Tuesday, February 23, 2010

“You Made Me Look Like a Genuis”

Wow wee!!  You can’t imagine the tingle of excitement when a MT student said exactly that – “you made me look like a genius”.

He was referring to a picture book that I’d recommended, The Rabbits by John Marsden (823 M351R PIC BK).  It proved to be a successful choice for his grade three/four class to introduce the idea of Europeans settling and expropriating land from aboriginal peoples. (This is part of the grade 4 Alberta social studies curriculum where the settlement of the West and the impact on First Nations people is taught.)

The Rabbits, stunningly illustrated by Shaun Tan, relates the story of strange newcomers (dressed in European, colonial uniforms) arriving in a foreign world.  The story is told from the perspective of those already living in this world.  Early contact is fairly benign but doesn’t last long as the rabbits take and occupy more and more land, building their own enterprises, taking the children of the indigenous peoples, and ends with the question ‘Who will save us from the rabbits?’

The grade three and four students were pretty ‘bummed out’ about the sad ending that the rabbits had taken over and the original inhabitants were now suffering because of it.  But the teachable moment came when the student-teacher asked how things might have been different.  What ideas could the kids come up with that would allow the natives to live peacefully with the newcomers?  The kids were right in there debating whether it would be better to divide up the land, share resources, have a sports competition to decide who get the land or come up with a written agreement.

And teachers from other classrooms were asking to look and use it, as well.

This isn’t the only time that I’ve had positive feedback about The Rabbits, either.  Earlier this year a student working in high school reported that her students had also enjoyed this book.

Perfect.  A picture book that works from elementary to high school, encompassing a lot of big ideas and inviting the sort engagement that generates discussion and even excitement about what some perceive as a fairly dry subject – history, colonization, imperialism, rights of native peoples, war, conquest, human rights, dismantling cultures, etc.

And just to fill you in and to add another layer of interest to this book, is to know that the author John Marsden is Australian (as is Shaun Tan) and that rabbits, a non-indigenous species with no natural predators, were introduced to Australia on a whim by early European settlers and subsequently have caused major damage to the land due to over population.

A winning combination – great resource and fantastic initiative from the student-teacher.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Super Modeling – Mapping

“Makeup!”  “Hair!”  “Clothes!”  “Work it! Work it!”…

No, no, no.  Not that kind of modeling.

I’m talking about finding inspiration and models for your teaching and class activities that will have your students gripped by whatever they should be learning.  And where is this inspiration to be found?

Where to begin… There are so many fantastic resources from which you can borrow ideas, base or model your own work.

One resource I feel really stands out is Children Map the World (912 Ch 2005). 
This book shows how kids can think about geography with more insight, depth, and creativity than the typical ‘colour-in-the-countries-of-the-world’ exercises I got when I was in elementary school.

Embedded within each map/picture is a deeper understanding of some aspect of global concern perhaps touching on environmental issues or conflict or appreciation for diversity of life.

One of my favorite pictures is from an 11-year-old Polish boy entitled “Will the future look like this?”  It is a well executed drawing showing the continents outlined against a predominately placed, murky, dirty sun with pollution spewing factories placed in the foreground.  The title as a question is brilliant as there is a sense of hope that this is not a forgone conclusion that we can make a difference. There’s a lot going on here.

This book can work across the grades.

Another book, perhaps best suited to lower elementary, is My Map Book (823 F213M PIC BK).  Here the mapping is as much about geographical thinking as it is about establishing identity.  Ideal for grades 1 and 2.  This girl maps her bedroom, the schoolyard, her family, her dog and best of all, her heart showing all the things she holds dear.

If you’d like more recommendations for resources about maps, mapping and geographical thinking see the following link for an Inspiration mind map with attached bibliographies.

So, ends part 1.  Over the course of the next few blogs I’ll present other resources that I think will provide great and engaging models for you to think about using in your class.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Playing with science (and math) - The Olympics

I’ve just found out that the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) is promoting a series of short National Science Foundation videos that feature the science behind the sports of the Olympics.

What a find!  Out of the 16 short videos (all available online) the 5 I watched all had something of interest.  I learned in the Science of Snowboarding that young athletes use the properties of motion, balance and G-forces to allow them the speed and height to perform tricks in the half pipe.  In Olympic Motion and Slapshot Physics I learned about different properties of physics both inside and outside of an athlete’s body. Competition Suits makes some great connections between chemistry and physics, explaining the importance of aerodynamics for many Olympians.  And in Mathletes the importance of math is shown in so many aspects of the Olympic Games, from calculating speeds in many sports and angles in shooting hockey goals, to working out scores in events such as skating.

In addition, lesson plans (from Lessonopoly) have been developed based on each video’s focus. These are appropriate for grades 6 to 10.  The lesson plans look like a good place to start exploring, although some lessons look stronger than others; some are more inquiry-based while others seem to have demonstrations done for students rather than allowing students to explore for themselves.  The ones I looked at all included cross-curricular opportunities. http://lessonopoly.org/svef/?q=node/9086

Great opportunities for engaging students with current events and tying math and science into everyday life.  And maybe it makes for a good excuse to watch hockey or snowboarding during school hours!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Connecting Ideas to Resources - The World

I love connecting the dots. But these days my ‘dots’ are resources and I  especially love it when they start to connect in really meaningful ways.

For example, Art Against the Odds (709.0407 RuA 2004) describes where we can unexpectedly find (or often miss) art produced in places such as prisons or mental institutions.  Or, in third world countries where the head of a charitable organization watched a young boy playing with a homemade boat (old rubber, flip flop, sticks and string).  This piece of ‘art’ returned to the U.S. (in exchange for a real boat the whole village could use for fishing) and inspired a traveling art show with toys/art created by poor people, usually children, from the developing world.

Connection No. 1 – Galimoto by Vera Williams (823 W6733G PIC BK) 
-An African boy describes his day collecting bits of stuff to make his own wire push car.

Connection No. 2 –   Push toys from 10,000 Villages (745.59 Ga 2006 A/V)
                                   Bottlecap Monkey  (731 Bo 2006 Realia)
                                   Recycled products kit (363.728 Re 2005 A/V)
                                                -All the above provide examples of items
                                    made from bits of stuff.

Connection No. 3 – Material World : Global Family Portrait (306.85 Ma 2007)
                                                -Looks at families from around the world and
                                    their possessions.  Besides seeing the disparity
                                    between rich and poor countries we see what items
                                    are considered important. 

I see great connections with these resources and the grade 3 social studies curriculum where students learn about quality of life in various countries.

This begs the question: How do our own lives or the lives of kids from your classrooms, compare?

Lots of opportunity for cross-curricular connections, too.  Think art, math and science.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Ewww! Yuck! --- Let me see that!

Don’t ever underestimate the gross factor as a way to get kids interested and engaged in a topic.

The following resources have potential for grossing out and attracting at the same time.  Funny how a lot of them relate to bodily functions, isn’t it?


Nonfiction books and kits (for elementary and middle school)
*Animal scat identification kit (599 AN 2008 A/V)
*Black spider puppet (791.53 SP 2005 A/V)
*Bug science: 20 projects and experiments about arthropods : insects, arachnids, algae, worms, and other small creatures (595 YOB 2009)
*Left for dead: a young man's search for justice for the USS Indianapolis (940.545973 NEL 2002) (suggested for grades 9 and up)
*Man eating bugs: the art and science of eating insects (394.1 MEM 1998)
*Oh, rats!: the story of rats and people (599.352 MAO 2006)
*Ouch!: how your body makes it through a very bad day (612 WAO 2007)
*Poop: a natural history of the unmentionable (573.49 DAP 2004)
*Qwiggle-gel brain mold (612.82 QW 2005 A/V)
*Rear ends: found photos from the collection of Roger Handy (779 RE 2007)
*Snake (597.96 MAS 2006)
*Sneeze! (612.2 SIS 2007)
*What stinks? (573.877 SIW 2006)
*What's eating you?: parasites--the inside story (578.65 DAW 2007)
*What's living in your classroom? (579 SOW 2004)

Picture books
*Big Al (823 C591B PIC BK)
*I stink! (823 M229I PIC BK)
*Mucky moose (823 AL533M PIC BK)
*What's that awful smell? (823 T236W PIC BK)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Connecting Ideas to Resources - Food

The Recipe

Start with --
1 Hungry Planet resource kit 
 (641.3 Hu 2007 A/V)

1  Chew On This
(394.12 SCC 2006) 
1   DVD, World According to Monsanto
(363.19 WO 2008 DVD)

Toss in for eyebrow-raising flavour –
1   Man Eating Bugs
(394.1 MEM 1998)

Don’t forget to blend with –
1    Big Ideas : Linking Food, Culture,
Health, and the Environment
(641.3 Bi 2008)

Whip in last –
1 to 6 books about fair trade and
(see 382’s, 303.482 and 658.827 NoL 2003 DVD)
-learn what people around the world eat and how much (or little as the case may be)
- great connections to math and social studies

-learn how the food industry has impacted technology, affecting our everyday lives for better and worse.

-this will be one of ‘those’ provocative books that will gross out and draw kids in at the same time.
- includes all levels K-12

-making cross-curricular connections for you between social studies and science.

-take it a step further by including grade appropriate resources that will engage both geographic and historical thinking skills (part of Alberta Education’s program of studies for social studies)
Sit back and enjoy a varied and highly interesting perspective of the world, the food we eat, who has access to what kinds of foods and who controls it, globally.
Cross curricular opportunities will provide a satisfying, richly textured unit.

Serves one class.

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