Today I came across this fantastic, reasonably short, clear, conversational, and insightufl article about the importance of validation in teaching and in all our interactions. Not only does Gonzalez explain what validation is and why it is important, she talks us through a number of concrete examples of situations in which validation can be challenging, and exactly how to approach it. Have a look! The Magic of Validation
I had the privilege during my travels in the States last month to visit a democratic free school (based on the Sudbury model) and a homeschool resource centre. I graduate from a different democratic free school seven years ago (🙀), and I found myself drawing a lot of parallels but noting a few key distinctions.
In both communities, the spaces are clearly student-centred, with couches and large community tables in place of rows of desks. Students have access to shelves and shelves of all different genres of books, musical instruments, computers, art supplies, and other resources. There is a School Meeting once per week in which the community votes on key issues of importance to the community. There is a small Judicial Committee composed of youth and staff that handles small issues that concern just one or a few members of the community.
At this particular democratic free school, to graduate, students must write a thesis demonstrating their readiness to leave the support of the free school community and enter the adult world. One of the staff members pointed out that he would never have been able to do that when he was a senior graduating from high school. It does seem to be a more authentic way of demonstrating one’s readiness to move on to the next stage of life than a bunch of letter or number grades given to you by an authority figure that are supposed to tell you about what facts you have memorised.
Some key differences between these models of education and compulsory schooling: facts (which can be and often are easily forgotten) vs. skills (which will serve us for life), and what to think vs. how to think.
Since August, I have been teaching New Entrants (five-year-olds) in a wonderful, student-centred, progressive school. I adore my colleagues and administration and am fortunate to have a lot of liberty in how my classroom runs. Our syndicate is embracing play-based learning, and there has been a marked shift to supporting skill-building and tamariki (children)’s own inquiry process. I have been trying to work out how much of my unschooling and free school background I can bring into my classroom while still working within a conventional school environment. So that brought me to re-examining what my role is. What is my responsibility as an adult in the classroom?
There is clearly:
Do no harm.
Nurture my children’s natural curiosity.
Facilitate opportunities for deeper inquiry.
Facilitate development of strong social-emotional skills so that tamariki grow up able to articulate their own emotions and successfully navigate conflict with others.
Nurture an environment in which each child feels welcome and supported and sees their culture and identities represented.
What more would you add to this list? What are the concrete actions we are/should be taking to fulfill these responsibilities every day?
What makes a piece of work a poem versus prose? One of my five-year-old students asked this recently after completing a poem of her own, and even after discussing the question at length all throughout my Poetry Concentration in uni, I didn’t have an answer for her. We talked about different ways that you can communicate, and the rules that apply to one form of writing versus another. Usually it looks different, but not always! Sometimes it rhymes or has a set rhythmic structure or meter, but certainly not always! Her mother told me that in their Japanese cultural understanding, a piece of writing is a poem or not based on the line breaks, I believe. (Very interested in learning more about this, having a hard time finding resources.) What is your understanding of what makes a poem a poem? If the writer calls it a poem, does that make it so, regardless of what it appears to someone else? Or are there particular criteria one must adhere to? Are there, perhaps, a set of a bunch of different sufficient but not necessary criteria, and one must fit at least one or two of them?
If you’re anything like me, this week has left you nauseated and feeling paralysed. The ongoing detention camps, Justice Kennedy’s resignation, the blow to unions, the court’s upholding the Muslim ban, it’s all overwhelming. And still, we can’t let it paralyse us. Self care is essential; please do what you need to do to recharge and keep fighting. Part of being an educator means standing up for kids. It means creating and demanding safety. Here’s a simple activity we can do with little ones to demand justice for children and families:
Write a post card to Trump demanding justice for children and their families, take a photo of it, and post it with the hashtag #postcards4families —> the organizers will donate $5 per post card to RAICES, a non-profit providing free and low-cost legal services to under-served immigrant children, families and refugees. If you’re a kid, write your age, and they will credit it as a postcard they match. (Ones by adults are great too! but they are focusing on donating for kids’ cards at the moment.) Info and addresses at the link below. The organisers have created a page to post the images to. Or/and if you have the resources, run a fundraiser yourself! Please share!
Scott Woods Makes Lists has published a lovely annotated list of some excellent picture books. Educators, families, all humans, head to the library and check some out today! Have some extra cash? Here’s an idea; buy a copy, read it to your kids, and *donate* it to the library so both you and the other kids in your town can have access ❤ 28 MORE Black Picture Books That Aren’t About Boycotts, Buses or Basketball (2018)
There is a good range of topics, poetry and prose, and harder and easier reading levels, many accessible for ELLs.
I recently led a small PD session for beginning educators working with EFL (English as a Foreign Language) small groups, and I wanted to share the resource document I wrote. It’s a collection of activities, organised by learning objective, written with Israeli students ages seven through twelve in mind, but most are adaptable for beginning English students of all ages around the world. Please feel free to share by linking back to this page, and let me know what activities you use and how they go. Please contact me with questions, comments, or suggestions to add or change by commenting below or at madeleinebella [at] gmail [dot] com. Thank you! Here’s the doc: EFL Small Group Resources
Blends and Digraphs
“To Be” and Other Irregular Conjugations
I love this website for both ELLs and native English speaking students, with resources for the classroom as well as home. Here’s a game to practice close reading of poetry: http://www.funenglishgames.com/readinggames/poem.html
And here is a page full of reading, writing, grammar, spelling, and vocab games for all levels: http://www.funenglishgames.com/games.html
Exploring English idioms and oxymorons could be a fun stimulus for a philosophy discussion on language! http://www.funenglishgames.com/funstuff.html
Have fun and have a great day!