Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Great resource for teaching poetry!

Last week I visited my mentor teacher's grade six class and met the students in his class for the first time! When I saw the kids and how smiley and awesome they were, I just got so excited and eager to start planning lessons for my practicum. The count down begins! 4 weeks until my first day :) I'm planning to visit the class one or two times a week once spring breaks is over (it's two weeks in our district) so that I can get a head start on getting to know the students.

When my mentor teacher and I discussed what subjects I should teach, we both agreed that poetry would be a good unit to work on. It also ties into a language arts assignment I have in once of my courses at the university, which requires me to create a unit consisting of three lessen with a writing, reading, and oral language focus in each lesson. In order to start planning, I've been reading through an amazing book which my professor has recommended to me. I'd like to share this highly practical resource with you, which I feel would benefit both new and experienced teachers.

The book is called Awakening the Heart: Exploring Poetry in Elementary and Middle School by poet Georgia Heard. I'm sure many of you have heard of it, since it seems to be a quite famous book in the field of education. The book is divided into chapters which explore how to effectively teach different elements of poetry, such as "Making a Poetry Environment", "Reading Poetry", "Writing Poetry", "Crafting Poetry", and "Sharpening Our Outer and Inner Visions". I found that many of the ideas mentioned are easily adaptable to many of the grade levels in both elementary and middle school settings. What I really like about this book is its focus on teaching in a way that helps students open their hearts and develop personal relationships with the world they live in through poetry.

Here are some of the ideas that stood out for me:

  • The Heart Map

This is my favourite! Children start by each drawing a shape of a heart, and inside it illustrate important memories and things that they care deeply about. This activity is a great tool to help children develop ideas on different topics they can write on. An example of a heart map can be seen on the cover of the book. 

  • The Living Anthology Project

Students post poems in various areas of the school to create a learning environment where poetry becomes part of their daily lives, and hence more accessible. The students try to choose poems which relate to the specific location where it will be posted. (i.e. A poem about water, or waiting, would be posted beside the water fountain. )

  • Poems on Desks

As a way to introduce middle school students to poetry, the teacher tapes poems to the students desks while the students are out for lunch or recess. When the students come in, they are encouraged to silently walk around the class to read the poems on the desks and to sit down at a desk that has a poem which they like or are able to relate to.

*As an extension to this activity, I thought that it would be a good idea to have two or three copies of the same poem taped on different desks, so that once everyone has sat down the students who choose the same poem can get together and discuss their thoughts afterwards.

  • Six-room Image-poem

Students are instructed to take out a blank sheet of paper, and divide it into six squares. These squares will be labelled into the following categories: Image, Light, Sound, Questions, Feelings, Repeating Word(s). Students are encouraged to close their eyes, and visualize an image or a particular memory and write down the words you come up to describe each category. The author further notes that the number of these boxes can be adjusted according to the grade level. Moreover, she also states that students can rearrange or substitute the labels with other categories such as smell, voice, touch, ...etc

Needless to say, I've almost finished reading the book and it's FULL of post-its all over! I'm so excited to use some of the ideas for my poetry unit!

Thursday, March 08, 2012

One Lovely Blog Award!

I'm so excited to write that I've received my very first blog award! Emmy from Daydreams of a Student Teacher has given me the One Lovely Blog Award! Thank you so much! That just made my day :)

So the rules are the following:

1. Link back to the blog that gave you this cute award.

2. Pass this award to 15 other lovely bloggers.
(I cheated...only got to 10 people.)

3. Follow the person who sent it to you.
Already following.

So here are the blogs that I've found really helpful and very lovely :D
Just click on the buttons and they will link you to their blogs.

In no particular order...

1. Mrs. McKown from Little Literacy Learners

Little Literacy Learners

2. Amy from The Crazy Adventures of a University Grad

The Crazy Adventures of a University Grad

3. Abby from The Inspired Apple

4. Angela from Just Love Teaching

5. Hadar from Miss Kindergarten

6. Lesson Plan SOS

7. Kim from Finding JOY in 6th Grade

joyin6th Homepage

8. Rachelle & Natalie from What the Teacher Wants!


9. Miss Klohn from Adventures of a 6th Grade Teacher

Adventures of a 6th Grade Teacher

10. Jen from Runde's Room

Thanks everyone for reading!

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Kindergarten Creative Dance Unit and Practicum Placement!

On Tuesday we finished teaching the last lesson of a creative dance unit in PE with a team of three student teachers.  We went to a Kindergarten class at Braefoot Elementary School four times in February to teach a dance which we choreographed to the song "You've Got a Friend in me" from the movie "Toy Story" based on the theme of friendship. The main focus of these lessons was to teach the children how to gallop, and to encourage them different ways to use their bodies to represent friendship while imagining that they are cowboys or cowgirls. This also tied into the rest of the curriculum, since the classroom teacher had initially told us that the students had been working on a friendship unit, and therefore had background knowledge to build on.

On the last day, when we were setting up in the gym during lunch recess, three students came up to us and told us how they had been practicing their moves at home, and spontaneously started galloping across the stage over and over again! They seemed so excited about the new skill they had gained, and were extending their learning outside of the four walls of the classroom. The goose bumps I get at these moments are what make me truly know that I had chosen the right career path.

We mostly taught the lessons by starting off with some yoga to get the students calm and focused. This, by the way, seems to be an excellent activity to start off the day as part of a morning routine. Last week, when I worked as an assistant in a grade one class, I was simply amazed by the calming affect this simple routine had on the children. Moreover, when the yoga music started, every child new exactly what pose to do in what order. Not to mention how adorable it was to watch!

Anyway, back to the dance lesson. Afterwards we would get them to gallop in lines across the gym and then into open spaces. As a majority of the dance was based on partner work, we had to figure out a simple way to help the children understand who would gallop first, and who would go next, while the other partner stayed frozen in their pose. We decided that the easiest way to show this to the Kindies was to create name tags of with different colours, and call out cues on which colour needs to be galloping at the given times. This also worked out well since we wrote down the lyrics of the song onto a large sheet of paper to show the relationship between the different movements and the colours of their name tags. Even though Kindies would not be able to fully read the lyrics, they would still be able to see from the chart that red goes first, then blue...etc The sections where the partners would move at the same time was written in purple, as red and blue makes purple!

At the end of our last lesson, we divided the class into two groups so that one group would be the audience while the other group performed the dance. The audience group was told that their job while watching their friends was to pick one thing they liked about the performance. I was SO impressed by the feedback the Kindies gave to each other! One child said that he liked how another student had stayed in character as a cowboy while galloping across the gym. Another child praised another pair of students for how well they were able to display their friendship in creative ways. I guess I had underestimated the Kindies a little bit!

Since there were many groups of us student teachers going Braefoot Elementary to teach different creative dance lessons, our professor had planned an assembly on Wednesday so that the children could perform the dance in front of the school and their parents. It was also going to give us a chance to see what the other trios had been working on, which I was quite excited about. Unfortunately, this won't be happening this week, and may be cancelled as a result of the teacher's strike happening in BC right now. Hopefully the assembly will be rescheduled.

On another note, my three week practicum placement has finally been confirmed!!!! As I had requested earlier to the university, I will be teaching a grade six class at Gordon Head Middle School in April. I'm so excited, since I worked at this school last year as an educational assistant and I had the most amazing experience! Bother the staff and the students were amazing, and I grew so much during that year. I'm planning to go visit the school soon so that I can start learning names and planning lessons :D

Wish me luck!