Sunday, May 26, 2013

Celebrating Reading!

Bonnie, Scott Cooper & Donna White

For the past couple of years, our school has been involved in reading books that have been picked by Ontario Library Association (OLA).  Our volunteer extraordinaire, Donna White, ensures that our school purchases the books that have been nominated for the school year.  Thanks to parent council and a supportive principal every class has a selection of new books to read.

Students read the books that are selected for their age group, track their reading and respond to the text in a variety of ways. Donna visits each classroom to conference one on one with each student about the book they've read. She collects their comments and will post them on our bulletin board.  In May, our students have an opportunity to vote for their favourite Canadian book. We compare our selection of winners with "The Forest of Reading Award Program" and announce our results, along with OLA choices at our year end celebration.

This year, Donna organized our celebration for the entire school with guests from the Public Library. Bonnie took time to announce the summer programs at the library but most importantly made the announcement of the book winners that we've been anxiously waiting for. Scott works at the library but he is also a musician! He performed songs he wrote for some of the books nominated and entertained us with his music. Our students love him! We ended our celebration day with a treat.

We had fun!  And most to read at our school!

How do you celebrate reading at your school?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Inquiry-based teaching is not daunting. Just do it!

Pete (my partner in crime) wrote a great blog post on our website - Inquiry-based about our PKE project and our work with the inquiry approach to teaching and learning. I'm publishing it here, in the hopes that followers of this blog will also follow our work on our website. Enjoy!

 Some of the constant comments we hear after a workshop are that the teachers love the techniques, can't believe how engaged their kids were, and how motivated the students were to complete the explorations.  Unfortunately, close on the heels of these positive comments is a tepid suggestion that 'maybe I'll try it next year when I have more time'.  The truth is, it's not difficult to make the change from a coverage approach to an inquiry approach. 

Start off small.  Think of some really neat topic in your curriculum that you enjoy teaching.  Ask your class to create a list of questions that they have always wondered about the topic, or ask them to create a mind-map of ideas or questions they associate with the topic.  Then, ask them to think of ways you might explore together.  You, the teacher, will be learning along with them.  (As an aside, I can honestly say that in my classroom we have now tipped the balance:  the students end up teaching me more than I teach them on new explorations.  After all, there are 27 of them researching and writing, and only one of me.) 

Gather some simple materials to get started.  Show a few videos, read a few books together, or take a field trip to build some excitement and background knowledge.  This gives you lots of time to determine what mini-lessons you might want to include (we are responsible for a curriculum, after all).  Now the real fun begins.

Set up some teams or groups in your room and give them fun names.  Mix and match like crazy and don't worry about setting up just the right combination.  The students will all bring something to the table that is going to build a satisfying whole.  Create a rotation of activities that the group can rotate through and make sure of one vitally important element:  every group presents their work to the class.  The students will feel the excitement of preparing to teach their peers and rise to the challenge, I guarantee it.  They may stumble and hesitate, but end result will be that their work has an audience, is appreciated, and is the stepping stone for greater success down the line. 

See, it's not that hard.  Get started today!

Pete Douglas