Saturday, June 28, 2014

Canada Day Blog Celebration

Happy summer, everyone! School finally ended yesterday for me, and Canada Day is right around the corner. I'm participating in a Canada Day blog hop full of tips, freebies and best wishes to our Canadian teaching colleagues for a fabulous summer!

What's more Canadian than giving? 

I'm giving you a brand new freebie which I created for a grade-wide cross curricular project this year that shows off Canada's charitable side. To keep this blog post from becoming overly long, I'll sum up by saying that we had a fund-raising initiative, and part of that was chosing to whom we wanted to donate the funds that we raised. Our grade 8 team decided to use Kiva, which is an organization that provides micro-loans to people around the world striving to help themselves as well as to build up their communities.  I came up with the idea of a town hall meeting, so we had a series of "presenters" in class pitch their point of view and we followed it up by a class discussion (which took the form of a question and answer period) and then a vote.

I've got a graphic organizer that my students used to take notes to prepare them for the presentations. The one page recording sheet has three separate versions:
  • English
  • French with instructions still in English
  • fully French version for immersion or francophone classes to use 

Included with that download, I've also identified the Ontario Language curriculum expectations and the French language expectations (specifically for the 2013 Curriculum document with a focus on Grade 8, but it can easily work for other grade levels too.) What's missing ... please don't judge too harshly! It's a freebie and I'm exhausted from just finishing this year!... is any reference to Geography expectations, even though there definitely ARE some that tie in. The cross curricular project I mentioned had a focus on the second unit of the new Social Studies curriculum for grade 8 as well, but was assessed in a variety of ways, so I didn't bother pointing anything out in this aspect of the project. You can read a little more about it here.

In the true spirit of giving, I'm leaving it fully editable as a Word document for you, so that you can customize it as you see fit. There's also a PDF version just in case you have any formatting issues, so you can see what it should look like to help you to rearrange your layout if necessary.
Happy Canada Day from Teaching FSL Joyeuse FĂȘte Nationale du Canada

Happy Canada Day everyone! Be sure to check out the other blog posts below for more wonderful sharing & be sure to take a look at the sales we've also offered in our TPT stores over the next couple of days!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Include Student Input in Groups for Literature Circles: Another Bright Idea!

When forming student groups for literature circles, I KNOW you already keep student reading levels in mind, as well as considering what you know about who works best with whom, and varying student groups so that your kiddos have a chance to work with new friends throughout the year.

(Thanks to Jessica for the use of her digital background)

I think it's nice to consider student preferences too. Since I teach middle school, doing the "book walk" where students check over the cover, skim through and have a chance to chat about what they see inevitably results in the same groups of friends selecting the same book.

Instead, I took a different approach. I put together a one page student survey based on the books that I had available to offer for literature circles. (I haven't included a copy here because yours needs to be custom to the books you have to offer.)

It included pictures of the books' covers for students to rate as highest interest to lowest interest, as well as rating scales for genres, themes, general two-five word summaries of the plots, and a self-assessment area for students to comment on their own reading levels & abilities.

What I loved about this idea was that it still provided me with lots of flexibility in grouping students, and I truly ended up with groupings that I never would have created on my own without the students' input in this way.

I hope you liked this month's Bright Idea! If you enjoyed it, please consider following my blog, or joining me on Pinterest or Twitter for further sharing & collaboration.

For more exciting and practical bright ideas from over 100 different edubloggers, please browse through the link-up below and choose a topic/grade level that interests you. Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Co-Hosting Notice & Note: Part 5

This week I'm co-hosting the Notice & Note book study along with Meg of The Teacher Studio. We split two topics... she's looking at text complexity and I'm dealing with the question "Are we creating Lifelong Learners?"

To me, this was a simple one. The answer to most of the discussion questions at the end of this section (i.e. do you talk frequently with your students about being a lifelong learner, and describe yourself in those terms? Do we help students to value the right to an education and do they enjoy it?) was a resounding "YES!"

Differentiated instruction, teaching through inquiry, modeling curiosity, and letting the students teach ME about things they are interested in (parkour, anyone?  professional gaming competitions?) are just a few of the ways I try to foster lifelong learning with my students.  Gosh, I sure HOPE I'm successful at that, with most of them.

There were a few words that disturbed me... (page 63) - "As a nation - perhaps not in your individual school or your own classroom - we have a long way to go in reaching that goal."

What do you think we could do, beyond our own classroom walls, to make a positive difference to the way adults around us... our fellow citizens!... look at lifelong learning?  It's really not "just too late" for them, is it?  Feel free to comment below, or on any of the other blog posts about this section of the book.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Notice & Note Book Club - Section 1

Welcome to the first part of our online Notice & Note Book Club!  

I was really anxious to share some reflections with teacher colleagues in this manner this summer. Sadly I couldn't round up enough French teacher bloggers who might like to share ideas about specific reading material (I know you're out there!  Please contact me if you're up for something like this in the future!) However, language teachers ARE literacy teachers, and I'm excited to be involved with this initiative led by Melissa at Dilly Dabbles.

2014 Notice and Note Book Study
I want to share a few thoughts that struck me in the first part of this resource.

The authors shared that they wrote the book because they saw "too many readers who finish and ... seem not to have noticed anything, responded to anything, been touched or troubled or amused by anything."  This resonated with me, as I taught a novel study in class last year and had students tell me "I understand the words, but it doesn't MEAN anything to me." I really wasn't sure how to respond at the time. How could this be, I wondered. My students were not low, academically, but they didn't really seem to be able to make meaning for themselves when reading in their second language.  I was working hard to try to encourage students to use various reading strategies, but in the end, it just didn't seem to be enough.

In the introduction, Beers and Probst talk about "the signposts" and I see on the inside cover flap a handy guide related to them, but what I'm still wondering at this point is whether this is a well known term that's just new to me, or if it's strictly related to close reading... or to this resource in particular. I'm sure that will become clearer as I progress through the book.

Is Reading Still Reading?

I think that it CAN be, but isn't always. Skimming isn't reading. Scanning isn't reading. Surfing isn't reading and scrolling through a Twitter feed or blog roll isn't reading... but they can lead to reading.

What's the Role of Fiction?

I think we as teachers "get" the recent push for students to understand nonfiction texts in various forms, and yet I still feel fiction is more likely to touch students' hearts and to get them excited.  So I was pleased to read the quote from Beers that "nonfiction lets us learn more; fiction lets us BE more". Being exposed to great literature makes us better able to interact with others in our own lives, the book asserts. 

I was also pleased to feel like I was given permission by Notice & Note to actually teach a novel... even though the educational trend here in Ontario (Canada) seems to be moving far away from that, in favour of Book Talks, Clubs, lit circles and the like.

How do you prefer to use novels in your classroom?  I'm especially dying to hear from other FI teachers. Be sure to take a look at what my edublog friends had to say about this first section too. And remember, it's not too late to join us by commenting on any blog post that appeals to you!

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