Tag: teaching strategies

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 Creativity

Teaching Creativity

Since I have been teaching in the UAE, I have noticed a stark difference between American (ergo western children,in general) and my Arabic children when it comes to creativity. I might easily shrug it off to teaching ESL, but I co-teach so I get to observe their behaviors during Arabic and Islamic Studies.   Indeed, the children here spend more time running feral in play than plopped down in front of cartoons and computers, but that certainly wouldn’t account for the muted expression of curiosity or creativity, in fact, it would have made me think just the reverse since they have so much free play. Thus, it makes me beg the question: are we born naturally inquisitive and creative or are those attributes acquired through our culture?

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When given a box of legos (bricks), students rely on pictures of examples of things they can make before attempting to design something.

Many of us Western teachers have observed similar behavior in other grade levels. And, at home, when we might have been plagued with the endless amount of energy of questions and tangents of imagination our students would go on, we are absolutely desperate to get students to think for themselves, let a lone outside the box. I don’t mean for this observation to reflect poorly on our students, because they are bright and able, but perfection and high marks are what is really valued in this culture.  Whether a student writes a lovely poem or paints a beautiful painting is not as appreciated as an A on a paper. So I have to think that this is a cultural influence.

Since the Abu Dhabi Education Council is wanting to reform their schools to more western style approaches to learning, they are trying to shift from the more traditional methods into ones that will sponsor innovation and technology through critical thinking. Increasing inquisitiveness and creativity seem paramount to this task, so we have felt at a loss at how to systematically teach it.

Enter Harvard Project Zero! Through research done, they have created something called “Visible Thinking”, which they noticed that ” Often, we found, children (and adults) think in shallow ways not for lack of ability to think more deeply but because they simply do not notice the opportunity or do not care. To put it all together, we say that really good thinking involves abilities, attitudes, and alertness, all three at once. Technically this is called a dispositional view of thinking. Visible Thinking is designed to foster all three.”  (Visible Thinking)

I have been implementing many of their core routines and it has been interesting to actually gain insight into their perspectives and ideas.  Naturally, since I teach in a bilingual classroom, most of the responses are in their home language of Arabic, but my counterpart will translate their ideas to me.  It has been very helpful in cultivating a culture of deeper thinking, respect for different points of view, and looking closer at things. The easiest routine for my ELLs has been  I SEE, I THINK, I WONDER  .   I also really find Creativity Hunt to be another really interesting one that has a high level of engagement.

Overall, I really recommend teachers to take a look at their site because their are so many simple things that you can add to your lessons to increase creative thought and critical thinking–No matter the grade level.  I hope you take some time to check  out some of the material and implement some of the routines in your classroom.

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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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