Monthly Archives: November 2012

Teaching for the Real World

A part of the Grade 9 “Digital Citizenship” unit was an anti-bullying project. It’s probably easiest to explain it to you the way we {co-teacher Tamara and I} explained it to them:

“As an anti-bullying campaign, prepare a presentation for Grade 5 students that outlines what bullying is, how they can prevent it, and what to do if they witness someone being bullied.”

Students spent seven days researching, tweeting, blogging, writing, practicing skits, and making videos. {I’ll be honest. Most students spent seven days working on those things. Some students spent seven days pretending to do those things, but actually doing sweet little. And they are so shocked when I’m not impressed that they made half a poster!} A few days before presentation day, CBC happened to be in the building for a media event, also to do with anti-bullying, and caught wind of what we were doing. A reporter asked if she could interview me, to which I said yes. When she found out more about the project, she asked if she could come back to do a story on it. Result:

CBC news story!

Part of the reason Tamara and I decided to have our students present their anti-bullying units to Grade 5 students was so that the assignment would have a real audience – it wasn’t an assignment for the sake of an assignment that would likely end up in the recycle bin, it was a real presentation for other students. If you didn’t get the assignment done on time, it didn’t mean the teacher took off late marks, it meant 54 Grade 5 students were staring at you with question in their eyes. If you did a poor job of the assignment, it didn’t mean the teacher was disappointed in you {which you may or may not care about}, it meant those Grade 5 students were bored/confused/disappointed, and that matters a lot more than any frowny face I could ever make. And when CBC news cameras were there,  it changed from an audience of Grade 5’s to an audience that included parents and grandparents and friends and random strangers. If that doesn’t motivate students to do their best, I don’t know what will. And the students really did exhibit some great work. In fact, at the end when we played some music and got the students to sign the ‘Stand Up to Bullying’ sheets, and our Grade 9’s were mingling and chatting with Grade 5’s, and some of the Grade 5 students were being interviewed by CBC and saying how great the presentation was, I got a bit teary eyed. It was then I realized this wasn’t just a real audience/real world connection for the students, it was for me too.

Sometimes, I forget why I teach. I get bogged down in reports and marking and holding students accountable and redirecting them and chasing them and planning and doing it all over again. It gets frustrating. It feels like no one is listening. It feels like no one is learning. It feels like I’m out there doing the teaching equivalent of Italian fouettes and no one notices. So when CBC was interested and excited about what was going on in my classroom, I felt really encouraged. Grade 5’s learn what to do about bullying, Grade 9’s learn about presenting and deadlines, and I learn that what I does matters. Win-win-win.

A Few Updates

I should start by letting you know how the Grade 10 presentations went. I think it was great. Not because they all did an amazing job, but because they all learned something.

Most of the presentations were adequate. They made a Prezi or Animoto, as they had been instructed to. {One group did end up using PowerPoint, as they had been instructed not to do. But it didn’t go very well for them, and they afterwards acknowledged that they liked the other student’s Prezi and Animoto presentations better.} They knew the basics of their subject. They had a few pictures. It was average.

There was one really amazing presentation. He was articulate, he knew his subject inside and out, he presented the information in his own words, he was confident, made eye contact, and answered all the questions he was asked. The really amazing part was not that my teaching partner and I noticed all of this, it was that the students noticed all of this. When all the presentations were over, I made a three column chart on the board: excellent, average, and developing. We talked about what separates an average presentation from an excellent one and one that is still developing.

The students nailed it. We talked about the excellent presentation we saw, and what made it that way. The student with the excellent presentation even talked about how he got there – he used more than one source when researching, he learned the information rather than just copy/pasting, and he practiced. It was a great moment, because the students really listened to what their peer had to say and they saw the payoff of his hard work.

We’ve since started a novel study. I’m trying something new with it, and gave out these contracts.

Novel study contract

I told the students it’s legally binding.

They are reading: The Hobbit, Miracle in the Andes, The Hunger Games, The Chrysalids, and Dracula. Not all of those. They got to choose. I’m reading all of those.

In Grade 9, we are continuing on with our “Digital Citizenship” unit, which I think I will eventually post as its own page. The other day, we read this article:

“Your Brain on Computers” 

And this one.

“Trouble Sleeping?”

Keep in mind, this was after many lessons on educational uses of technology, and the point of reading these articles was not to condemn technology, but to raise student’s awareness of some issues surrounding technology. After reading the articles and discussing them, we talked about being too dependent on technology, or even addicted to it. We talked about spending a day “in the dark ages”, i.e. without their cell phones. They chose if they wanted to give up their phone for English class or for the whole day.  Result:

Some of them were getting sweaty and shaky and touching their pocket a lot. And the basket was flashing and vibrating. But they made 54% more eye contact with me. And that’s progress.