Thursday, 2 July 2015

How is This for Homework?

This past year my sister was a first year teacher in a grade 2 class.  On the first few days, the students wondered when they would get "homework."  We talked about the need for homework for young students.  We looked at some of the current debate on the subject (here, here, here and here for a few).  We discussed the need for children to read daily with their parents, and maybe not just to practice reading but to be together.  We talked about "big projects" that are often sent home that take up great amounts of time for the family and cause undue stress on parents to afford materials and time to create an amazing product.  We talked about how these projects often become the parents' project and not the students'.  I gave the example of a bridge project in a grade 3/4 class.  The bridges that were returned for grading were amazing feats of engineering hardly completed by 8 and 9 year olds.  While these bridges were amazing and may have contributed to "family time", they were NOT projects solely completed by the students. Even so, these grades became part of the term grade for the student.  One little bridge that came in made of lined paper and glue and string was very obviously done by a youngster on her own.  This bridge received a poor grade and in reality was likely one of the only ones made by a student!  
Enough of my rant...

So the two of us came up with a plan to have "homework" as requested by the students and parents, but to make it authentic and useful.  So this is the list of homework we came up with:
1.Go on a nature walk with your family and collect 5 things to share on the 100s carpet.
2. Ask your parent for permission to write in a magazine and circle all the words you know.
3. Survey your parents about your name - where did your name come from? (to be used in class later).
4. Play a board game with your family.
5. Survey your family about their favorite drink.  Bring the information to school for graphing.
6. Count all the electrical sockets, light switches and lamps in your house.  Make a graph of the information.
7. Play outside with your family.
8. Find all of the things in your house that start with the letter A, B, C, etc.
9. List all of the people who live in your house and their ages.  Compare each of their ages to your age.  Who's age is greater than yours? Who's age is less than yours?
10. On your computer, go the American Art Gallery and use the collage maker to create your own masterpiece.
11. Write about yourself  as if your were introducing yourself to a stranger.
12. Take your word wall words home and make as many sentences as you can.
13. Make a grocery list and convince your parents why they should use your list.
14. Write down all the times you eat at home.  Compare the length of time between each time.
15. Sketch a tree in your yard.  Write five interesting things about that tree.
16. Write a letter to a grandparent or other favorite adult.
17. With a parent's help, make a dessert for your family.
18. Come up with an idea for a special day at school complete with activities for your classmates to complete.
19. Build a fort and read a story book in your fort.
20. Organize your toys into categories and count them.  Figure out which category has the most toys in it.  Why do you think this category has the greatest number?

This was a start.  What ideas would you come up with?

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

A Couple of Great "Wins" for the Year

This last week of school has revealed some great edu-wins for emergent literacy and students with significant disabilities.  I had some proud educator moments...

First of all, I was very excited to be invited to a school to begin planning for next year for their students in segregated classrooms with regard to emergent literacy.  We talked about having a common timetable so they could have fluid groupings in between classes.  I mean, we do this for our "regular" classes, so why not in these classrooms?  The idea was met with some enthusiasm and one quite reluctant teacher even joined in the conversation.  It was great to see these folks collaborating to ensure our most vulnerable students get to take part in the curriculum and have full access to the a literacy program! 

Then, I was so pleasantly surprised when I got to read some IPPs from another school.  Not only did they have excellent literacy goals (thank you Karen Erickson: to see IPP ideas, click on the link), but there were some good reviews with strategies and real life examples for individual students!  I definitely got all teary-eyed when there were NO behavior goals and ONLY literacy goals.  They had done some excellent work with the components of the program we had demonstrated. Now to spread the IPP word...

Finally, a group of us have been part of a Literacy for All community of practice, and as part of this program, we are planning a project to promote literacy for all in our district.  We landed on an Emergent Literacy 101 for administrators so they could learn what a good literacy program would look like in their contained classrooms.  Currently, administrators may know what to look for if they have worked with students with significant disabilities in their former teaching years, but many do not really know what to look for when observing these classrooms.  Our goal is to provide them with the tools to adequately observe programming for students in contained classrooms.  When this was presented to various principal groups, it was well received.  Principals were interested in acquiring these tools for their schools.  We can't wait to share with them!

One other bit of information-  A group of 5 consultants (including myself) are heading down to Camp ALEC in Michigan in August to learn even more about working with students with significant disabilities.  We look forward to bringing more ideas to share with teachers and administrators as we strive to see ALL students having access to a strong literacy program.  Can't wait to share my learning here as well.

What a way to end a school year!  I can't wait for schools to get back as we continue this work. 
Have a great summer everyone!