Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A poem has the ability to surprise

Writing poetry is a process that takes time, revision and courage to put yourself in front of your peers. To help, we teach children a process called critique so they can see their writing through others' eyes.  They learn how to give feedback that is kind and useful to the writer.  It's hard at first and children often give feedback like "I like it!"

In 2-3 children learn to give a "compliment sandwich" - feedback that includes first a compliment, then a suggestion, then a compliment.  The writer can take the advice  - or not - and continue revising.  The kids also read great poems, noticing what makes them great.

Here is an article by Mark Yakich in the Atlantic, What's a Poem?  You read it.  It reads you.  An object lesson.  He says, Because of its special status—set apart in a magazine or a book, all that white space pressing upon it—a poem still has the ability to surprise, if only for a moment which is outside all the real and virtual, the aural and digital chatter that envelopes it, and us.

Here is the poem of a third grader, Madeline, after revising her first draft with the help of critique.

I am...

I am birds singing
I am math
I am water cascading over rocks
I am books with a good story
I am music fresh from the violin
I am water cascading over rocks
I am fall
I am winter
I am water cascading over rocks
I am wild animals
I am a creek
I am the ocean hustling and bustling with life
I am water cascading over rocks
I am cute seals sunning on boulders
I am water cascading over rocks
I am the earth recovering from humans

Friday, November 15, 2013

Creative Entrepreneurialism

Examining a bee under a microscope is part of the Bee Project,
understanding their complexity and importance in ecosystems
I just returned from two very thought provoking conferences for Heads of School.  One of the speakers was Dr. Yong Zhao of U. Oregon talking about the ideas in his latest book World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students.  His remarks resonated because at Parker we are educating children in all the ways he espouses, through project-based experiences (he calls it product-based) that have a purpose beyond the classroom.  This kind of learning is inherently interesting to children and promotes a passion for learning more.  It involves flexing that creativity muscle in a myriad of ways that are left out of learning as it is expressed by teaching to the Common Core.

Great examples are the honey bee curriculum in 4-5, the goat wool weaving project in K-1, and STEM week and the archeological dig in middle school.  Each of these projects requires students to think independently, make connections across several disciplines and express their learning in multiple forms of media - so far beyond filling in a bubble for multiple choice responses that it's mind boggling!
Students work with our bee-keeping mentor, Tony as they learn to calm the bees with smoke and gather some honey.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Dramatic Play - a vehicle for learning

Pre K 3 teacher, JoAnn Bennett has been using her blog to explain the purpose behind the activities in Pre K.  Here is an excerpt from her latest entry:

Looking Deeper:  Exploration and Learning through Play

We will look deeper at Dramatic Play often over the course of this year, as it is one of the most fundamental vehicles of learning for young children. 

Within Dramatic Play, children literally "try on" roles as they seek to expand and learn about their world.  Dramatic Play utilizes and expands the children's language skills.  It is also a catalyst for cooperation, creative thinking, problem solving and sharing.  Additionally, it is often a vehicle for teaching social studies, as the children often take on the role of various community helpers within their play. 

This week as we talked about fire safety, our discussions were often reflected in the children's play.  They consistently took the information gleaned at story time and incorporated it into the scripts of their play scenarios.  On any given day in the dress up area, one was apt to hear the following exclamations, "Don't touch the stove!" or "Call 911".   The children processed and applied new information within their play, and that is indeed indicative of learning!