Wednesday, February 16, 2011

catch up

ooooh so busy this session!  The season of assessment, (well, at least one of the many these days) is nearing end.  Report cards are done, ridiculous mid-year math tests, and developmental reading assessments, and oh, how could I forget, DIBELS....all done....for now.  I read an interesting quote recently about the test mania that has taken over education (thank you Arne Duncan & all those making millions by abusing the educational system in this country).  The quote went something like this: "In this country we think weighing the cow is far more important than feeding the cow."  Think about that for a minute.  I think about it as I look around at my students, starved for real learning experiences, and then consider all the time I've had to waste weighing this session.  Plain and simple, it sucks.

Amidst all this weighing, there have been six blissful snow days that we will pay for dearly in July, and a few valuable, wonderful learning moments.  Weather conditions have prevented trips to the cove, which is really a bummer because I so wanted to experience regular trips in the winter.  Hopefully we'll get some more melting and be able to head over after Feb break.

I've been forced to get quite creative with indoor nature journaling.  One project is a series of guided drawing lessons I borrowed from my art teacher hubby which we will complete tomorrow morning, so I'll post details and pics later.  Another is exploring dragons.

One of our required themes for the year is a geography focus, and since I have a wealth of dragon literature to draw from (my son's a dragon maniac!), I decided to follow dragon stories and legends around the world.  We find and mark places on our world map as we read various stories and legends.  We discuss continents, oceans, habitats, the differences between fiction and non-fiction, and various literary genres.  Lots of different entry points for primates to engage in as we cover required content.  We are reading one of my favorite chapter books, The Dragon of Lonely Island by Rebecca Rupp, which includes three stories from various parts of the world and has entranced most of the primates.  We'll finish up this week, and I did hear some moans and groans (we're still reading this???) yesterday, but for the most part, they are enjoying the book.  I have also overheard on several different occasions, primates discussing vocabulary from the book, dragon "facts" they've learned, and lost of predictions about what will happen next in the story.  These discussions are happening without any encouragement from me--usually over snack or when they are doing something else that reminds them of something in the book.  It's wonderful to observe the primates relating to a book collectively and in their own ways.

One primate has lent us his Dragonolgy book, and also a Wizardology book, because, he stated, "Wizards are kind of mythological too."  Nice vocab word that is thrown around quite a bit these days!  We have read a few other dragon books and are exploring several dragon field guides.  We have built dragon models, sketched and named different types of dragons, and earlier this week we wrote dragon riddles.  Today we each invented our own fictional dragon creature, ie, cat dragon, chicken dragon, dragon shark, etc.  I was inspired to continue the riddles project when during my instruction of how to write a dragon riddle, a primate asked if she could do a dragon shark and another asked if she could do a dragonfly.  I paused and said no, but those questions had just inspired a new idea that we would discuss the next day--today.

So we invented our creatures, but primates also had the option of choosing a non-fictional creature, such as a komodo dragon, sea dragon, or dragonfly.  Primates made two lists: one of characteristics of a dragon, and the other of characteristics of the creature they chose (frog, shark, pig, etc).  Then they drew their creature on the inside of a folded piece of white cardstock.  Tomorrow we will use our lists to write the riddles.  I'm hoping we can share these with an older class on Friday--if we finish.  They are coming along beautifully, and as usual, more than I expected from a last minute project idea.

One thing I love about blogging is that it allows me concrete reflection time to assess my own work as well as the primates'.  Looking through an MI lens (using entry points), I see:

* exploration of the concept of fiction/non-fiction in several different ways (aesthetic, narrative, foundational, logical, social)
* learning about geography--maps, continents, oceans, organization of the world (aesthetic, narrative, foundational, social)
* analyzing characteristics of living things--OK, so maybe in our adult world dragons are not living things, but in the imaginations of 6-7-8 year olds, they are very real and primates will (hopefully) transfer this learning to actual living creatures when we resume our trips to the cove--(logical, quantative. social. foundational, experiential, aesthetic, narrative)
* identifying and creating different types of writing--legends, fic/non-fic, riddles, lists--and using them for different purposes--enjoyment, research, organization, discussion (social, narrative, foundational, quantative)

We have continued our established routines of nature journaling--even though we're drawing non-living things at times, we've maintained interest in a long story over a period of several weeks, we've accessed logical/experiential entry points through building dragon models in small groups, we've made logical predictions, discussed & explored topics socially through discussions & inquiry, we were able to follow a thread of child-directed curriculum, and everyone has been engaged in learning in different degrees at different moments.

Well, now it seems like maybe we had more than just a few valuable learning experiences this session despite the obstacles of snow days and mandated testing!  I am sure if I wasn't writing through exhaustion and anticipation of my fave show Survivor's new season--(great examples of MI can be found in the challenges!!!), I'd be able to analyze this more coherently, but hopefully I've painted a picture of MI learning & teaching.  From here, we will delve deeper into legends, sharpen our observation and sketching skills through more dragon related activities, continue to explore fiction/non-fiction, living/non-living, and develop more understanding of geography...along with many unexpected and authentic learning experiences! Pics to come!