Thursday, September 16, 2010

What’s she reading now…

 Well, actually, I just finished reading Inspiring the best in students by Jonathan C. Erwin (370.154 ErI 2010) and feel quite excited about it.

It’s the first time I’ve come across the Choice Theory, which provides a way to have students see what motivates them, shows them that they have and make choices all the time and that they are responsible for their behaviour and, finally, helps students learn to change their behaviour.  This will make for better student-teacher relationships in happier classrooms. All pretty lofty, I agree.

The book offers no quick fixes.  This is something established early on in the year when you’re still getting to know the students in your class and followed-up on throughout the year.  And, best of all, it’s something that can be worked into the curriculum, too.

For example, chapter five (A World of Perceptions) discusses how a person’s world view will affect their perceptions of themselves, other people and situations.  To make students aware of some of their perceptions, Erwin describes an exercise where students place pictures and words on a scale (a traffic light is used, with green as positive feeling, red negative and yellow, neutral).  A picture of a delicious looking meal is usually placed near the green light as it evokes a positive feeling.  But the teacher may add information such as “the meal is tainted with salmonella” whereby the perception of the picture may change.  A follow-up discussion allows students to identify what perceptions are, what influences their own perceptions, what control they have over them and ultimately, how perceptions affect behaviour.

This particular chapter had many connections to the curriculum in language arts with writing exercises and literature analysis where students look at point-of-view of literary characters.  Tie-ins with history can also be made when using point-of-view. How does a particular historical or current event look from different perspectives?  How do the media, advertising companies, politicians and governments manipulate the public’s perceptions as a means to their ends? Both music and visual art can be used to further understanding about student’s perceptions, as well.  Lots of suggestions here to work with and inspire.

I thought of a couple of literature tie-ins while reading this chapter.  For instance, Benny and Omar by Eoin Colfer (823 C68B FIC) is told from the perspective of Benny (an Irish boy living in Tunisia).  Omar is a Tunisian boy, orphaned and living in a dump. Telling the story from Omar’s point-of-view would certainly take some considerable understanding of the culture.  Studying Tunisia is part of the Alberta Social Studies curriculum for grade 3.

A new and very hot series of books right now for older kids (grades 9 and up) is the Hunger Games trilogy, a gripping futuristic/sci-fi series. It’s told in the voice of a teenage girl about her experience in the Hunger Games, a televised battle of teens, taken as tribute from twelve districts to fight to the death for the entertainment of the people living in the ‘Capitol’.  Realty TV on steroids, to be sure.  But what a great way to look at perceptions of those living in different districts, of the competitors, of the people with power, and of the ‘innocent’ public, plus the whole media angle.

Erwin’s book is definitely worth a look.


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