Vocabulary Wall

1 Nov

Most teachers provide students with metalanguage lists at the start of the unit, often accompanying these with definitions.  I think it could be helpful to flesh out this resource by making it a ‘living document’ on the wall of the classroom.  Thus, as students produce work that illustrates integration of the metalanguage or functions as exemplars for the metalanguage, a copy can be posted to the wall for the benefit of the class.

Unpacking Filmed Media Stories

29 Oct

News is often communicated through the medium of film.  Students thus need to understand the conventions of film, and how these conventions are leveraged by media outlets to communicate ideas and information.

To this end, students need to become familiar with basic film shots.  Create for students a checklist of film shots, asking them to consider possible impacts of each of these choices on the viewer.  Then, have students watch a selection of filmed news segments to track and reflect upon the shots used and the impact on the view.  Finally, in the form of an inner-outer circle discussion, students must reflect upon what they have viewed and understood.  This activity should culminate in a class discussion in which learning is summarised.

An extension of this activity would be having students create a short (1 to 2 minute) filmed news story, demonstrating their learning in concrete form.  To challenge students, the teacher could stipulate audience and desired impact, thus requiring students to tailor their presentation to achieve these goals.  Hopefully, this would allow students to understand how the media’s filming and editing of news stories can impact how they are received and understood.

Collaborative Cloze Passages

27 Oct

One of my colleagues shared an awesome idea for building the foundations for respect and collaboration in the classroom.  Students work in pairs, with each student furnished with a copy of the same passage albeit with different words missing.  Without looking at each other’s work, the students must read their passage, working at a pace and volume suitable for their partner.  By giving each partner the power of having the answers that the other needs, students must listen to one another and be patient – their success is intertwined.

Early Childhood: Extending Interactive Reading

27 Oct

My recent post Interactive Reading offered suggestions for how to engage children in the world of the text while it is being read to them.  This post seeks to extend that discussion, offering ways of making connections between the world and the text.  Some fun activities include:

  1. After reading a book about a construction site, take the child to a construction site and ask them to identify the structures and machines from the book.
  2. Take the child on a walk through the neighbourhood, and ask them to identify buildings, structures or building materials references in a book they have read.
  3. After reading a book about colours, provide the child with a cardboard sheet of a particular colour and ask the child to locate things of that colour in the home, garden or neighbourhood.
  4. After reading a book about numbers, make the child a scavenger hunt list that identifies how many of each item the child should locate in the home, garden or neighbourhood.
  5. After reading a book about the alphabet, set the child a challenge of locating one item per letter of the alphabet.  For younger children, this could be varied to focus on just one letter or sound, or even for the child to select from a pre-curated selection of objects.
  6. After reading a book about the alphabet or colours, take the child to the fruit and vegetable market/store and challenge them to select elements for a meal that all start with the same letter or are all the same colour.  Then, set up a picnic in the park.
  7.  After reading a book about the alphabet, have the child select one letter and ask them to make an artwork that only includes images of things that start with that letter.  Variations include a collage of found objects starting with the chosen letter, a collage that only includes colours or textures starting with that letter, a three-dimensional artwork made only of materials starting with the chosen letter.
  8. After reading a book about colours, engage the child in the task of sorting washing into colour-coded piles.
  9. After reading a book about numbers, ask the child to select an outfit for themselves where the requirements are numerical.  For example: two things to put on your feet, one thing to wear on your legs, three things to wear on your body, one thing to wear on your head.
  10. Work with your child to recreate a meal eaten by a character in one of their books.

Civil Conversations

21 Oct

I recently happened upon ‘Our 2020 Civil Conversation Challenge‘ in the NY Times.  I love this as a model for reinforcing the skills gleaned through activities such as those flagged in my post preparing to disagree.

Additionally, students could use the winning conversations released by the NY Times as mentor texts, analysing and unpacking them to build a vocabulary for having conversations about contentious issues.

What is Going On?

20 Oct

Drawing on the ‘What is going on in this picture?’ feature in the NY Times, I think it would be cool to provide students with a series of caption-free photographs featured in media reports.  Without context, students would be invited to unpack: (a) what is going on in the picture (b) the position the photographer wants the reader to assume, and (c) the reasons for the answers to the two previous points.  Once students have completed (a)-(c), they should be encouraged to write a caption for the image.

It is likely that different students will interpret the same photograph differently.  Students should be encouraged to participate in a discussion around questions of bias, perspective, gaze, positionality.  Additionally, students should be encouraged to revisit this discussion with reference to the captions and how visuals and words work differently to encourage particular viewpoints and interpretations.

Early Childhood: Interactive Reading

20 Oct

Sometimes the joy of performing a book for a young child is so great that one forgets that there is both value and joy in having that child participate in the reading experience. Below are fifteen fun ways to have small children become involved in reading and interpreting:

  1. When reading a book for the first time, ask the child to predict/guess what the book will be about by looking ONLY at the cover. Depending on the age of the child you may need to focus their attention on characters, objects, colour and placement
  2. When reading a book for the first time, cover the title and ask the child what s/he thinks the book should be called. Once you have finished reading the book, ask them if their view is still the same and why. As a related activity, discuss the suitability of the title chosen by the author
  3. Find objects in a particular colour on the page
  4. Count the number of objects
  5. Identify objects
  6. Identify letters
  7. Identify words
  8. Pause to allow the child to say the next word in the sentence
  9. Ask questions: What do you see? What do you think that character feels? What do you think happens next? What makes you say that? How would you feel if you were in that situation?
  10. Invite the child to make connections between the world of the book and their own world. For example, if you were reading Goodnight Moon you could ask the child to list the objects/people that s/he would say goodnight to in his/her room
  11. Read only the words that start with a designated letter, and discuss the story that results
  12. Ask the child to reflect upon the character’s emotions at key moments in the text. This is particularly effective in relation to a peripheral character as the child will have to draw on textual/visual clues
  13. Assign characters, so that you child voices one and you the other. If a child is not yet at reading age, encourage them to improvise, using the visual clues to drive the dialogue
  14. Identify synonyms for commonly used words in the text
  15. Ask the child to narrate the sounds that various objects produce. Make sure that you ask about objects where the sound might be less obvious, this will stimulate the child’s imagination.

Preparing to Disagree

20 Sep

It is inevitable that, over the course of any unit of work, students will have differences of opinion.  These differences are particularly liable to becoming heated during a unit that explores media perspectives on a range of social and environmental issues.  With this in mind, I think it can be useful to use an early lesson to establish some ground rules for how students can have productive and polite discussions about issues that matter to them.

My experience is that the ground rules need to come from the students.  Below are some suggestions to get students thinking about the challenges/difficulties that might arise and the possible ways of navigating the resultant conversations:

  • Students to create a list of emotions that they experience when someone disagrees with their strongly held viewpoint
  • Students to create a list of language that inflames/exacerbates their negative emotions during a disagreement
  • Students to create a list of language that makes them receptive to hearing the views of others
  • Students to discuss active listening strategies
  • Students to discuss polite and constructive ways of asking for questions/comments to be re-framed to avoid inflaming tension-filled situations
  • Students to suggest a list of ways to signal that emotions and tensions are rising.  Students to role play using these.
  • Students to brainstorm a list of sentence starters for polite disagreement.
  • Teacher to ask questions such as: How do you know when the tension is getting too much?  How do you know when you need to step back?  How can you show the other person that you are uncomfortable with their tone/how they are framing their perspective?
  • Students to brainstorm what ‘agreeing to disagree’ might look like in your classroom.
  • Students to discuss whether discussion needs to be formalised in the form of debate, or subject to rules such as timed speaking slots.  What is the value of these interventions?  What are the detriments?
  • Students to engage with the value of reflecting/debriefing and how this can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of language choices, structure and procedures.

It is also valuable for you, the teacher, to reflect on your critical practice and your facilitation process.  ‘Facilitating Challenging Conversations in the Classroom‘ offers some helpful guidance on this point.

Early Childhood: Collecting Opposites

20 Sep

Equip your child with a bucket or lightweight bag that they can carry during your daily walk around the neighbourhood.  For young children, invite them to collect things that interest them (bark, leaves, wood chips, flower petals etc).  For older children, issue them a challenge to search for a specific selection of items.  For an added literacy element, older children could be given a list of objects they need to locate.  This list can either be accompanied by a visual or, once decoded with the help of an adult, the child can draw a visual reminder.  Everything collected should be placed in the bucket/bag.

Upon returning home, the child is invited to sort their collection.  Depending on the child’s age, students could organise their collection as a series of opposites (bright and dull, hard and soft, black and white, smooth and rough etc), by colour, by texture, by size or in an association of their choosing (‘things related to trees’, for example).

Not only does this activity give children the opportunity to spend time in nature and engage in sensory play, but it also offers the opportunity for language development around textures, colour and comparison.

Source Checker

17 Sep

Source Checker‘ is another creation by ABC Education for Media Literacy Week.  Here, students can participate in an interactive activity designed to familiarise them with different sources and equip them with the basic skills to evaluate reliability.

Students could complete this task at the start of a media unit.  It is a useful introduction in that it flags key vocabulary, allows students to reflect on their knowledge and could provide useful fodder for class discussion.

If I were using it, I would probably provide students with a scaffold for recording and defining key terms.  I might also ask them to complete a reflective grid that allows them to articulate what they knew before commencing, what they know after the activity and what they still want to discover.