Monday, May 23, 2011

So Worth It!

You know this kid.  He
~ grumbles about anything that looks like 'work',
~ takes forever to get supplies out of his cubicle,
~calls out across class to his buddy about what's on his mind,
~ slams his exercise book on the table with grunts of "I don't get this" or "whadda we got to learn that for?"
~runs when he's supposed to walk,
~ and is quick to find fault in any situation and  especially with what you're trying to do.

 He regularly tries your patience!

Last week I watched that kid race toward me across the grass with a piece of litter in his outstretched hand and I almost cried thinking our school year together is almost over.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

iPads, Playtime & Policy-making

Should young children be given iPads in school?  That's being debated in Auburn, Maine as the kindergartners there are taking part in a pilot project.  My first thought was "lucky class"!  However, I began to wonder if this wasn't a question to at least consider further, as I began to read Abigal Curtis' article .
We can't get away from the fact that gadgets: handheld electronic devices, cell phones, portable DVD players,mP3 players, DSIs, point and click digital cameras and computers in various shapes, sizes and colours, to name a few, are part and parcel of young children's life experiences.  We can only hope that they also get lots of opportunities to play outside in the mud, chase bubbles and curl up to someone sharing books with them before they come to school. 

As a former primary teacher, I am familiar with the necessity/dilemma of finding a balance between learning through play and learning in the expected 'academic style' – those more traditional paper and pencil/book learning tasks we associate with school.  How would having iPads change and impact the teaching and learning appropriate with such young students? Could it add to a teacher's repertoire or would it be more of a distraction?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Heritage Fairs and Passion-Based Learning

"I have a vegetable garden just like my pop did when he was a boy.  Can I do my project about that?"
"Can I do mine about my great aunt?  She used to be a postmistress and she used a telegraph like Marconi!"
"Miss, what was the name of that novel you read from? You know the one about the boy who was in the  Great War.  My great-grandfather was in that war."
" I'm doing mine about going fishing with Pop, even though I'm a girl."

One of the most intensely busy times in my classroom each year is when we take on our annual Heritage Fair projects.  Each student must choose a topic that will include various aspects of research, usually on an aspect of  our rich local history.  The goal is to find some personally interesting story in the closets, collections or cupboards of our homes and share them with classmates and the community at large!

We are fortunate to live in a historic community that has been settled for over four hundred years!  This small community on the most eastern coast of Canada  is said to be the landfall of Giovanni Caboto - John Cabot, the Italian explorer who 'discovered' the new-founde-lande for the King of England in 1947.  Many of the families have been here for generations with strong ties to the inshore fishery.  While much of the original infrastructure has been lost, there are over 1000 houses whose 'bones' are well over one hundred years old.

So...finding a family connection to a story is not difficult.  This year alone topics included  projects about relatives who served in the Royal Newfoundland Regiment,and the Royal Canadian Navy; local built heritage,  and Women's Work with projects focused on Quilting, Doing Laundry, Knitting, Making Bread, and Jam Making.  Hunting and trapping, particularly of rabbits and the more recently- introduced moose; farming traditions with the local connection to the use of root cellars, were also completed.

The students are fascinated to find out how to build these structures, how efficient and necessary they were for keeping vegetables and other foodstuffs over the winter and of course personal stories such as the one about accidently getting shut in one for a few hours!  They often work with family members to build replicas, with removable sod roofs  so visitors can view the interior storage areas.  The hands-on learning involved in the projects is invaluable to the cultural connections made.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Travel Plans

As I return from this Easter break and catch up on reading in Twitter and some updates from my favourite bloggers, I feel a little overwhelmed!  I am struck by how much is being done; how much is available to those of us trying to authentically integrate technology within our classrooms and curriculum.  I feel like I’m in a travel agency where there are attractive images all around me of beautiful places that entice me to many different destinations.  
Wish this is where I went for holiday!

The question almost seems to be do I take an e-tour; a package where I can take in the sites of many places of interest or do I customize my travels and spend longer in one area, really getting to know all that makes that place unique?  I’d say fellow travellers will say that both offer positive possibilities!
You can judge yourself accordingly.  How comfortable
 are you with technology?