked 5 questions that are somewhat rhetorical because unfortunately I cannot leave the system that I teach in. I now need to decide how to work within that system. I can’t just complain about the system if I do not offer suggestions on how to problem solve these issues. That said, here are three things I am going to try to do when I get back into the classroom after my mat leave is over:

  1. Use cultural language/print more effectively.  I want English AND the other languages children speak in my classroom represented within my classroom. This will be done through labelling the classroom, but also through homemade books and artifacts co-created by students and their parents. Many parents/siblings will be more than willing to help bring a bit of themselves and their culture and language into our classroom. Rather than a teddy bear journal that gets sent home over the weekend, maybe a journal that encourages new vocabulary from all of the homes of the children could be sent home.
  2. Use more than a phonics based approach to teach reading. This is hard for me as I feel like I have done a “good job” of using reading strategies, phonics, and structures of English to help students learn to read English… BUT I know that I need a bigger representation of language in my classroom. When I taught Kindergarten, I used to use the children’s names to help them see the English language structures. For example, if Mikayla was the helper of the day, we would talk about how the “ay” in her name says a long a sound. This would be similar to the ‘ay’ in day, say, pray, spray etc. This might work for names that follow English “rules.” But what will I do when someone’s name does not fit? How can I honour a child’s name that was originally made for a language other than English? How can I use this as a chance to honour, represent and draw attention to that child’s culture, heritage and home language? Even further, how do I look at this experience for children and depathologize in my own practice?
  3. I will actively use more than the DRA or other standardized tests for decision making within my classroom. I think the chapters were pretty clear that most educational institutions are using the biomedical approach for decision making, understanding knowledge production, ¬†and policy creation in regards to children. ¬†There is not much I can do about that, except push back and show that I will not use those means to make decisions within my own classroom. I will show that students have value beyond the tests and constraints the “system” has put on them, and I will do everything I can to make informed decisions using the personal knowledge I have gained about my students through dialogues with them and their families. “The children of Elmwood received literacy instruction based on a single theory. When one theory is exclusively employed, only the goals of that theory can be achieved” (Early Childhood Curricula and the De-Pathologizing of Childhood, Ianacci and Heydon, p. 83). I will strive in every way possible to use more than a single approach to literacy for my future students.

What do you think? What are other ways we can teach literacy from an asset based approach? Am I off base? An idealist? Or is this something we need to strive for in our schools?

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