Dan's Blog

Friday, February 03, 2006

The Three Robbers Reading

I found this article to be a bit of an eye opener. We can’t just assume that students will see a story in the same way that we will. The article gives an indication as to the power of past experiences in defining what a story means to someone. Sometimes kids have had much different experiences than our own and this will greatly influence how they interpret a story or what they take away from it.

This article has made me rethink the approach I am going to take to teaching about India during my practicum. When I was visiting my class earlier this year the students were reading about cobra snakes. At one point the reading mentions people from India dying from the venomous bite of this snake. When one boy was responding to the reading he asked what people from India are called. He would not accept the teacher’s response of Indian. Indian had a completely different meaning for him that he could not see beyond. Now thinking about what those students’ experiences are in a rural community (40 km outside of Dawson Creek) they likely have never met anyone from India. This article made me think more about my students’ experiences and made me realise that I need to back up a bit before jumping into my India unit.

Wow Feb. already....

Well it looks like the blogs are firing on all cylinders now!

I guess it is time that I filled in some of the holes I have left. Some additions to my list of recommendations are:

Number the Stars ~ Lois Lowry (yes the same Lois Lowry)
Grade 4-7

This story takes place in 1945 during the Nazi occupation of Denmark. It chronicles the experiences of a girl as she tries to come to grips with what is happening. This story’s main theme is how ordinary people become heroes in difficult situations. I think children will very easily see themselves in this book and thus give the story more meaning for them. Lowry’s story very effectively portrays a child’s perspective of this terrible time yet avoids going into the horror of the Holocaust. If I have any criticism of the book it is that it glazes over the magnitude of the Holocaust too much. A very good book to use in conjunction with other stories such as The Diary of Anne Frank or The Butterfly.

Eyewitness Books

I am surprised to not have seen these on any other blogs yet. Eyewitness books are one of the series that has been a favorite amoung students for a long time. They are non-fiction books that cover more topics than you can imagine. The books are filled with interesting pictures and commentary. Each of the books also has a good table of contents and detailed index. These books are a great way to introduce students to non-fiction. I have seen them recommended for grades 2-6.

Suggestions for teaching with Mina’s Spring of Colours:

I am going to be using Mina’s Spring of Colours in my practicum. I am planning to do a unit on India and I thought this book would be a good introduction to discuss topics such as cultural differences, cultural differences and the hurtful nature of racism. In this unit I plan to introduce many different aspects of Indian culture to my students (with the help of Mrs. P). The final project for our unit will be fundraising to build a water well in a villiage in India (My CT has signed our class up already, anybody have any great fundraising ideas for a rural school?)

Suggestions for teaching with The River:

I am also planning to use Hatchet and The River in my class as read alouds. In April I am going to be able to take my students camping for a few days and I thought that these stories would be part of an out door theme. I also want to do an outdoor skills unit in PE that would also tie in with these stories (survival, first aid, orienteering, etc.). I think that The River can also be used for SS projects such as mapping.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Cmabrigde Uinervtisy rscheearch

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

I had a recent experience on my blog and in class that made me think of this e-mail that is flying around cyber space with the above note. Cathy also mentioned this note earlier this month.

It was brought back into my memory because I read Ronald Dahl on the cover of a book when posting to my earlier blog. Shae happened to be reading one of Roald Dahl’s books in class and I had an “ah ha” moment. So I guess the research at Cambridge must be true... or is it?

It appears that we are all the victims of another urban myth. During a search of the internet I came across this site: http://www.mrc-cbu.cam.ac.uk/~mattd/Cmabrigde/

If you scroll down past the language translations you will see a portion of his page in which this real Cambridge researcher explores this myth and tells us what is fact and what is fiction. I found it to be an interesting read, but maybe that’s because there is a paper due today…

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Procratination is Motivating

I have frustrated myself with my procrastination yet here it continues with blogging. It is funny how everything else suddenly becomes important when assignments start to be due. Laundry is done and the dishes are sparkling and I decided that maybe this weekend isn’t a good one to watch ALL of the Lord of the Rings…

I am having a hard time remembering some of the books I read as a child. Each time I read other peoples’ blogs it all comes flooding back. I remember Ronald Dahl, Beverly Cleary, C.S. Lewis and Judy Blume the best. Of course there is also the Berenstain Bears (thanks Maizie!!) and Mr. Muncsh. Other things I can remember from Elementary school are Gentle Ben and The Secret World of Og (Pierre Berton). Weird how somethings stick and others don’t. The Secret World of Og was from Grade 1 yet I can hardly remember last week…

A book that has stuck with me through time was Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. I won the book as some prize in Elem. School and can remember reading right through it without putting it down. I think this last Dec. was at least the third time through (pretty good for a guy that usually can’t even watch the same movie twice).

Well maybe I should leave it there for now. I wonder if the oil needs to be changed in my van before I get to work??

Friday, January 20, 2006

Blog Babble

I have been meaning to get back to my blog for a long time now. The evenings just seem to disappear lately. Thanks to everyone who took the time to respond to my last blog.

I have found all these discussions about culturally responsive teaching absolutely absorbing. This program itself has opened my eyes to some of the ideas and this class has made me think about these issues in a new way. For the first time in my life that I can remember I am now a part of a minority in that I am a male in a largely female dominated field. Granted I don’t think I am part of a discriminated minority but it still gives me a bit of a feel for how easily people can type cast you just because of your appearance and gender. This fact is reinforced each time I walk into a staff room and hear comments such as, “so I guess you’re interested in grade 6 and 7”, “when are you going back for your masters so that you can get into administration”, and my personal favorite, “you will have no trouble getting a job because you are a male.” In fact I am interested in K-7 (the K’s in my last practicum survived just fine), I want to teach not politic, and it would bother me greatly if I was hired over another teacher based purely on gender. The long and short of it is that I have become much more sensitive to gender issues. I now feel the need to challenge some people’s concepts of gender roles because it gives me great satisfaction to see their reactions. (Hence the use of a pretty pink pen in a certain profs. class).

On the other hand I find myself trying to disassociate myself from the dominant culture in some way. It makes me want to break out in the chorus to NoFX’s Don’t Call Me White or maybe even Kill All the White Man by the same band. Does it matter where I came from, who I actually am, or what image I portray? I find myself creating justifications to remove myself from a group whose perspective I am not comfortable with. “I’m not regular white… I am Dutch-Canadian; first generation; my parents aren’t even Canadian for Pete’s sake; I have no direct association with the terrible acts I read about in Canadian History.” Of course this justification requires me to entirely ignore all the terrible things about Dutch culture (such as the start of the slave trade; but that’s not me: I’m a Canadian ;P ). And so round and round it goes. Certainly it doesn’t matter who I actually am on the inside, after all who takes the time to get to know someone before judging them? (insert sarcastic smile here) We are therefore left with the image I portray. That leaves me as a mid-twenties, white, blonde hair, blue-eyed, male, North-American, consumer, with no concept of the world beyond my vision. Scary… To outsiders I look like the greatest oppressor there has ever been. I don’t think I am this person and I certainly don’t want to be him. That is what makes this class so critical to our futures. Understanding how to look at yourself as others see you, understand your own biases, and see what we are fed from our culture (books, radio, television etc.) is critical for us to ensure that negative aspects of ourselves and our histories (whether our own or that of our image) is not passed down to our students. I want my students to be able to think for themselves and critically examine everything that reaches them (what is the source, what are the biases, how will this affect my thinking, etc.).

Certainly election time is an excellent time to practice your questioning skills. Think about who is telling you things. What is being talked about. What is not be talked about (apparently we don’t have an environment to talk about anymore). And please don’t vote for Paul Harper or Stephen Martin... and what’s with that other guy saying “vote for me ‘cause you hate the other guys worse…” shouldn’t you actually tell me about your platform?

I seem to be turning this into a rant so maybe I will cut it off here. If you read this far you should be congratulated. I hope I have not offended anyone but if I have maybe next time you can stop reading sooner… Anyway, I think I am going to go watch CNN to take my mind off of world politics and the truth.

NEWS BULLITIEN: George W. Bush left the White House to visit all friendly nations this morning; he will be back this afternoon.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Let the Blogging Begin!!!

The story I chose to share is Thomas’ Snowsuit by Robert Munsch (first published in 1985). This is an important artifact in my reading history because it is the first Munsch book I can remember having read to me. Almost all of Munsch’s books are written with such expressive language that make them ideal for reading aloud. The reader can really ham it up. I think that is why Munsch still remains at the top of my list of favourite authours. I also believe that the illustrations by Michael Martchenko add a great deal to the stories. All of my favourite Munsch books are illustrated by Martchenko.

Munsch’s books just seem to connect so well to kids lives. Of course his portrayals of teachers aren’t always too flattering but the stereotypes fit exactly to how any kid would describe teachers, principals etc.

I am going to leave it here for tonight with a link to a part of Munsch’s website that has MP3’s of him reading many of his stories. Enjoy!!

Robert Munsch's site