Welcoming Syrian Refugees

 

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I love December 10th. On that day in 1948, many nations came together to sign The United Nations Declaration of Rights and Freedoms. It is an annual reminder of the acknowledgement that human rights exist, despite what we read in the newspaper, see in the media, and witness all too often in daily interactions. It is also another reminder to have the conversation with our schools about human rights.

The quality of the conversation ranges from surface to particularly moving depending on the year, the person negotiating it and the students.  This year has been magic.  One of the teachers was reading Hannah’s Suitcase by Karen Levine, about the Holocaust with her 6th Grade students.  I was reading Playing War by Kathy Beckwith , to explore why war isn’t a  fun game for students coming from war torn countries with 3rd grade students.  With the help of a grant from Promoting a Culture of Peace for Children, the conversation morphed into a project to welcome Syrian refugees.

I went down to the storage locker to pull out my Christmas decorations and an old suitcase that Ms. Collins and her 6th graders could use to decorate with images and hold all our messages to welcome the Syrian refugees coming to Canada.  The suitcase holding some of my most precious and breakable Christmas decorations caused me to pause.  My paternal grandmother had gotten the suitcase on a trip to Russia.  She used it to take flight several times with her four young children away from the front line of war in Germany during WWII. Her brother sponsored her and her two sisters and all of their children to come to Canada in 1947. Margriet’s suitcase took her on to the Voldendam to travel to Canada and start a new life.

I am an administrator in a school where many families have made sacrifices to come to Canada with the promise of starting a better life.  At the Winter Potluck dinner, messages of support and advice were written to the Syrian refugees coming to Canada.  Ms. Collin’s Grade 6 students have been at a booth to tell people about the Syrian refugees and encourage them to write messages to add to the others in the suitcase.  Mable Elmore, our MLA for Vancouver-Kensington, has come to talk to students about her job and work with refugees.  Yesterday Ms. Collins, on the busiest shopping day of the year, with her daughter in tow, arrived at a community forum to discuss how to support the Syrian refugees that may be arriving in our area.  The conversation deepens, the project expands and the possibility for learning and caring expands exponentially.

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Anne with an “e”

imageAs a little girl, I do not have lots of memories of bedtime stories and being surrounded by books.  I had Beatrix Potter books from our dear friend, Mrs. Patrick and a collection of Little Golden Books.  I had a set of Children’s Encyclopedias with actual colour pictures of Pinky and The Blue Boy.  School provided Janet and John, Lucky the dog, Buttons the cat and a father that went to work and a mother who stayed home.  Basically the bulk of my reading had no connection to life as I knew it.

Fortunately the librarians in my life helped me to become a reader.   I was introduced to series of chapter books.  I fell in love with Trixie Belden and stayed up late into the night with my flashlight terrifying myself with the possibilities.  Nancy Drew, Donna Parker, Henry Huggins, Beezus, Ramona and the Hardy Boys also held my attention.  However when the librarian in the Marpole Public library introduced me to Anne of Green Gables, I learned what it was to have a kindred spirit and that living with imagination was a good thing.  My mother was delighted when I brought the first book home and waited for me to finish reading the book so she could reaquaint herself with Anne with an “e”.  In fact I read the series so quickly because my Mom was always in line to read the next book.  My mother did not have a lot of spare cash as a single mother, but she always belonged to the Book of the Month Club and frequented the public library.  The fact that she wanted to read my books filled with me with a huge sense of pride.  She’d make a pot of tea and we’d chat about the book, the characters, the importance of pretty clothes and that people actually die in books and in life.

When my husband was planning our bike trip to Prince Edward Island this summer, my one request was that we do ” The Anne thing”.  I bought the book to reread it during the journey.  And yes, I did take it for the photo op in the garden amidst all of the flowers that she so adored.  YES, I do realize that Anne is a fictional character.  Yet, what L.M. Montgomery was able to so aptly do was write about what she knew from losing her mother as a toddler and growing up in P.E.I. with stern grandparents and a doting but far away father.  Clearly she was able to take her experience and recreate it in the mind’s eye of a kid growing up in Vancouver and little girls growing up in Japan.  The walk down Lover’s Lane and through the Haunted Wood is just what I expected.  She was also able to create such a vivid character that could have been real and would be loved and remembered into adulthood.  When I woke up to the poplar’s rustling wildly in Mount Stewart at the Water’s Edge B&B, I knew that Matthew would be warning Anne of imminent rain and packed my Arteryx jacket for the day’s journey💧.   I can’t wait for the long running musical in Charlottetown!

“Norman, Speak!”

  Caroline Adderson welcomed student representatives from all of the elementary schools in the VSB to a celebration of literacy along with their librarians and principals or vice-principals.  “Norman Speaks” was the book selected by the Vancouver Elementary Principals Vice Principals Association (VEPVPA).   Each year the VEPVPA “Celebrating Literacy Committee ” selects a book.   The Association invites the author to share the story with students and then puts the autographed book into the one hundred VSB elementary school libraries in Vancouver.  “Norman Speak” was selected for the storytelling and the illustrations in the picture book, as well as the story itself.   Caroline Adderson fascinated both groups with the story of the dog who inspired the story, a real dog that really only understood Chinese.  The book explores the assumptions that young and old people make when someone does not speak the language.  Something wise to be talking about in a city like Vancouver, where so many people speak English as a second or third or fourth language.  Caroline was an amazing presenter – a prolific author with teaching experience!  She had us all engaged in grappling with the task of trying to speak another language.  She also shared a video clip with the illustrator, Qin Leng, discussing how she approached doing the illustrations.   The students were amazed to learn that the authors and illustrators don’t usually meet until after the drawings are done, if ever.

Ben reports that the highlight of the event was having books and pieces of paper signed by the author.   More than one students reported that the dog shaped chocolate was the best part.   The was truly a wonderful illustration of how books can help us to adopt another perspective and delight in the experience.


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ABC Research Reports

My Grade 3 students in the GR 3/4 class I teach on Monday and Tuesday are doing research reports using BookCreator for The Celebration of Learning at our school.

The teacher librarian in the school has created a strong collection of books on Canada at a variety of reading levels to support the high number of ELL learners in our school. She has also developed a unit of study on Canada to teach research skills to late primary/ early intermediate students. Students used a collection of books on each province and territory to answer questions, develop mapping skills and complete tasks in the library. In the classroom, they used databases to find information.

Once the students demonstrated their ability to find and record information accurately, the Grade 3 students each chose a province or territory to research and share their learning at The Celebration of Learning.

I shared several ABC books that had a specific theme and shared content area knowledge, including:

Campbell, Janis and Collison, Cathy(2005). G is for Galaxy. An Out of this World Alphabet. Sleeping Bear Press, Chelsea, MI.

Napier, Matt (2002). Z is for Zamboni. A Hockey Alphabet. Sleeping Bear Press. Chelsea, MI.

Thornhill, Jan (2012). The Wildlife ABC. A Nature alphabet Book, Owlkids Books, Toronto.

Students Were already familiar with BookCreator and airdrop through our work with Joanne Carlton and Zhi Su, our Technology mentors. Students were given the task to create an ABC Picture Book about the province or territory that they had chosen. The title of the book title was to include the province or territory and the first letter.

ie. Y is for Yukon
B is for Beautiful British Columbia

The challenge has been helping students to choose facts that are backed up with research and specific to the province or territory. “B is for brown houses in the Yukon” does not help us to learn about the Yukon, even though it may be a fact from picture cues in a book. The huge advantage of using BookCreator is the ability download maps, flags, pictures, illustrations from drawing pad and add audio clips. Students find images and share them with each other via airdrop. The challenge is to keep them focussed on the task of using the images to support research.

I’m looking forward to see how this project plays out. I’ll keep you posted.

Blogging for Thinking – Reboot

As you may remember from the earlier Blogging for Thinking post, Virginia Bowden and I started our inquiry project in February of this year with two groups of students identified as gifted. These students were participating in two different district programs at an elementary school in Vancouver. Our quest was to use blogging as a means to develop writing skills and critical thinking skills in our students. We posted this entry on the Kidblog sites we had each created to guide our classes.

***** Blogging for Thinking Post on Kidsblog *****

Technology is a tool just like a pencil or pen. We are using blogging as a tool for two reasons. Kidblog allows your teacher to adjust the security settings so only your classmates, parents and teachers can read and respond to your blog. It allows you to creatively personalize your space and learn about blogging before you start posting in a public space. Blogging is also one way to develop and extend your thinking through writing by reflecting on your learning in and out of the classroom. Because you are not able to use your facial expressions or other body language to communicate, your words must clearly express your ideas. You also have the task of using your creativity and language to grab the interest of your audience.

Throughout your learning, we are using the following questions from Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser (Spirals of Learning 2013) to keep us moving forward.

  1. What am I learning?
  2. Why does it matter?
  3. Where am I going next with my learning?

We will be using the following a rubric based on the article “Responding to the imperatives of learning in the 21st Century” (The Critical Thinking Consortium, 2011) to evaluate your progress.

  1. Developing Self-regulated learning: The goal is for you to be able to say: “I am in charge of my learning and motivated to carry out my work in personally responsible, self-reflective ways and to exercise reasoned judgment to meet my goals”.

Level 1

Level 2

Level 3

Level 4

I depend on others for almost all

decisions about what,

how and when I learn; I follow the teacher’s directions but I don’t add my own thoughts, ideas or interpretations.

I demonstrate personal

responsibility to take charge of what, how and when I learn but I need the teacher to provide specific options to choose from.

I exercise thoughtfully

informed judgments in the pursuit of agreed-upon targets and self assess my work according to teacher provided rubrics..

I put a lot of thought and planning into setting goals and a plan to reach them.   I self evaluate how my learning is going and where I want to go next.

 

  1. Developing my Thinking Skills: The goal is to develop your critical thinking skills. The word “critical” does not mean finding fault in this case. It means that you are not just “parroting back” information, but demonstrating proficiency by making connections, analyzing evidence, and making judgments.

Level 1

Level 2

Level 3

Level 4

I report back what I heard, did, or read during class or out of school learning experiences.

I report back what I heard, did, or read. I make connections between my learning experiences at school or home.

I consistently describe my learning and express why my learning matters. I understand where I am going next with my learning and come up with an efficient and effective plan of action.

I understand the value of my learning and where I want to go next with my learning.   My plan, conclusions & opinions are based on careful analysis of my experiences and a variety of evidence.

***************

The Blogging for Thinking post reflected how I had come to use blogging in my professional practice.   To post information. An online newsletter. When I started the process of developing personal blogs with my students, I shared several blogs with a range of purposes. We discussed the intent of the blog. The existence or non-existence of “voice”. Establishing credibility as an author? The theme holding together the blog entries. The role or comments in pushing thinking or shutting it down.   Great conversations ensued with students who were adept online.

It was no surprise that the writers in my class and those students with clearly defined passions, immediately took to blogging. Some students played around with a variety of ideas before settling on a theme for his/her personal blog. Some students decided in their self evaluation that they didn’t really see the purpose of the assignment until they saw where some of their peers had gone with their blogs.

As Virginia and I shared student blog entries with each other, our hearts palpitated with powerful pieces of student writing. Not only did these blogs reflect well-developed background knowledge, they demonstrated an ability to skillfully use language to convey a message that mattered, as well as an ability to engage the peers who were able to view the blog.

In the midst of reflecting on blogs of our students, I could hear Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser’s voices in my head with the mantra…What are you learning? Why does it matter?…What next?…   Add Jim Gee to the mix with the challenge to consider our responsibility to provide “talk, text, and knowledge (TTK) mentoring to our students to guide them beyond “the entertainment only “ aspect of the digital world. Add the discussions of the expanded definition of literacy at The International Reading Association Leadership Conference took place in Florida this July.   I certainly had the front end loading to write many, many blog entries.

Meredith Kezar catapulted me into the world of blogging 5 years ago by providing an example of what it could look like. She insisted I delve into her blog and showed me the possibilities for my upcoming trip to China. I was on my way to teach English and BC methodology to Chinese teachers in Fuyang. I started a travel blog to keep very specific groups of friends and family up to date on my adventures. It was fun to write, had strong “voice” and I got lots of positive reinforcement.   Many of the blogs that I have done since then have been a way of sharing information with a specific audience. More or less a group send without the hassle. However it had stopped there.

My vague goal this summer was to write widely. Stephen King’s book hit home with the need to be disciplined about carving out time to write.   I always think of Margaret Atwood and the dentist sitting beside her at an awards dinner saying “When I retire, I’m gong to become a writer” and her hitting back with “Oh, really. When I retire, I’m going to become a dentist.” My summer goal was to focus my attention of both personal and professional writing as a way to live life.

Art Markham’s work has been a good reminder about how the brain forms new habits. Where my journal writing often happened on the beach or in a café, my disciplined focus on writing required early mornings at home with no distractions.   I decided to use blogging as the tool to develop my background knowledge of digital media and develop my professional writing.   I stepped away from the blogs that I had used to share information with a tightly defined audience. I reframed three previously established blogs to explore unique purposes.

The blog that I had developed as The Provincial Coordinator of BC Literacy Council of The International Reading Association (BCLCIRA) became Inquire2Empower  CarrieFroese.wordpress.com Initially I started it when I became Provincial Coordinator, of The BC Literacy Council. The purpose was to create community with literacy educators who were International Reading Association members. It is now emerging into a tool not only to provide information, but also to engage a wide range of educators in asking questions and reflecting on learning. It put the onus on me to engage in regular reflective process about my reading, writing, perspectives, conversations and invite feedback.   It was empowering to have Art Markham responding to my comments on his book and learning about creating “unanticipated community”. It’s interesting to learn which issues and ideas resonate with other people. How does this inform the professional offerings we offer through BCLCIRA and PDK in Vancouver?

My Hobbit travel journal came to with me on my first 6 week trek to Europe when I was 17 years old. It is filled with descriptions of what we ate and drank. Some things don’t change. My seriousindulgences.wordpress.com blog reflects that enduring fascination with food and drink. Entries come naturally and much of the writing has been done at Kit’s pool between laps, on the beach, in hotel rooms or in cafes. It has really pushed the development of my technical knowledge about digital media: Format; mobile posting to Facebook; Posting to Pages as opposed to timelines; Twitter; Instacollage; Pinterest… Because I like to travel, eat out and go wine tasting, posts are frequent. This lends itself to considering timing and frequency of posts to reach a vaguely defined audience. So much to learn about the how to’s and why’s and really’s?

I have been on the board of directors for Promoting a Culture of Peace for Children Society of British Columbia www.wartoystopeaceart.com for many years. Susan Ruzic, Sandy Murray and myself set up a blog cultureofpeace4kids.wordpress.com site last year. Our intention was to create a dynamic site that allows multiple people to post projects and publicize funding for peace art projects with children.   My summer goal has been to develop a standard for posts that will invite active participation to report projects funded by PC2 (Promoting a Culture of Peace for Children), keep our eyes open for ideas for other possible projects and perhaps attract funding.   Although this site has the least activity, it does open the possibility of redefining how the board functions and invites participation from others in a noble causeJ

As my holidays come to a close, I feel energized by my summer learning. Although blogging is defined as public due to the nature of the audience, the actual writing and subsequent growth is extremely personal. This spring, Virginia and I were trying to teach our students to apply and develop their writing skills and critical thinking skills. That is just what I did as I carved out time for regular reflective practice, wrote for a larger audience and broadened my perspective on the possibilities of social media. The PDK professional development with Chris Kennedy and crew, the journey of literacy practitioners to expand the definition of literacy, the quest of neuroscientists working with educators to bring new understanding of learning, all came together for some very powerful personal professional development.

On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

My buddy, Armando, was a great fan of Stephen King in high school.  Uttering the name, Cujo, became a tool to freak each other out walking home from the bus stop late at night or in expansive yards in Kerrisdale during late night parties.  Of course, the movie version of my namesake, Carrie, taught me the power of standing poker straight, the unblinking stare and clearly enunciating “No”.   Even the most drunk frat rat or persistent “bad choice” date responded with the intended outcome. Although my older sister digested horror books en mass, I never did.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this book.

Stephen King is a prolific writer who has been able to translate that to market success. My assumption was that his goal as a writer was mass market success.  His book On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft reveals this is not the case. His writing has been a way to live his life, starting from a very young age.   Life granted him both the ultimate highs and ultimate lows that he negotiated through his writing.  He says that he doesn’t even remember writing Cujo because it was in the midst of a dark time when he was drinking heavily.  Perhaps it was the darkness that made the book so haunting!

His writing has strong voice, a direct style and an honesty and openness that I admire.   His advice to aspiring writers:  Make the time to read widely and write widely.  He reads because he likes to read.  He reads fiction because he likes stories.  The learning comes from both the good and the bad books.  “One learns most clearly what not to do from bad prose… Good writing on the other hand, teaches the learning writer about style, graceful narration, plot development, the creation of believable characters, and truth telling. “(p.146)

King is a disciplined writer and he rarely skips a day.  He is not a believer in mapping out the plot and then developing his story. He begins with the situation and flat, unfeatured characters.  Once that is firmly in his mind, he begins to narrate.  He emphasizes:  “Description is what makes the reader a sensory participant in the story…Reading will help you answer how much and only reams of writing will help you with the how.”(p.173)

His book also includes a few pieces of advice that were given to him along the way.

by John Gould, editor of The Lisbon’s weekly newspaper where he had his first job:  “When you write the story, you’re telling yourself the story. he said.  When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all of the things that are not the story.” (p.57)

in a rejection letter in spring of his Senior high year: machine generated signature of editor  :“Not bad, but PUFFY.  You need to revise for length.  Formula:  2nd draft = 1st draft-10%.  Good luck.”

This book taught me so much that I can use in the teaching of writing and in my own writing.  I’m so glad it fell into my hands.  I highly recommend it.

 

Blogging for Thinking…The next step

Virginia and I are continuing our inquiry project with our students, two groups of students in district gifted programs.  This is the Kidpost entry given to our students to allow us to be very specific about the learning intentions of our blogging project.

Blogging for Thinking

Technology is a tool just like a pencil or pen. We are using blogging as tool for two reasons. Kidblog allows your teacher to adjust the security settings so only your classmates, parents and teachers can read and respond to your blog. It allows you to creatively personalize your space and learn about blogging before you start posting in a public space. Blogging is also one way to develop and extend your thinking through writing by reflecting on your learning in and out of the classroom. Because you are not able to use your facial expressions or other body language to communicate, your words must clearly express your ideas. You also have the task of using your creativity and language to grab the interest of your audience.

Throughout your learning, we are using the following questions from Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser (Spirals of Learning 2013) to keep us moving forward.

  1. What am I learning?
  2. Why does it matter?
  3. Where am I going next with my learning?

We will be using the following a rubric based on the article “Responding to the imperatives of learning in the 21st Century” (The Critical Thinking Consortium, 2011) to evaluate your progress.

1. Developing Self-regulated learning:  The goal is for you to be able to say: “I am in charge of my learning and motivated to carry out my work in personally responsible, self-reflective ways and to exercise reasoned judgment to meet my goals”.

Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4
I depend on others for almost alldecisions about what,

how and when I learn; I follow the teacher’s directions but I don’t add my own thoughts, ideas or interpretations.

 

I demonstrate personalresponsibility to take charge of what, how and when I learn but I need the teacher to provide specific options to choose from. I exercise thoughtfullyinformed judgments in the pursuit of agreed-upon targets and self assess my work according to teacher provided rubrics.. I put a lot of thought and planning into setting goals and a plan to reach them.   I self evaluate how my learning is going and where I want to go next.

 

2. Developing my Thinking Skills: The goal is to develop your critical thinking skills. The word “critical” does not mean finding fault in this case. It means that you are not just “parroting back” information, but demonstrating proficiency by making connections, analyzing evidence, and making judgments.

Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4
I report back what I heard, did, or read during class or out of school learning experiences. I report back what I heard, did, or read. I make connections between my learning experiences at school or home. I consistently describe my learning and express why my learning matters. I understand where I am going next with my learning and come up with an efficient and effective plan of action. I understand the value of my learning and where I want to go next with my learning.   My plan, conclusions & opinions are based on careful analysis of my experiences and a variety of evidence.

 

 

 

 

“Blogging” For Thinking

I have the great pleasure of working with Virginia Bowden at Tecumseh this year.  Through her work with students participating in The District Gifted/Enrichment Seminars and my role as Computer prep teacher with the District MACC students, we have arrived at convergent inquiry interests.  Thanks to the mentoring of Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser – through both Vancouver sessions and their book, Spirals of Inquiry, we are making our way along the path toward framing our inquiry question.  When we first sat down to scan what was going on for our kids and the experiences we were providing, we came up with some similar experiences and perceptions.

Both of us were exploring how technology could be used to not just replicate tasks done offline but help students to apply their background knowledge, make connections and actually deepen student thinking and reflection.  Yes, and spark their interests, passions, and develop writing skills!  Providing the assignment or conveying information through interest focused blogs (ie. http://tecumsehcomputerwhiz.wordpress.com/)  became very teacher focused and invited conversational (chat-like) responses and comments not doing much more than scratching the surface.  Our hunch was that blogging could be a way to allow students to go deeper by pushing their thinking – either in reflective responses or the ability to engage their audience in their writing.  The quest is to discover the route.

I’m wondering about how student choice over the theme of their blog will impact the investment in creating thoughtful blog posts?  Virginia is thinking a lot about how much class time is required for students to be able to reflect on their day in a way that pushes them to use their higher order thinking skills?  Both of us wonder how thoughtful comments from peers can extend thinking?

In order to teach students about blogging in a somewhat protected environment, Virginia started using Kidblog.  We both now have our groups set up in classes so students can write their own blog posts and invited comments from classmates without it having to be moderated by the teacher or necessitate use of pseudonyms.  We’re also exploring the privileges that are extended to parents and guests.  Virginia is focusing on daily reflections of learning throughout the day.  I am focusing on developing student voice and ability to engage their target audience into blogs that reflect their own interests.  We’re both still considering where we are going with our learning and what our students need from us to use technology to extend their thinking in thoughtful ways..