We started in the boys' room last night; 3 boxes and a garbage bag: "to take with us" (tiny), "to store at daddy's" (small), "to give away" (medium) and "garbage" (big bag). The boys were surprisingly self-motivated to declutter, and happily let go of this giant box of "stuff" which they felt it was time for others to enjoy!
As I enter my 47th laborious hour cranking through report card comments that no one will ever really read, I covet the position of teachers to the west, where there is talk of eliminating the report card altogether, and moving to a sort of a checklist system, one where teachers would indicate how students are doing in various areas, and then spend the bulk of their time communicating in more effective and meaningful ways with families.
Oooooh, was it ever nice to be flying again this weekend!
After too much cramming in assessment opportunities for report cards, sprinkled with a heavy dose of EQAO and not enough Art, we took some time over the past week to examine the work of Charles Sheeler, and create our own city scape collages. We used construction paper, scissors and glue.
An ideal Art lesson to complement the study of Urban and Rural Communities in Grade 3 Social Studies, this lesson encourages students to consider the "landscape" of a heavily urban environment, and experiment with collage.
As you can see from the photos above, they really enjoyed mucking around with the materials. And, here are some of their finished products...
To supplement my program next year, I've developed a list of rich mentor texts which I hope to read with the boys while home-schooling in Argentina. The list is based largely on ETFO's SJBWM booklist, however, I have also included a few other favourites.
I really enjoyed this year's "Grand Conversations" with my Grade 3 class, and am interested to see how these can be modified for my "class of 2 students" next year... it is possible that I may enlist the help of other home-schooling, English Speaking families. Another idea is to have the boys blog about the books, and hope that their classmates, friends and family back home comment on their blog posts.
One thing I am discovering, in both my planning and my packing, is that it is helpful to chunk the year into 3 parts. Thus you will see above that there are three groups of Mentor Texts: One to be addressed Sept-Dec, the next Jan - March, and the final one in April/May.
I made a rookie mistake today -- I assessed a piece of work using criteria not linked to the curricular area for which I was marking it!
I had my Grade 3s demonstrate their understanding, at the end of our Urban and Rural Communities unit in Social Studies, by using Smart Ideas to create a mind map. We even co-constructed criteria together, so that they could refer to these while working on their mind maps. I was excited about using this alternate form of assessment to get a mark for report cards, which are ever-looming...
And, if you assess the lovely, visually appealing mind map above according to our criteria below, the student receives a solid level 3; they've got nearly all the criteria from the list on their map. It looks great, it's easy to read, they've considered spacing, colour/shape to organize their categories, and the connectors lines all point in what we previously agreed to be the "right" direction.
And, it shows pretty much ZERO understanding of an urban community, in terms of what differentiates it from a rural community!!! Oops!
After so many years of teaching, I still succumb to the time crunch. Mind maps are great; I really want to do them; I even had some students from the Grade 4 class across the hall share some of their own mind maps a few months ago, and let my own students muck around with the software, creating generic mind maps about soils and plants, which were not to be formally marked.
But that's not enough!!!
If you are going to do something right, every step has to be intentional. Had we taken more time to look at some sample mind maps together, we could have moved beyond the superficial "what does it look like" and into the actual content of the map. We could have harvested a set of criteria together based on what a truly effective mind map includes.
As examples of media work, the student mind map above and the samples below show a growing understanding of this "text form". The students are really starting to get it. But as an assessment piece for social studies, most of them they are sadly lacking, and that's largely my fault, for not taking enough time to examine the purpose of a mind map in enough depth: It's not just supposed to be a pretty picture, it's supposed to actually demonstrate understanding of a concept or topic! This resulted in me rushing through the co-construction of the criteria, too, and then we were sort of "bound" to them, if I'm going to honour the student input that went into creating the list!
Perhaps it's not all for naught, though... maybe our loss is your gain... feel free to use these student samples as you begin your own journey about mind mapping with your class! Look at them together with your students, dissect them, discuss what's good about them, and what needs work.
If you are a teacher without your own classroom this year, take this opportunity to do a little self-PD: Use the (lousy) criteria above to evaluate each map -- does it meet few, most or all of the criteria? What descriptive feedback would you give each student?
Even better, assess each mind map here for demonstrated understanding of urban and rural communities. Which maps show more understanding, and how do they do this? Develop your own set of criteria, and then use that as a base for developing criteria together with your students, if you were to do an assignment like this in class. (And for goodness sake, send me a copy so I can use it, too!!!)
The moral of the story: TAKE YOUR TIME -- DON'T RUIN A GOOD LESSON OR ASSESSMENT OPPORTUNITY BY RUSHING!
I remember the first year I tried to get round tables into my room while teaching Grade 3 (it was a 3/4 split, actually)... my thinking was that in order to facilitate a more "open" classroom, where the flow of students moving in and out of the class would be less obtrusive, and where groupings could be more flexible, round tables should replace the more traditional student desks.
Both my previous experience and my reading about student-centred classrooms supported this thinking.
My principal, however, did not. She was concerned, apparently, with how students would write EQAO, the week-long, province-wide assessment that every Grade 3 student had to write each year.
Four or five students at one table simply would not do for the one week in May/June when every Grade 3 in the Ontario wrote the provincial test... INDEPENDENTLY! Effective groups from Sept - June, it appeared, would have to be sacrificed for one week of archaic pedagogy. She simply could not conceive of how such a classroom set-up could possibly allow for individual students to write without copying off their neighbours, and she was not open to my ideas about how it might, in fact, work.
It wasn't long before I left that school and moved on to greener pastures. I now work in a school with a very open-minded administrator who happily supports a group of staff who are keen to try out a variety of ideas to increase the chances to student success.
For those interested in how students can work independently in a classroom environment set up to accommodate flexible groupings, I offer these photos, taken this week, as students work independently on the provincial assessment.
As one can see, students choose to work in a variety of settings around the room, as they do on any other day when they are working on something independently! While some elect to remain at their desks and "protect" their work from others' eyes with their literacy bins, others choose to work on the carpet, on the couch, under the xylophone, or in the reading corner.
And, when they complete "the test", and we reconvene to work on an activity in small groups, the classroom won't need to be torn apart and rearranged. :-)
I recently blogged about an application package I was putting together. In addition to a 250-word classroom vignette, I was also to write a 150 word philosophy of program planning, and give a 150-word overview of my related professional experiences.
It's always an interesting exercise to be forced to synthesize one's beliefs in practice. I am reminded of a teacher educator who once challenged us to develop an "elevator speech" about our profession, basically a 30 second response to the "so, what do you do?" question invariably asked at a cocktail party.
Here's my (slightly longer than 150-word) answer:
I spent much of the day crafting an application package for a summer writing team I am interested in. As part of the package, I was to include a classroom vignette on the role and nature of program planning in my classroom. It was to be 250 words. I wrote nearly 500. I then deleted my 500 words and rewrote my vignette and sent it off.
The original text follows...
After writing for several teacher and multiple birth publications, including ETFO's Voice Magazine, Multiple Moments, and the Bulletwin, Vera turned her written attention to prolific blogging for some years, including BiB, "Learn to Fly with Vera!" and SMARTbansho . Homeschooling 4 was her travel blog in Argentina. She now spends more time on her Instagram (@schalgzeug_usw) than her blog (pictures are worth a thousand words?!) Contact Vera by clicking the photo above.
The views expressed on this blog are the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the perspectives of her family members or the position of her employer on the the issues she blogs about. These posts are intended to share resources, document family life, and encourage critical thought on a variety of subjects. They are not intended to cause harm to any individual or member of any group. By reading this blog and viewing this site, you agree to not hold Vera liable for any harm done by views expressed in this blog.