Virtual Museum – Visit and Reflection

Over the course of the pandemic, the importance of virtual options for greater accessibility has become more and more apparent. From meetings to field trips, the way in which we accessed the world changed for a while and I hope that as we look to the future, some of these changes become permanent options as they support a greater ability for more to participate. Although many are excited to be back to in-person field trips, many organizations are still offering virtual field trips. In this post, I’m sharing a resource that I created for students last year that you might find useful to use with students, where appropriate. 

The Why?

I love art. It’s no secret to any of the people who know me well. It’s taken me a long time to feel confident in creating and not equating how good I am – or perhaps not- at art with creativity. I think it’s the same for kids. Those who like art, often feel as though they are good at it and those who don’t like it, often feel as though they aren’t. We all have the potential to be creative and sometimes having the ability to explore different art forms, gives us the inspiration to do just that. 

Last year, I taught Art and I wanted students to have the opportunity to visit different galleries. Many were offering virtual tours of some of their exhibits which is great because it gave greater access to museums throughout the world. I tried to find different galleries that might have artifacts that may be of interest to my students and created this resource for them to have an opportunity to explore. Not only did I want them to explore, but I’m always interested in what catches their attention or pieces that they like so I thought it would be great for them to have the opportunity to reflect on their experience, an artifact, and/or museum. I also think that it’s important for them to notice and be able to communicate their thoughts or feelings about different forms of art. Hands down, many enjoyed the MET for kids because of the way in which it was presented – as a cartoon map – but there were also students who were interested in looking at sculptures. 

After hearing some of their feedback, I changed some of the reflection questions, added a few more places they could visit and also gave them a bit more room to write. I’m always grateful for students sharing their feedback with me as it helps me to be a better teacher. 

Considerations

As with all resources, please take time to review the slides and links prior to sharing this resource with students. I used this with my Grade 4/5 class and we had already built a strong classroom community where we could have conversations about the different types of art that were seen and discuss some of their cultural significance. We also had conversations prior about museums and how they “received” their collections and some of the difficulty in finding museums with online collections that weren’t sharing art that is solely eurocentric. 

Get Exploring!

Here’s the link to your own copy of the resource. Change it up. Make edits that might be better suited to the needs of your students. Google also has a wide variety of online collections from museums that you can use.  Just have fun exploring on your own or with students. Either way, I hope that you find something new that tickles your fancy. 

During the pandemic, I have fallen more and more in love with art. Consuming art. Creating art. Sharing art. I hope that as you and potentially your students explore art, you’ll have the opportunity to get creative and share what inspires you all. The last month of school is fast approaching. I do hope that you find this resource helpful and are able to use it.

Understanding Gender Neutral Pronouns

There is no doubt that I am very passionate about addressing issues related to equity and social justice, especially any work related to anti-oppression, anti-racism, anti-sexism and anti-homophobia. For me to fully understand and advocate for social justice and equity, it is important that I am aware of current challenges, barriers and inclusionary practices. However, I would be the first to admit that my knowledge of gender neutral pronouns requires further learning and understanding to ensure I am respectfully honouring the identities of staff and students (in fact, all people) in my community. So, I did some research for my own professional growth and I found out some interesting facts that I would like to share with you. 

It is understood that people who identify outside of a gender binary most often use nonbinary pronouns that are not gender specific. These include: they/them/their use in the singular form. However, I learned that there are other pronouns that are used, such as: ze (pronounced “zee”) in place of she/he and hir (pronounced “here”) in place of his/him/her. This was new learning for me that opened my eyes to the ways in which I address individuals and the assumptions I often make about their identities.

Assuming one’s identity and choice of pronouns based on how they look and/or how they dress can be false and disrespectful to one’s gender identity and gender expression. I learned that pronouns may or may not match one’s gender expression, such as how the person dresses, looks, behaves or what their name is.

In recognition and commitment to equity and inclusionary practices, as well as the Human Rights policies in Canada, it is encouraging to see more people, including workplaces and organizations, supporting individual’s use of self-identified pronouns, in place of assumed pronouns based one’s sex assigned at birth or other’s perceptions of physical appearance. It might seem a simple gesture to some, but it’s an important recognition for others. It’s about letting someone know that you accept their identity as they are. 

The response to the following questions might help you better understand gender pronouns and how you can affirm someone’s gender identity:

What’s the right way to find out a person’s pronouns?

If I was introducing myself to someone new, I would say, “Hi. My name is Gary. I use he/him pronouns. What about you?” However, do keep in mind that for many people who don’t identify as cisgender, it could be more difficult for them to share their pronouns, especially in spaces where they don’t know people and/or they don’t feel comfortable or accepted.

How is “they/them” used as a singular pronoun?

“They” is already commonly used as a singular pronoun when you are talking about someone and you don’t know who they are. Using they/them pronouns for someone you do know simply represents a slightly different way of thinking. In this case, you’re asking someone to not act as if they don’t know you, but to use non-binary vocabulary when they’re communicating with/about you.

What if I make a mistake and ‘misgender’ someone, or use the wrong words?

I would simply apologize for my error. It’s perfectly natural to not know the right words to use, especially when meeting someone for the first time. Consider addressing groups of people as “everyone”, “colleagues”, “friends”, “class” or “students” instead of “boys and girls.” The important thing is making that non-assuming connection with the person and being open to learning new things and new ways of understanding one’s identity. 

What does it mean if a person uses the pronouns “he/they” or “she/they”?

That means that the person uses both pronouns, and you can alternate between those when referring to them. So, either pronoun would be fine. However, be mindful that some people don’t mind those pronouns being interchanged for them, but for others, they might use one specific pronoun in one context and another set of pronouns in another context/space, dependent on maybe safety or comfortability in the space they occupy. The best approach is to listen to how people refer to themselves.

ETFO has a wealth of resources to support your teaching and learning of gender neutral pronouns. I found their Social Justice website very helpful in my research and understanding of gender neutral pronouns. In fact, ETFO has plenty of ETFO 2SLGBTQ+ Resources for students of all ages.

Critical Consciousness Lesson Plan Template

If you are not following her Twitter, you are seriously missing out! The incredible judy mckeown is an Equity Resource teacher in the Peel District School Board and frequently shares her resources online. Earlier this month, she shared her Critical Consciousness Lesson Plan Template and once again, I was reminded why I so appreciate the work that she does. In this post, I’m going to be digging into this resource and reflecting on some of the questions from the template.

I’m certain that we all remember lesson planning at the Faculty of Education. The tedious work of planning out each part of every lesson and the pages upon pages that you were going to share with your Associate Teacher. I know for me, my favourite part was finding my hook or the minds on but was often unsure of where the lesson might go from there. While I had my plan in mind, I found it difficult to include what I might say or specifics on our consolidation of the lesson because you never know how students might engage with the material. I remember one associate teacher who wanted to know my script for each lesson and it terrified me to think about what if I went off-script. Over the years, I changed the way I visualized my lessons and honestly got rid of the lesson plans that were pages long. 

When I saw judy’s Critical Consciousness Lesson Plan Template, I immediately thought of the 3-part lessons we might be familiar with but what blew me away were the questions contained within. In every section, there are deep and meaningful questions that guide you in developing lessons that are truly student-centred.  As if that wasn’t incredible enough, the checklist on the right really prompted me to think about how this lesson relates to social issues potentially affecting students and others in the world around us.  Below I share my thoughts on a question posed in each section.

Learning Goals: How have you involved students in determining these goals?

This question is huge! When I think about learning goals, I think of taking them from the curriculum and turning the words into student-friendly language. Ultimately, it’s me looking at what they “need” to learn; deciding what we’ll be learning at that particular point in time; and posting it for them, in hopes that they understand where they are going. Upon reflection, this in no way involves students in determining these goals. Imagine the difference that could be had if students understood what they “had to learn” from the curriculum and were a part of determining what they felt ready to tackle and how this new learning might connect to recent or past learning. How might this change the learning process for that group of students? How might this also connect to student interest in terms of subject areas?

Materials: What will you need to provide for your students to create the best conditions for learning?

I consider this often when doing Science experiments in order to make sure that I have everything that I need but what about materials or resources needed for other subject areas? We know that resources are often limited in some schools. How might we get creative in using math manipulatives to help students take ideas from concrete to abstract? What are ways in which we can work together to ensure that what is available creates the best conditions for student-centred learning? How do we create environments for students to be able to retrieve materials that are readily available, when they need them, without fear of being looked at as different?

Before: Minds On: Before starting your lesson, what conditions have you created so that students will have the skills needed to engage in the learning in both meaningful and respectful ways?

It can’t just be me, but this question wowed me. I know that many times, I have walked into lessons making assumptions of what students should know without making sure that I have prepared them with what they need in order to succeed in the action portion of the lesson. I’m not saying that we automatically jump into big, brand new learning with expectations, but often there are things that I expect a Grade 5 student to be able to know, without making sure that they do know it, which leads to frustration on their part with learning new material. How different might the experience be if I really sat down and made sure that what I was planning was learning that they were ready to engage in? Might this involve extra time to make sure that there is success in the lesson? Yes and I think it would provide for deeper learning when we get there. 

During: Action: Where will you create intentional pauses for students to think through and absorb their learning?

This is huge! When planning units, I think of intentional opportunities for students to reflect but within each lesson? I can’t say that I do. The goal here isn’t for students to reflect and to show the teacher what they are learning but it’s for them to be able to absorb their own learning. To make sense of it. To process it and understand what it means for them. This might look different for every child. Some may write. Others may draw. Others may enjoy the opportunity to talk things through with peers. How might we slow down and offer more of these opportunities along the learning journey? How might this lead to an overall richer learning experience for our students?

After: Debrief and Consolidation: How can you build in ways for students to direct how the lesson is debriefed?

Another great question that takes me back to the question for the learning goals. I wonder if this is something that we talk about from the beginning? As a facilitator of the learning, I wonder how we can help students to think about different ways of debriefing or consolidating the learning. I know that many are used to gallery walks or whole group discussions, but what if we allowed students to share their ideas on methods that work best for them? Sure, it might not necessarily turn out the way in which we envisioned our lesson plan or what we think students would “get” out of the lesson but I think it could be incredible to authentically see what students have learned and have them share that with peers. 

Extension: Next Steps: How can you also find ways to follow the lead of your students and support them in the action(s) they wish to take?

I’ve always thought that the sweet spot for authentic learning is at the intersection of the curriculum and real-world experiences. When students are able to see the relevance in what is being learned, they are able to determine what, if any, action they may wish to take. This question isn’t about us as teachers thinking about the direction or action we want to take lessons or projects but following our students and supporting them. This also reminds me that I don’t need to be an expert in every issue but learning with and alongside my student is important in the role of supporter. I also love that this is more than just the lesson being over and done with in the classroom but more about thinking of using that learning for personal or social good. 

Critical Consciousness Checklist: Include the material conditions and realities of your students’ lives?

Although all of these questions are essential, this question stood out the most when I think of student-centred lesson planning. I also think that it is imperative for us to be conscious of the ways in which we bring in our bias about the realities of our students’ lives, particularly when they are not our own. So much damage is caused when we think we know something about our students but haven’t taken the time to listen to or understand members of our school community through their own sharing. By bringing the community into the classroom, and being open to learning from students and their families, we stand a better chance of creating spaces that are truly inclusive. When done correctly, I think this moves away from so much of the tokenism we see online to actually creating opportunities for students to show up as their whole selves within learning environments. 

This post is really just the tip of the iceberg of this incredible template. Since reading it, my mind has been going about my own teaching practice. I know that I will be using the questions within to reflect and interrogate why I choose to do what I do within the classroom, in hopes of becoming a better teacher. Thanks for sharing this, judy! 

Interested in finding more of judy’s incredible resources online? Check out her Linktree. I promise you’ll find some incredible resources that will help you reflect on your teaching practice and grow, if applied. 

OAME Math Conference 2021: Equity Counts

I am very excited to write today’s post as I had the pleasure of once again attending the OAME math conference this year. The conference ran from Monday, May 17th and ends today Friday, May 2st. There were over 160 sessions to select from so it was hard to narrow it down to three per evening. I was offered a volunteer position with OAME to assist with moderating 3-4 sessions. This gave me access to the entire conference and as usual, this year’s conference did not disappoint. I would love to tell you about the exciting sessions I went to and some details about them. I also attached resources that were made publicly available and some ways I have already used my learning inside my grade seven math classroom.

Session Name: Supporting the new Elementary Math Curriculum: Educator Learning Modules
Presenters: Moses Velasco and Chantal Fournier
Summary of my learning: Moses and Chantal shared their presentation about ELMs. They shared a great resource as well! This presentation was geared towards more of a math coach audience which as I am not was not able to connect with much of their content. The ELMs were from 2017 and I know there were some questions about making new ones with the new math curriculum. Moses let the audience know that they will be coming out soon. The examples that we saw on the website were great! Feel free to explore their resource.
Resources: https://sites.google.com/view/operation-sense/home
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Session Name: Assessment that Moves
Presenter: Jordan Rappaport
Summary of my learning: Jordan was a gifted speaker and he had so many important things to share. Many of them I implemented in my class the very next day. Jordan spoke a lot about virtues in math:

  • Being creative
  • Being a thinker
  • Curiosity
  • Perseverance
  • Willingness to take risks
  • Ability to collaborate

Jordan shared that these virtues are important to people who hire mathematicians and essential in every math classroom. We also looked at a forward thinking rubric which had three boxes and a large arrow on top. He talked about using this so students can see where they are and where they should move towards. For the topic of collaboration, on the left column on the rubric, you would put terms like excluding, not being supportive, etc. and on the far right you would put the expected behaviours (opposite of the left side). You would then circle the place where the student was at. Jordan mentioned that building a rubric should be a collaborative process and he starts jamboards and shares them with his students. They generate ideas together when talking about a specific math virtue, what you should see and not see.
How I used this in the classroom this week: The day after hearing from Jordan, I posted the virtues on my slide and asked students to share what their best math virtue is. This allowed us to engage in conversations about why they take risks, why others may not, etc. This conversation was so meaningful and I loved hearing from my students.
Resources:

https://www.francissu.com/ 

https://buildingthinkingclassrooms.com/ 

https://www.peterliljedahl.com/ 

http://fractiontalks.com/
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Session Name: Designing Classroom Explorations that Engage All Students
Presenter: Gail Burrill
Summary of my learning: During this session, Gail spoke about many exciting topics. Gail shared that in her math classroom, she has her students complete various math tasks such as: book reports, research reports (math in art, etc.), write stories from graphs and many more. This connects math to many other subjects and is meaningful for students. Some other key takeaways included:

  • Data driven tasks are important in the classroom
  • Connecting math to student’s lives
    • Gail gave an excellent example where students had to find the problem with Fred VanVleet from the Raptors as his shooting percentage was in a rut. They had to solve if there was a rut or not and look at percentages with his shooting statistics.
  • Following instructions doesn’t mean your students have learned anything
  • Turning procedures into problems because then students will want to solve them and remember them
  • Vertical non-permanent surfaces
  • Visibly random groups
  • Comments before grades; feedback should be for thinking

Gail also mentioned a great resource where you can visit https://censusatschool.ca/ and have students answer: What do you notice? What do you wonder? These real life statistics engage her students for the first fifteen students of her class and she looks at real life scenarios. Gail also left us with some things to think about:

  • How much time do your students spend..
    • in silence?
    • talking to peers?
    • listening?
    • presenting?

Resources: https://censusatschool.ca/
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Session Name: Building Math Residue with Lessons That Stick
Presenter: Graham Fletcher
Summary of my learning: Graham shared many ideas that help students engage in explorations and lessons that really make students wonder, what is the answer to that question? I loved this idea from Graham:

  • Estimation Waterfall: asking students to wait until they hit enter so that they are not just copying the student who always gets it “right”

Of course, the focus of the session was what makes a good task? Here were Graham’s steps:

  1. Simple: Is it accessible? Avoid language due to any language barriers
  2. Unexpected: Does it fire up the guessing machine? Do students actually want to know the answer?
  3. Concrete: Do your students have any prior knowledge to connect to?
  4. Credible: What validates the math?
  5.  Emotional: Does it create an ah-ha moment?
  6. Stories: How will the math story be told?

Graham also mentioned the following ideas which are important to know and to understand:

  • Anyone can be good at math
  • Listening to a student’s thinking is more important than the answer
    • Graham showed a video of him working with a student and he was so patient, waiting to hear the student get the answer and listening to their process
  • Right answers should only matter at the end of a unit (assessment/test). The journey along the way is for making mistakes and for building understanding
  • A good math question makes you excited for the answer
  • Teachers shouldn’t jump on their students when they see a wrong answer, they should question them and wait for them to have that ah-ha moment

How I used this in the classroom this week: The day after hearing from Graham, I asked my students join a jamboard and I posed the above statements to them. I had them disagree or agree and if they wanted, they could share their reasoning on the mic. Students had such incredible things to say about all of the statements and we even got one anxious student to admit that making mistakes along the way is okay!  A huge breakthrough for this student.
Resources: https://gfletchy.com/Be sure to check out the tab “3-Act tasks” for some engaging lessons that stick!
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Session Name: Math, Social Justice and Actions
Presenter: Robert Berry
Summary of my learning: Robert Berry brought up incredible conversations that need to be had in our math classrooms. Robert shared a provocation for us: Who are our essential workers? What do you notice, wonder and how does it impact your community? Robert shared a lot of insight on how to create your own social justice math lesson:

  • Learn about relevant social injustices
  • Identify the math
  • Establish your goals
  • Determine how you will assess your goals
  • Create a social justice question for the lesson
  • Make student resources
  • Plan for reflection/action

There should be conversations about connecting math with students cultural and community histories. This was a great session and I was so engaged in his presentation, I did not take many notes!
Resources: https://padlet.com/rqb3e/sjmathresources Attached are incredible social justice mathematics resources
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Session Name: Some of my Favourite Problems
Presenter: Mike Eden
Summary of my learning: Mike is from the University of Waterloo and he shared many engaging math problems from various contests and from challenging math lessons. He asked people in the chat to share their answers and we looked at many ways to solve these challenging problems. I am sure you are all familiar with “Problem of the Week” from the University of Waterloo, well Mike took us further with these incredible problems!
Resourceshttp://: https://www.cemc.uwaterloo.ca/ https://www.cemc.uwaterloo.ca/contests/past_contests.html
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Session Name: Slow Reveal Graphs as Social Justice Provocations
Presenters: Kyle Pindar and Jennifer Fannin
Summary of my learning: This was such an engaging session that used the website https://trends.google.com/trends/ to design slow reveal graphs. The focus of the lessons are asking the questions these key questions: What? So what? Now what? Also, what do you notice? What do you wonder? Slow reveal graphs are innocently framed as hard hitting social justice questions. Kyle explained how to make these slow reveal provocations using these steps:

  1. https://trends.google.com/trends/?geo=CA Make sure you are using the Canadian trends (setting on top right should say “Canada”
  2. Download the image (graph) you want to use
  3. Open up a blank google sheet
  4. Upload the download and re-size the columns
  5. Delete the top two lines
  6. Create slide show

Then, show your students these graphs, slowly revealing new features on the graph such as: the actual data, x axis information, y axis information and then eventually, the title (trend). Kyle and Jennifer discussed generating expected students responses so that you can be prepared to have these discussions as a class. They had great examples, specifically a graph showing the googling of “BLM” and you could see the spike on the day that George Floyd was murdered. Both presenters discussed how you would have that conversation with the class of what made these search results spike up in May of 2020? These are such great ways to have social justice discussions in class!
Resources: https://trends.google.com/trends/?geo=CA https://www.statcan.gc.ca/eng/start

Overall, I am so grateful for the opportunity that was this year’s OAME Math Conference. I wish I had been able to attend/moderate more sessions but as an OAME volunteer, I have the ability to listen to recorded sessions I could not attend. I will listen to some over the next few weeks and post anything else I gather. I hope this post provides a snapshot of such incredible math presentations and all of their wisdom that they wished to pass on to math educators! I know it is late in the year to take in this much incredible math information, but this post will be here to refresh your memory after a well-rested and well-deserved summer vacation!

If you wish to learn more about OAME or how to attend the conference next year, visit their website: https://oame.on.ca/main/index.php

Grade 4/5 Science in Minecraft: Education Edition

My students and I have really been enjoying exploring how we can use Minecraft: Education Edition to extend our learning. Last month, before we got sent back to the world of online learning, we spent some time diving into a Science task in class.

The basic premise of the task was similar between the two grades: research a topic and build a model of it within Minecraft. Grade 4 students would be choosing one of the animals from Minecraft and creating a viable habitat for that animal in the game, while Grade 5 students would be choosing a human organ system and creating a pathway that would bring visitors through the functions of that organ system. After building their model, they then presented their worlds to the class and talked about the different elements they included.

For Grade 4, they had to consider food chains, predators and prey, appropriate shelter, biomes.

For Grade 5, they had to consider which organs were part of the system, how they’d create them in the game, what their function is and how to show that with a path or railway.

I’ll admit that I wasn’t sure how it would go when we started down this road. I considered that it might be a bit to out there as far as projects go. I should know better by now than to question these kids, though – they dove into this project with excitement and went well beyond my expectations. They enjoyed them so much that today they asked me if they could do another project like this. I’ve never had French Immersion students so willing to do an oral presentation!

Here are a few of their projects that I’d like to share.

Grade 4 Habitats

 

A farm habitat. The students who made this farm talked about the influence of human activity on the animals who live on the farm. There was a food chain demonstration around the side of the barn, with little pens containing different living things set up to walk visitors through the food chain.

 

This project was on bees. The students created a park with several wildflower gardens. When you look at the level of French on these signs, consider that I teach middle immersion, meaning this is their first year in French Immersion – and for the student who did this project, it was their first year learning French at all!

I loved how creative they got with showing what the animals eat. In this project, which was set up to resemble an artificial arctic fox habitat in a zoo, a student put an item frame on the ground and put raw chicken into the frame, making it look as though this arctic fox had been fed by caretakers.

This project was extremely cool. The students wanted to show that a polar bear’s habitat includes both land and ocean. They created a glass tunnel that you could walk through, seeing into an ocean full of fish. In the tunnel, there was a point where you could drop into the water and swim out into the ocean, eventually surfacing in a polar biome where you could see polar bears on land.

 

Grade 5 Human Organ Systems

Sadly, I don’t have many images of the grade five projects, in part because some of them took a long time to complete and we didn’t have a chance to grab screenshots before we all wound up in online learning! I do have this one really great project, though:

The Digestive System! For this project, you would start in front of a command block that was set to teleport you inside of a mouth full of teeth. Signs on the walls would explain where you were and what part of digestion happens in that area. Then, you’d follow the path down through the esophagus…

If you looked down through the esophagus, you could see liquid below – the stomach! You could then travel from the stomach through the digestive system until, eventually, you would drop out of the human body and into a (fake) toilet.

Another project took us through the nervous system. You started your journey in a minecart at the nose, where you would pick up a piece of paper meant to be a ‘message’ for the brain to tell it that the model’s nose was itchy. You’d hop in a minecart and travel to the brain, which would exchange your sheet of paper for a new message – instructions for the hand to scratch the model’s nose.

The grade 5 projects were a bit more difficult for them to wrap their heads around, admittedly. Still, they persevered and found some very cool ways to show us how human organ systems work.

 

Other projects we’ve taken on in Minecraft: Education Edition so far:

  • Building a class “town” where each student has a house, plus students are creating important community buildings like a school, a hospital, an apartment building, recreational facilities.
  • Retelling a fairy tale’s important events and places using NPCs.
  • Exploring an Anishinaabe community.
  • Doing a construction challenge with limited resources to learn about environmental impacts of human activity.
  • Regular old Minecraft fun. 😉

 

Hope you enjoyed this little tour of Minecraft in my classroom. I’m always happy to share more and talk about any of these projects. Now, onto my weekend planning, where I need to figure out how we’re going to use Minecraft: EE in our classroom next week!

Teaching dance and health online, yikes!

Happy week after spring break everyone!

Is anyone else feeling super impressed with their students and their ability to get right back into things after a week-long break? I have never been able to say that before so I thought I may as well express these feelings of joy while I can.

As we get closer to the end of our school year, I am quickly compiling numerous tables with expectations, activities and number of periods needed for each subject. Since I have such an engaged group, I want to cover as much as I can so they are ready for their grade eight year. I think I’ve had about ten nightmares related to teaching dance and health since I started my online journey in September. I knew I wanted to start them sooner rather than later so we had time for more relaxed subjects in June. 

So, Tuesday our first day back this week, we started dance and I was overwhelmed with the amount of participation. I wanted to keep things manageable so I started with this specific expectation:

  • Exploring cultural forms, specifically, looking at the evolution of dance over time.

We watched an eight minute long YouTube video called “The Evolution of Dance”. Using what students saw in that video as well as researching on their own, students posted sticky notes on our jamboard link, sharing anywhere from 50-60 different styles of dance. We started in the 1950s and went all the way to present day. One student went so far as to share a comment about how nowadays, dances become popular overnight due to trends set by “celebrities” on tiktok. This app allows a worldwide stage for new and viral dances. This was such a great connection and was something we were going to address the following class. I was very nervous to teach dance, but I am glad I started with some discussions and video sharing. I have never taught this topic and was unsure of how to get a group of 33 grade seven students to dance, but I was able to see such engaging conversations take off around the evolution of dance. An engaging lesson for any who are skeptical about this hard to each subject (especially in a virtual space).

I am also gearing up to teach the health curriculum for the first time in my career. We were asked to send a letter home to parents where it outlines the expectations we will be covering. We also made parents aware of the exemption form that they would be required to fill out if they are requesting an exemption (as per board policy). These are the topics that I will be teaching this year to the grade seven students:

  • Describing the dangers associated with computers/social media and identify protective responses 
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the link between mental health problems and substance use 
  • Explaining the importance of having a shared conversation with a partner about delaying sexual activity until they are older  
  • Understanding consent and the importance of communication 
  • Identifying sexually transmitted, blood-borne infections and describe their symptoms   
  • Identifying ways of preventing infections and unplanned pregnancy 
  • Mental Health Literacy  
  • Substance use, addition and related behaviours 

 The following resources will be used to assist in the delivery of this unit: 

  • Ontario Curriculum sample questions  
  • OPHEA guidelines

We will also be able to attend a lunch and learn for more information as well as hear more about these topics at our staff meeting. For a teacher who has never taught health, never talked about these topics in an online setting and never met their students, it can be quite an intimidating subject. However, I know these topics are very important to talk about and my students are well versed in the importance of learning sensitive things, especially in today’s society. I am hoping I will be able to cover these to the best of my abilities and I look forward to reading the OPHEA resources before doing so. 

If any teachers have tips/tricks for dance and health, I am all ears! For now, these are my go to plans for the two subjects. As for the other subjects I still need to cover, even though they have their challenges, are pieces of cake compared to the unfamiliar dance and health!

Enjoy your weekends everyone and hang in there, we almost made it through this wild and unique year! 

 

Fun and Fresh Friday Math

After attending the OAME  Math conference in 2020, I was able to hear many perspectives about the math classroom and how it should look. One of the speakers was Gerry Lewis (@GLewisOCT) who spoke to us about spiralling as well as what the thinking classroom looks like. He spoke about many incredible concepts, my favourite was definitely an example of his daily math activities. There were many websites Gerry talked about and he described this as a “mini spiral” where you start to introduce spiralling with your students. You could do this by introducing these activities at the beginning of each class (10-15 minutes). Here are some of the websites Gerry introduced me to:

 

We have been spiralling since September and my students have enjoyed the programs listed above. It also is important to review the concepts of the week and I have done that in a few creatives ways. Our favourite thing to do is to review the concepts from the week in a “fun and fresh way” on Fridays. I teach online so all of these programs work well, particularity when students have a second device available.Here are our top three quiz apps. and a review from myself as well as my students:

Knowledgehook:
http://knowledgehook.com

My review:
Knowledgehook is available as an app or on any web browser. It is a live, gameshow style quiz game where the questions are directly linked to our Ontario math curriculum. You can actually find the strand you are working on and lead students through a three question quiz. Students never know who got what answers correct, which I think shocked them at first. Some students ended up sharing how many they got correct in the chat. I enjoy this because you can review the answer afterwards and there is no rush to enter an answer. It is a quick summary of student knowledge at the end of the week and works well. You can view the results after to see where students need help.

Student review:
My students enjoyed this app but they much prefer Kahoot (and other competition based apps).  I think they find this one a little bit boring since it acts as a type of exit card. They do not complain while playing but they request other apps. Again, I think at the end they are just eager to tell each other about their results, so this is what I think they are missing with this app.

Kahoot:
https://kahoot.com/schools-u/

My review:
This is obviously a great tool to use when reviewing concepts from the week. I like it because students are so excited when they hear it is time for a kahoot! I also like using this as a quiz option at the end of a concept but I always remind students to email me if there were any game glitches that affected their final store. I do not enjoy that I have to make my own kahoots to get exactly the content that I want. For a quick exit card, I much prefer knowledgehook. My students have not reacted when they receive a low score this year and I am thankful for that. That is another reason we continue to use kahoot to review, play fun games and sometimes, we just enjoy a random kahoot.

Student review:
My class has some competitive students in it so they do enjoy kahoot for that reason. I think they like to show that they were paying attention during the week and they get super excited when they win. Kahoot was the most requested activity when I read my students review of term one with regards to things that they want to continue. I know kahoot will always be a favourite activity and pairing it with math (which is often not a favourite subject) makes a good combo. I know students have mentioned it is hard to toggle between tabs, so two devices work best for this.

Quizizz:
https://quizizz.com/

Teacher review:
Best for last! So today was our first day using this quiz tool. This is a customizable quiz program where you can use a combination of your own questions as well as questions created by other people. You can select between multiple choice, checkbox, fill in the blank, poll and a few other options. The game format is very fun and I can see exactly how my students did during and after the games. It also shows an anonymous question review at the end to go over with your students to see how many people got each question right and wrong. All names are left out of this page. This program also allows students go through at their own pace so nobody is waiting for the entire class to answer each question. They also do not have to toggle between screens.

Student review:
I am still in shock after hearing this an hour ago but this is the favourite over kahoot. I did not think any quiz app could take its place! I just finished speaking to my students about why they prefer this over kahoot and the specifics are:

  • self paced so students can all finish at different times
  • the opportunity to 50/50 some of the questions like the millionaire show format
  • you can power up and earn some cool features you have an answer streak which may include pausing the timer, etc.
  • you can pick your own background and music during the game
  • you can also retry a question if you get it incorrect (these results will be displayed to me if a student was incorrect during their first attempt)

At first, I expected my students to be frustrated because I was throwing yet another app their way. They were actually so excited to play and ended up enjoying it more than any other app. I will be exploring another program this weekend that one my students shared with me. He explained that I would like it “even more”. https://www.gimkit.com/ I encourage you to try it as well.

I hope everyone can try out these three (or just one) fun Friday math apps! I know my students are so excited when Friday comes along because they can review the skills from the way in a fun way. I appreciate their excitement as we all know, sometimes we only get moans and groans when our students hear the word “math”.

I look forward to keeping you updated on future math quiz apps. Please share any of your experiences with me or any new apps that you have tried. Enjoy!

Brutalist worksheets

Have you ever seen something that made you wonder whether it’s sole purpose was to make you feel small or insignificant? I don’t mean this in feelgood sort of humbling way like you might ponder a mountain’s majesty or an ocean’s depth. I mean, the way you feel uneasy when looking at a decades old worksheet from a resource 20 to 25 years past its pedogogical prime – where thought and creativity were never part of its iterations. I’m talking about copy after copy of soul sucking work pages given to students only to be regurgitated upon with rote facts and little, if any, critical thought. Let’s call them Brutalist worksheets because, like the architecture, they make the learner to feel small, and powerless, and the learning devoid of inspiration.

Over the years, I have found a number of Brutalist offerings left behind in the photo-copiers, and they make me shudder a bit to think that they were destined for students’ desks and to inevitable irrelevance shortly thereafter. I’d like to say this is a long distant memory, but it is still happening in 2020.

20 years into 21st Century learning and brutalist worksheets are still being shared. But first a bit about Brutalism.

Minds On

In the creative world of architecture there are several styles that have pervaded through history. We have remnants of the Victorian, Mid-Century Modern, Art Deco, and Modernist eras that occupy much of the past century and its edifices. There is another that cannot be overlooked because of it’s austere, raw, and imposing nature, Brutalism.

Brutalism, but this is a blog for teachers? Why are we having an architecture lesson? Why not? After all, design is design and the way that we construct, craft, curate, and create content for our students matters. It is inconceivable to think it can be done without consideration of the learners we are teaching or without differentiation.

Imagine a stark and unwelcoming piece of paper that seems as if it’s sole intention is to crush your spirit. Next, think of a page full of Math calculation questions that you have been handed, and are now expected to complete before the 2 or 3 minute timer goes off. Think of a different, but equally oppressive Math sheet with instructions, but no guiding example or room to show your thinking? Think of a double-sided sheet of French -er, ir, and -re verbs to conjugate. Brutal and absolutely intended as rote busy work to keep students from being their best.

I was visting a school a few years back and came across a teacher with a stack of photocopies at least 1500 pages or more in total. I asked if this was for a whole school letter to which they replied that it was for their classroom followed by, “You have to keep ’em busy somehow.” I walked away very sad at that moment and have tried to hang on to that interaction as a reminder of what not to do.

Brutalism in our profession has no business in any of our classroom resources. In fact, we need to seriously consider the function and purpose of everything we are printing for students. It starts by cleaning out the cabinets and binders that contain outdated worksheets. I know it means having to start fresh for some, but imagine the potential for deeper learning rather than a time filler destined for the recycle bin? Perhaps doing this over the course of the year will make it less daunting. With so many digital tools at our fingertips now, creating and updating content is easier than those Xerox days of yore.

Our shift to digital learning has allowed many of us to curate constructive content with links that are informative and interactive. There are also environmental and financial benefits from avoiding copy after copy too. With a suite of apps and productivity tools. Teachers can create these spaces from a trove of templates and fellow educators who are willing to share. No need for TPT here.*

Start with the incredible digital resources being shared from your school board and from a cohort of amazing educators via Twitter. I know that PeelDSB, TDSB, DurhamDSB, and YRDSB have provided many excellent resources to their staff, and am sure there are more boards out there doing the same for theirs. If you want to start your own, you can always check out Ditch that Textbook, MathigonShukes and Giff, TV Ontario, and TED Ed for ideas. If you have a favourite, please share in the comments below.

All that I ask is that you resist the urge to hit the copy button without considering the content you intend to share with students. Will it make them feel insignificant and under-inspired? Then you might have a brutalist worksheet in your hands and it might be time to go back to the drawing board to design something inviting and engaging to students as modern learners.

* I always think of toilet paper when I see TPT. Sorry, not sorry.

Community Immunity!

COVID-19 has turned everyone into a first-year teacher.  It doesn’t matter how many years of experience you might have, because this year is unlike any other that we have ever experienced.  All of us are re-imagining new ways to connect with students, whether you are learning together on-line or in-person.  It is a very humbling experience to be starting from scratch.

I have chosen to teach in-person because I crave community and collaboration.  The weeks leading up the first day of school were frustrating and stressful.  Everyone was scared and nervous as we struggled to create new routines and protocols.  As soon as the students arrived, I began to relax.  There is still so much that is unknown and unpredictable, but I know how to play and learn with children.

Here are some of my insights from the first few weeks of teaching Grade 2.

Sign Language:

Wearing masks makes it very difficult to communicate clearly.  We cannot read each other’s lips or facial expressions, and it is hard to hear each other.  For those of us who are teaching outside, our voices are struggling to project.  I grew up with a father who was deaf-blind.  As a child, I learned about barriers, disability justice, and how to communicate with my hands.

I worked with my students to develop simple signs that we can use to help us communicate.  We have symbols for: turning up the volume, sharing the same idea, making connections, asking to use the washroom or get a drink of water, and letting someone know we are smiling underneath.  I made a short video, which I shared with my families after the first day of school.  Send me an email if you would like me to share it with you.

I also bought myself a voice amplifier, which helps everyone to listen, and makes me feel like a rock star!

Drama and Play:

Drama is a powerful way to teach and create community.  I have been using role-playing and charades to practice and reinforce new routines, and problem-solve different scenarios.  I believe in the possibilities of play, and I am holding space for us to play together.  After months of isolation and loss, we all need to connect and have fun!

Every morning, after pre-screening and sharing our connection to land, we play a few cooperative games.  We have been learning each other’s names by clapping out syllables, using gestures or wordplay, such as “Very Velvet”.  We ask questions and “Step into the Circle”.  We change places with someone else “When the Big Wind Blows….” and we try to guess who is leading the action in “Follow the Leader”.

My teacher friend, Peyton Leung, shared this link of Socially Distant Outdoor Games for Kindergarten-Grade 8.  Check it out!  Also, here are some Drama Games that will work on-line and in-person.

Outdoor Learning:

All the educators at our school are trying to spend as much time outside as possible.  We know that learning outdoors is safer, and we are transforming our pedagogy by teaching and learning outdoors.  There are many challenges to overcome, including city traffic and construction noise, carrying the materials you need everywhere you go, the lack of shelter and easy access to washrooms, etc.  We are embracing the “big ideas” of change and adaptation and using our imagination to co-create new possibilities for education.

Kindergarten-Grade 6 students have been exploring measurement and mapping, as we connect with the different areas of our school yard.  Inside our “portable desks” are materials we can use for documenting our learning.  We are all learning how to keep our knapsacks organized and take responsibility for the extra masks and layers, hand sanitizer, “sit-upons” and school supplies.

This year, we will be deepening our understanding of land education and collaborating with Doug Anderson, who is one of the co-authors of Natural Curiosity 2nd edition: The Importance of Indigenous Perspectives in Children’s Environmental Inquiry.  We will explore a pedagogy of relationships, and honour land as first teacher.

There are extensive resources that connect Outdoor Learning to the Ontario Curriculum.  These Kindergarten-Grade 8 activities were created by the Peel District School Board Field Centre Instructors.  Please share other resources that are supporting you to do this work.

We didn’t “celebrate” Orange Shirt Day

This tweet hit me square in the brain. It was neither confrontational nor rude. It was simply a sublimely and sage sentence that stuck. I said it over and over again while researching, reading, and reflecting while preparing to teach about Residential Schools on September 30th.

“We don’t “celebrate” #OrangeShirtDay.” A simple reminder to all educators and learners.

So before we started our learning today, I told my 2 grade 4/5 English classes that “this was not a celebration.” Today was meant for reflection.

I did compliment them on their numerous orange shirts, and then we were off. The first question was “Why are we wearing these shirts today?” The responses were varied and honest. One student shared how a little girl had her orange shirt taken from her. Another few recalled bits of what they had learned last year, while others seemed like this was all new to them. We went from there?

My next question was, “Have you ever heard of residential schools?” followed by, “What do you know about them?” These two questions led to some solid conversation around the institution of school as we know it compared to the residential schools where First Nations, Metis and Inuit students were forced to attend. I shared about the living conditions, the daily routines, and the terrible food. I added that they could only speak English and would be punished when they didn’t or for a litany of other things for that matter. I wanted to guide students to the understanding that something was wrong with residential schools. They got it.

I could see their eyes and minds opening after explaining how the children were scooped up and taken away for 300 days at a time, far from home, and separated from the only family they knew. Students also learned that the RCMP would arrest families who resisted. And then the question I was hoping for;
“Why were kids taken to residential schools?” Why would they do this?

This became a pivotal point because it led us to a discussion about who “they” were? Putting the brakes on for a moment, I changed they to “colonizers”. The phrase European settlers came up too since we were talking about it. This led to the point where students found out that the government was also part of the “colonizers(they)”, and that their plans included wiping out First Nations, Metis, and Inuit culture through laws and enforcement of racist colonizer policies. The word discrimination came next, followed by a call of racism.

We talked and listened a lot. I shared some connections about how the government tried to label all First Nations as uncivilized savages in order to justify its desire to separate them from their land, their culture, and their dignity.

We talked about the importance of hearing the truth, and that there was more to learn. We promised to continue beyond Orange Shirt Day, and we sat quiet watching this video without sound and then with sound. https://www.nfb.ca/playlists/orange-shirt-day-edu/playback/#2 It was a powerful moment for students to see the images life in a residential school and then to reflect on why we were learning about it.

There were no tacky culturally appropriated mis-interpretations. Orange Shirt Day will not become a seasonal event like Halloween or Valentine’s Day in our schools. We will remember and continue exploring the truth about the legislated genocide attempted by the Canadian government on First Nations, Metis, and Inuit. We will also continue to examine how we continue to benefit from those inhuman actions to this day.

Today was not a day of celebration. September 30th was a day to listen, to become informed, and to reflect on the way that Canada has mistreated the First Nations, Metis and Inuit. We didn’t “celebrate” Orange Shirt Day. We inquired about it. We wrestled with it. We saw residential schools for the terrible places that they were to so many people. We sought to know more of its truth. We wore orange to respectfully remember.

Additional resources:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1PlV8jUd2WtxcxrTHJK_HtZimP2Usng9k/view