Last week I started Writer’s Workshop with my grade 1 and 2 students. Before they begin writing, I like them to analyse the structure of the stories that they read. We begin with a read aloud and then, as a class, we discuss the beginning, middle, and end of a story.
The next step in my lesson is for them to work in pairs. The story that I give them to work on is a simple one in the which structure can be easily determined. Working in pairs means that they can discuss their options – and it also gives them the confidence to do the task.
Tomorrow I will encourage them to work solo to figure out the three parts of the story I will give them. Some children may make errors but it is a first step – they can only improve from there. I do not look for perfection but for the sense that they kind of understand the concept. After all, they are emerging readers.
In the month of July during my Summer Break from school, I have spent a little time every day reading teacher-related books to be inspired and gain some new ideas to keep my teaching practice fresh. The book I finished recently is the one Larry Swartz brought out last year titled Word By Word.
The book centres on vocabulary building and has many suggestions for activities that can be implemented in literacy centres. The aim of vocabulary building is to encourage children to collect words and to use them in their writing and speaking activities.
“Many of us – including young people – are collectors of things: stamps, coins, plush toys , dolls, figurines, comics, spoons, snow globes, etc. The goal … is to have students become word collectors so they can store them, use them, marvel in them, and expand their knowledge about them.” ( p11, 2019, Pembroke Publishers)
I am already implementing a couple of the activities in my classroom suggested by Swartz. I look forward to trying out a few more of his suggestions to get the kids excited about learning new vocabulary and using the words that they have learned.
The Ontario Curriculum of Visual Arts for grades 1 and 2 encourages the exploration of lines, colour, and a variety of media with which to create art. For one of my lessons created on the remote teaching platform, I thought students would enjoy a break from math and literacy to create a little and work with paint.
After asking them to watch some videos – in French – on the life and art of Vincent van Gogh, I asked my students to use the painting titled Starry Night as an inspiration for their own night scene.
In order to determine whether the project was possible, I decided to do a painting of my own. I laid out my materials for the project: acrylic paint, a paintbrush, a jar of water, a pencil, a sheet of card stock, a plastic fork, and a copy of Van Gogh’s painting.
For my first step, I lightly penciled in what I wanted to paint. I looked to the original painting for inspiration, knowing that I would not be able to copy the original exactly.
To recreate the lines seen as in the original painting, I used a plastic fork. For the lines to show up, I noticed that I had to layer the paint thickly onto the card.
I painted section by section and then used the fork in specific areas before the paint dried.
I enjoyed the activity and found it calming. I am hoping that the children I work with will find it calming as well – especially those who enjoy creating art with paint.
I like the effect of using the fork on the painting and am now thinking of other ways in which my students can practice this technique.
The acrylic paint is a bit sticky to use – or maybe it is because the paint I had was a little dry. The next time I do this activity (hopefully when in the classroom), I will attempt the task with tempura paint. It would be interesting to make a comparison and to see which medium is more effective.
My final product is not bad for a first attempt though it it nowhere near to what my daughters (who are art students) would produce.
I now look forward to seeing what my students create.
Have you attempted to recreate Van Gogh’s Starry Night?
In grade 1 and 2, children are introduced to the concept of area. The learning goal of the activities I prepare for them is for them to measure the surfaces of objects using non-standard units of measure and in class I usually offer them math manipulatives such as pattern blocks and interlocking cubes. Parents, however, do not have these resources at home so I had to be a little creative with my task when planning a lesson for my students to do at home.
The curriculum does not state precisely what unit of measure children are to use, so I instructed the children to use a household object. I showed them an example that I did in which I used forks:
In addition, I gave my students the sentence starter to use when they wrote down their response. Translated, the sentence states: I measured a(name of object). The surface of the (name of object) is (number used) (name of household object used).
I liked seeing my students’ innovative choices of units.
Food played a role in some responses:
As did the games they play with:
Other responses included the use of business cards, Lego, and toilet paper rolls (I loved this one!).
I am sure these children will not forget what it is to measure the surface area of an object – even when thy have to use standardised units of measure in the higher grades.
What would you use to measure the surface of an area?
Before schools were closed in response to the COVID-19 virus, my class and I had almost finished the unit on Communities. We had explored mapping and had competed a number of tasks. Unfortunately I am unable to introduce them to the final activity that I had planned for the class but I did come up with an alternative.
Using the Google Maps application, I encouraged them to explore the aerial view of their neighbourhood (we had explored the school’s neighbourhood in class). Once that was done, I asked them to to draw a two block radius of their own neighbourhood using Google Maps as a reference. When assigning the task, I listed the success criteria for them so that they would know my expectations. The task was a perfect way for them to put into practice what we had been learning in class.
The children have done a magnificent job. Here is a section of the first submission I received:
I could see that the student had spent a long time on the task and that she had replicated her neighbourhood block accurately. Another student did not draw her immediate surrounding area but instead chose a block that was more interesting to draw:
I love that she coloured it in so beautifully and her legend showed a knowledge of the area. My favourite aerial map submitted took the student over a week to draw:
Her map followed all of the success criteria and shows an excellent understanding of mapping. If we were in the classroom, her map would have been pinned to the board outside:
I am currently thinking of another long-term assignment that my students can work on. Next week is an oral one – but the week after? I am not sure yet.
This week has been a challenge for me as I sit in front of the computer to work on lesson plans for my students, post daily tasks, answer emails from parents and the school admin, as well as correct the tasks that my students have submitted. I am not used to sitting at a table in front of a computer for an entire day and it has been hard for me to adjust.
On Thursday I had my first remote get-together with my class. The children were so excited and were talking non-stop! The meeting was a success and will enable me to move onto the next step – meeting with my students in small groups. I have planned sessions for next week and we will see how it goes.
I do miss being in my classroom with my students in front of me. It is so much easier to work with young children without the barrier of distance. In the classroom, I do not have to rely on the parents to help me teach their children – and I do not have to rely on quirky technology or dodgy internet connections. In addition, in the classroom I am able to help those children who remain quiet and often fade into the background.
Hopefully, though, I will soon be a physical presence in front of my students and interact with them throughout the day. In the meantime, I will continue to figure out ways to connect with them and to expose them to experiences and ideas that will enhance their learning.
I want to share a video with you that encapsulates a lot of what I am experiencing at the moment with distance teaching. Obviously a lot of the content has been exaggerated for its comedic value – but buried within the humour, there are seeds of truth.
As we move into the next week of remote teaching, we have been told that the date for the re-opening of schools has been pushed back once again. As of now, our schools will hopefully open 14 May. Until then, our province will continue with the State of Emergency and the social distancing protocol.
What has been your experience of remote teaching/learning?
I am currently working with my grade 1 and 2 French Immersion students online in a distance learning programme because of the stay-at-home mandate given by the government as a result of the COVID-19 virus. When creating tasks for them to do at home, I tried as much as possible to continue with our in-class routine so that my students could work independently of their parents for most of the time.
One of the activities we do in class is spelling practice. At the dictée centre, my students practice the week’s spelling list in a variety of ways: stamping, using play dough, writing in salt, writing with coloured pens, etc. I have prepared a list of spelling words for my students to practice at home for each week of the stay-at-home mandate; and have given parents a list of instructions on how the children are to proceed.
I have received a number of assignments back showing me that my students are practicing their dictée words. I loved the presentation of this student’s work as well as the time she took working on her task:
One of my younger students has been practicing with flour. I loved how he added his lego pieces to show his understanding of the word:
Another of my students came up with an innovative way to practice that I had not thought of – she used scrabble tiles:
I love seeing the ways in which my students are practicing their spelling at home. The innovative ways they have chosen definitely brings a smile to my face.
If things were normal, yesterday would have been the first day back at school after the March Break but instead we are all practicing social distancing and staying at home. In the morning, I logged into my work email and responded to the ones I had waiting for me from the parents. Reading the email from my principal, the message I got from it was to be patient. I then decided to work on binding the inquiry my class had worked on and completed before the break.
While working, I listened to the second digital book I have borrowed from the library. I chose a book that was immediately available: Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich. I have previously read and enjoyed some of her stories so knew that this one would pleasantly pass the time while doing a mind-numbing task. I am loving the story so far – and laughing out loud at some of the antics the characters get up to (as well as what they say!).
This morning I woke up to an email once again reminding us to be patient as the school board works on the guidelines for distance learning: they want to consider the implications of not all families having access to technology; and the fact that many parents are expected to work at their own job. Today I will begin to figure out my planning and think of ways in which parents can implement what I had planned for the rest of the school year.
Today I begin my second day of working from home while my own children learn from home. The experience is going to be challenging in the small space we have but we are up for it.
Yesterday evening I was made aware of breaking news: that the schools in Ontario would be shut down for two weeks after March Break to help fight the spread of COVID-19. I was shocked to learn of this decision as there had been no lead-up at all to the decision.
Today is the last day of school before March Break – our week off school before the final stretch of the academic year. I am sure parents are currently scrambling to find daycare for their kids due to the extra two weeks they will be at home. My hope is that companies will not punish parents who need to stay at home. It would be unfair if parents were forced to take leave, or lose a paycheck.
The caretaking staff at the schools are going to take this time to sanitise the environment in addition to the cleanup they usually do doing the Break. I am hoping that the closure doesn’t extend past two weeks – and that they will work. I do not really want to spend more time away from my students.
Has the advent of the COVID-19 virus affected you in any way?
During the past week, my students have been playing with tangrams – I have given them the opportunity to copy patterns and images that I have printed out on numerous cards. They love moving the shapes to create different things and spent the 20 minutes set aside for the task actively engaged in in the activity. At the end of last week, I gave them the opportunity to create their own images which they did so with confidence.
Yesterday was the chance for them to show me what they could do. Using a pair of scissors, they cut out the tangrams, placed the shapes to create an image, and then glued the pieces onto a new sheet of paper. Thereafter, they coloured in their image and, using the sentence up on the board as a guide, they wrote down what they had created.
The response of one student made me smile: “J’ai construit Mme Kook-Chun qui fait le Zumba avec les tangrams.” (I made Madame Kook-chun who is doing Zumba with the tangrams).
I smiled for so many reasons: she knows my love of Zumba, she placed the pieces accurately, and her inserted phrase was written perfectly! This is a response that I will definitely be keeping a copy of. 😀