Category Archives: learning from children

Une École des Emotions/The Possible School

We are fortunate at the University of Toronto to have the Dr. Eric Jackman Laboratory School (Jackman ICS) as part of our community. “The Lab School” is a small elementary school that has just over 200 students from nursery to sixth grade. I (Yiola) have had the privilege of working with and learning from the teachers, students and administrators at the school. Together we teach pre-service teachers in our Master of Arts in Child Study teacher education program and student-teachers practice teach in the classrooms,  I have conducted longitudinal, observational research at the school and have been so deeply inspired by the daily teaching of young children. The children — oh the children — are truly the evidence of what is possible when a school community focuses on the child.
Recently a documentary film has come out that gives a small glimpse into the life of the school.  Jackman ICS was featured in a documentary film by Daisy Gand, a Masters student from France who visited Jackman ICS last year and is titled, “Une École des Emotions”/“The Possible School”. The link to the film is here and it is a must see:
Principal Richard Messina states:
At the Jackman Laboratory School, the student, parents, and teachers all benefit from the secure learning philosophy and pedagogical approaches that inspires deep understanding, creativity, curiosity, and confidence to flourish.  Our environment honors diversity and values an interconnected community, in which all members feel known, respected, and supported as active, engaged participants. 
 Children currently in our Early Years classes will graduate in the 3rd decade of the 21st Century, an era that will demand creativity and ingenuity, responsibility and compassion.  Their ability to thrive depends largely on the experiences they have at school.  
The latter part of Richard’s statement reflects the sentiments of Clive’s blog that was posted just yesterday… children need to experience “real life” at school in order to feel a sense of purpose. The laboratory school does this in so many ways: through its pedagogy, philosophy, curriculum, and approach.
What happens at the Jackman ICS can happen in any school and classroom;  yet, public schools often struggle with an inquiry-based pedagogy that places the child at the centre of the learning.  All students should have opportunity to learn at a “possible school”.  In light of this the Lab School is working hard to broaden student admission and retention policies that support all forms of diversity in equity and accessibility.
To make this happen the school has a fund that offers tuition support that accounts for  economic diversity.  Please see the link below if you would like to learn more about the fundraising efforts and support the work of the Laboratory school.
 This is JICS’s biennial fundraiser for tuition support.  Please purchase your tickets here:  https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/jackman-ics-diana-rankin-tuition-fundraiser-gala-tickets-32296391376?aff=es2 or donate to the JICS Diana Rankin Muncaster Family Tuition Support Fund at https://donate.utoronto.ca/give/show/40
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Can you really tell when kids are lying? And why to celebrate when kids lie!

Kang1My (Clare) friend and colleague Kang Lee did a Ted Talk about children and lying. It is

incredible interesting and based on 20 years of research. As teachers and parents we will need to know about his research – the results are surprising. Here is the link to the Ted Talk: https://www.ted.comtalkskang_lee_can_you_really_tell_if_a_kid_is_lying?utm_source=tedcomshare&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=tedspread

Are children poor liars? Do you think you can easily detect their lies? Developmental researcher Kang Lee studies what happens physiologically to children when they lie. They do it a lot, starting as young as two years old, and they’re actually really good at it. Lee explains why we should celebrate when kids start to lie and presents new lie-detection technology that could someday reveal our hidden emotions.

Here is a link to his blog: http://kangleelab.com/AboutLee.html

5 Tips for Teaching the Tough Kids

I (Clare) found this post on Edutopia very interesting. I think that many of techniques would/could/should work with all students. As Josh Work notes every teacher remembers his/her first “touch kid” experience. Mine was with a young boy Tommy who seemed incorrigible. I wished that I had followed the advice provided below. Here is the link to the article.  Teaching the Tough Kids

Guest blogger Josh Work shares five techniques for dealing with middle school students who present ongoing discipline issues. His underlying theme is recognizing these kids as adolescents seeking ways to cope with stress or complicated lives. Source: 5 Tips for

Every teacher remembers his or her first “tough kid” experience. Maybe the student ignored your directions or laughed at your attempts to utilize the classroom discipline steps. We all have at least one story to share, and for some teachers, teaching a tough kid is a daily challenge. It seems that no matter what teaching techniques you try to pull out of your educator hat, nothing changes their behavior.

I’ve had the privilege of teaching some tough kids. I say “privilege” for a reason. Teaching these students pushed me to be a better educator and a more compassionate person. I’ve detailed below five methods that have reduced misbehavior in my classroom and, better still, helped transform these students into leaders among their peers.

1. Set the Tone

I firmly believe that a student’s misbehavior in the past does not necessarily equate to future indiscretions. At the beginning of the school year, I would walk down to the sixth grade teachers with my new class lists and ask questions. I would inquire about who works well together, who probably should not sit next to each other, and who caused them the most grief. Not surprisingly, teachers would share the names of the same students that were their “tough kids.” If I had the privilege of having any of these students in my class, I looked forward to it instead of dreading it.

Usually during the first week of school, I would try to have individual conferences with these tough kids. I’d take this as an opportunity to clear the air and wipe the slate clean. Often, these students can feel disrespected because their teachers already have preconceived ideas about how they are the troublemakers. Explain that you respect them and have high expectations for them this year. Lay the foundation for the student’s understanding that you believe in him or her, because you might be the only one who genuinely does.

2. Be a Mentor

Unfortunately, it has been my experience that some of the toughest kids to teach come from very difficult home situations. Inconsistent housing, absentee parent(s), lack of resources, and violence are only a few examples of what some of these students have to face every day. Kids that are neglected at home can act out in school to receive attention, good or bad. They want someone to notice them and take an interest in their lives.

Don’t forget how important you are in helping your students develop not just academically, but also socially. Make an effort to show you care about them, not just their grades. Be proactive instead of reactive. The key to being a good mentor is to be positive, available, and trustworthy. One year with a great mentor can have a lasting, positive impact on a tough kid’s life.

3. Make Connections

Part of being a great mentor is your ability to make connections with these tough kids. Since these students sometimes don’t have anyone encouraging them or taking an interest in their lives, have a real conversation about their future or dreams. If they have nothing to share, start talking about their interests — sports, music, movies, food, clothing, friends, siblings, etc. Find a way to connect so that they can relate to you. Start off small and show a genuine interest in what they have to say. Once you’ve made a positive connection and the student can trust you, you’d be surprised how fast they might open up to talking about their hopes, fears, home life, etc. This is when you need to exercise professional discretion and be prepared for what the student might bring up. Explain that you do not want to violate his or her trust but that, as an educator, you are required by law to report certain things.

4. Take it Personally (In a Good Way)

Teachers need to have thick skin. Students may say things in an attempt to bruise your ego or question your teaching abilities. Remember, we are working with young children and developing adults. I’m sure you said some hurtful things that you didn’t mean when you were growing up. Students can say things out of frustration or boredom, or that are triggered by problems spilling over from outside of your classroom. Try to deal with their misbehavior in the classroom — they might not take you seriously if you just send them to the office every time they act out. These are the moments when they need a positive mentor the most.

Once trust has been established, remind these students that you believe in them even if they make a mistake. I’ve vouched for kids during grade team meetings only to have them get into a fight at lunch the same day. They make mistakes, just like we all do. It’s how we respond to their slip-ups that will determine if they’ll continue to trust us. Explain that you’re disappointed in their actions and that you know they can do better. Don’t write them off. Tough kids are used to being dismissed as hopeless. Instead, show them that you care and are willing to work with them. Helping a tough kid overcome personal issues isn’t something that happens overnight, but it is a worthwhile investment in his or her future.

5. Expect Anything and Everything!

All of our students come from a variety of cultures, nationalities, and home environments, and these five techniques that have worked for me might barely scratch the surface of how you interact with the tough kids in your classroom. If you have another method that has helped you reach out and connect to a tough kid, please share it below in the comments section.

Source: 5 Tips for Teaching the Tough Kids

Slowing Down to Learn: Mindful Pauses That Can Help Student Engagement

There has been so much attention to mindfulness in the last while. My (Clare) colleague, Chriss Bogert, VP at the Lab School, send me this great post about mindfulness in the class. Here is the link: http://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2015/02/17/slowing-down-to-learn-mindful-pauses-that-can-help-student-engagement/

By MindShift  February 17, 2015

The excerpt below is from the book “Mindfulness for Teachers: Simple Skills for Peace and Productivity in the Classroom,” by Patricia A. Jennings. This section is from the chapter entitled “Orchestrating Classroom Dynamics.”

Mindful Wait Time

Image source: Mindshift.org
Image source: Mindshift.org

One way to promote engagement and learning is to consciously create pauses throughout the day. We can create a sense of spaciousness in our classroom by slowing down the pace of our speech and punctuating our lessons with silence. Introduced well, this practice can improve classroom discourse.

The speed at which we can process information varies from person to person (Droit-Volet, Meck, & Penney, 2007). Some people process auditory information very quickly, while others tend to have more visual or sensorimotor strengths. In any case, when we have more time to process information, the quality of our thinking and learning improves. Younger children require more time to process than do older children, and adults often forget this as they zoom through content as if they were speaking to other adults. No matter what their ages, when we give our students just a little more time to process information, they learn better.

When I introduce this idea to teachers, I often hear concerns that they will be wasting valuable time doing nothing. It’s important to recognize that during the pauses, you and your students are not “doing nothing.” Your students may be considering several alternatives; they may be mulling a picture over in their mind; they may be making associations, comparisons, and contrasts. They may be trying to drudge up the right word from their vocabulary. When we give them this time, their processing becomes richer, deeper, and more abstract. When you rush through a lesson, you may deliver content more quickly and efficiently, but your students may not absorb the content very well, if at all.

The added bonus of these pause punctuations is that they give us as teachers a few moments to practice mindfulness. When this becomes an intentional part of our lessons, we can take the time to notice our body in space, the whole classroom, each student, and the small details that surrounds us, in the present moment. We give ourselves a short break—a micro-vacation from the constant activity of a busy classroom.

We can use the time to tune in to ourselves and our students. We can ask ourselves, “How am I feeling right now? How are the students feeling? What’s happening right now? What do my students need? How can I explain this better?” By taking mindful pauses, we are modeling mindful behavior for our students and letting us all have some time to process the information we are exploring together.

Typically we pause after we ask a question and before we call on someone to answer. Most of the time, this pause is only about one second long. Students who process information quickly are at an advantage under these conditions. They tend to be the ones who always raise their hands immediately. While the speedy students are answering the question, the slower students are still trying to process the question, so they may not hear and comprehend the answer or be able to assimilate it into their existing knowledge. If the quick pace of the session continues, some students may feel left behind.

However, educational researchers have discovered that if the pause between the teacher’s question and the student’s answer lasts between three and five seconds, significant changes occur in student behavior (Rowe, 1987). Students are more likely to respond appropriately to the questions, answer the questions correctly, and offer longer and more complex answers. There are fewer “I don’t know” or non-answer responses. Over time, many more students show higher levels of engagement (Honea, 1982; Swift & Gooding, 1983) and achievement test scores and school retention levels increase (Tobin & Capie, 1982).

Wait time has a positive effect on teachers as well. With conscious use of wait time, teachers’ questioning strategies become more varied and flexible, and they ask follow-up questions that require more complex information processing and higher-order thinking (Casteel & Stahl, 1973; Rowe, 1972; Stahl, 1990; Tobin, 1987).

Robert Stahl (1990) identified eight categories of wait time. When we formally introduce wait time, these periods of silence are trans- formed from periods of awkwardness into valuable moments of silence. The first category is the type of wait time we’ve already discussed: the time between a teacher’s question and the student’s answer. The other seven are as follows:

Within-student’s-response pause time. This is a three-second or longer pause that occurs when a student pauses or hesitates during the process of delivering a response to a teacher’s question. Teachers tend to interrupt students when they are thinking through their answers and take time to pause. However, when given the time, students often follow these periods of silence by successfully completing their responses.

Post-student’s-response wait time. This is a pause after a student has finished a response and other students are considering adding comments or reactions. This gives the other students time to think about what was said and to decide if they have anything to add.

Student pause time. This is a pause after a student has initiated a question, statement, or comment but doesn’t complete the thought. It may seem strange to formalize this type of pause, but this situation arises more often than we might realize because the tendency is to ignore the question rather than allow for a pause. This happens to me a lot. I have a thought, idea, or question. I’m getting ready to tell someone, and my mind goes blank. I can’t remember what I was going to say. When this happens to one of our students, we can give ourselves and the student a little time to recover, rather than just letting it drop.

Teacher pause time. This is a pause that the teacher intentionally initiates to consider what is happening, appraise the situation, and consider the best course of action. A particularly beneficial time for a teacher to pause is when a student has asked a question and the answer requires a complex answer. Taking time to consider how to frame the answer can improve student learning.

Within-teacher-presentation pause time. This is a pause that the teacher intentionally initiates during lecture presentations or other extended periods of content output. The teacher intentionally stops the flow of information to give students three to five seconds of silence to absorb the information and to consolidate their thinking. This type of pause requires no response from the students; it’s simply processing time. Using silence this way, teachers can chunk their content into bite-sized pieces to help students absorb and process the information better.

Student task completion work time. This is pause time intended to allow students to complete an academic task that demands undivided attention. The length of the pause should be related to the time it takes to complete a task. The challenge involved in this type of pause is how to handle the variation in completion time among students. If students learn the value of pausing and some of them finish early, they can use the time to extend their thinking about the subject in some way.

Impact pause time. This is the use of pause time to create impact or drama. When we pause, we can create a mood of anticipation. A dramatic pause can generate feelings of suspense and expectation.

Wait time can be challenging. Many of us get so excited about sharing our own thoughts and ideas that we tend to interrupt students, leaving no space in the discussion for students to process information and respond thoughtfully. In the skill-building practices at the end of this chapter, you will learn more about how to apply wait time in your classroom.

Patricia A. Jennings is an associate professor at the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia.

Is School Making Our Children Ill?

In the New York Times on January 3, I (Clive) came across a fascinating column by Vicki Abeles (Sunday Review section) about the negative impact current school “reforms” are having on children. According to her, they are undermining the health of students, both rich and poor and from kindergarten to high school.

Abeles has written a book (which I plan to get asap) aptly titled “Beyond Measure: Rescuing an Overscheduled, Overtested, Underestimated Generation,” and has produced documentaries “Race to Nowhere” (as distinct from Race to the Top) and “Beyond Measure.” But in the column her focus is on research conducted by Stuart Slavin at Irvington High School in Fremont, California, “a once-working-class city that is increasingly in Silicon Valley’s orbit.” In cooperation with the school, he anonymously surveyed two-thirds of Irvington’s 2,100 students and found that “54 percent of students showed moderate to severe symptoms of depression [and] 80 percent suffered moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety.” The school is trying to address the problem, for example by re-examining homework demands and counseling students on achieving a manageable course load.

Based on her own inquiries and reflections, Abeles attributes much of this anxiety and depression to the enormous pressure young people are under today to climb the ladder of schooling, with a view to getting into a good college and/or job. “Even those not bound for college are ground down by the constant measurement in schools under pressure to push through mountains of rote, impersonal material as early as preschool.” Apart from opposing this general approach to schooling, Abeles sees practical lessons that can be learned from Irvington’s approach. Toward the end of the article she suggests:

“Working together, parents, educators and students can make small but important changes: instituting everyday homework limits and weekend and holiday homework bans, adding advisory periods for student support, and providing students opportunities to show their growth in creative ways beyond conventional tests.”

 

 

A Book Printing Machine at Toronto Library!

books.jpeg

The CBC reported that this past weekend the Toronto Reference Library unveiled book printing machine which allows individuals to walk away with store-quality books. As of now, authors can print 10 copies of  their books (150 pgs) for $145. A bit pricey in my opinion, but definitely unique with a lot of great potential for students, writers, educators, etc. CBC reports that “What’s new is the ability to self-publish books – whether your own piece of literature, a cook book, dissertation or whatever you choose for a relatively.” The Toronto Reference Library will soon be offering courses on how to best format books for professional looking books.

Read CBC article here:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/toronto-library-offers-store-quality-book-printing-to-customers-1.2670661

 

 

Voices of seriously ill children

One of my doctoral students (Katie Doering) works at Ronald McDonald House for serious ill children. She is an AMAZING classroom teacher. Her students were interviewed and these are views. Here is a link to the entire article. http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/if-i-were-pm-students-with-serious-illnesses-list-their-priorities-1.2640578

 

A group of students facing serious illnesses had some advice for prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau on what he should make his top priorities once he takes office, including free medicine, longer maternity leave, and a wild animal for everyone who desires a pet.

The students, who were in Grades 4 through 8, take classes at Ronald McDonald House Charities Toronto School. They offered these responses and more, in a class exercise where they were asked to write a speech on what they would do if they were the prime minister of Canada.

The private school, located in downtown Toronto, is part of the Ronald McDonald House charity, which offers housing and services for families with ill children. The school is free for students to attend, as it is funded through donations, but it is not open to the public.

When these families require long-term medical care in downtown Toronto, the charity can offer them housing and schooling. In order to be eligible to receive these services, families must live a minimum of 55 kilometres away from the House, and must be referred by a hospital social worker.

The on-site school is unique in that it offers classes based on the Ontario curriculum for their children to attend, so that they don’t miss out on their learning while seeking treatment.

The school’s principal, Katie Doering, said the speech-writing exercise was part of a unit on government and democracy that happened to coincide with the federal election.

At the end of the unit, the students relied on everything they’d learned, and combined it with their own beliefs in a speech on what they’d do if they were the leader of Canada.

Some of the proposed changes were exactly what you might expect from children.

“I would make a machine that could make pets talk,” said Shivam.

But others showed that they were deeply in tune with the daily struggle of Canadians across the country.

“I would provide free medicine because it’s not your fault you got sick and need medicine,” said Aliviah Goode.

“Also, anyone under 85 should get free health care,” she added.

Aliviah’s sister Adaya recently had open-heart surgery.

“She’s doing good, she got discharged,” said Aliviah.

Aliviah also said that children should have access to “free school supplies.”

Nine-year-old Rayne Shim devoted part of her speech to asking for people to get their birthdays off from work, with pay.

But she too tackled the issue of universal pharmacare.

“I would give free medicine to everyone,” she said.

“Like, you don’t have to pay a lot of money for medicine because medicine can be really expensive,” she added.

Rayne’s sister is the middle of a battle with cancer.

Rayne said that the rich should also have to pay higher taxes, and advocated for a national daycare strategy.

“Maybe the daycare should be paid by the government because some parents can’t afford hundreds of dollars so kids can go to daycare,” she said.

Doering said the students’ speeches were telling of everything they learned about the responsibilities of government, but also of their own personal circumstances.

“It was a mixture of things we had talked about in class, but then they brought in their own ideas about things that were really relevant to them right now,” she said, noting that many talked about improving the healthcare system.

“And then of course we saw a lot of their personalities come out too,” she said, adding that there were specific requests for annual teddy bear picnics, as well as a statutory holiday once a month.

Here’s a further look at some of the students’ speeches:

“If I were prime minister, I would provide every family with a free healthcare plan because people can’t help it when they get sick,” 11-year-old cardiac patient Adaya wrote.

“I would also plan an annual teddy bear picnic, just for children! Children can bring their favourite teddy bear or stuffed animal and come to a beautiful meadow of flowers and have a lovely picnic. All food and blankets will be supplied!”

Her sister, Aliviah, said if she was prime minister, she would provide everyone with free medicine. Once that was done, she’d proceed to overhaul the education system and outlaw littering.

“I also have some personal ideas,” she wrote. “I think there should be a zoo in every city. My favourite rule would be that you can have a wild animal as a pet.”

Twelve-year-old Chayse, who is recovering from brain surgery, said if she were the country’s leader, she would build more affordable housing.

“Why you ask? Because I think people should have a nice place to stay and not have to stay outside on park benches or underground subway heaters,” she wrote.

Her younger sister, Jordan, said she would put more money into nursing homes and lower tuition for private schools. And, in an apparent nod to her sister, she said she’d create more schools for neurosurgery.

Up next on her ambitious agenda? More holidays.

“There would be a statutory holiday every month because sometimes you just need a break,” she wrote.

Doering said at the end of the unit, the students had the opportunity to read their speeches to their classmates and their families.

“They had a phenomenal time doing it,” she said. “It was very powerful to hear the messages that they had.”

With a report from CTV Toronto’s Natalie Johnson

Chimamanda Ngozi’s Book Being Distributed to ALL 16- Year-Old Students in Sweden

I have written about the powerful words of Ms. Adiche before. Her words stop us in our tracks and make us re-consider notions of identity, language, and gender. She has a new book out entitled We Should All Be Feminists. It is based on a speech she delivered at a TEDx conference a few years ago. I have already ordered it!

The most amazing thing about her new book is how it is being distributed. The Swedish Women’s Lobby has decided to distribute Adiche’s book to every 16-year-old student in Sweden. In a CBC article, publisher Johanna Haegerström believes her book will be an entry point into a larger discussion about gender roles in society. He said:

“Our hope is that the Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie text will open up a conversation about gender and gender roles, starting from young people’s own experiences”

adichie-composite

http://www.cbc.ca/books/2015/12/we-should-all-be-feminists-by-chimamanda-ngozi-adichie-is-being-given-to-every-16-year-old-in-sweden.html

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