Month: March 2015

Our Trip to the Outback

Our Trip to the Outback

As a part of EY4’s final task on their unit about how people use transportation systems to stay connected, I decided that the summative task was going to be a rather large scale simulation of a trip. Originally I had thought that I could have them individually plan a trip, but then I worried that it might be too basic–a trip to the shop to buy ice cream, for example–so I wanted us to experience the  idea of a system, which is more complex and involves many steps.  We came up with a list of different countries around the globe: Egypt, Australia, Italy, Korea, and Mexico. We researched the countries and determined a list of reasons why we might go there:

  • seeing interesting places
  • trying new foods
  • seeing family  (in some cases)
  • meeting new people
  • having different experiences
  • seeing different kinds of animals
  • shopping

Then we researched the countries–what would be the interesting things to do, see or eat? Students got really excited to go to Egypt and Australia, although Italy, with its pizza, was close behind. We took it to a vote, and Australia won.  We took an interest survey of what students would like to do there.  Next, we started to consider how we might go to Australia. We looked at maps and thought about how long it might take us to go there. Most students agreed that taking an airplane was the most sensible form of travel, although one student did suggest that a submarine could be faster. Since we had never been on a submarine, it became a ” I Wonder” and a point of inquiry. I love when we chase up these wonderful imaginings (and yes, there is a supersonic submarine that is in the making which would be faster than an aircraft, but its not ready yet). 

After that, we set into motion getting our passports ready, our tickets “booked”, and packing our bags. I had a wonderful Australian mum help me with the snacks for our in-board flight, our Humanities teacher was one of the tour guides when we “arrived” in Sydney, and the art teacher provided me with some inspiration for Aboriginal dot paintings for our visit to the “Australian Children’s Art and Culture Museum”.

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Everyone boarded Tiger Airlines to Sydney and enjoyed in-flight entertainment and snacks. Then they were met by Mr Horton from Outback Tours who took us to the Kangaroo Park and we even saw Koala Bears. After our tour, we headed to the Australian Children’s Culture and Art Museum in which we made dreamtime paintings, read and watched cultural videos, and made didgeridoos. It was a lot of fun and the kids learned a lot.

So the summative task involved:

  • Country preference ranking
  • Country research (topics explored: foods, places, animals)
  • Interest Survey
  • Trip Reflection

As you might imagine, it was very successful. The students really got a sense of how involved taking transportation can be. Even my students with little English were able to participate fully, and, although it was hard to articulate their reflection, I had enough evidence to demonstrate that understanding took place.

Literacy Week 2014

Literacy Week 2014

I love organizing school events. I know, I’m weird, huh?

But I believe that events and activities outside of our classrooms are what create community and enthusiasm for learning. Ms. Wakefield and I have been working feverishly to put together whole school activities for students. Some of the activities we had were:

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Writing as Play

Writing as Play

Although I am more traditionally trained to use “centers” in my classroom, I find that if I consider them more like provocations, and less like a “center”, I have more students willing to engage in writing. So I am always trying to sneak writing into “play” time. In my latest unit about how “Transportation systems help people stay connected and are used for different purposes”, I have put in 2 different writing stations, in which they can engage in pretend play. One has been the “Travel Agent” role play area and now I have introduced the “Postcard” writing area so that students can write pretend postcards to their friends and families after their pretend travels.

I love seeing them create little tickets, discussing whether it is for a train or an airplane, a bus or a boat. We also discussed how we need money to travel, and some students enjoy “printing” money as well, using it to buy their tickets. It’s been interesting to see them tune into different examples of money, and  a few students are quite sophisticated enough to pick up nuances in the different kinds of patterns, shapes and colors.  Although I don’t have any pictures of the money, the till is behind the counter there. I added some examples of real tickets from different kinds of transportation, some travel brochures and a passenger list of all the students which has encouraged them in making these tickets.

In the postcard area, I placed in there pencils, scissors, colored pencils and magazines, along with a model of a postcard and some exemplars. I have noticed that they prefer drawing pictures on the front of the postcard, rather than cutting out pictures.  I appreciate all the color and details they put into these pictures. It’s going to be great to see how it evolves but already it is becoming a hub for many students during playtime.

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Using “5 Stars” for Emergent Writing

Using “5 Stars” for Emergent Writing

5starpicsAs many of us know, writing begins with pictures for little ones. Furthermore,research has shown that more elaborate drawings translate into better writing for the long-term.  The theory goes that more details in drawings will produce more details in their actual writing later on, when the students have the skills to be proficient.

So I found this rubric years ago and really loved it.  I believe that when children know of what is expected, they rise to the occasion. That is especially true of little children who are eager to show how “big” they are. Rubrics and checklists are vital for providing feedback and I strive to use them in everything, from behavior to literacy. Since children love stickers, I find that using “5 Stars” to indicate high quality work is an effective way to get them to consider their effort. However, this sheet just really wasn’t enough to stimulate quality pictures.

So I made a display with pictures that would be indicative of each level of effort. As a result of having these examples, students are often going up to the display and comparing their work, as well as providing feedback to each other at the tables. It’s great to hear their conversations, and of course to see them develop as “writers”.

IMG_1034

Of course, one of the dangers of using rubrics like this is that once they meet expectations, how to more them beyond and into real writing. The transition between getting them to start writing “words” or captions into sentences seems like such a big jump sometimes for 4-5 year olds. But it’s the next step in my quest for encouraging the development of writing.

Using "5 Stars" for Emergent Writing

Using "5 Stars" for Emergent Writing

5starpicsAs many of us know, writing begins with pictures for little ones. Furthermore,research has shown that more elaborate drawings translate into better writing for the long-term.  The theory goes that more details in drawings will produce more details in their actual writing later on, when the students have the skills to be proficient.

So I found this rubric years ago and really loved it.  I believe that when children know of what is expected, they rise to the occasion. That is especially true of little children who are eager to show how “big” they are. Rubrics and checklists are vital for providing feedback and I strive to use them in everything, from behavior to literacy. Since children love stickers, I find that using “5 Stars” to indicate high quality work is an effective way to get them to consider their effort. However, this sheet just really wasn’t enough to stimulate quality pictures.

So I made a display with pictures that would be indicative of each level of effort. As a result of having these examples, students are often going up to the display and comparing their work, as well as providing feedback to each other at the tables. It’s great to hear their conversations, and of course to see them develop as “writers”.

IMG_1034

Of course, one of the dangers of using rubrics like this is that once they meet expectations, how to more them beyond and into real writing. The transition between getting them to start writing “words” or captions into sentences seems like such a big jump sometimes for 4-5 year olds. But it’s the next step in my quest for encouraging the development of writing.

“What If” Journals

“What If” Journals

As I reflect on what is precious and wonderful about teaching little ones, listening to their stories and observing their imagination is high on my list of delights. At some point, children learn that it’s not okay to ask questions or be silly, trading it with what is “right” and “smart”. I abhor that notion and strive to cultivate an atmosphere of curiosity and creativity in my classroom. So, I got this idea to create a “writing” practice in the classroom that nurtures their thinking and wondering. I call it the What If Journal. Every entry begins with “What if….” and then students draw or write in response to the idea. Since we’ve lately been focusing on transportation, the questions have been…

  • What if buses had wings?
  • What if we only rode horses to school?
  • What if wheels were square?
  • What if there were no traffic lights or stop signs?
  • What if you got to design your own flying machine
  • What if trains went under water?
  • What if you had a propeller on your head?
  • What if you had no eyes? How could you know where you were going?
  • What if cars could talk?
  • What if airplanes flew backwards?

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These are some examples, but you can see how some are “serious” thinking questions, where as some are more “silly”. Naturally students begin to start asking the What If –not only for our writing prompts but I hear it in their play: “What if we used the white boards as pretend X-ray machines?”  “What if we built a bridge here so people can see the park when they are going over?”  “What if we use this to make a boat?” When it moves beyond the page, I feel proud and excited that they are eager to share their ideas. They value their imagination and that of their friends, making it a great environment for inquiry. And, of course, they look forward to the What If Journals, enthusiastic to write and share their drawings.

"What If" Journals

"What If" Journals

As I reflect on what is precious and wonderful about teaching little ones, listening to their stories and observing their imagination is high on my list of delights. At some point, children learn that it’s not okay to ask questions or be silly, trading it with what is “right” and “smart”. I abhor that notion and strive to cultivate an atmosphere of curiosity and creativity in my classroom. So, I got this idea to create a “writing” practice in the classroom that nurtures their thinking and wondering. I call it the What If Journal. Every entry begins with “What if….” and then students draw or write in response to the idea. Since we’ve lately been focusing on transportation, the questions have been…

  • What if buses had wings?
  • What if we only rode horses to school?
  • What if wheels were square?
  • What if there were no traffic lights or stop signs?
  • What if you got to design your own flying machine
  • What if trains went under water?
  • What if you had a propeller on your head?
  • What if you had no eyes? How could you know where you were going?
  • What if cars could talk?
  • What if airplanes flew backwards?

    This slideshow requires JavaScript.

These are some examples, but you can see how some are “serious” thinking questions, where as some are more “silly”. Naturally students begin to start asking the What If –not only for our writing prompts but I hear it in their play: “What if we used the white boards as pretend X-ray machines?”  “What if we built a bridge here so people can see the park when they are going over?”  “What if we use this to make a boat?” When it moves beyond the page, I feel proud and excited that they are eager to share their ideas. They value their imagination and that of their friends, making it a great environment for inquiry. And, of course, they look forward to the What If Journals, enthusiastic to write and share their drawings.

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Judy Imamudeen

Judy Imamudeen

Developing learners as leaders is my joy! As a highly qualified International Baccaluearate (IB) teacher and educational leader, I am committed and passionate about executing its framework and empowering students in creating a future world that works for everyone.

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