Thursday, March 29, 2012

Questioning Credibility: A First Day of School Activity

In seminar yesterday, my classmates and I were fortunate enough to have a Dr. John Williams as a guest speaker. Aside from a wonderful and personally pertinent conversation on ethics (more on why it's pertinent later), Dr. Williams demonstrated how he began the school year when he was a teacher. He began by greeting each student at the door, shaking each of their hands, and looking them in the eyes. He then handed them each a sheet of paper with directions to get into groups and prepare questions to validate his credibility as a teacher. I loved the idea of questioning a teacher's credibility. After all, his plan is to spend a year with you, "teach" you material, and, in general, just be the adult in the room. Don't you, first of all, want to know that he is worthy of those tasks? Because I feel it pertains to my Pledge to Guide Today's Students, I thought I might take this idea and make it more of my own.

I do like the idea of a discussion about credibility on the first day, not only because it will show my students who I am, but also because it will introduce to the students a sort of academic theme we will maintain throughout the year--questioning credibility in all materials we use and aspects of our education. I think I'd like to begin with having the students look up the word credibility, first. The problem with that is that I don't want to have physical dictionaries in my classroom. Could I trust my students to use computers first thing, without even discussing it? Well, of course. Why not? That will set the tone for the year, as well--I respect you enough to trust you with this task, and I believe you are mature enough to handle it.

I could have directions on the board, perhaps something like, "Sit at the desk where your name is. With the people at your table, find the definition of Credibility using the laptop provided [or 'the computer with the same number that's on your table' if I don't have laptops]. With your group, develop 4-5 questions you want to ask ME to determine MY credibility. Order them by importance and then sit quietly while you await further directions." Then, of course, I would come in and answer the questions and lead into a discussion about credibility in general and how it will come in to play in the day-to-day activities of our classroom.

I'm eager for the chance.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Using Images in the Classroom

Rather than work on my senior paper today (lack of motivation is the result of assigning an activity, rather than letting the student have full responsibility over her own education), I discovered Yes! Magazine and spent hours pouring through the website. Although it's aimed towards adults and children older than elementary-age, it fits greatly with my Pledge to Guide Today's Students, discussing topics from peace and justice, the environment, happiness, and activism. There's even a section for teachers that includes lesson plans!

The lesson plans on Y!M follow a specific format. They begin by showing the students an image, usually ambiguous one, such as a unique macro or perspective. Step two is to ask the students to use their observation skills to note what they see and their inference skills to try to figure out what the image is or what is occurring. Third, the teacher asks what questions the students might be thinking about what is happening in the picture. Fourth, she tells the children the title of the image (which usually answers the questions about what the picture is about) and reads some background information about it, which leads into a discussion. Finally, the students are allowed to investigate more through extension activities.

Along similar lines, I've been collecting images online, mostly from National Geographic's Photography site, to use in the classroom. I had planned to use them as journal prompts, asking the children to either write what they think is going on, make up a story to go along with the picture, write what the story makes them think of, or anything else, really. Anything the students want to write would be acceptable.

I like my idea of using the images as journal prompts, but the Y!M method of teaching through images is wonderful as well. It's better in some ways, allowing the students to use observation and inference, as well as grabbing the students' attention, setting the stage for an important lesson, and using real-world situations to teach. However, it doesn't call for the creativity that's involved in writing from the students' own minds or producing an original, inspired work of art.

Both methods are perfect for my classroom, and it will depend on the situation and particular image as to which is more appropriate. I can use the Y!M's method when there's a powerful image I want to use to make a specific point and still use the journal prompt / creative writing method when there's a powerful image that conjures emotions or lends itself to stories. In other words, I can use images for the sake of photo journalism or for the sake of aestheticism.

Edit 08/17/2014: Here's an article from Edutopia that came across my Facebook feed. Someone else commented with this website, which isn't strictly related, but still interesting.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Montessori and Waldorf -- Post from Vibrant Wanderings

Discussions of the similarities and differences between Montessori and Waldorf education are rampant on the internet. Even a few of my own friends have spoken of personal biases towards one or the other.

Regarding that, I found this post from Vibrant Wanderings to be thoughtful.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Third Grade Journal Entries on Environmentalism

I taught a unit to the third grade class I'm student teaching with about environmentalism, mostly pertaining to the three R's. Because of how the theme relates to my Pledge, I thought I'd post the responses I received to the final journal entries. I've edited the responses as little as possible just to aid in comprehension. Also note that class is a majority ESOL.