Sound Collage and Pokemon

I’ve always had a thing for themes, so it looks like my current theme is going to be “_____ ______ and ______” for a while now as a title, but hopefully I’ll grow out of it soon, it’s not nearly as interesting looking as I am led to believe.

For my second dance lesson, the students and I did a workshop on sound collage, to gauge the student’s abilities in rhythm and tempo and hopefully teaching the students that, when dealing with rhythm, simple is usually better, because it is easier to play with, and to fit other rhythms into, as well as being way easier to grasp as a beginner.

When I did my sound collage lesson, the class was separated into two groups, and I worked with each group for twenty minutes and then we switched. Overall, the lesson went well, the students were having fun, they were laughing and trying new things and asking questions. And I could see a definite improvement in the abilities of the students. The first sound collage we did, with me just letting the students make up their own rhythms with no real strategy to it, was quite a cacophony of sounds. As we went on to make more and more progress, I gave the students tools and tricks to work with: keeping it simple, repeating a rhythm after only a few beats [only 4 – 6 counts, ideally], starting with basic quarter notes and only adapting slightly. I have always loved rhythm, and doing a sound collage is one of my favourite things in the world to do. Getting to sit back and listen to the beats and music that was being made by the students was so cool, and it was awesome to see the students genuinely curious and excited to learn.

While I was teaching, the students were extremely engaged, asking many questions that related back to the first lesson, like “how is the use of rhythm a way of communication”, and “what sorts of sound are easier to make”. I really enjoyed that the students were asking questions, because it meant that they were curious and that they wanted to learn. They even remembered pieces of our first lesson, which we had two weeks ago.

Another point that was really cool was that I got to get to know the students better. Having a smaller group meant we got a chance to do some talking, I asked the kids to tell me something interesting about themselves, I told them it was my birthday, they all clapped, it was all very beautiful. They made me feel better about being “halfway to 40”. The students told me about sports they were involved in – some ski-doo, some play hockey, one boy plays Pokemon, and was pretty much over the moon when I told him that I also played Pokemon cause it was my jam.

I think the reason I was so pleased with the lesson was because I started to feel the respect of the students. Usually when I begin teaching, there is a period where the students test me, and don’t take me seriously, because I like to have fun, and I like to laugh and talk to my students, but today was the first day where they started to try and get too silly, or stop paying attention. And as soon as they knew that I would not tolerate disrespect and too much silliness with a reminder to pay attention, they listened and were well-behaved. I am blessed to be working with such kind and fun students. I enjoy being at the school, and I cannot wait to see what happens in my next lesson.

In my ECS 300 seminar, our teacher mentioned that trying to teach more than one subject is always preferred, and so I have been trying to incorporate other subjects into my teaching. Last week I added a bit of history, this week I did music theory. Next week I hope to add in some English and Creative Writing as I try to explain to students about story in dance, and how music changes and develops to tell a story through no words, and is subject to interpretation.

Metaphors and Shoveling Snow

Alright, so first things first, I want to talk a LITTLE bit about my teaching philosophy I posted. I just wanted to note that while the links do go to articles I find intriguing and interesting, I do not agree with everything that is said. But that is just me, I rarely agree with anything 100%, I’m on the fence for pretty much everything I believe in, because I like to be empathetic – I see both sides of an argument and see where both parties are coming from.

That’s all about that. Now, onto the important facts.

1. Values/Rules – I really like the idea that in a classroom, you have both rules and values. I have definitely had the teachers that do the “I only have one rule: respect” thing, and I have, to an extent, also been at fault for the one rule thing as well, but I grew out of that thinking after a few years of teaching.
When I taught drama, our first day was always going over rules, introductions and tours if needed. And the first few times I taught, I did confuse things like respect with being a blanket rule that covers everything. But, as time went on, I learned a few important lesson with that. The most important being that whenever I did try to implement rules that were not explicitly stated, I was not taken as seriously, and so the rule was not taken as seriously because it was not given on the first day.
The biggest example of that is one of the most important rules that I give out when I teach in a drama setting now. I have an issue with my neck being touched. I don’t like it, I react very poorly. Now, when working with children, I can usually self-regulate, and “get over” some of that feeling I get because I have to act professional, but it still bothers me. The first time I tried to implement a “No Touching Miss Sarah’s Neck” rule in my class, the kids didn’t listen, they treated it like a joke, and I spent a lot of time on edge. But now, whenever I teach in a setting like a drama class, I always am sure to emphasize that we should always respect other people and their boundaries and give myself as an example. I tell the children that any disrespect of me or anyone else when we say no, or we don’t like something is not tolerated, and they know the consequences of such behaviour.
The fact that the article states what I have learned over my time as a teacher is refreshing, because it does put it much better than I ever could have done, and it does so without completely discrediting blanket statements either, because values are as important to teach your students as the rules, even if they are dubious and hard to enforce.

2. Classroom Dojo – I truthfully don’t have much to say about the app. I like it, I think it looks like it would be super effective for an Elementary of Middle Years classroom, but I think that it is not cut out for being in a High School. That’s pretty much all I think. I think I’d like to try it myself to see how effective it really is, but I definitely think that it is an app that it doesn’t hurt to try.

3. Metaphors and Shoveling Snow – This Sunday, I had the exciting and pleasurable time of getting not one, but two cars towed out of my driveway. Thanks Daddy, for coming in all the way from Yorkton to save us tow truck costs, you are the best and we have very poor foresight. The reason for our little, eight hour adventure was that we tried to cut corners. We didn’t think we really needed to shovel, and then, after one car got stuck, perhaps, we decided, we should shovel. But only so much as to just fit a car in. But, like, when you have to turn to back out, you may just hit the neighbour’s fence and get wedged in there, spinning your wheels as well, and now you are royally stuck because you have zero vehicles left. The point of me bringing this up is to use shoveling snow as a brilliant metaphor for classroom management – don’t cut corners. Don’t assume your students know a rule, don’t assume if you see a student being bullied that it’s only a one time thing, don’t assume that just because you made a path perfect for each student to just squeeze by that they won’t decide to take a slightly different path and mess up your system, take a little paint off the bumper, and maybe dent neighbour’s fence just a tad (sorry, bro). If you give student’s loopholes, chances are, one of them will find the loopholes and exploit them. A teacher always needs to be on the ball, and needs to be exquisite as metaphors. I think I have at least one of those down, hooray for me!

Shoveling

Making Plans

I have always been a completionist throughout my life. Now, I know that the term generally refers to trying to get 100% in a video game in relation to doing homework or something, but I am appropriating the term to use here, because I deem it appropriate.

We have finally completed a lesson plan in our EMath class, and I am feeling so much better now because of it. I hate leaving things undone, and we had been working on the lesson for a while now, without there being any real resolution, but we made it, just in time for our Reading Week break. I have two points to make before I can get to my break proper.

1) Team Teaching – I think that team teaching is a very intriguing concept because it is so contingent on the two people working together. I have team taught many times before, both as a drama teacher, and in the schools for our practicums. I find that it is not as difficult as I always think it will be, but I have also always been blessed with the honour of teaching with people I explicitly trust and now will not let me down. My practicum partner this semester, for example, is my best friend, who I have known for eight years. I am happy that being in our EMath class, I have the opportunity to work with people I do not know as well, and so I can see if team teaching does become more difficult when you do not know each other that well. So far, it seems to be going okay, however, it is still difficult when we think very alike, and so we both get stuck in the same section of a lesson plan. Ryan and I spent a great deal of time getting the first part of the lesson smoothed out because both of us didn’t quite like any of the beginnings we were forming.

2) Implementing Problem Solving – is harder than it looks. We have been given many examples of how to do problem solving effectively. We have done a few questions ourselves as well and after doing it for so long, we start to think that we have a solid grasp of how problem solving works. And we are learning the skills to do so, and we are definitely improving. But it is still apparent that we have a ways to go. I am saying “we” a lot, when I really mean “I”. I cannot speak for anyone else, I haven’t seen any other lessons. Perhaps it is just me who thinks that this is much harder than it looks. I think the part I struggle with is figuring out how to make questions that are grade appropriate that are not too hard or too simple for a person to do themselves. I think, with practice it will get easier, so I am excited to work more on our lesson plans and see how our skills develop.

Well, that’s all I have for you today, so TTFN!
Sarah

Teaching Children the Inspiring Ways of Step Dancing

For my practicum this Wednesday, I taught my first lesson to introduce the students to Gumboot/Step dancing (in the time between posts, I have learned that there is indeed an alternate version of gumboot dancing that is much easier to Google videos of).

The lesson went pretty well, overall, even though the amount of time I had was not quite as long as I had hoped for. It ended up that the students had so much to do that day, that we had to share the amount of time we had instead of each getting our own section, but it is kind of useful, because now I can use the second half of my lesson for my next class, and I got to practice teaching the next section yesterday during our seminar, so I could smooth out any parts that would not work with the class.

What I was surprised worked as well as it did was the implementation I experimented with of my own version of the Socratic Method. The way in which I used the method was just guiding the students through their learning by asking questions instead of giving them the information straight. I began by telling the students the definitions of “Apartheid” and “segregation” and slowly, the students helped my form our own notes through a discussion on the different jobs allowed by the white people to the African people.

The reason I found it worked so well was that it was extremely apparent that the students were making connections and gaining understanding. There were many students who commented with “Oh, I understand now!” Or would tell me about videos or books they had read that had connections to the material. I had an excellent class for the lesson, so I can’t take all the credit – they were extremely willing to talk in class, and give suggestions for answers. If I didn’t have as much participation as I did, it would not have been as simple.

I am excited for our next class, because the lesson I have planned is one of my favourite things to teach – sound collage – and it is so much fun and cool to learn about. So far, the dance unit has been positive, so let us hope to continue the positive learning throughout!

Sarah

Assessment

I very much enjoyed our most recent EMath class, mostly because I learned a lot (and had fun while doing so!) but also because I have many an opinion on assessment, and I like the chance we get to all share our own perspectives.

I had never really considered the fact that there are three reasons for assessment, and that all three have their own purposes in a classroom.

1) Assessment for Learning – I really like this form of assessment, as it is more of a guideline, or an indicator, rather than a strict feedback of student work. This form of assessment is a way for the teacher to keep track of what the students know, and what they are struggling with, in an attempt to engage students and promote their understanding. I think it is extremely important for teachers to know where the students are, especially in a math class. Math is very linear – if a student cannot grasp a concept, there is a good chance it will come into play later, and they will have trouble completing future steps because they do not have the foundation to work from. Keeping up with assessing student understanding and comprehension levels can help a teacher know how to teach, and what forms of education the students are receptive to. I like the idea of random questioning in class, but I also like the idea of grading and checking homework assignments. Not recording the mark, simply giving completion marks if anything, but it can be a bit of a guideline for understanding, keeping in mind that students have worked together and possibly copied from each other.

2) Assessment as Learning – I am not so much a fan of this form of assessment because I’ve never really trusted student evaluation. I always found that if a teacher asked me to grade my work or effort level I always marked myself lower than I thought I deserved, for fear of looking too stuck up or conceited. The reverse was that students always marked themselves higher so that they could artificially boost their marks. I have never found the process to be particularly useful or informative, and I find that it does not do any good. There are two exceptions I heard in class today that I do like, however. I do like the idea of getting group members to assess each other, and then give the group members that percentage of the grade that was given. For example, the final grade being 90%, a student being evaluated at giving 50% of their effort to their assignment would get 45% overall. I think that, like we discussed in class, the form of evaluation works best with a mature class that understands the ramifications of marking their fellow classmates. And that reasoning must be provided. The second exception is the example of giving students sample answers and essays to look at an assess to determine what is a good answer and what is not. Giving the students an idea of how they are to be assessed gives them the opportunity and the skills to review their own work effectively.

3) Assessment of Learning – basic grading, which is essential, because it is how we review what a students has taken away from the class at the end of the semester. I myself do not believe in closed-book testing, so I don’t agree with strict, no holds barred, take no prisoners style assessment, but I do like the idea of being creative with assessment, with not looking at it as a test, but rather, a true reflection of what the students know and are capable of without their intelligence being compromised by outside factors. A student who has trouble writing down information, should be given the chance to give answers orally. A student should be allowed to ask a teacher for guidance, provided the teacher does not simply do the answer for them. I think we should not be setting the students up to fail, and a way to do that is to understand your students and try and shape learning to their ways of understanding. We should be giving them the chance to succeed, the opportunity to do well, not wait for them to fall.

Classroom Management

Truth be told, I had never really considered the cultural ramifications of classroom management. I think it may be because we have always focused on orienting our teaching to include all cultures and backgrounds that we often forget that cultural acceptance permeates every aspect of teaching, including keeping a classroom in order and controlled.

I have two points I would like to make on the subject:

1) I like the concept that was mentioned in the article about organizing desks in clusters. Now, I know, I know, it’s not like we haven’t seen or heard of it before, but I always appreciate when people, well, appreciate the novelty and helpfulness of having desks arranged in clusters. The groupings are helpful for socialization – the students get to talk to each other, interact and, in the dream scenario, help each other with homework. A teacher can easily manipulate the groups to avoid problems with putting certain students together without making it so noisy students are being punished for being a little more energized than other students. You also have perfect areas in which to have group work happen. As a math person, I love the concept of having ready made discussion groups, as I would love to let my students work together on assignments, and problem solve in groups.

2) I have always had a problem with the way that articles make it sound so simple and so easy to simply learn about a student’s culture and family situation. Now, obviously, the article does stress that it is complicated and hard to talk to parents about their children and to learn the most effective ways to talk to the parents and their students, but I still find there is a key detail lacking. The thing I have always struggled with is the way in which to ask good questions. I myself try to be culturally sensitive, and always have an open mind, asking questions and never assuming anything. But I have had teachers and other people who tell me that it is offensive to ask a Native American teacher if they know anything about treaty education, or to ask a Chinese family if they come from China or not. I think the worst crime a person can commit in racial sensitivity is ignorance, not asking questions, and I  find it hard to figure out which questions are deemed insensitive or not. Obviously, you don’t want to make assumptions about a family, but the article is saying things like greeting the children as they enter the class on the first day in their native language. Isn’t it considered insensitive to assume an African American child is from Africa, or that an Asian student does not speak English? I know that you will receive information on your students if they are immigrants or English is their second language, but would they also be offended if I assume that I know their culture and language well enough to speak to them? This is all me wondering and stressing out.
I think as a teacher, I would wait until I could speak with the students one-on-one, and let them teach me words in their first language, or culturally significant facts about themselves instead of assuming on my own. Not every Chinese-American family is strict and over-involved in their child’s education. I would want to get to know every child and parent/guardian as an individual, and treat them as such, based on their own personal beliefs and understandings. I don’t know, I am just a White female after all, but I think that pretending to know so much and overdoing the research is worse than not knowing anything and learning with the students.

Maybe I’m wrong, though. I am open to change. And to changing my mind. I just don’t want anyone to feel discriminated against, or out of place in my classroom. Every child has good in them, I really believe that, even though sometimes it seems like a pipe dream, and I want to get to know them on a personal basis, not as a representation of the culture that they come from.

Sarah

Drive and Determination

Today’s post is all about motivation. How do we get our students to learn? How do we get them to want to learn?

I ask this question, because one, I am already at risk of repeating myself, at least this topic gives me a way to field my comments into one area, and two, I currently have a tiny puppy on my lap, who keeps tapping me with her little paw every time I try and type words out, and when I look at her, and try to tell her I’m working, she wags her tail and nudges her nose up for pets. My determination and drive is slowing, so I must get this done quickly, for fear I will never finish.

Giving students incentive is always difficult. If a student does not care about what they are being taught, then they do not have any drive to learn the material. The key to getting students’ attention is to make your lesson about information that is partly what they know, or what they are interesting, and the other part is things that they desire to know, or figure out.

As a part of the EMath class, we wrote out activities that were examples of problems that could be used in different lessons, based on Outcomes and Indicators from the Saskatchewan Curriculum website. The first one we used was the unit on puzzles and games. The activity we created revolved around the students coming up with strategies to efficiently win different games, such as Tic Tac Toe, Mastermind and Connect Four. We also added the use of video games for students who are interested in gaming, and would be more intrigued by figuring out strategies for fighting certain bosses, or the most efficient way to progress through a more open-world game. Giving students a choice on which game they would like to look at gives them the option of picking a task that they would more readily enjoy, instead of forcing them to learn pattern recognition, and permutations and combinations through the means that the teacher finds most interesting.

The second unit we worked with was unit prices and exchange rates. The question we devised was a simple example of many questions that could be formed. It is another area where you can encourage students to learn using objects or information that is significant to them. The question involves comparing the price of hot chocolate from Costco to the price of hot chocolate at Wal-Mart, but the students could use any object available at multiple stores for money. They could compare pizza prices and sizes at various fast food restaurants. They could compare the prices of books or games at different stores. The question lets the students do research and come up with an answer that is relevant to themselves. If they do unit pricing with anything, they will know where to buy what they like to get it at the cheapest price.

Allowing choice to students, and devising questions that have real world application, and let the student utilize the information in their lives, gives meaning to the work that is expected of students. Students have drive and determination when they are given a topic that they care about, or the find to be informative. If a student can see why they are learning what they are, then it is easier to convince them to focus on the subject matter, and become informed.

Now, I shall go back to cuddling my puppy. She is very happy to see me when I go back home.