Friday, February 03, 2006

The River vs Stone Fox

It’s funny, all semester I had this excellent book about survival sitting in my room while I have been planning a Novel study based on survival stories and I can't use it. For my practicum I am using the stories Stone Fox, My Side of the Mountain and Our Plane is down in a literature Circle. I spent quite a bit of time at the DRC in mid January trying to find book about the wilderness etc that would fit the very complex reading levels of my class, my grade 5s read at a grade 2 level and my grade 4s range from high grade 3 to mid grade 6! Unfortunately The River just didn't seem to fit into my plan which is a shame because the story fits so well into my integrated units for Socials that covers the Native relationship with nature, living off the land. One neat thing though is that my CT has been aware of my unit since December and using her Scholastic points ordered a bunch of free books to use as prizes or give away during my practicum and she choose to get Hatchet and the River because of their relevance to the other books. I hope that the winners can appreciate the books. As it is I plan to use my Lit Circles to give the students a chance to discuss not only their impressions of the stories. I am hoping that they may be able to engage in discussions about how they would act if they were the protagonists of the story. I think it would be fun to listen to their thoughts on what the characters should do and then see their reactions after they read on to find out. One of the activities that I have prepared is a "Peek at Setting" graphic organizer that a teacher friend of mine shared with me. Before reading the story you give them a lost in the wilderness situation and ask them to design a camp or shelter. Then after reading the story the students make a tent out of construction paper and inside they make a diorama of a main location from the story. A follow up to this activity is to have the students either discuss or write in a journal the differences and similarity between their tactics and the main characters. .

Friday, January 27, 2006

Why not French?

Looking through the few remaining books from my childhood I found a few copies of the adventures of asterix & Obelix. These books are just plain fun. They follow the adventures of two Gaul warriors as they try to thwart the Roman soldiers. Most of the books I read were in French back in the days when I could actually speak my mother tongue, but there are some available in English as well as a companion movie (Sorry Cathy). The reading levels of these books vary but the illustrations are so vivid and descriptive that most children would be able to follow the story despite language differences. So why not include books that are written in a different language? If your students can still find pleasure in going through them then they have served their purpose and who knows maybe they may pick up a few new words.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Equity vs. Equality

I found the topic of our last class to be very interesting. I honestly have never really thought about the differences between the two concepts before. I had always intended to use Equality as a guiding theme in my future classrooms. However, while my previous understanding of the term equality did include equity to some extent I never truly understood what it meant. I carried these thoughts over when I was selecting my articles for Lantana's assignment and found a paper that examines inclusive classrooms in the states. The paper took a very negative view on inclusion from both a teacher and a main stream students P.O.V. Many of the teaching involved in the study were against a modified curriculum based on the fact that it require took much of their time to implement, or because it went against their policy of Equal treatment for all students. The students involved in the study also shared a negative view on inclusion because they saw a modified program as unfair to them. "Why do we have to do all the assignment and they only have to do half?"
After the discussions that we had last class and based on our learning throughout the program I think that those people involved in the study were just lacking a proper understanding of what inclusion should be. It is not intended to be equal because it is impossible to get the same result from everyone using the same process. One positive message that was portrayed by the article was that when students and educators were made aware of the reasons certain modifications were being implemented, people gained a more positive opinion towards inclusion.
Education is key. When we go off to teach we need to remember the differences between equality and equity and make sure that our students do as well.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Mina's Spring of Colours

What a good story! I finished reading the book last Monday and have been trying to decide if it would be possible to have a Holi party in my school. What an interesting celebration. The book itself was great, very easy to read and just plain fun. I enjoyed reading about Mina's internal battle with her feelings towards her Grandfather and other classmates. Impressions and self images play such a huge role in adolescent life. We build up these invisible walls of opinions that are designed to protect our personal vision of the world around us. It was interesting to see Mina breaking down her walls and allowing herself to see those around her in a different light. Her relationship with her Nanaji was rebuilt and those classmates who were once hated enemies became new friends. This book is filled with moral lessons that every child can easily relate to despite their cultural background.
I can definitely see myself using this book in one of my future classrooms.

Read Alouds

Last Thursday was my turn to read aloud to my group. The book that I choose to read is called "Wolf Brother" by Michelle Paver. It is a great book, very vivid descriptions and right from the start it captures your imagination. I've had a hard time putting it down these last few days in order to do work.
I have done quite a few read alouds with my classes and feel that I did a good job with them but I never really feel all too comfortable doing it with my peers. I find that my desire to animate the voices is hindered and I simply read. I did try to use the tone of my voice to instill a feeling of apprehension to parallel the story but again I don't feel that I was as effective as I would have been with my students. Unfortunately I did not really go into any build up for the story, I was not happy with our location, there were other groups in the room creating a loud atmosphere and I did not want to have to talk above them in case I disturbed their reading. I just wanted to get it done.
It's a shame too because there is so much that can be discussed before beginning this story. Many of the grade 4/5 curriculum can be touched on in this book and I plan to use it in my class next month. I plan to use it as a read aloud while my novel study groups read "My Side of the Mountain", "Stone Fox" and "Our Plane is Down". The survival in the wilderness theme will hopefully make the activities that I am planning fun and educational as well as inspire some good group discussions.

My Memories of literature

As hectic as it was (The hockey game was about to start) the trip to the library was great! As I was walking through the isles I kept coming across some of my old favorite books. The one that really jarred my memory was "My Side of the Mountain" by Jean Craighead George. I remember reading this book when I was in grade 4 living in Northern Alberta. This book was a symbol of my childhood at the time. Every summer my family would live in our trailer on the local golf course and I would spend my days in the adjacent Forrest exploring. When I read this book I was really able to relate to Sam's adventures in the Castskill Mountains. Every morning when I set out into the woods I would imagine that I was Sam and search for a tree to carve a home out of.
For me reading was better than TV, I don't remember having been read to but I do remember wanting to be the reader. During my last practicum I was excited to see this same attitude in a large number of my students. Knowing that my students are avid readers as well has made me excited about my LA units which will encourage me to make them as fun possible.

Back to the Blog

Well another term another medium for group reflection. I must admit that I was starting to get into the blog thing last term and I am looking forward to this one since I love books. One thing that I am really looking forward to getting out of this group literature discussion is a list of everyone's favorite books that I can take with me into my teaching career.
I was visiting my CT the other day and as we were discussing novel studies and accompanying activities she gave me "The List" which is a regularly updated book that contains 100s of leveled books that can be used in the classroom. Early next week I plan to scan this book and make it available to everyone via TeacherTome. Another teacher in my school is also going to give me a resource book filled with graphic organizers to be used with Novel Studies and literature circles that I will share with all of you as soon as I can.
Happy reading and I'm looking forward to reading all or your blogs.