From Class Blog: What does it mean to be a citizen?

Last week, I made a comment to the students that they were all citizens in our classroom. I forget what the reference was about but the students accepted this and continued on. As I was writing something down, someone called out “What does it mean to be a citizen?” The dictionary definition of “a legally recognized subject or national of a state or commonwealth, either native or naturalized.” wasn’t entirely all that helpful to us. As their teacher, I wasn’t even sure how to explain that definition. so I wrote the question on the board and asked the students to think about it over the weekend.

I had the fortune of being at a fundraising event with a number of politicians, so I decided to ask them what their ideas were so I could bring back thoughts and quotes from them. We also reached out to Cst. Lucas to see what his ideas were on the subject of citizenship. I posted the question on social media, and here are some of the answers we received:

Be a participant, be involved, educate yourself on the rules, the game is bigger than you and know what you are doing. The ultimate is not win or lose but to be a part of it. In voting, vote no matter who you vote for.
– Richard Feehan, candidate for Alberta NDP, Social Worker

Belonging, community, people who are born here and the people who choose to come here. As we braid together the two stories that is how we build our new country and our Canada of tomorrow. Responsibility to be a citizen and be an active citizen. Voting and knowing what you are voting for. Keeping up on current affairs, let your elected representatives know how you think. Relationship and have to tell because they don’t read minds.
-Laurie Blakeman, Liberal MLA

Have a responsibility to each other and you can get done more together rather than alone.
– Ben Henderson, Edmonton City Council

Contributing to the community you live in, interested in the voting process and voting when you have the chance
– Michael Phair, former Edmonton councilman

To me a citizen is a member of society. Citizenship is being recognized as that member. To me we should all strive to be “Contributing members of society”. You can still make an impact on a larger scale even though you have never left Spruce Grove. You need to think about what you want the world to look like. I always think of the golden rule. “Treat other the way you want to be treated”

If I was to use the example of cleaning up the environment. Your impact at home, in school and in your community will effect the rest of the world. It may be on a small scale but it will impact the other citizens around you. We cannot control what others do, but we can control the example we portray to others through our actions.

We are all citizens and role models for each other whether we choose to be or not. The only question is “Are we a good role model or a Bad role model?”

– Cst. Lucas, Community Liaison Officer, EPS

Actively involved, taking responsibility and providing input into anything that would affect their daily life. Maybe not all the definition, but an important piece I think.

– Danna Hawkes, Broxton Park Teacher

With all of these answers, we then pulled out some key ideas. (Shown in purple in the picture below) We broke into groups, discussed and added our own ideas of what citizenship meant to us as Grade 5 students (shown in blue in the picture below).

Mr. Petchel(our music teacher) also joined us to talk to us about the importance of voting. We talked about how not voting means that you don’t have the right to complain and that not voting means that you could allow 1/3 of the population to pick someone to represent you that 2/3 of the class disagreed with.

Here is how we represented this:

We have 23 students in our class with 2 students who were away today. Those 2 students represented the people who were not eligible to vtoe.

We had everyone wearing blue jeans sit down. These represented the people who were “Unable to make it to the polls” – too busy, mobility issues, out of the country, ect. We then asked the students who did not have their shoes on to sit down. These represented the people who “don’t care” or “didn’t want to vote”. This left 13 people. 1 student chose to spoil their ballot because they didn’t like either candidate (represented by the only person wearing a hat). 8 people decided to vote for Mr. Pechtel and his promise of Ukulele music (represented by the people on the right side of the room) and 4 people decided to vote for Ms. Albrecht who promised to try to make sure we have Art every Friday (represented by the people standing on the left side of the room).

12 people voted for a candidate, 1 person expressed their thoughts – that makes 11 people in our class who voted and 9 who did not. For voter turn out, 62% (13/21) of the eligible voters is higher than recent voter turnout in Alberta. We also found out that 8/23 people in our class made the decision for us. That about 1/3 of our class who chose someone to represent us even though he had the majority or the votes that were cast.

Mr. Pechtel then made a decision to take is promise of Ukulele music further and said everyone had to sing a song and play all the information in every class. A lot of students complained. If they were sitting down, they had to stop talking. This left the 4 who voted for Ms A, the 1 who spoiled their ballot and 3 Mr P voters complaining. 8 people who had a right to complain wasn’t very much (a minority in the eyes of the government) and now we were stuck with no Art at all, we had to hypothetically all learn to play ukulele and listen to Mr P sing about regions of Canada. That wasn’t a good thing but we let a minority pick someone to represent the majority who disagreed with these rules. The students suddenly realized that this was not good and why we need to take advantage of our right to vote and perform our civic duty to do so.

We decided that if there is an election called this spring, even if we can’t vote, as citizens, we need to be informed about what is happening and help inform people who can vote such as our parents. As their teacher, I am excited to see an election plays out in a room of grade 5 students but as a voter and citizen, I am excited to see a room full of engaged and active citizens who know more about voting and being citizens than some adults do.

This all lead up to what was going on in the world and the start of our inquiry into global issues and global citizenship but this lesson that started with the frustration of a terrible dictionary definition was one of the best conversations we have had as a class – and we have a lot of powerful conversations in our room.

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Teaching second languages through inquiry and project based learning.

I am given a curriculum to teach French as a Second Language to my grade 5 students that looks something like this:

My Elementary School
Our Friends—The Animals
Clothes
My Home

 

Le Festival du Voyageur*
Four Holidays and Celebrations*

 

and other areas of interest.

 

Now I don’t know about you, but the last time I talked to a 10 year old, they did not consider animals their friends, they do not care about how to count in French and they most definitely do not want to to learn Valentines’ Day vocabulary so that they can do a word puzzle for any other reason than to waste a class period.

I realized this when we started our animal unit and looked at the worksheets I was given by our provincial government that would supposedly teach my kids all about animals. Since I had a sub, they started them and we essentially threw that out the window quickly. I went down to Calgary and walked around their zoo, talking to them about their rebuild after the flood and activities they did with students to help redesign parts of the Zoo. I also learned about why the penguin habitat looked like I was at one of the magnetic poles. This inspired my project to create a Grade 5 redesign of our local and rather boring zoo. Thanks to my amazing team member, she took my idea and helped organize it on paper.

Task:

Redesign the enclosure at the Edmonton Valley Zoo for one of the animal residents. The new enclosure needs to reflect the animal’s natural habitat in the wild. Your newly redesigned enclosure needs to include signs written in French that explain to the zoo visitors the following:

  • the parts of the animal
  • what the animal eats
  • where the animal can be found in the wild
  • what predators the animal has or what animals your animal preys on
  • the size, lifespan (in the wild and in captivity) of your animal, the number of babies it has and how often
  • the other types of animals that can be found in the same area as your animal

You will be presenting to your classmates the newly designed animal enclosure for your animal.

 

My students have never been so excited to learn or work on a project. I loved this quote from one of my girls who will tell it like she sees it:

“French hasn’t been my favorite subject but it is getting fun because we get to choose an animal and label it in French!”

I’ve started working with my French 7s on the vocabulary through using things like sports, designing their own Alberta based ice cream flavour, and soon we will be designing a restaurant, learning to order off a menu and cooking the food. We’ll rotate through the roles so they can all eat, serve and order.

I am starting to love going to French 7 and they are starting to hand in their work a little bit more often. By engaging their interests and giving them something to work towards, both of my grades of French are starting enjoy the class a lot more. Listening to myself and their reactions to things, I find I am going back to my love of the French language and the fun things that I got to do as an Immersion student. Bringing that to my students now makes me love what I do even more.

Sharing best practices

I’ve never been great at what I call the “humble brag” where you share all the cool things you do and find to everyone or anyone who will listen. One thing I do love is sharing feedback and best practices when someone is looking for ideas.
I don’t like grades on papers. I don’t even really like rubrics with criteria circled. I love handwritten feedback. It was my goal this year to do so. Your first year of teaching is meant to take risks so I was extremely fortunate that I have a co-teacher who had a similar view that feedback should be given.
Every assignment is given feedback during and after. Exemplars and criteria are shared at the beginning. I then remind of the criteria of during and again at the end for last minute fixes.
Students were in for a large shock when a Math quiz was returned with notes all over it and no grade. This happened because I had a hard time figuring out how to mark it and really get my point of across of my expectations for future quizzes. On assignments, I had always given feedback so I figured, lets try quizzes. When the unit test came around, my co-teacher created a feedback form with the process skills from the report card and a space for comments next to the skills.  We wrote in areas of strength, areas of growth  and suggestions for improvement as we comment on those on the report card.
Students then were asked to reflect upon what they read, what they thought they needed to improve and strategies (which could include a re-write) on the bottom. We copied it, sent the test home to be signed and now my report card comments were partially finished for Math.
When recording grades I figured I should add in some of my ideas. My spreadsheet included the level of achievement and the areas of growth and areas of strength. It was messy and hard to read so I thinking of ways that I could rework it when this conversation happened on twitter.
Here is the progression of how my spreadsheet has changed. These screen shots are simply samples and not actual student grades
Term 1 –  I used this template given to me by my co-teacher because my practicums were paper and pen followed by entering into the mentor teacher’s online reporting system. I modified it to add in strengths and growths and so it would auto colour coordinate.  The top has the process skills from the report card.  You’ll notice I only put level of achievement and never the number grade or percentage – It is irrelevant to me. I was mostly putting areas of strength and growth for summative assessments.
Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 12.16.35 AM
Edit 1 –  Each student would have a sheet and it still has the process skills on the top. I really wanted to focus on each task getting an area of strength and growth for each process skill. I realized there was not level of achievement and because the report card still expects me to have one, I figured I should probably include that. Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 12.18.54 AM
Edit 2 – Addition of a level of achievement for each process skill being assessed.  At first I was happy but as the conversation continued, I realized that each student would require their own sheet and I was trying to make my book more efficient.
Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 11.01.50 PM
Edit 3 – I finally combined the two ideas made 1 sheet for all students for 1 subject. Each book contains several sheets, one for each subject I teach with the exception of my french 7 as they have their own file. My apologies, I was starting to get lazy with my samples and not put in real feedback I would give. The biggest change is that now there will be an area of growth and area of strength for every task, not just summative or knowledge tasks. Also there is an area of strength and growth in every relevant process skill for each task.
Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 12.27.35 AM
My students really appreciate the comments and feedback on their work. It does take me longer to mark but I have seen a lot of grown in the students who get the feedback. They also understand why they are getting the marks they are getting. I expect the only surprises kids will find on their report cards will be in Social but that conversation will be had prior to them receiving their report cards and there is lots of room for improvement this year.  I only have a few kids who count their checkmarks on quizzes and only one parent who was a little unsure about the comment grid until I explained that the process skills were from the report card. This shift has also strengthened the student/teacher relationship because my students had a clear understanding of my expectations.
Today I reviewed the report card with each of my students – more on that later. I noticed that most surprises were positive ones or the students were able to understand when we pulled out specific examples of work because of the feedback they have been given all term.
If anyone would like a copy I can try to export a copy from the program I use to Excel for you.

Design Thinking in Kindergarten

This weekend I had the opportunity to visit my friend and her son who is in kindergarten. I remembered from EdCamp talking about the Design Thinking and being able to use it with kindergarten kids. I have used a modified version but I wanted to try the process again.  I often had to write for him but there are some times that he also attempted to write.

  1. Identify the task: What to name Courtney’s new car?
  2. Understand the task: We went downstairs to the parkade and sat in the car, opened all the doors, honked the horn, and played with the lights. We couldn’t go for a drive because we didn’t have car seats
  3. Ideate: We made a web of all our ideas. Some I wrote and drew a picture  next to, some I wrote and he drew a picture next to, some he just yelled out and I wrote and some he wrote and told me what it said and I re-wrote. Mom and I related this to brainstorming just like the Movers (apparently this is from the disney channel) do to plan what to do.  We even included the names my students came up with in the morning sticky note question.20141026161440713 
  4. Build on ideas: Why were some ideas better than others? We talked about if the car should have a human name or not. He decided the car should be a girl because it was pretty, so we focused on female names,
  5. Synthesize: We rewrote the names into a list and put a question mark next to the ones we were not sure about, crossed off the ones we did not like and put a star next to the ones we loved. He did the crossing and Mom did the stars and question marks. We then got it down to the top 3 stars – just like in hockey.
  6. Prototype, Evaluate, Refine: We were going to draw a picture but he wanted to just call the car the name and see if it sounded right. At 9 pm, the kid had a good point. we had Sketch, Molly and Rosey. Sketch was taken off right away. Rosey we were not sure about but Molly we both loved.

My car now has a name and I realize that the design thinking process is possible at any age. My grade 5s struggled with the idea but I realized that if I were to explain it like they were five, they’d get it. It was a very powerful exercise for both of us.

10 life lessons I learned from a group of 10 year olds .

1. Trust must be earned and reinforced before there is respect.

2. Love can be found in many places but the hardest part is when you have to leave that place to continue on your journey

3. Expectations must be clearly set, repeated, practiced and enforced but realized that a day fallen short is not a failure, just a time to revisit and remember those expectations

4. Challenge the people you care about and they will surprise you.

5. Love, support and care is more important that numbers and letters.

6. Look for ways to have fun and share your joy with others.

7. No student is perfect and never will be. You cannot expect them to be.

8. You’re not perfect but it is the growth from your imperfections that make you something special

9. Sometimes even the most prepared plans require flexibility. Nothing goes exactly to plan. It is how you adapt to it.

10. Remember to always find time to laugh. It is okay to have fun,

Student Teaching Reflection: 10 life lessons I learned from a group of 10 year olds .

1. Trust must be earned and reinforced before there is respect.

2. Love can be found in many places but the hardest part is when you have to leave that place to continue on your journey

3. Expectations must be clearly set, repeated, practiced and enforced but realized that a day fallen short is not a failure, just a time to revisit and remember those expectations

4. Challenge the people you care about and they will surprise you.

5. Love, support and care is more important that numbers and letters.

6. Look for ways to have fun and share your joy with others.

7. No student is perfect and never will be. You cannot expect them to be.

8. You’re not perfect but it is the growth from your imperfections that make you something special

9. Sometimes even the most prepared plans require flexibility. Nothing goes exactly to plan. It is how you adapt to it.

10. Remember to always find time to laugh. It is okay to have fun,