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I'm sharing this lesson in part so that those of you on supply lists can load it onto your MP3 player, throw a set of speakers into your car, and teach kindergarten or grade one music at the drop of a hat. If you find yourself in a classroom with youtube access, you don't even need the MP3 player.

Learning goal: students will associate various elements of music (tempo, timbre, pitch, rhythm in particular) with various animals according to the animal's characteristics. They will move creatively to the music, pretending to be the animals in question.

(You can find expectations to match this in the full day kindergarten curriculum. I suspect you can probably find expectations in any kindergarten program. Bonus points if you can get video of the kids moving, to leave for their regular teacher so she can use the lesson for evaluative purposes.)

Materials: A variety of music tracks or video tracks referencing animals, and the technology to play them.

Set: Who can tell me about hippos? Are they big or little? Are they slow or fast? (This is almost certainly a misconception - hippos are actually very fast. I'd let that go for this lesson.) As you play the song "Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud," ask the students to tell you what it is about the song that reminds them of hippos.

Play the song once. Get a few answers to the question: there are low notes, the music goes fairly slow, lots of talk about mud. Play it again, and this time invite the students to move like hippos. If they're having trouble, get right in there and move ponderously around the carpet.

Then ask the students about bumblebees: how do bumblebees move? Would you imagine high notes or low notes for bumblebees? Quick notes or slow notes? Tell them the next song is about a bumblebee, and when they're done listening, you'd like them to be able to tell you why it sounds like a bumblebee. Then play "Flight of the Bumblebee." (I used a version recorded by Perlman on the violin; this piece has been recorded on everything from a piccolo flute to a tuba, so make sure you choose one to start with that is played on a violin, otherwise you'll confuse the heck out of the kids.) Watch for the kids who move like bumblebees, buzzing and flapping and darting or running in place. It's only a little more than a minute long, so let it go to the end.)

Get answers about why it sounds like a bumblebee. If you're in the regular classroom and have a place for such things, this is a good time to make an anchor chart with pictures and words: a hippo with the words "slow, low", and a bumblebee with the words "high, fast."

Lesson part two, probably during a second class period:

Remind the students of the previous work and the anchor chart. Tell them that this time, they're going to listen to the music without knowing what animal it's about. They get to move to the music and then guess what the animal might be. You can give them some examples: if the music is slow and low, they're going to move one way, and if the music is jumpy, they can jump, and if the music is calm and flowing, they can glide smoothly.

I used several pieces from the Carnival of the Animals, by Camille Saint-Saens. Some of the recordings had a poem about the animal at the beginning, so I set it up ahead of time to skip that part. I played the kangaroo first, and the kids quickly realized it was jumpy music with some calm parts. When asked what they thought it was, I got one kid who said it was a cat, because sometimes cats prowl and sometimes they jump on stuff; that's a level four answer. Another kid guessed a bunny, and another a kangaroo. After that I played the elephant one, which is played on double basses; they got that one quickly, too. Then I played the swan one, and they had more trouble with gliding movements; I got a lot of ballet twirls from the girls for that one, but the answers were about fish and birds, because it sounded like the animal was gliding calmly.

Wrap-up: Students can contribute to the anchor chart about elements of music, and talk about how music can represent movement in different ways. Since the point of the lesson is to explore movement rather than language, it's up to you how much you want them to talk about what they did or learned. It might be valuable to get them to draw their perception of one of the pieces of music, for an art/music connection; perhaps use the Aquarium from Carnival of the Animals for a drawing connection.

It was an awesomely fun lesson to teach and I got a lot of good information out of it.

Got it!

Jul. 13th, 2009 09:49 am
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I just came up with the most fabulous project EVAR to combine social studies and math.  Get a load of this:

    Project:

     

    With your partners (groups of 3) you will research number systems in at least three ancient civilizations.  One of those three must be the Hindu-Arabic system; the others are up to you and will depend on what resources you can find to learn about the number systems.  I've included a list of links, available on our class's First Class page, to get you started.

  1. Write a paragraph explaining the main features of the three number systems you chose (each group member should write one paragraph; I will be looking for rough work during conferences.)
  2. Use number cubes or other manipulatives to model each number system.  (It may be easiest to pick one number and model it in all three number systems.)  Take pictures of your models.  Don't forget to include a group member in each photo so that we know who the pictures belong to when we download them off the cameras!
  3. Make a chart that explains the main features of each number system, and compares it to our base-ten system.  Some suggestions for headings on your chart:
  4. Use of zero

    Base number

    Strengths

    Limitations

  5. Write another piece in the format of your choice, explaining which parts of those ancient number systems are still in place today, giving examples for each.  (Use the cameras or images from the internet to back up your points!)  If any of those systems have been completely abandoned, explain why you think that happened.
  6. Each group will do a brief oral report on their findings for their classmates.  Every group member should be able to discuss any aspect of the project - even if somebody else worked on it - so be sure to teach each other what you learned!

I'll be making up a rubric and some lesson plans when I get back from my swim, and I've already got a thorough list of expectations that can be assessed using this project.  When I'm done I'll post the whole thing to Ontario_teacher.  Any suggestions appreciated; this is the first, very rough draft. 

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Today I discovered what happens when traditional "assign and assess" teaching methods are carried to their logical conclusion at the high school level.

It a nutshell - futility. A large chunk of the student population and an equally large chunk of the staff feel that nothing they do really matters. For the students, this means they do very little. They only do work if they know it's going to count towards their grade. They don't put any effort into it beyond the absolute bare minimum - that is, they were turning in work that wouldn't get a B in my grade five class. On any given day, a third of the class is absent, and it's never the same third two days in a row. They have no motivation, no interest, and very little in the way of skills.

Meanwhile, the teachers fall into one of three camps. Either they recognize the futility of what they're doing and want to improve things so they can reach their students; or they deny the futility and their contributing role in it, just putting in time until they can retire; or they recognize the futility but believe that they are doing their job of teaching - it's the students who are falling down on the job by not learning.

I recognize it, because I've seen what that looks like at the elementary and intermediate levels. I've been there. I was mostly in the third group of teachers, with occasional forays into the second group.

I also saw what can start to happen when a group of teachers from the first group decide that they're going to change. I think over the next few years, that school is going to go through a complete and total makeover, and when it does, it will be because that first group of teachers - the ones who weren't satisfied with putting in time while their students failed - took it upon themselves to learn what to do and embrace a progressive teaching philosophy.

The other two groups of teachers are going to resist. They already are. There are math teachers claiming that literacy is not their problem, and they're very angry at having to sit through in-services that they see no relevance for. (IMO, the OFIP program for high schools is going to have to address this problem at the outset, or none of the changes they make are going to stick for long. They have to have suggestions ready for every subject area of simple changes that can be made to improve every subject area.) There are a bunch of teachers who will go to the in-services, do the bare minimum required of them, but in between they'll continue to teach as they always have so it won't stick. And there will likely be some who can't figure out how to apply what they're learning to what they've always done - and who are scared to try because it's overwhelming.

In any case, [livejournal.com profile] hannahmorgan and I hashed out a plan of action to start getting her kids engaged in their learning, using the five big questions I posted about the other day and a bunch of magazines from the school library's magazine rack. The high school curriculum does require kids to read literature (read: novels) but it also has sections about media literacy that, according to [livejournal.com profile] hannahmorgan, are mostly ignored by the English department at the moment. So she's going to start with magazine ads. They're not even remotely threatening, they have very little that must be read, they can be taken in almost at a glance, and the question of relevance is obvious - "Companies are putting these ads in these magazines because they want your money. Make them earn it!"

After she's got them used to asking those big questions about ads, then she can move on to other text forms, including novels. The questions are the same - it's the methods of communicating the message that change.

Meanwhile, she has to get their writing up to something that can pass the grade ten literacy test, in short order. I have fewer suggestions for this - other than getting them to write about things in the ads, and how the company writing the ads is trying to dupe them. They get to be jaded, angsty teenagers, and turn it into good writing! However, this is where she's going to come against that wall of well-developed indifference to anything academic. I know how hard that can be on resistant nine-year-olds; I can't imagine it's any easier on resistant fifteen-year-olds.
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Last week sometime, my class somehow managed to get onto the topic of sweat shop labour. It started with a fairly innocuous non-fiction poster about diamonds, which we were studying for its text features. Then we asked one of the questions we've been asking about everything in our current literacy unit: what information about diamonds is missing from this poster? So I explained about the diamond cartels which were artificially lowering supply and increasing demand, resulting in diamonds being far more expensive than they ought to be. (If I'd been really on top of my game, I would have made them look up that information for themselves, but I'm not quite that progressive yet and the computers are as old as the kids themselves.) Then we got onto the topic of why their clothes could be purchased for so little. We discovered very quickly that only two items of clothing in the whole class (at least of the ones whose tags were easily accessible) were made in North America. There were a few from Mexico, a few from Turkey and Pakistan, and the rest from Southeast Asia. Again, I sidestepped the research piece and just told them that their clothes were mostly made by people being paid less than a dollar a day, barely enough to live on, and probably a lot of them were made by children who consequently weren't going to school. There were appalled, and jumped right over the question most adults would have asked next - what does this have to do with us? - and right to, "What can we do about this?"

Fast forward to last night. I was shopping at a local mall and happened into the Body Shop. Remembering that store's original schtick was about being against animal testing, I looked for pamphlets that would reveal their current social conscience. I had no trouble finding them. So I picked up a bunch of pamphlets and took them into my class today.

We started with a brief context lesson, where we discussed three questions. (That means everyone sat at the carpet and discussed these questions in knee-to-knee form, then I took input from several groups until we had a list of point-form answers.) The questions were:

1) Why do stores advertise? What do they want us to do?
2) What reasons might you have for choosing one store or product over another?
3) What techniques do stores typically use to get you to shop in their store?

Once we had a good list of reasons, I pulled out the flyers, along with some cue cards that had questions on them. We talked a bit about the Body Shop; then I divided them into groups and gave each group a couple of pamphlets and a question card. Then I let them have at it to discuss in small groups. The questions on the cards:

1) Who is the target audience for this pamphlet? How do you know?
2) Finish this sentence the way the producer of the pamphlet would finish it: "We think you should shop in our store because. . ."
3) How is this pamphlet the same or different from a Walmart flyer?
4) How does the message of this pamphlet connect to the discussion we had last week about sweat shops?
5) What does the producer of this pamphlet want you to feel when you shop at the Body Shop?*

Along the way, some of the other questions the kids asked, which we then discussed:

1) How do we know that the pamphlets are telling the truth? (To me, this should be one of the questions asked amongst the Great Five.)
2) How much of an effect does it have if a few people buy these products instead of similar ones at Zellers? Are we just spending more money to feel less guilty?
3) What happens when the demand gets too great for the fair trade co-ops in Namibia to produce all of the ingredient the Body Shop buys from them?
4) The pamphlet makes it sound like the women sending their kids to school is the greatest thing ever. Why is that?

The whole lesson took almost the entire literacy block. I finished up with an open response question, to which they had to write a paragraph answer using the Better Answers formula:

Based on the information in these pamplets, would you shop at the Body Shop instead of buying a similar product at Zellers? Why or why not? Give evidence from the pamphlets and your own ideas to support your answer.

It was a fabulous lesson and I'm so proud of it. I've made copies to put in my portfolio, which after some eight years, I'm finally updating.

* BTW, I didn't come up with these randomly; they're based on the five questions that Deborah Meier says form the basis of all critical study: How do we know what we know? Whose point of view is represented here? How is this related/connected to that? Why is this important? And the last one which I left out this time, How might things have been otherwise from how they are presented here? I recommend Alfie Kohn's book "The Schools Our Children Deserve" for a good overview.)
velvetpage: (Anne)
This lesson works beautifully in the junior grades; I'm using it for a split four-five class. It covers a variety of expectations relating to purpose, audience, analysis, evaluation, and creation of written/media texts.

Materials: at least one copy of Famous Kids magazine, available free at Pizza Hut or movie theatres; check to be sure it has a page of movie reviews in it. Photocopy the movie review spread for the class, or have enough copies available for each student (dangerous - too many distractions.)

Cut for length )

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