Now that her leg is healing nicely, Sneakers is out and about again for leash walks (and soon, apparently, off-leash walks, too!) Today's adventures took us along the waterfront trail in Mimico, and -- undeterred by the cloudy skies above -- the dawg happily pranced about, even attempting to collect rather a large "stick" along the way...
Inspired by some of the "My Canada" art recently produced by my Grade 6 students, I decided to go check out some more art and culture over the March Break. In particular, I was interested in seeing some Aboriginal Art.
PEI in winter can be a cold, desolate place. But its stark contrast to summer only increases the allure of the north shore's ever-changing landscapes.
Yesterday we braved the at-times thigh-deep snow drifts, and made it to the beach without snowshoes!
There is nothing quite so awful as a parent of school-aged-children, as having to work together with your child on a homework assignment.
Especially an assignment for which the criteria are completely unclear.
Over the holidays, one of my children has the task of preparing an oral presentation which he will be presenting to his class, along with a ppt slide deck, and the boy had asked me for help in creating cue cards to help with his talk. The presentation is an extension of a multi-paragraph movie critique he wrote some weeks ago, and while a fairly extensive rubric (ugh, who still uses those?!) was provided for said written assignment, precious little seems to have come forth for the ppt and oral components of the assignment.
Asking the child for the criteria yielded a stubborn reply at best. It was baffling to him why I would inquire about such a thing.
I explained that knowing the end goal might be helpful as we worked towards preparing an effective presentation. Knowing what was expected of him, and how his assignment would be marked, would help him/us to work towards a product that he could be confident in.
I was particularly troubled by the fact that the child seemed intent on basically reading aloud each text-enveloped slide to his audience, and I was hoping that some teacher-provided guidance might yield fodder for a conversation about how the ppt would better be used as a visual backdrop or enhancement rather than a wall of text with which to overwhelm his classmates.
My outrageous request resulted in tears and drama, as the dear boy insisted everything was fine as is, and he just needed my help transferring the mass to index cards which he would use while presenting. (He was not interested in my suggestion that the cue cards could contain jot notes from the presentation, either. It was to be the text in its entirety, copied out copiously onto a million small index cards!)
The entire ordeal was an exercise in frustration (and one that is not over yet; we got about a quarter of the way through his presentation before calling it a night).
As I lay on my bed recovering, now myself fighting back tears as I agonized over what a terrible mother I clearly was, a small voice inside me spoke the wise words of Thelma Jarvis, my first principal and long-time mentor: "What's good about this situation?" she whispered deep inside my mind, reminding me of her tireless drive towards positive action in real life.
So, determined to find the silver lining, the teacher in me searched for classroom connections.
As I faced the reality that many of my own students could use a little guided instruction in how to prepare an effective slide deck, a lesson plan began to take shape inside my brain: I would use two versions of my child's ppt presentation -- the text-laden one, and a more visual-cues-style presentation -- to share with my class and engage them in a critical thinking lesson.
In a few weeks, as we finish up a Social Studies inquiry we started earlier in December, my Grade sixes will be presenting their findings and supported opinion about a big idea they have explored. Their presentation will include both an oral and a visual media component. In preparation for said presentation, I will ask them to assess which of my child's two movie critique presentations is more effective and why. Then we'll co-construct some success criteria, which I shall post in class and online for them to refer to as they proceed with preparing their own presentations.
I am hopeful that in completing this exercise with my students, I can help them to avoid some of the pitfalls that my own son fell into. I am also hoping that doing this will help model effective application for my own child, with whom I intend to share this lesson (ugh, the trials of being a teacher's kid!!)
And I hope to inspire those teachers who are not yet using co-constructed and descriptive feedback to begin experimenting with this method so that they can let go of the rubrics that few if any students ever read, and move into a more effective and research-based form of assessment.
Clarifying expectations on assignments through the use of co-constructed criteria helps students know what they need to do. It helps teachers with marking. And, most importantly to me right now, setting and providing clear criteria at school helps families avoid tears and drama at home.
What better way to unload a bunch of holiday junk than take it to the Skittles pop-up shop on Queen?! A temporary "pawnshop" of sorts, this marketing endeavor by Wrigley accepts your gifts and other stuff and pays you in Skittles!
A charming deal-maker comes out, appraises your items, and makes you an offer you can't refuse. The items are then donated to Goodwill, and you walk away with a giant load of sugar.
For our treasures, which consisted of two new toys, still in the box, several gently used books, a picture snow globe with generic family and a "mystery gift" (which I suspect was a collection of bath products), we received no less than 72 packs of the tangy, chewy candy.
That's two full cases!
Needless to say, my head is swimming with possibilities for "math eyes" problems… Probability, fractions, etc. But the boys were having none of it – – they intend to take one case of skittles to PEI with them to share it with our neighbors there, and keep another to share with friends at school next week, after the holidays.
"Fondness" is not the term I would use to describe the emotions that well up within me when I think back of the time after Alex and Simon, my now 11-year-old-twins, were born. It was a time of desperate exhaustion, and I am not ashamed to admit that I even once rented a hotel room by the hour during those days, on my way home from work, just to squeeze in 60 minutes of uninterrupted Zzzzs! (And yes, I had a lot of explaining to do at home when the credit card bill arrived with such a suspicious charge!!!)
So why, you might ask, would I be writing about sleep, at this time when our twins are finally old enough to sleep through the night without waking up screaming or crying to be fed at 2 a.m., or having a nightmare at 1 a.m. that repeats like clockwork at 2 hour intervals, or crawling into our bed for no other apparent reason at various odd times throughout the sleep-intended part of the 24 hour period we call one day?
Well, now it's the dog.
You see, we seem to have gotten a dog intent on destroying our lives by diminishing the amount of sleep we get each day, until we are zombies, former shells of ourselves, unable to function at all. She's either sick or whining or some combination of factors that impede our ability to get any more than two hours of sleep at a time, it seems.
Her latest trick is wandering about for 15-20 minutes on the evening walk, considering various places to do her business, then turning up her nose, and insisting to go back inside. She then happily goes into her crate for the night, until about 3 or 4 a.m., at which time she decides she's got to poop. Immediately.
Taking the dog out is no two-minute task: We live on the 8th floor of an apartment building, so we have to get on our clothes, shoes, find a leash, wander down the hall to the ancient (read: "slow") elevator and wait... the truth is that by the time all is said and done, a half hour has passed, and one is wide awake.
The walker -- after installing the relieved dog back in her crate -- then goes back to bed, but sleepless; she begins to check email or just toss and turn in bed for a bit. The disruption causes her partner to wake up, and now both of us are wide awake. Panic about the too-little amount of time left until the alarm rings soon sets in, and now we really can't get back to sleep!
The other night, just for good measure, Sneakers decided that a middle-of-the-night whining session to go out and do her business was not quite exciting enough, so she developed a severe case of kennel cough. So severe, in fact, that she was coughing and barfing continuously the whole night!!! Two hours of sleep seemed like luxury compared to 0 hours, accompanied by the melodious strains of a gagging dog, poor thing.
Last night, thankfully, was Saturday, and our earliest commitment Sunday morning was at 10 a.m., so we did eventually manage to fall back asleep after the dog woke up at 3 a.m. (Due to the marvels of modern veterinary medicine, the coughing had been reduced to a minimum, and the barfing had subsided completely).
No sooner had we fallen back asleep, however, then the door opened, and one little boy tiptoed in to shake me and whisper that the other little boy was sick and needed my help.
I patiently rose to spend the next several hours lying with, rubbing, holding the head and cleaning up the barf of the sick twin, while the other munched his St Nicolas Day chocolate in the next bed.
My latest use of Thinglink is a modified PWIM, a type of interactive picture dictionary for my ELLs. Here's one I tried to make using piccollage and a close up of our Christmas Tree, which we just put up this evening!
As if the handmade Advent calendar my Tatsy made me wasn't cool enough, today I came home from work and discovered that she had also made one for the boys... with a twist: on the back of each of their numbered cards was a clue that they had to decipher. The clue led them to the destination of their daily advent treat!!
Today's clue was a closeup of a section of the ASL alphabet chart hanging in the boys' room. Simon flipped up the chart and sure enough, there underneath hung two sour keys, one for each silly twin!
Tomorrow's clue is a little less clear (we snuck a peek before Tats got home tonight); even Mommy couldn't figure it out... Simon and Alex are wondering if hints will be provided on some of the more challenging clue days.
It's funny how things go sometimes... the hunt for a speaker which I had taken to a workshop I was presenting last night and forgotten to return to school today soon turned into an exploration of music that would interest Sneakers (Nexus's Xylophonia and Amazing Space both peaked her curiosity).
What attracts the dog also attracts 11-year-old boys, it seems, and Simon was soon on the scene, which resulted in a collaborative musical meander through my various playlists and favourites of his on Youtube (Rayman soundtracks).
His video game soundtracks reminded me of Joe Satriani's "The Extremist", and from there it was on to Neal Morse and Porcupine Tree. Soon, we were dancing to Return to Forever and Romantic Warrior -- what could be more exciting than Stanley Clark and Chick Corea??!!
I was reminded of some oldies but goodies, though we didn't go as far back as Bach or even Beethoven and not even close to Hildegard von Bingen... and we didn't move into the now with Malosetti (though I just found out Satriani has a new album!!!)
Nevertheless, I am inspired to gift the boys some music along with a set of decent headphones ("the puffy kind, Mommy!") for Christmas...
After writing for several teacher and multiple birth publications, including ETFO's Voice Magazine, Multiple Moments, and the Bulletwin, Vera now focuses most of her written attention to prolific blogging, including BiB, "Learn to Fly with Vera!" and, more recently, SMARTbansho and Homeschooling 4. 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.