KIAT Book Club: The Resilience Revolution Ch. 3

The Resilience Revolution: Discovering Strengths in Challenging Kids

We’re about halfway through the book now! Three cheers for becoming better teachers!

The Resilience Revolution: Discovering Strengths in Challenging Kids
The Resilience Revolution: Discovering Strengths in Challenging Kids

This chapter is all about building trust with challenging kids. This can be difficult to do, especially when dealing with older youths. When I taught High School, I would have about 170 kids each year. So if someone didn’t bother showing up to class, or didn’t do their work, or was rude, I just gave them their mark and moved on. Unless you’re a homeroom teacher, a counsellor, a coach, or someone who a student sees and interacts with frequently, it’s going to be difficult to build trust and aid them in becoming resilient.

Now that I am teaching elementary, I feel I not only have more of an ability, but also more of a responsibility, to build trust and to help my students in any way I can.

This chapter, like the ones before it, opens with a quote:

“Sometimes I say I hate you because I’m afraid you don’t love me.” – Theta Burke

Chapter Three!
Chapter Three!

I find that this guides the chapter. It’s difficult to build trust with kids that have been damaged before and hurt by people they’re supposed to be able to trust. The chapter gives some excellent advice and explains why many tactics and attempts to build trust with kids simply don’t work.

Indeed, it makes sense that kids don’t want to be forced into peer or adult mentoring relationships that are not natural, which is why so many programs fail. That’s why it’s so important for people like teachers to build natural relationships with kids; we see them everyday and if we are genuinely interested in their lives and kind to them, without them being forced into talking with us, there’s a greater opportunity to build trust and install positive change.

If you want to buy the book, here’s the link to Amazon.

What is Palaeontology?

The best part about teaching fourth grade is getting to teach about fossils in Social Studies (Alberta’s history).

When I introduce the unit, I have the kids do a fun activity which allows them to get moving and access prior knowledge and lets me assess what they already know (and thus their learning at the end of the unit).

When the kids come into the classroom, I have a big T and F written on the whiteboard, which peaks their interest and gets them excited for the lesson.

True or False!
True or False!

We start the unit by talking about how we learn about dinosaurs and fossils, which leads us to palaeontologists! I prompt a discussion by asking kids what they already know about palaeontology and then I simply google palaeontologists and show them some images, which prompts further discussion. It’s really easy and allows us to touch upon what we already know.

For our activity I give them a T/F What Do Palaeontologists Do? worksheet. I read each question out and have them circle in ink or hi-light their answers. At the end, I have all the students stand up and come to the front of their class. We go through each question one-by-one and the kids have to move to the side of the room that represents the answer they circled.

Doing this, I can tell which students picked each answer and ask them why they picked true or false. We can have a discussion as a class of the right answer and all learn more about palaeontology!

It’s a really fun activity and the kids love it! If you would like the worksheet, the link to the product on my Teachers Pay Teachers page is here.

What Can Light Shine Through?

I teach in a specialized program at a school specifically for students with diagnosed Learning Disabilities. Accordingly, the majority of them are visual, hands-on learners. I am always trying to find ways in which they can get up and move, create, and see their own learning.

In Science, the unit we’re working through right now is Light and Shadows. It’s a lot of fun for the kids because we do a lot of work with flashlights and mirrors and making shadows. This week, we answered the question “What Can Light Shine Through?” by making our own posters!

One of my students' posters!
One of my students’ posters!

I made each student a poster separated into four rectangles. The first was for  their title, which they got to design and decorate. The next three were for the vocabulary terms “opaque”, “translucent”, and “transparent” and their respective definitions, which the kids had to cut out and glue to show me they knew the definitions.

I used an exacto-blade to cut out three squares in the centre of each rectangle and the kids had to decide what light could or could not shine through out of clear plastic (I cut up ziploc bags), construction paper, and tissue paper. I had them use flashlights to shine through each if they got confused.

All our posters up on the window.
All our posters up on the window.

They loved this project, it was very simple, and now our classroom windows serve as a learning tool! If you want my free download of the poster outline and the titles and definitions, click here to be taken to the product page on Teachers Pay Teachers!

Using Alternative Texts in the Classroom

One of my favourite professors taught me two of my favourite classes during my B.Ed., and both of them dealt with media and utilizing technology and alternative texts in the classroom. Alternative texts, of course, being any tool utilized in the classroom which differs from the traditional textbook and chalkboard. I have always been a big supporter of fun and meaningful education. It’s basic common sense that students are not going to retain information or find it beneficial if it is not meaningful to them. This can be difficult for teachers to overcome because, between the ages of 12 and 18, what is meaningful to students? Obviously, each student is hugely different and will find various topics more relevant to them, but overall, it’s not like we can go ahead and start teaching about parties or video games or the Kardashians. However, we can use our knowledge about what students enjoy and are passionate to our advantage and relate as much of our curriculum and instruction to these things.

In my experience, students find almost anything beyond the ordinary classroom lesson interesting and will generally become more involved and attentive. That’s why I love to bring in alternative and unique texts to teach various topics. I don’t mean simply bringing in the video version of Romeo and Juliet (which is still a great tool and always works for the classic comparison essay). I mean bringing in things like board games, food, commercials, magazines, and so on. Today I want to focus on one of my favourite forms of alternate texts: graphic novels.

          The first effective way I’ve found to use graphic novels is to blatently teach the curriculum with them. When teaching Canadian history, a tool like Chester Brown’s Louis Riel comic is excellent because it actually shows students what is happening. I creates a more vivid reality of the history and aids in their ability to understand what occurred and to better recall information for exams and essays. Furthermore, it’s always fun and worthwhile to have students create their own comic strip to tell another account of history. They’ll have a lot of fun with the art aspect and will really grow to grasp the history.

          Moving away from basic curriculum, when teaching English or a class such as Sociology, Philosophy, etc. it can be fun and rewarding to get involved with a graphic novel that includes big ideas, moral issues, and so on. Although I wouldn’t recommend Grath Ennis and Steve Dillon’s Preacher series in a high school classroom (just a bit too much drugs, violence, sex, and religion to avoid conflict), a series or novel which contains the same amount of discussion and throught-provoking material is hugely beneficial. I’m a huge advocate for critical and abstract thinking (who isn’t?). When students write me papers, I want them to write to me about ideas and theories and have course material support their claims; a graphic novel full of untraditional “good vs. bad” and moral questions provides ample resource and also keeps students engaged as it’s a different medium than the traditional novel they’re all so used to.

          The final way in which I’ve found it effective to use graphic novels in the classroom is when you relate them to course material. I had the exciting fortune of teaching a class of 21 grade 11 boys at a sports academy poetry. Let me tell you, that was no easy feat, so I did my very best to bring in as many alternative forms of poetry and as many alternative texts as I could to really engage them. When teaching Shelley’s “Ozymandias“, I decided to bring in the reference from Watchmen. First I showed the students a clip of the film, we read a portion of the graphic novel, and I had them throw out descriptive words about the character of Ozymandias. From there, we read the poem and compared the characters and the mediums. Finally, I had them write an essay asking them to either compare the characters or explain why Moore used Shelley’s Ozymandias character as an inspiration for the character in the Watchmen. The kids loved the inclusion of popular culture in the classroom and their essays were phenomenal and really drew out strong comparisons and ideas about the two different characters.

Overall, I’m obviously a huge advocate of utilizing graphic novels in the classroom and really hope to expand upon all of the different ways in which I can explore their value further within education.

HALF DAY PARTY!

Happy Holy Thursday to everyone! And an early Good Friday and Easter Sunday!

I found this sweet image in a Google image search

I teach in a Catholic school so today is a half day before our Easter break. Additionally, since I’m in a year-round school, we get two weeks rather than one week off! The kids are excited and I’m excited so we’re having a party!

Food and movies all morning for us!

Grade 4 Art Class: Mittens!

The Winter makes me want to curl up in a blanket and eat stew and weep all day long. I am not a fan. However, I am a grown woman with a job and responsibilities, so instead of being a useless ball of sadness, I have my grade 4s make winter-themed crafts and it cheers me up!

Adorable mittens!
Adorable mittens!

This week we made mittens to decorate our very sparse Winter bulletin board! The kids really enjoyed it and their mittens turned out great! I had the kids decorate the body of the mitten with a pattern of their choice and then decorate the cuffs with yarn. It was very, very simple to set up and had them hone their fine motor skills in working with the yarn.

I searched “mitten outline” in Google and right away go this image:

I love Google!

Which I simply enlarged in Microsoft Word and printed out for each student. The kids’ task was to:

1. Draw a line to show where the cuff begins.

2. Draw a design onto the body of the mitten in pencil.

3. Colour the design in once it’s been checked by a teacher.

4. Cut out the mitten.

5. Glue on their yarn.

It was insanely simple, the kids had a ton of fun, and they turned out super cute! Plus, not our sparse (sad) Winter bulletin board has some more colour!

IMG_2381

I can’t wait until Spring is here and I can put up our new bulletin board! Until then, this one should be cute and colourful enough to get me through the Winter months!

KIAT Book Club: The Resilience Revolution Ch. 2

This is a fancy attempt at a "selfie" of me reading.

As I discussed two weeks ago, my co-workers and I are reading, and subsequently discussing, a book called The Resilience Revolution. We like to call this fancy time together a book club. But we do it at work, so there’s no wine.

Let me begin my discussion of this chapter by stating that I’m really enjoying the book so far. I find that things such as Professional Development days and reading books on education inspire me and breath new life into me. Reading this makes me want to be a better teacher.

This is a fancy attempt at a "selfie" of me reading.
This is a fancy attempt at a “selfie” of me reading.

The first chapter talked primarily about the effects of pain on the brain, in particular on the brain of children and teens. This chapter delves more into what resilience is and how to develop it.

Basically, all people are taught to be resilient when they are faced with problems and can bounce back from them to succeed. As we grow up, we naturally become resilient. However, if a person faces too many difficult obstacles or is not given to opportunity to overcome problems, resiliency is deterred. Thus, a youth facing a home life in which problems abound or a youth who is given everything they want, will naturally have a more difficult time naturally developing resiliency.

Resilience is the norm.
Resilience is the norm.

Indeed, in this chapter, I found myself thinking a lot about elementary versus high school education. As someone who has taught both, I can attest to the fact that there is a huge difference between how most teachers (myself included) treat high school vs. elementary aged students. At the elementary age we tend to spend more time with our students, have much smaller classes, and often have a better ability to instil changes. Additionally, they presumably have faced less hardships in their lives and may not be quite as resistant to help or guidance as a teen.

This makes me feel both very lucky and very powerful as a new-found elementary teacher. I have far less students than I did as a high school teacher and I spend 6 hours a day with them rather than 60 minutes. It’s a big burden, but one that most teachers decided to agree to when picking their major. It’s a heavy, but rewarding, burden to bear.

IMG_2356

The book discusses factors which create a resilient child and discusses how we can implement these into our classrooms, teaching practices, and interactions with children.

Almost time for chapter three!

If you want to want to buy the book, here’s the link to it on Amazon.