Friday, November 29, 2013

off the bookshelf: rainbow rowell's "eleanor & park"

This is a love story.
It's one of those all-consuming, wishy-washy, confusing, high school love stories. 

And I don't know if I'm a realist (this is how I optimistically refer to myself) or a pessimist, but it's just not my thing. I didn't even love John Green's The Fault in our Stars
and I know I'm in the minority on that one. Even my gory video game-playing, comic book-reading, Walking Dead-watching husband liked that one. (Eesh - is that saying something about me?) It's about teenagers with cancer (and much more), and yes, I do feel badly about not liking it. I even decided not to write an Off the Bookshelf of it for that reason. I know the book is an inspiration to many.

It's just that high school love stories always seem too intense, or too great (as in too significant) to be real, or too one-day-this-one-day-that. It's like a roller coaster that I don't really understand. Is that because high school kids are sort of like that? And I just forget what that's like? To be fair, it has been more than a decade since I was 16. But I did have my little loves in high school, of course, like we all do. Never a love like the one that Eleanor and Park build - and certainly not as fast. It all seems too beautiful. Or too naive, I can't decide.

The other thing that really bothered me is that there are some really big issues at play here. Themes that should probably be developed just a little more, but aren't, so that their love story can take main stage. Things like a history of abuse (Eleanor's step-father), neglect (her father wants nothing to do with her), bullying, and poverty (she doesn't even own a toothbrush) are obstacles in her daily life that don't get quite the recognition that I think they should. Elanor is openly self-critical and she does reflect on these things as difficult. But I'm apt to consider them as larger than difficult, even when the author isn't. I'm not saying that Rowell's idea that love can conquer all isn't heroic and a positive statement about finding light in troubled times (even calling them "troubled times" gives me pause - it's not a big enough description for the pain). But when you're still growing and still finding who you are (and if it were me), these things would have a much larger impact on my outlook, my actions, my relationships. These themes are explored in a sort of flippant way, and I don't like that. It just doesn't seem real.

I know that people love this book. So don't let me deter you; perhaps I am a cynic. Love is a beautiful and powerful thing and I should embrace the fact that it can change us, mold us, motivate and inspire us, and in the end, be the thing we hold most dear in our lives. My own love story has done all of these things for me. So you should read it and decide for yourself.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

tuning into probability

This week in Math we talked about probability.
First up, what is it?
We created an ActivBoard web of all the student's prior knowledge and connections:
Inline image 2
I then used The Hat (seriously, it's so great) to create groups of 4, printed these simple activity cards on coloured paper, then put them around the room as stations:

(Click any picture to download!)
They stayed at each station for about 5-7 minutes, collecting and recording data on white boards as they went.
Before they switched, I asked them to think of a sentence they could say aloud as a sort of "prediction" (tying into our latest Unit of Inquiry) about the next round of results.
Things like, "I predict that ____," "It is certain/likely/unlikely/impossible that_____", "The most probable thing that could happen would be _____", "Based on the results, I think that _____"
They had a ton of fun!
Afterward, they had a 15-20 minute free-write about their understandings of probability.
It was super engaging and a great way to find out their thoughts.

Friday, November 15, 2013

into this... birdy

When Jeff and I were on our honeymoon in Peru a couple summers ago, our hotel in Lima was playing this amazing cover of Bon Iver:
One of my favourite. songs. ever.
... which majorly piqued my interest.
(I even asked the concierge what was playing... which led to a few extra people coming out from the back room, some shuffling about, and then an eventual CD stop and check. Sweet success.)
This one, followed up with covers of The National, The XX, and Fleet Foxes?  

Needless to say, I fell in love.
Does she not have the most beautiful voice?
Her first album, self-titled, is one I listen to now on pretty much every airplane.
It's a set of covers that makes me feel happily at peace every time.

With her latest release, Fire Within, it's all love again!

random name generator + typhoon yolanda/haiyan

Pretty sure this is my new favourite classroom tool:
The easiest computerized random group/name generator...
that's totally free!
You simply download it from the software developer here (I definitely declined all the "ad" options that come with it), type in your student's names, and then randomly choose groups, pairs or individuals.

I used it today to create "expert groups" for a bit of research we were doing about Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan and its devastation.
It's amazing the way the global community has come together in the face of disaster to offer aid...
It's amazing the way our ISM community is coming together to offer relief...
It's amazing the way even the students in my class are offering their time by volunteering to pack food and water for distribution to affected areas.
My heart goes out.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

student-created rubric

To end our first Unit of Inquiry all about Physical Wellbeing, students created an interview to find out all about how healthy a friend or family member is.
First, small groups verbally brainstormed some questions to match each of the six areas of health.
I put chart paper around the room titled with each type of health and they rotated to each piece, reading questions others had written and adding their own.
Some examples they came up with:
How often do you exercise? (Physical)
What types of food do you eat? (Physical)
Do you go to church? (Spiritual)
Do you meditate? (Spiritual)

Do you recycle? (Environmental)
Do you use both sides of a piece of paper? (Environmental)

They chose a "least amount" of questions based on the group brainstorm and conducted their interviews.
The final task was to analyze the information received and create an action plan for that person: in what ways can he/she make more positive choices to lead a healthier lifestyle?

In one of our inclusion classes, the ESL teacher and I had the students take a look at this regular old rubric:

and put it into more kid-friendly language to create this rubric:
They used cards with each component glued to the top and highlighted the keywords.
Then, they wrote what it actually means in their own words on a line on the bottom. 
In the middle, a space to illustrate:

It was the perfect, bulletin-board sized reference piece for student success!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

bohol, philippines

For our October break, Jeff and I got away to the coast of Bohol.
It was very peaceful as we were one of two couples staying at the resort at the time!
After the 7.2 earthquake that went through, leaving over 200 dead, almost 1000 injured, several missing, and many with homes in serious disrepair, I'm sure many travelers were hesitant, to say the least.

Some of the destruction in Loboc was quite extensive, including the loss of an historical church:

On a funny note, we were told by a driver that Bohol has such a high population because before there was electricity on the island, there was nothing else to do but make babies!