Last week I journeyed to Limestone DSB and visited Centreville Public School about 20 minutes north of Napanee (longer if you get lost). It was so much fun to visit this school and participate in their co-planning, co-teaching, co-debriefing morning. This was one of three hubs of teachers who are participating in their Learning Connections projects. This hub includes 5 teachers from 4 different schools in the area ranging from grades 3 to 5. Beyond their co-plan and co-teach days, they are also starting to plan a collaborative activity to connect their classrooms online. More about that soon.
This year, LDSB will continue to focus on the power of “Co” with a co-learning stance for teachers and students in the Learning Connections project. This year they develop into gaining a better understanding and improving their ability to navigate multi-faceted tools such as Google Apps for Ed and Office 365 with a focus to help students collaborate and communicate clearly and concisely online. They are working with students to explore the difference between writing with structure and writing with less structure. What is the difference between writing for a blog or writing in chat or a discussion forum?
The teachers on that day were co-planning and co-teaching in a grade 3 class. The students have been discussing the Syrian refugees and talking about different refugee stories. These teachers have found that the students, all from a rural setting, have a limited schema: they either don’t know about life beyond their community or only have the viewpoint of their parents. Teachers felt that they have to be careful about the activities in the classroom when dealing with sensitive or political situations. I believe this is would be true in any setting, whether rural or urban. The class has already had experiences posting online and they continue to work on making their online communication meaningful and building awareness of how comments may affect others. Before deciding on the activity for that day, the teachers had an interesting discussion about getting students to communicate online. They agreed that even though they had to be careful about the topic, they couldn’t play it too safe. They felt they had to pick topics that had controversy to get the conversation going, otherwise, responses were just: ” I agree”, “good point”… I agree!
The classroom activity they planned was for the students to post their responses to the following quote about the Syrian refugees: “The kids are amazingly grateful and excited about everything”. With the question: What do you think Syrian refugees think and feel when they first experience snow in Canada? It was very evident in the classroom that the students were all engaged to post their responses online and some really tired to put themselves in the shoes of someone who has never seen snow:
- “would feel weird going down on a sled”
- “might not like the snow because of all the shovelling”
- “feel happy because they are coming to Canada”
- “they would feel excited and happy”
- “probably feel safe now that they are in a safe country”
- “they would be really really really excited because I love snow cause you can make snow mans and forts”
After posting and after recess, the teacher showed two videos for discussion. A video of the students from the school tobogganing down the school yard hill (taken that day at recess) and the online video of the Syrian’s tobogganing. The teacher asked them to describe similarities and differences. One student called out at the beginning of the Syrian video “hey, he looks just like you”! Very cool 🙂
During the short debrief, it was noted that all students attacked the task equally. There was collaboration between students and they were helping each other with either the content for their post or with technical issues. You could not identify students with learning needs in the class as they could work on the same activity with the same technology. This type of online discussion surely seems to equal the playing field. After this discussion, the teachers started to plan their collaboration between classes. They decided to create a shared Google Classroom for all students and will follow the format of “Read Aloud” for the book “Wonder”. The theme for their discussions online will be “acceptance”. I look forward to how this project will proceed for the group.
For my fun pick, I missed many opportunities, but was focussed on the issue: like driving on the 401 in the middle of nowhere with my fuel gauge on E and getting lost on the way to the school when GPS took me on the scenic route. Instead, I share my solution for the extra bed in a hotel!