Thursday, 29 November 2012

Using Media in the Curriculum

Today we used a variety of on line videos to discuss three different areas of the curriculum.

An algebra joke! 
First...algebra! We used Khan Academy videos to discover 'what is algebra' (via a video happily titled "The Beauty of Algebra") and then we explored an example of a linear growth pattern translated into an algerbraic equation. We only needed to watch the first few minutes of these videos (we stopped after the simplest examples so as not to overly confuse ourselves) to get the idea that algebra is used to make a "generalization" (we also looked up what that word meant). The analogy I gave is that the letter (like 'x') holds the place of a number. It is like the understudy in a theater production...they stand in for the actor/number. Sometimes it stands in for  the answer...sometimes it stands in for any number you want to use in your calculation. Using algebraic equations with patterns helps us make predictions about the you can see if you watch the 2nd video!

By the way, Khan Academy is a great resource for review of math concepts. If there is ever an area of math that needs review at home, try searching for it at

Second...bullying (our health particular, the various roles in bullying and the impact of bullying on those individuals, plus strategies). Two days ago we studied a variety of PSA commercials about bullying and today we looked at two songs and their corresponding music videos to see what they had to say about bullying. The two songs were "Mean" by Taylor Swift and "Is Anybody Out There?" by K'Naan and Nelly Furtado. We looked at/listened to the lyrics and aimed to answer these questions:

What does each song say about particular, what does it say about those who bully, those who are being bullied and about the bystanders? Is the message aimed at one in particular?  What is the impact on each role from the episode of bullying? (in particular, interpreting media representations and judging their effectiveness). When looking at the music videos of "Mean" and "Is Anybody Out There?", we listed the various images that they used and determined the meaning behind them (ie: girl sitting alone in a park = sadness, loneliness). We evaulated how well those images conveyed the lyrics and discussed how effective or ineffective those images were. We also noticed the different portrayals between the two videos/songs: "Mean" has a positive outcome, presents a success story for the victim  and a resolved ending...while "Is Anybody Out There?" does not. Instead,  in that video, the character who is bullied remain alone...which emphasizes the importance of needing connection. We discovered that both videos had effective and ineffective aspects...and students did a great job arguing their point of view by using evidence from the text/media!

Monday, 19 November 2012

Gaming in Education

If you read my biography page, then you know I like to incorporate gaming into learning activities.

Two years ago I conducted a research project using Mario Kart in Gr. 2-5 literacy and numeracy tasks. I found that it increased engagement levels and also supported work outcomes, especially for boys. I documented both my results and my activities on a blog.

I also had the good fortune to be interviewed by CBC radio. Click here to hear my interview and more of my thoughts on game based learning.

Last year in Gr. 7/8 we used gaming as a foundation for writing persuasive essays. We will be doing the same in this class later in the year...

But in the meantime...we will be using games to collect data for our math lessons! Following in the footsteps of such teachers as Dawn Hallybone from the UK and Mark Cunningham from Scotland, we will be using games to collect data for lessons on Mean, Median and Mode.

Let the games begin!

PS. They have begun! Here we are, gathering our data...I swear, I never saw such enthusiasm for a math class before!

Monday, 12 November 2012

Writing Samples Sent Remembrance Day & Writing as Personal Experience

As mentioned in a previous post, a copy of student writing has been sent home for review and signature. This was their 'base line' assessment from September. They have since received specific feedback from me on how to improve those writing pieces so that they are better organized, more specific, easier for the reader to visualize and better convey a sense of drama, etc.

A copy of this revised piece will be sent home this week and I know you will see improvement in their writing! Students should be proud of their achievement.

There will be a third and final writing assignment (Personal Narrative) where students can further improve their current piece OR can apply skills learned to a new topic.

On a related note, as a tie in to Remembrance Day we took a break from our usual literacy program to take a look at two poems/lyrics: Flanders Fields by John Mcrae and A Pittance of Time by Terry Kelly.

Interestingly, both of these pieces were written by people responding to a personal experience. They were just 'ordinary people' who were moved by a moment and wanted to convey the moment to others. Thus, they started scribbling away on a piece of paper...from that evolved one of the most famous poems of all time, and a song.

This is how most writing starts: with a need to share an idea or an experience.

You'll notice both pieces are strong in mood/emotion. Both have strong images which are easy for the reader to visualize.  With the above pieces, we read the poems/lyrics and then answered the following questions:

  • What is the main idea/theme?
  • Choose 5 images you would use to convey the main idea of Flanders Fields in video form.
  • How effective was this video images in representing the song's lyrics?

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The Raven...Fun STUFF!

If you take a look at the proceeding blog post, you'll get an idea of what we did today! We had some fun creatively exploring Edgar Allen Poe's spooky and sad poem THE RAVEN.

To get started, as a whole class, we did a writing activity where we each wrote from the raven's point of view. It can really broaden one's experience of a narrative to play with point of view, to see the story from different view points. Several students shared what they wrote. Generally speaking, the raven was mystified as to why this guy was yelling at him and getting so upset! Or the raven was a bit of a trickster, goading the man, and wanting to make him upset. Or the raven was a minion of a deeper, darker purpose...BWAHAHAHAHAHA!

Then students broke into pairs and chose from the activities listed in the previous blog. I very much enjoyed the variety of short plays, the movie posters, the alternative endings, and the song!

You know you understand a piece of writing if you can re-interpret it in your own words and with your own style.

I thought I would list the song lyric here, it is just so fabulous! It was presented as part song, part rap.

raven flew in my window one day out of the blue
in the bleak december and this I just barely remember
but it spoke to me ya he spoke to me through demon eyes

never more never more 
raven landed on my door
I really need my dear Lenore
I can't take it anymore

but some things aren't what they seems
and this isn't in my dreams
dear Lenore dear Lenore I really need my sweet Lenore

And I said nevermore 
need you Lenore

raven flew in and landed at my door
I can't take this anymore and I really
want you here tonight

by CO, EJ and SB

Monday, 5 November 2012

Having FUN with The Raven

While reading The Raven, several students asked if they could 'act it out'...and someone else wanted to play around with 'what if' other words, alternate endings. This made me realize that we needed to have some creative fun with this poem! I am thus devoting one class to 'creative adaptations'...students can choose an option from the following list...or create their own, subject to teacher approval.

-perform the Raven as a 1 minute play
-write an alternate ending
-write it as a rap or song lyric
-write it from the Raven's point of view
-create a movie poster...who will star in it?
-draw it as a 4 scene comic

And we will share our creations with each other.

BTW here is the Simpson's version of The Raven

The TELL TALE HEART by Edgar Allen Poe

We will soon be reading The Tell Tale Heart, a story referenced in the class book we are reading (Skeleton Creek).

It is on youtube as an awesome audio play.

These are the youtube Tell Tale Heart videos we will watch & compare to the original text.

Modern Adaptation

Lego-mation Version


In Less than 2 Minutes

I love the creativity the creators of these videos have brought to their retelling of this classic tale!

I wonder which one captured the essence of the story the best? WHY? Justify your answer!
We will use these as a media activity in terms of the media curriculum expectation: "evaulating effectiveness of the presentation of ideas".

Lastly, did you know the writers of Sponge Bob Squarepants created a version of this as a TV episode, Squeaky Boots? We will look at the script! 
PS I have taken some EAP books out of the school library...graphic novels of his short stories! Check out our class library if you are interested in reading these!

THE RAVEN-A SUMMARY-whole class creation

The whole class created this today in literacy. We edited and improved our original sentences, adding more detail and more complex sentences to come up with this final result!

THE RAVEN: A summary

First, the narrator, who is feeling sadly over the loss of Lenore, suddenly hears a tapping at his cold, chamber door. He thinks it is just some visitor but no one is there.

Next, he hears a tap at his window and, scared of what he might find, opens it to find a raven flying in.

Then the man, who is greiving over Lenore, pleads with the Raven while the Raven taunts and torments him with the word Nevermore.

Finally, he begins to think the bird is a demon sent to torture him for the rest of his life about the loss of Lenore and he goes completely crazy. The bird never leaves.