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...
In an effort to differentiate my annual "Thanksgiving Recount" writing activity this week, and have students begin using technology beyond the usual "look something up on the internet", I am going to give my Grade 6s the choice of writing their recounts, creating a Flipagram set to music, narrating an auditory recount such as a Tellagami, or designing a Piccollage or similar visual recount on their devices (or on one of our classroom devices).
My hope is that by using a text form they should be well familiar with by students may find experimenting with new forms of media more of an enticing challenge than an insurmountable hurdle!
Ms. Teschow's Written Recount
A Busy and Thanksgiving Weekend
This weekend was filled with friends, family and feasting. On Saturday, we went out for breakfast in the morning, and had scones and tea in the afternoon. Then, on Sunday, Ms. K. and I went kayaking and geocaching on the Humber River. It was warm and sunny. Finally, on Monday, Alex and Simon came over, and we had lots of fun: After spending the day at the Corktown Commons Playground, we we went to the Old Mill with some friends for a tasty Thanksgiving dinner buffet. What a busy and exciting weekend we had!
Whatever students choose, they will begin by mapping out their ideas on a graphic organizer. (After brainstorming ideas on a Padlet, we'll actually begin by deconstructing my written recount onto a graphic organizer, which will provide an opportunity to review paragraph structure and teach recount signal words.)
Simon and Alex love the chicken Tikka at our local Thai restaurant. The tikka comes in orders of 4 "kebabs" on a plate.
"Mom!", the boys said the other night when we were out for dinner, "We're starving!! Please, get us more than one order each. So I told them we'd start with three orders to share between the two of them, and see if they were still hungry afterwards.
When the three orders of Chicken Tikka arrived, I gave each boy one order, and divided the other order fairly between them.
Ms. K -- who also likes Chicken Tikka -- took one kebab off Simon's plate for herself.
Simon turned to his brother, and said, "Alex, it's not fair now, you have more! You have to give one of your kebabs to Tats (Ms. K) too.
Alex suggested that since he was hungry, instead of giving one of his kebabs to Ms. K, he could just give half a kebab to Simon. But Simon said that wasn't fair, and that Alex would have to give him a whole kebab, since he (Simon) had given up a whole one for Tats.
Who is right? Should Alex give Simon half a kebab or a whole one, to make it fair? (So that each boy has the same amount of kebabs.) Explain your thinking.
Some More Chicken Tikka Problems:
Another time, Ms. K and the boys went to the restaurant alone (without Ms. Teschow), and ordered four orders of Chicken Tikka.
"Let's make sure to split up the orders fairly!" said Ms. K.
How many kebabs does each person get?
In the end, Ms. K decides that she is actually not that hungry, and only eats half her share, giving the rest to Alex and Simon. They were still hungry, and quickly gobbled them up.
How many kebabs did each person end up eating?
The boys' Uncle Rick took Simon and Alex to the restaurant one evening when Ms. Teschow and Ms. K were both working late.
"We're REALLY hungry tonight, Rick!", said Simon. "Can we order enough Chicken Tikka, so that we each can have 10 kebabs?"
Rick, who was also hungry, and who also likes Chicken Tikka, said they could. How many Chicken Tikka orders would they have to get so that all three of them get 10 kebabs each?
I was glad Tats convinced us to go to "customer appreciation day" at Pet Value this weekend... the kangaroo was totally worth it!!! (Not to mention all the free dog food and treat samples we picked up for Sneakers!)
Afterward, the boys and a friend who came to visit enjoyed showing off with their newly-assigned instruments (we are very blessed that their middle school has an excellent instrumental music program). Then, we headed over to the playground next door, where their "Uncle" Joel, who was visiting from Portugal, took over one of the swingsets so that he could practise his new ropes routine for an upcoming show!!!
(click photos to enlarge)
Nearly as tasty as chocolate covered potato chips from PEI, "Chocolate Sweeties" are also sold by the Anne of Green Gables Chocolate Shop.
These little cubes of brown sugar fudge are covered in a delicious, creamy milk chocolate, and come in packages of 6.
We opened one such package in the kitchen after dinner the other night, and I immediately smelled a math problem!
How many chocolate sweeties does each person get, if we want to divide the package equally amongst myself, the boys and Ms. K?
"They're sooooo good!" proclaim Alex and Simon, and Ms. K decides to generously give a third of her portion to the boys to share. How much of the package did the boys end up with each?
If everyone kept their fair share, how many packages would we need to open so that each person gets a whole number of chocolate sweeties?
Can you think of any other math problems the chocolate sweeties cause? If so, please comment below!
The last time I was hauling dogs to the leash free park was when I owned a hatchback. With Sneakers, the rules of the game have changed: I'm car-less now, and TTC only allows pets during "off-peak" hours, so we had to get creative... Tats attached a trailer to her bike, and the dawg rides harnessed in, while admirers stop to point and smile and snap photos.
In this fashion Sneakers travels to the dog park, to puppy training and other locations around the city... when she is not riding the bus or subway, that is!
Due to a serendipitous connection through a completely unrelated project last winter, we got a personal tour this evening of a fantastic nearby organic farm! Despite the superfluous and relentless mosquitoes, we enjoyed meeting one of the residents, and learning more about the land, and about the process of organic farming.
Some time ago, I blogged about textual lineage. One of the things I most enjoy about our family summers on PEI is the time my boys and I spend developing their textual lineage together.
Two examples stand out this summer: A book (or rather, a trilogy) and a movie.
As I was reading the synopsis on the back ("The Breadwinner is set in Afghanistan, where 11-year-old Parvana lives with her family in a bombed-out apartment building in Kabul. When her father is arrested for the crime of having a foreign education, the family...") another mother noticed the book in my hand and exclaimed, "oh, that's a really, really good one! My daughter liked it so much, in fact, we're here picking up the third book in the series today!"
This was accompanied by a vigorous head nod and confirmational smile from said daughter, who looked to be about Simon's age.
I looked quizzically at Simon, who had accompanied me on my quest to pick up suitable summer reading material, and he said, "sure, sounds good, let's get it". So, we purchased the book, and packed it away for our annual tradition of reading together while on PEI.
Interestingly, when I first pulled the book out upon arriving on the island last month, I was met with groans and complaints of "Awww, do we have to? It looks so boring!" It didn't take long, however, before they were hooked: As I often do, I asked my boys to give it a fair chance, which we agreed means stick to it for three chapters before deciding whether to abandon the book.
We needn't have negotiated beyond two: From the get-go, the kids were hooked, and whenever we read (we're currently four chapters from the end of the third book), Alex and Simon beg for "just one more chapter, PLEASE, Mom!"
I must confess, it's hard for me to say no to that request, regardless of how late it is. The Breadwinner really holds ones interest as it graphically and yet age-appropriately introduces the young reader to a world well beyond what most Western children will have ever experienced or imagined. Ellis' work has exposed my Simon and Alex to new ideas, and is helping them to make connections to prior experiences.
Needless to say, we'll be making a trip to Chapters again soon, this time to hunt down the fourth book in the series, My Name is Parvana. And now it will be my kids doing the sales pitch if we see someone else considering the series!
The second piece of textual lineage this summer involves Mozart.
The boys had seen my Director's Cut of Amadeus in our DVD bin in previous summers, and had inquired about it, but due to the mature themes and sometimes frightening scenes and music, I had told them that they needed to be a little older before we watched that one together.
(I remember having watched the film myself when it first came out, and being quite impressed with Constanze's rather ample bosom in one of the early scenes in the movie. And when it really gets into the requiem later on in the film, I had my share of nightmares. Also, as the parental advisory on IMDb notes, "Mozart is very crass and given to scatological humor". But then again, so am I, so it would be nothing new for the boys!!)
Inspired by Tom Chapin's Mozart Duet, which we listened to in the car on the way to and from Ch'town numerous times this summer, the boys once again asked if we could watch Amadeus. This time, I relented, and -- over the course of two evenings -- we took in this masterpiece, pausing often to clarify what was happening, and to talk about historical inaccuracies in this award-winning but often fictionally liberal film.
As was I so many years ago, the boys were very impressed with Mozart's music, and with the lavish sumptuousness of the European court scene. They had many questions, and I answered them all, even reading aloud two online commentaries about the movie after it was over, one of which was quite scathing. ("Come on, Mom, keep reading!" from Simon, when I attempted to skip over some parts in the interest of getting everyone to bed sooner.)
Textual lineage: The texts (music, words, etc.) that form our schema and influence who we become. I'm delighted to have had the opportunity to share two such rich "texts" with my children this summer, and I look forward to next summer's intellectual adventures, as well as all the ones in between! (Intellectual adventures, not summers.)
This summer, I wanted to make sure that the kids didn't completely lose their German skills, and perhaps even continue to develop them. My plan was to have them work 15-20 minutes a day on a German app on their iPads.
After searching the iTunes store, I finally settled on two apps: German in a Month by Elky Entertainmnet LLC and 24/7 German Tutor.
One thing I was concerned about was providing the boys with a rich and varied, progressive German learning experience, as opposed to the simple vocabulary-only focus that seems to pervade so many of the language apps available out there. Both of these apps delivered!
German in a Month
This app promises to teach the beginner a comprehensive basic German in one month. Since Simon and Alex would be under my supervision for three consecutive weeks, it seemed like the perfect app to check out this summer!
German in a Month offers a game-like, multi-modal approach (the leaner can choose either picture identification or writing/spelling). Right away, the kids were engaged and wanted to play.
The app led them through a series of lessons such as "im Kino" or "prepositions"; each lesson includes a series of "pages". Each page contains 6 items to learn, which are accompanied by a visual image to help aid retention. The depth of lessons is good, beyond the usual cursory "colours", "numbers" and other more basic vocabulary. I also liked how the app offered bite-sized snippets and integrated review. The kids enjoyed it without being overwhelmed.
My main complaint with the app centers around its visuals: As a teacher, I am all too aware of the subliminal messages we can send without ever saying a word -- as Simon noted, "I like this app, mom, but it's kind of sexist". If by sexist he meant "heteronormative" and "racially monotonous", I'd have to agree with him: All the images showing family structure, weddings, etc. assume a male-female only relationship. And the people are mainly Caucasian.
I know sourcing high quality, affordable images can be a daunting task for app developers, but the messages we choose to impart through visual learning are critical, and as a queer woman and a mother interested in equity and social justice, I'm constantly on the look out for materials that are representative, racially and in terms of sex/gender, age and ability level.
Given the many other plusses of this excellent language learning app, I would love to see a revised version with a broader range of visual examples.
Both boys agreed this is a fun app; they liked the interactive component, and were more likely to stick with the program for the full 20 minutes without reminders!
24/7 German Tutor
This is actually a suite of apps: Basic vocabulary, Advanced Vocab, and Phrases.
Each app includes a series of lessons which can be completed in any order. Each lesson begins with a written study list (no pictures here). Once the learner feels confident with the list, she can choose a multiple choice quiz, a puzzle or a fill-in-the-blank exercise to test her knowledge.
In all three apps, the menu includes a progress overview so that the learner can see how much and which sections/lessons have been completed, as indicated by three green bars (one for the MC, one for the puzzle and one for the fill-in-he-blank).
Since the boys have already had a few years of Saturday morning German school, they were okay to use the app with little assistance from me, and seemed able to understand many of the words, despite not having any visual cues.
Although I think including visuals would enhance this app, I did like the pronunciation (I wanted Alex and Simon to hear German often), and in particular, the "Phrases" app appealed to me: From first phrases to feelings, interjections and expressions, this app included full sentences as opposed to just single words.
One thing I really like about these two apps is that that don't require a wifi connection. This was critical for us, as we were not connected to the internet for most of our vacation. Between the two of them, German in a Month and 24/7 Tutor provided a wealth of auditory and visual learning opportunities, all accessible offline.
Overall, I liked using the combination of the two apps; German in a Month and 24/7 Language Tutor provided considerably more than a month's worth of material, and we'll definitely continue to use them after the summer is over.
If you're looking to move your German beyond the basics, I highly recommend these two apps.
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.