Tag: 21st century

Shouldn’t the Madhatter be a Girl? He’s Having a Tea Party After All!

Shouldn’t the Madhatter be a Girl? He’s Having a Tea Party After All!

I have really been grappling with the idea of “girl stuff” vs. “boy stuff” lately and it’s a conversation that I have had with many of my friends who are likewise trying to navigate the concept of gender with their children in our modern age. In an effort to make sense of this, I reached out to fellow International Baccalaureate educator and creativity wizard, Tim Fletcher to help me explore this idea in a guest blog post. Tim is an avid dancer and Middle Years Programme (MYP) performing arts teacher at The Inter-Community School in Zurich, Switzerland. I am excited to share his ideas and I hope they are as thought-provoking and insightful for you as they were for me. Enjoy!

 


 

I knew I was different. I thought that I might be gay or something because I couldn’t identify with any of the guys at all. None of them liked art or music. They just wanted to fight and get laid. – Kurt Cobain

There is something incredibly sad with this quote from Cobain, a guy that went on to make music that defined a generation and most likely resonated strongly with those that he could not identify with growing up. What it does show is the huge disparity between the perception of gender role play and the reality. What Cobain found interesting was disregarded by his peers as not being ‘masculine enough’, yet his through his own path he became a revered figure. It is a complex subject which I can reflect on from a personal perspective, having started ballet in a small rural city at the age of six, but it has many wider implications about how our brains are wired, how society reinforces that wiring and what we can do to change those perceptions.

What gave me the desire to ask my mother to start ballet so early? Why was I driven to dance, that it became such a driving factor in my life that it turned into a career? To be perfectly honest I have no idea, I must have seen it – and that was it, I had to dance. It is a decision that shaped my life, took me travelling, introduced me to my wife, etc. My whole being was attracted to movement and moving, and still is.

Not to say I didn’t like doing the boy things too. I ran around with toy guns and built spaceships, I just did ballet as well. Now I got lucky, my friends accepted that ‘Tim just did ballet’ and never questioned it or its masculinity. But in lots of situations it is questioned, take this anecdote, for example, the given starting point for this blog post: During a recent sleepover, my daughter creeps over to me and whispers “I think when I grow up, I’m going to be a boy”. My eyebrows raised and a curious grin comes to meet her gaze. “Really, what makes you say that?” She confesses, “Well, I like boy stuff like robots and remote control cars”.  “Ah, I see”. “and I don’t think it’s fair that boys get to have all the fun, why can’t us girls play with those things? And furthermore, I don’t think it’s fair that us girls only get to play with Barbies. Maybe boys would like to play dress up as well. What do you think?” My 7-year-old explains what prompted this revelation–her girlfriends prefer to play with Barbies all day and she gets bored with them after a while. So she feels like she’s not “girl enough”. The socialisation of this situation is frightening in that seven year old questions herself and feels she may not be “girl enough”, like Cobain, when we don’t fit – we feel ‘unnormal’.

As soon as young children figure out the difference between being boy or girl (we’ll stay with the binary for sake of not exploring another theme) they start to play out roles. Although, the exact cause of gender identity remains unknown, biological, psychological and social variables clearly influence the process1. These are reinforced by older siblings, peers, education, media, toys, marketing and most of all parents. Very quickly children fall into what they hear in the playground, like ‘boys are dumb’, ‘girls aren’t strong’, etc… and let’s not start with the parents who bolster these attitudes.  

We are quick to jump on the bandwagon today and blame marketers, toy manufacturers and tv producers that create gender specific products and content for today’s youth, not to mention the sickening phenomenon of pink for girls, blue for boys (which only took hold in the early eighties). In fact, we have been going in reverse with gender neutral toys, so much so, that when you wade through the mass selection in a toy store it represents more a vision of the 1950’s than the 21st century.  Surprisingly, it’s only the last three decades though that the toy industry has made massive strides backward, making a buck and greed has driven this trend. But it wasn’t always this way, check out this letter from Lego that came with a set of bricks in 1974.

lego to parent

Marketers and our environment contribute to this problem of gender identity and what is “normal” or not. All that being said, there is now some growing evidence to suggest that we may actually be predisposed to certain types of toys based on our gender. Recent studies with rhesus monkeys showed how female and male bias may be biological in what types of toys they preferred to interact with. In this study, male monkeys took to the trucks and females to the dolls. And there is a lot of historical reasons to support this, men hunted and built the shelters, woman cooked and bore children. Then these roles were repeated and repeated, and repeated, until very recently. It provides us with a framework of why the world is constructed as it is and why some people have trouble surrendering to modern structures.

This creates what we call ‘norms’. Most males probably have a predisposition to building and most females to nurturing, within a bell curve of sorts. Most people fit into (more or less) this type of behaviour, which is fine. Although, these norms can be twisted. We know through psychology that we categorise and compartmentalise as a coping mechanism. It is impossible for me to think of every person as an individual, with uniques traits, likes and dislikes, etc. So my brain groups them by their ethnicity, nationality, gender, clothing, etc. These rough categorisations have associated attributes from my specific environmental socialisation, i.e. my opinion, based on my experience, to a particular ethnic group, gender, etc – determines that… and violà I have a sweeping inaccurate impression of someone I saw for a second on the street. Although it is inaccurate, our impressions of others defined by this categorising, creates cognitive comfort.

What is not fine is giving into it and judging people for not fitting into the stereotypes we have built of the world, like when a girl prefers to play with robots and a boy prefers to do ballet. Even worse berating them for being different. Many parents who insist and tell their child that they are an individual, special and can do anything often struggle when the child falls from the realms of normal gender play. This cognitive dissonance must also cause some discomfort for the child “Mum says I’m special and can do anything… except, as long as I don’t play with dolls and stick with trucks”.

This is why we have a responsibility to educate, establish acceptance and shape a new set of norms, which is the responsibility of all those I listed above that contribute to this predicament. So, what can we adopt to remedy this perception problem?

Asking children why they think one way to challenge the stereotypes is a good place to start. Why is it stupid to brush and stylise the doll’s hair? What could you learn from doing it? Could the plaiting of hair give them ideas to build in different ways? This could be supported by showing innovative building designs but also showcasing successful male hairdressers. Breaking down false stereotypes can be done rationally, and emotionally. There can be an appeal to the emotions in the context of a game or competition. Children facing gender opposite tasks during a game will often “get on with it” because of the nature of competition and through doing, their actions may appeal to their emotions – that actually, it feels alright.

What can happen by observing different toy vehicles in action? The tyres make different patterns which could be the formation of an eventual print on the material. There are an unlimited amount of ways we can look at using gender specific toys in a variety of ways if we allow ourselves. In terms of creativity, it is a well-documented technique that putting odd things together can have very productive and unique outcomes, as I have covered in this post. It could be introduced as a rule of playing with gender opposite toys at home or in the classroom. How can I apply this toy, or playing with this toy, to an area of interest for me?

But most importantly we must be installing a new ‘norm’ of acceptance with what children are drawn to and indeed prefer to engage in. If that interest manifests it could shape their lives, so we have more female physicists and male midwives. I hate to think what would have happened if I had not been allowed, and indeed encouraged, to follow my passion for movement and attend ballet classes.

  1. https://www.cliffsnotes.com/study-guides/psychology/development-psychology/psychosocial-development-age-02/gender-development

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If you would like to read more from Tim and his research more specifically into creativity and education, check out his blog, Learn Creatively. He has a lot of interesting ideas about the intersection of art, learning, and inspiration.

10 Reasons Why I Can’t Wait to Teach 1st Grade Next Year

10 Reasons Why I Can’t Wait to Teach 1st Grade Next Year

My school year is winding down–4 more weeks left of school! (but not that I’m counting) And instead of thinking about all the great adventures we will have this summer, all I can think about is how much fun I am going to have to teach 1st grade next year. Teacher Nerd ALERT!next year After bobbing back and forth between the Early Years and 4th grade for the last couple years, I will be happy to settle in 1st grade for a while, where you get the best of the Early Years mindset (unfettered creativity and imagination) and yet starting to gain confidence and competence in Literacy and Numeracy skills, making it possible to go deep with developing their knowledge and thinking skills. Plus their minds aren’t as sullied with “can’ts” as the older grades are, making them so wonderfully teachable. Oh, the joy of learning!-for both me and them.

Here are the 10 things that are keeping me up at night that I am so dang excited to do with 1st graders:

  1. Meditation: Cultivating calm in one’s mind should be a skill taught early in life. If I was being honest, I have been a bit chicken to really make it a part of my classroom routine in a serious way. But I really intend to push myself and introduce mindfulness and meditation in a more intentional way. I think 6-7 years old can manage a brief moment of calm.   
  2. Book Snaps: Although I am not sure about introducing SnapChat to little ones, how I do love this idea by Tara Martin, in which kids take a “snap” of the book they are reading and post the questions, ideas, and quotes from the book as annotations. I think the excitement of posting these “book snaps” are a unique way to cultivate an interest in close reading when you share them in a public forum. Love of close reading–oh yeah, let’s do that!
  3. Podcasting: I dabbled with podcasting before but for the last couple months, I have taken a serious interest in it and have been working on my a personal podcast for a while. Audio content is a whole other art form so this project has really made me think a lot about creativity, word choice, and voice (literally). Which is preciously why I want to do with little kids, and I was inspired by an idea that the music teacher shared with me about read alouds. So I’m hoping to do read alouds of books and their writing and publish it to an authentic audience, all the while nailing fluency in the process.
  4. Blogging: The online world is where most of my digital natives will be probably making their greatest impact as they grow into adults. I’ve always admired the philosophy of the Writer’s Workshop as it develops the mindset of a writer. What could be more authentic and meaningful as a blog, as they articulate their ideas online?
  5. SeeSaw: I have been dying to seriously mess around with digital portfolios. Currently, we use Class Dojo, which is focused more on classroom management, but SeeSaw has oh so much more going on and has a lot more opportunity for engagement and interaction.
  6. Math Workshop: Did I mention that I like the workshop model? Ah, yes, and it works for math too! Workshop + Talk Moves + Math Tools = a deeper exploration of number concepts.
  7. Math as Art: Okay, I’m a math geek, but through a series of serendipitous events, I’ve come to see art as an integral way to show the “beauty” of math. I don’t consider myself arty, at all, but I’m super interested in how we can represent math (and science) in artistic ways.
  8. Number Talks: This is probably one of my favorite things, ever, in developing mathematical mindsets, in which students get to explore a myriad of perspectives as they look at solving a problem.  So, it creates a bank of strategies for mental math and develops mathematical fluency.  If you don’t know about it, check out the video below.

9. Design Thinking: Have you ever found that you thought you knew something but then as you start really working through it and researching it, you realize how absolutely ignorant you are. Well, design thinking has done that to me, and I want to use it more often in my classroom, not as a one-off in a STEM-like unit, but I think it can be superimposed into so many aspects of learning, even writing. I want to launch it early in my class and use it often, whether we are going through the design process or doing design sprints.

10. Writer’s Workshop: Although I am not a die-hard Lucy Calkins fan, I so do love this approach to writing because it creates “authors” with writing that is worth sharing and publishing. They get to study good writing, practice these devices, go through the writing process and get peer feedback. I think it cultivates a practice of deep reading of a text and cultivates a positive mindset about writing, dare I say a buzz about their writing. I want to remix this model a bit, with the use of technology and design-based learning through. So I reckon that this experiment will be the fodder for blogs later.

If you are a 1st-grade teacher, I’m wondering what you really love challenging your students with. What am I missing? What have you done that you think is the bee’s knees? I’d love some insight!!

Nevertheless, it is fun to sit upon the precipice of something and feel the exhilaration of possibility.

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Ancient World, Modern Times

Ancient World, Modern Times

Have you ever taught a unit that you wanted to do over again-either because you bombed at it or because it was so engaging? Well I’m closing the year on a high because this unit went so much better than expected.

Our central idea was: Ancient civilizations have influenced many things in our modern world.

The art teacher and I decided to use the Greek civilization as our model for an influential civilization. The history of us provided the fodder for our discussions and then we began to talk about the Greek philosophers as we began tuning into and engaging into our unit. The students were intrigued by Socrates, mostly because he drank poison. These lively stories cultivated a keen interest in crafting questions that “hurt our brains” to think about, as we explored metacognition.  img_9429-1

As we delved into aspect of the Greek civilization, I decided that I would focus on reading content of our unit on myths and legends, Greek and Latin roots in our English words, while developing their listing and speaking skills. I provided a variety of media sources other than books, and decided to introduce them to podcasts to add a twist to the listening skills. Listen Current  was a great resource and provided listening guides for their podcasts which was very ELL friendly and helped us to tackle challenging vocabulary terms.

I asked them what ancient cultures they were curious about and explained that we would do podcasts, in which they interview each other about their civilizations.They were so excited, which genuinely surprised me. It was hilarious to see them craft questions for these interviews that were meant to “hurt each other’s brains”, going deeper than their typical questions.  We used the app Spreaker Studio to create very simple podcasts.

The podcasts took longer than I expected, as they needed more guidance with writing scripts and all those tricky questions made it a bit of a challenge to find research materials that were at their reading levels. However, it created a need to find multiple sources of information and it was a true RE-SEARCH unit, in which they had to keep reading, watching videos and keep looking for information on the internet.  They would stop and discuss their civilizations naturally and made a lot of great connections. The students researched the Aztecs, Chinese, Egyptians, Incas, Mesopotamians, Mayans, Norse, Romans and Nubians.

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My co-teaching partner and I had talked about having the kids put together a “museum of ancient history” as summative task, but the podcast ended up taking up more time than we expected and instead we had them decide to take something that we take for granted in our modern world and trace it back to its ancient roots. Students chose topics that resulted from some things that they learned about from these podcasts–from armor to lipstick, from books to medicine. It was a rich variety of topics. The kids made “fortune tellers” that described the why and how of this invention, and then they shared them, taking turns with each other.
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Although I would do things a bit differently if taught again, it is a good feeling to know that our students can appreciate the drive, creativity and curiosity of ancient people. I was generally concerned if this was too heavy of a history unit, but the curiosity and motivation sustained itself.

 

 

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Have you ever taught a unit that you thought would be awful and turned out great OR vice-ver
sa, you thought it was going to be wonderful and turned flat? I wonder what makes students’ so committed to their research on topics.

 

 

Coding in the Early Years

Coding in the Early Years

Well I am back in the Early Years until one of our teachers returns from maternity leave. It’s been an interesting shift back since this is a mixed classroom, with 3-5 year olds. I decided to incorporate coding as a part of our math language development, with a focus on positional words.

I’ve had to do a lot of songs and games to get my ELLs familiar with all of this language. They really loved this video from Scratch Garden: Left and Right Song.  Then we started talking about how we might do programming in the real world with giving directions to one of our “robot” friends. In our introductory activity, a friend had to get to the telephone, so students would take turns to “program”them with the directions they needed.

 

Emily counts her steps to the telephone.

 

Anuja thinks about how he might “program” Emily.

There was a lot of discussion about how to walk to the telephone- you can walk “this way, then that way”. As a result of eliminating confusion and focusing on the positional language ( in this case, right/left/backwards/forwards), we took away some of the foam mats so the path looked more obvious ( and it mimicked more for using the BeeBot- which is where we were heading).  Something great about using the mats was that the kids could really see the one-to-one correspondence that they needed to grasp  for programming. However, this activity did have some limitations because they couldn’t understand how a code might need to be cancelled if something changed in the program.


However, this was their first step and had more success in this way as the students began to get the concepts. This paved the way with using the BeeBot. We only have one in our class, so I used it as a center/station activity. We practiced looking at the symbols on the BeeBot and how we could use them and explored using it before setting up obstacles or using it in play scenarios.

Elena decides to link up a train to the Beebot




As their understanding progressed, we worked on the BeeBot and Foos apps on the iPads. Our tech integrator came in to assist during our school’s celebration of the Hour of Code. He was happy to see how some of the kids were progressing and helped me to assess where students were at in their learning journeys.

Anuja smashes it through Foos and gets to a game level.



Teaching Patterns

Teaching Patterns

I love teaching patterns, particularly in the beginning of the year so we can keep referencing them throughout the year. However, this year, my programme of inquiry had patterns being taught last with my homes unit (Where we are in place and time: People make their homes in different places and in different ways). Since I do a balance of integrated math and stand alone, the student really enjoyed going on pattern hunts as we looked at different homes, along with discussing and creating brick patterns. I thought I was doing a pretty good job when one of my 4 year olds turns to me and says, “You know Ms. Judy, we learned patterns last year in EY3 and we are pretty good at it. I think we should learn something else.” Krikey! Out of the mouths of babes, I was properly told off. So I reflected on what we were doing and decided to add symmetry into the mix.

After the topic was introduced, out came the mirrors and rulers, and the children began exploring how to create mirror image patterns: symmetry. They were absolutely captivated. Although I don’t have any pictures of the early explorations (I was too busy helping them hold mirrors) , I would like to share some of the later activities.

In the first set of pictures, we clamored upon the playground, drawing lines of symmetry with some chalk, and then the children worked as partners, taking turns making patterns with various manipulatives, which the other had to copy. They did a great job, and even helped to create the PicCollages that you see.  Later on, we worked with the app, Geoboard, by The Math Learning Center, to create symmetrical patterns. Again they did fantastic job, and worked very cooperatively, much to my chagrin. At last, we just got plain silly and used the app Photobooth by Apple to create symmetrical pictures using the “mirror”. Some of the kids took those images and recorded ideas and stories using the app Fotobable. It was a wonderful way for them to extend their idea of patterns, and they did such a wonderful job working together to collaborate on the images.

Teacher 3.0

Teacher 3.0

Teacher 3.0–keeping our practice current and relevant.

You know the difference between something alive and something dead?–Something alive is growing, while something dead is NOT!  With that in mind, it’s really important to continue to develop our understanding of how our student’s learn best and update our teaching practice. For many of us, we need to take a certain number of training courses or attend conferences in order to stay abreast of what is happening and maintain our credentials. But the good news is that nowadays we don’t have to go to bricks and mortar schools or centers in order to learn something new. There are a lot of great online professional development available right in the comfort of your home.

Here is a smattering of some high quality resources and many of them offer certificated courses. Some are for a fee, but most are completely FREE.

Teachers First

What a great resource this is!  Not only does it have frequent professional development that is FREE, if you attend a live online event, you can get a certificate for it. Lovely, isn’t it! Also, it has a ton of lesson plans and activities that are designed for 21st century learning.  Just can’t beat this one!

Intel Teach Elements

I have taken Intel’s professional development and it was easy to implement in my intermediate grade’s classroom. The topics are very much geared toward blending technology in the classroom and is a terrific resource that is absolutely FREE. (Gosh, I just love that word). The e-learning material generally take more than sitting to complete and you might want to have some of your fellow grade-level/subject team members join you–The content’s that fabulous!

Arizona State University’s Learning Forever!

I have taken very low cost courses through ASU for my teaching license, but they  constantly have FREE webinars on topics such as the Common Core and Gifted Education. It doesn’t cost you a thing to join, which makes this very economical.

Other Colleges and Universities with Free Online Courses

I can’t speak directly for these all of these courses but there is an amazing number of colleges and universities that are offering FREE e-learning courses. From MIT to Stanford, the list of reputable universities is substantial, and it covers many topics outside of just education. Many of them will even offer college credit for participating. Very cool, indeed!

SEETA

You have to register (free) in order to attend a web course, but it’s great because the guest presenters are experts and have a range of topics that are offered weekly. Even though this website is from the “South Eastern European Teachers”, the topics are relevant no matter where you teach. It’s great to get a global perspective on best practices, and you are sure to learn something.

Association for School Curriculum and Development 

If you don’t have a membership to this, then sign up today. I can’t recommend this enough. It is covers all sorts of topics about American policy and practice, and reports on the latest research. It’s an invaluable resource. As a member, you have numerous free webinars that you can enjoy, and they also offer more substantial online professional development.

Edublogger

Most educators are interested in blogging, so this link is simply for a very cool how to on using blogs for personal use and in your classroom.

Electronic Open Village

This is a yearly event offered through TESOL CALL-IS. They (TESOL) have in-person conferences in America, which focus on Teaching English as a Second Language, but the Electronic Open Village (EVO) has a “Computer-Assisted Language Learning Interest Section, which exists to define issues and standards in the field of computer-mediated language instruction, promote research and development in the area of computer-based language learning and disseminate information about CALL to ESL/EFL educators worldwide.” What does that mean for you?–some really cool and FREE e-learning that is focused on helping our English Language Learners. Who doesn’t need more help in this area?  And the best part is that it is geared toward obtaining more technology skills as educators. Yep, check another box. It’s pretty terrific!

Please let me know if you found any of these resources useful for you. Also, feel free to add some other quality lo professional development that you know of–we are all here to learn!

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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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