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Archive for the ‘Thinking Critically’


Holistic Education 0

Posted on July 24, 2012 by Sarah

For July and August I am taking a highly recommended course in Holistic Curriculum with Jack Miller at OISE. Halfway through and I can already say it’s been a transformative experience. With every class starting in an unobstructed circle, our group of 24 eager graduate students share experiences and learn from each other. From kindergarten to young adult language teachers, middle eastern to South American natives, rookies to veterans, we’ve all been given the opportunity to discuss and collaborate in a safe, respectful environment. Finally you can feel what it’s like to be a part of a holistic classroom that values the people in the room and not just brains on sticks. As we begin our small group presentations I am excited to see the contributions from my peers and to share them.

@sarlowes

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

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What is Literacy? 1

Posted on July 09, 2012 by Andrew Blake

I am taking the AQ Reading Part 1 over the summer and have decided to blog some of my ideas and the discussion questions being addressed in the course. Our first discussion question was:  Define literacy. Comment on how literacy has changed in the 21st Century and what we as teachers need to consider to be effective literacy instructors due to that change.

Here’s what I think…

I strongly believe that in the traditional sense, literacy can be defined within the realm of reading and writing. However, I believe in the 21st Century we must adopt a more generalized sense of the term, as the mode of literacy changes. I believe in a definition that encompasses the interpretation and creation of communication. We hear of Media Literacy, Critical Literacy, and Technological Literacy. It is the ability to absorb and internalize a message someone is creating (reading) and it is then interpreting that message and creating a response in a variety of forms (writing, oral communication, texting, slogans, etc). In that sense we see Literacy as the ability to infer and interpret images as well as text. In fact Literacy in the broadest sense could be defined as the intake of information, images, signals and then the production of more or new information to be passed on to others.

When we were sitting at my staff meeting yesterday and examining our strategic goal we spent a lot of time discussing a general goal we could apply to JKs to Grade 8s and the connection between image and text as all literacy comes from an image.

clicking away! by eirikso

Clicking away! by eirikso, flickrcc.net

One change in the mode of communication in the 21st Century is the accessibility to a variety of modes of writing.  The Internet and other technology has allowed millions of ideas to be published on a second by second basis with little to supervision or accountability. Even 30 years ago if I had an idea I wanted to write down and show other people I would have to go through the publishing process with countless edits, re-writes and the potential for rejection. In 2012, I can, in less than 10 minutes, share my ideas with the world regardless of validity, quality and restraint. I am by no means criticizing the ability for people to publish their creative, genuine ideas which are truly incredible when you think of all of the things we see on YouTube, Blogs, Facebook on a daily basis. I applaud the accessibility to publish information. However, the concern can exist that we as educators need to teach our students the ability to think critically when looking for information and asking themselves questions like who wrote this, what is their message, which voices are heard or not being heard. We have to teach on the basic level the ability to distinguish fact and opinion in order to ensure our students are able to successfully navigate the massive resources at their digital fingertips. We have to teach children to read for the deeper meaning, which is a daunting task at best.

What is your definition of Literacy?  Comment below, join the discussion on Facebook, or send us a tweet @RookieTeacherCA.

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What’s behind the food we eat? 2

Posted on March 08, 2012 by Sarah

Here’s an update on what we’ve been discussing in my Pedagogy of Food course at OISE. First of all, we have a severely broken food system. Do you ever think about just where did your orange come from? Was it handpicked in a developing country? Was the worker paid fairly? How old are they? Are they happy? We partook in a mindful eating experience that reflected on these questions while also slowly, mindfully experiencing one raisin at a time. This blindness is called commodity fetishism. It’s an unhealthy attention to a commodity without regarding the social relationships that brought the commodity to us. It’s a product of our economic and political systems, creating a veil so we are unable to make informed decisions as consumers. We are unaware if the

The New Fred Meyer on Interstate on Lombard by lyzadanger

photo: lyzadanger, flickrcc.net

orange was picked by a child or by a woman who was sexually harassed. These types of veils are found everywhere in systems that affect us everyday, but when a small handful of corporations control the entire food distribution of the world, it becomes quite worrisome and dangerous. A phenomenal amount of money is spent selling and buying food, eating out, transporting and storing food, yet such a public necessity stays in a fairly private light, rarely being discussed. So what can we do as educators? Help foster critical thinking! Encourage, nay, praise questions! Excite students to make a difference and challenge them to form values and stand up for what they believe in. Model what active, citizen engagement is and have conversations about food. Plus, the only way you can inform others is to inform yourself.

 

An excellent resource for more information is “The No-Nonsense Guide to World Food” by Toronto author Wayne Roberts. It’s an essential read for everyone!

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Communicating in Math 1

Posted on February 10, 2012 by Michelle

Why is communication important in mathematics?

Communication is an essential piece in the learning process – it provides students an opportunity to justify their reasoning or formulate a question, leading to gained insights about their thinking. In order to communicate their thinking to others, students must be given authentic tasks to reflect on. Through cooperative learning, students can learn from the perspectives and mathematical processes of others. Further, they can learn to evaluate the thinking of others, building on those ideas for their own assessment.

Check out this Scholastic webinar on “Connecting the Literacy and Math Challenge”.

Teaching Strategies for Mathematical Communication

1. Math Word Walls

The purpose of the Math Word Wall [MWW] is to identify mathematical language that students need to understand and use. If they are unfamiliar with this vocabulary, they will struggle to effectively apply strategies in the problem-solving process and will have difficulty communicating their thinking with others.

♦ Introduce math vocabulary using relevant objects, pictures and/or diagrams. Visuals are KEY!

♦ Clearly explain word meanings and make connections frequently

♦ Do not teach math vocabulary in isolation — use open-ended questions to helping students understand mathematical ideas and model how to use mathematical terms correctly.

Check out these MWW resources – ideas for math walls and mathematics word wall

2. Children’s Math Literature

Using literature in math can spark students’ imaginations, helping to dispel the myth that math is dull, inapplicable, and inaccessible. Reading about math can help reach at-risk students who struggle in the mathematical process, opening their minds to the ever-present phenomenon in their world that is math!

  • Integrate the curriculum — teach mathematical concepts and skills through literacy
  • Helps to motivate and engage students in problem-solving experiences connected with real world
  • Addresses different learning styles and helps to promote an appreciation for both math and literature

Check out these resources for teaching mathematics through literature —

Math in Children’s Literature

Living Math Book List

Children’s Math Literature

Math Book List

Children’s Literature in Mathematics

 3. Writing in Math

When students are encouraged to write in math, they examine, express, and keep track of their thinking, which is especially useful for assessment and differentiation. To enhance and support their learning, students must first understand the reasoning behind writing in math. Further, they need to understand how to write in math – explain and model mathematical writing using details such as pictures, numbers, and words. Students’ writing can be used as springboards for classroom ‘math chats’, highlighting different approaches to problem-solving.

Be sure to provide writing prompts

  • What do you think? What idea do you have?
  • What are you confused about?
  • What did you learn?
  • Describe what was easy and hard for you.
  • What type of math concepts do you find interesting?  Why?
  • When I hear this math word, I think….
  • If I could ask for one thing in math, it would be…
  • Tell me about your prediction.  Were you right or wrong?
  • What strategies do you like to use the most? The least? Why?

Check out Writing to Learn Math to get started with journaling in your math class!

4. Math Talk

When students are given an opportunity to talk about math, they are better able to clarify their own thinking, ‘talk out’ misconceptions, and learn from others’ problem-solving strategies. It is the role of the teacher to facilitate these discussions by engaging students in sharing and listening, questioning and responding, and agreeing and disagreeing. During ‘math chats’, the teacher can further assess students’ understanding of concepts and redirect or differentiate instruction based on the students’ immediate learning needs.

However, the classroom must be a safe and inclusive learning environment so that students feel comfortable to share and make mistakes publically. Students need clear, highly set expectations on what ‘doing math’ looks like, sounds like, and feels like in the classroom. Once the ground rules for respect have been established, then authentic mathematical dialogue and collaboration can evolve…that’s when the real learning begins!

Math think-alouds can engage students and help them to make their way step-by-step through the problem-solving process. Best of all, they can be used quite effectively both in school and at home! For more on getting students to talk, check out these Math Teacher Tools!

Watch as these students from the Calgary Science School ‘talk math’ – thanks to Amy Park for sharing!

– – –

How do you […or will you] encourage communication in math in your classroom?

Original post at The Learning Journey Blog

 

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News in the Classroom 1

Posted on December 12, 2011 by Sarah

Hey people! I know it’s been crunch time for me at OISE, but the holidays are almost here!  I just wanted to share a website, Teaching Kids News, a Toronto based news site for kids! They have timely articles written in kid friendly language that break down important issues. Like any news site, TKN is divided into categories from science to art, environment to politics. The site is clear, legible and easily navigable. The team behind the project includes TDSB teachers looking for a meaningful way to develop a balanced literacy program. As such, they provide suggestions on each entry for how to use the articles, from Writing and Reading Prompts to Grammar Features. If we, as educators, are to help our students develop skills necessary in current and future realities then I think getting them involved in news early and regularly is a great way.  Check out one of their most recent articles Gap Between Rich-Poor Growing: OECD!

photo: N.Dunn

photo: N.Dunn

Do you incorporate discussions about the news in your practice? Share your links in the comments below or find me on twitter @sarlowes (or @RookieTeacherCA)

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Thinking critically before teaching critical thinking 0

Posted on November 24, 2011 by Sarah

Lately I’ve been reading articles and discussing in my classes hegemony, oppression and education. Hegemony is that accepted state of consciousness, the paradigm of the day, the status quo, the underlining dominant logic. Its the implied construct  that feeds into the way you live your life. It’s unfortunate that B.Ed programs don’t ask for a deeper reflection into the institution we are expected to teach within and the hegemony we’re being asked to reproduce. Yet of course the system doesn’t want us to look critically at the embedded power structures that allow people at the top to flourish. Although the purpose of education can be debated in its own topic, we can agree that education should not oppress. Instead, we can argue that it should be anti-oppressive, promote an openness to freewill and self-actualization. But we cannot escape that education is grounded on ideology that forms power

not quite clear on the concept by WoodleyWonderWorks

photo: WoodleyWonderWorks, flickrcc.net

structures, a system that creates winners and losers. If students don’t fit into our educational model, if they don’t identify with the system, they are marginalized and can internalize that they are less valuable or less successful by definition of education. Hegemony can saturate our consciousness to the point where we don’t even realize we are reproducing it. Teachers are bogged down with standards, new methods, “best practices” further distancing them from the heart of the matter. Our educational system is one, arguably arbitrary, way of streaming individuals into societal roles. So when you ask your students to question “who benefits” from a particularly text, be sure to extend this question to yourself regarding your current role in society.

“While schools may in fact serve interests of many individuals, and they should not be denied, at the same time, though, empirically they also seem to act as powerful agents in the economic and cultural reproduction of class relations in a stratified society like our own”
Michael Apple – Ideology and Curriculum (1990) p.8

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