I've had a great term teaching Social Studies Methods to pre-service teachers at Brandon University. One of my goals as a university instructor is to engage my students in assignments that are useful and relevant to their future teaching practices. This year, one of our assignments was to create a collaborative collection of K-8 social studies teaching resources. My students sourced a ton of great resources, and I'm excited to share the document with you here.
Sunday, December 12, 2021
In January 2018, I enrolled in Advanced Research Methodologies at University of Victoria with professor Dr. Kathy Sanford. Kathy is a feminist and post-structural researcher in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction as well as the graduate advisor there. I learned a lot from Kathy, and perhaps one of the most interesting things she shared with us was her work in museums. Together with colleagues Dr. Darlene Clover and Dr. Nancy Taber, they developed the feminist museum hack--a pedagogical and methodological approach that encourages museum visitors to examine exhibits through a critical feminist lens. This disruptive practice challenges the museum as an authority on history and promotes the inclusion of different perspectives, diverse groups, and seldom-heard narratives. Museum hacking can also act as a form of resistance against gender oppression and injustice. Kathy took our class to the Royal BC Museum where we had the fascinating experience of "hacking" the exhibits.
This experience stayed with me, and when I found myself teaching Social Studies Methods at Brandon University in 2020 and 2021, I wanted to expose my students to this pedagogical approach. With Daly House Museum only a short walk away, it seemed like the perfect learning experience to accomplish a number of outcomes: i) demonstrate the role of museums in the teaching of social studies; ii) strengthen my students' understanding of experiential learning approaches; iii) develop their ability to examine museum exhibits and curatorial statements; and iv) give them the knowledge and experience to hack museums with their future students as part of social studies teaching.
To build knowledge of the approach, we connected with Dr. Sanford and asked if she would be willing to talk to our class via video call. To prepare for the call, we read one of Dr. Sanford's articles on curatorial statements (available here on p. 190) and listened to a podcast interview with Dr. Clover. I also pulled out some resources from Silvia Tolisano (2011) on how to turn a Skype call into a learning call. As it often is when teaching pre-service teachers, my purpose was two-fold. I wanted to demonstrate for them how to maximize the learning surrounding a video call so they could do this with their own students AND I wanted to make this a rich learning experience for them. We began by searching Dr. Sanford online and used Google Maps to see where she was located. We confirmed the time zone and season there. Using a shared Google Doc as a planning tool, my students assumed a variety of roles: greeting Kathy, providing a territorial acknowledgement, asking questions (added to the Google Doc before and during the call), sharing our learning via Twitter, and thanking Kathy.
|Samantha shared a Treaty 2 territorial acknowledgement.|
|Cassandra welcomed Dr. Sanford to Brandon University and our class. |
|Dr. Kathy Sanford presented on her work with museums and the museum hack approach.|
Our next task was to decide how we would approach hacking the Daly House Museum. Kathy had shared a variety of ideas, such as leaving sticky-note suggestions and questions on exhibits, re-writing curatorial statements, and redesigning exhibits to make them more inclusive and representative. First of all, we wanted to look at all the exhibits and match them to Manitoba curricular outcomes for K-8 social studies. For the actual museum hack, my students came up with their own approach based on the book snaps we had created earlier in the course. They decided to photograph exhibits, then use text-over-image tools to annotate the pictures with their questions, criticisms, and suggestions to improve the exhibits. The images were then shared via Twitter using the hashtags #ssmethods and #museumhack. Take a look at the students' visit to the museum here.
And check out my students' museum hacks:
This was a powerful learning experience and my students' feedback was very positive. We loved getting out of the classroom (which seems to happen rarely during COVID) and we really enjoyed examining the exhibits with a critical, contemporary lens. It made for a more engaging and relevant museum visit that had true purpose. Are you interested in trying the museum hack with your students? You can apply this strategy to in-person or virtual museum visits as well as online exhibits. Learn more here:
- listen to a podcast interview with Darlene Clover on the museum hack (also available on Apple Podcasts)
- read the Feminist Adult Educators' Guide to Aesthetic, Creative, and Disruptive Strategies in Museums and Community (edited by Clover, Dzulkifli, Gelderman, & Sanford, 2020)
Sunday, April 11, 2021
Hey everyone! So it's been a hot minute since I added a new blog post to Kindergarten Diva...and although my husband and family will tell you that I'll always be a diva, I'm no longer a kindergarten one 😢 I concluded my kindergarten classroom practice last June when I made the decision to move to a resource/inclusive learning support position. Why? Well, a few factors informed my decision:
- I have a Master of Education degree in Special/Inclusive Education, and when I lived in Victoria, I worked nearly exclusively in special education. I absolutely loved it.
- the pandemic wasn't going anywhere, and I had no desire to EVER teach kindergarten online again. And, I was really concerned about how the pandemic would impact my pedagogical approaches to in-person teaching.
- there was a very small number of K students coming in, which meant that it would be a K/1 multi-age class. Since I'm only 0.50, that meant a job/class share situation--zero interest in that!
- I knew that I'd be collecting data for my PhD dissertation research for the 2020-21 school year. A resource position just seemed like a better fit with the busy-ness of data collection. And it really has been.
- data collection (I'm currently conducting a mixed-methods multiple-case study in one rural and one urban school division). More info coming soon--this definitely requires its own post.
- teaching online at Brandon University in the Faculty of Education. In January, I taught an Evaluation and Assessment course, and now I'm teaching Teacher Identity in PENT (Program for the Education of Northern Teachers) at Brandon University.
- working with my teacher best friend Leah Obach at KG Education. Although our in-person learning retreats are on hiatus, we're having lots of fun blending wellness and professional learning through different online offerings. We have our online signature course, Cultivating Connection, a podcast by the same name (just search Cultivating Connection on Spotify or Apple podcasts), a wellness challenge, and we're currently launching another session of our online book club.
- I'm the secretary of ManACE (not a super busy position of course)
- acting as the teacher professional development chair in Fort La Bosse School Division. My main activities are hosting/organizing our monthly podcast, Teach like a Bosse, designing monthly Potty PD posters for school staff bathrooms, and facilitating an online professional learning book club for FLBSD teachers. We just read Wab Kinew's book, The Reason You Walk, and it was so good!
- teaching yoga online from my home yoga studio. Online yoga has gone really well, and after a year of this, I've definitely got the technology figured out (this probably deserves its own post too). Find out what I'm offering with yoga here.
9 Tools and Strategies for Teaching and Learning Online
Tuesday, January 7, 2020
Kindergarten Connections Facebook Group
The OK Book
Sunday, September 15, 2019
September in a Kindergarten classroom is a time like no other. One of my good K teacher friends always used to say, "Kindergarten is yucky until after Halloween" and there is definitely some truth to those words! Any Kindergarten teacher will tell you that introducing first-time students to the school setting is challenging! It's an incredibly important time for you and your littles--starting the year off on the right foot will set all of you up for ten months of rich and productive learning experiences. I find that too often, teachers are worried about academic outcomes from the first week of school (and no wonder...lots of pressure to boost literacy and numeracy achievement). Instead, I believe that time invested in developing strong routines, procedures, and classroom community will pay huge dividends down the road in your classroom.
Here are a few suggestions for setting appropriate expectations, keeping your little ones moving, and creating a calm and happy classroom atmosphere.
1) Frequent movement breaks: at the start of the year, I maintain that a Kindergarten child should be able to sit and focus for five minutes (one minute per year of age). I'm not sure where I got this notion from, but it generally seems to hold true. So when planning activities, don't require your children to sit and be still for longer than five minutes at a time. If they seem engaged, you can begin to stretch it out, but watch closely for signs of fatigue and restlessness. What do we do for movement breaks?
- action songs/games: sing them yourself or play them on Spotify or YouTube. Below I've included a Spotify playlist with some of my favourites. Of course Go Noodle is always a great option too...however I find that sometimes I lose my class while I'm logging back into the computer and finding the activity I want. Action songs need to be quick and easy...usually I just sing them myself. A quick game of The Farmer in the Dell or Ring Around the Rosie works well for a fun movement break too.
- yoga: grab yourself a set of yoga cards and keep them nearby! Depending on the length of the movement break, every child can choose a card or maybe the special helper picks five. Go through the deck and eliminate the cards you don't want to do in your K classroom (headstand...not a good idea). Hold up the card, demonstrate the pose, and let everyone give it a try. Yoga is non-competitive and promotes balance, strength, and calm.
- action counting: jump 5 times as you count out loud, march 10 times, pat your knees 3 times... you get the idea.
- move around the classroom: I have two instructional areas set up in my classroom, one at the SMART Board and the other one at the circle. We also have our table spots. Throughout the day, we move frequently from one area to the next for quick and easy movement breaks. I cover my eyes and challenge them to move so quietly that I can't hear them, then I make a big fuss that they mustn't be listening because I can't hear a thing. They love it, and it provides excellent practice for moving around the classroom quietly.
- math games: I post the numerals 0-10 around the classroom in random places. For a quick movement break, I'll give each child a ten frame/dot pattern card and they have to find the numeral it matches and stand in front of it. A few rounds of this strengthens number recognition and provides some much needed movement.
3) Develop a calm classroom atmosphere: Kindergarten classrooms can be busy, noisy places (as they should be), but calm and quiet times are needed too. How to accomplish this?
- Insist on quiet before instruction: there are countless ways to prepare students to listen (1-2-3 eyes on me, 1-2 eyes on you) or my personal favourite (criss cross applesauce, hands in lap, gingersnap, lips zipped, Cool Whip), so find one or two that work for you and your students. Take the time to practice what good listening behavior looks like and why it is important. Offer lots of praise!
- Breath work: to help regulate our bodies and emotions, we take part in different breathing activities throughout the day. Breath work can be as simple as a few deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth, and both you and your students will feel more relaxed after. In fact, I always maintain that breath work in the classroom is more for me than my students! Check out this video for some ideas or grab this book from Amazon.
- Minimize classroom clutter: cover your shelves with fabric, turn off the fluorescent lights and add some mini lights or lamps, and get rid of the glaring primary colours everywhere. I haven't thoroughly looked into the research on this, but I know that my room feels calmer and more soothing since I made these changes (with more to come). Take a look at my classroom here.
- Soothing music: while we engage in quiet activities, we listen to soothing background music. Here's our favourite playlist at the moment.
- Diffuse essential oils: as long as families are supportive and you are compliant with school policies, consider diffusing calming essential oils such as lavender or Young Living Stress Away. My kiddos love having a diffuser in the classroom and are so interested in the different oils and why we use them.
- math games: simple dice games are easy to teach and fun to play. They provide an opportunity to strengthen skills such as subitizing, one-to-one correspondence, number recognition, and turn-taking. Here's a couple of my favourite games!
- fine motor activities: developing fine motor skills and strengthening little hands is an important pre-cursor to more formal printing activities. That's why we do lots of fun centre-style activities in the first term of Kindergarten. Students love these activities, and often I integrate literacy, numeracy, and science outcomes as students develop their pincer grasp and increase hand strength. Learn more here!
What are your suggestions for starting the year off right in Kindergarten? How do you keep busy four and five-year olds engaged as they learn the routines of school? Comment below or reach out to me on social media--I'd love to hear from you!
Monday, July 22, 2019
When I teach pre-service teachers, I strive to explore the course content while introducing teaching strategies and approaches that my students can use in their own classrooms. For those of who you follow my work, you'll already know that project-based learning is one of my preferred pedagogical approaches regardless of the age of my learners. In Teacher Identity, one of the outcomes is to gain insight into the nature of teaching as a profession. I decided that an educator panel would be the perfect way to talk to real educators while participating in an authentic project-based learning experience. My goal for this project was for my students to inquire into the teaching profession, construct new knowledge, and gain experience in designing and implementing a project-based learning experience. Throughout the project, I wanted to explain the teaching opportunities and links to K-12 curricula as well as how students of diverse needs might be included.
When I presented this idea to my students, they were enthusiastic about an educator panel, but many had little to no knowledge of project-based learning. As a result, I shared a presentation with them that Leah Obach and I had developed to share at conferences. We examined the history of project-based learning back to the days of John Dewey and reviewed the relevant literature from the field. Exploring resources from the Buck Institute for Education PBL Works and projects from Kindergarten-Grade 12 gave students a clearer vision of project-based learning (PBL). With this deeper understanding, we were more prepared to plan and implement an educator panel using a project-based learning model.
To-do list: with our goals more clearly defined, it was possible to develop a to-do list to structure the project. As always, the to-do list grew and evolved throughout the project and structured our daily activities until the educator panel took place.
Students signed up for the committees that appealed to them. In a K-12 classroom, I might have made rules about how many students could be on each committee--and you can see that the committees were not balanced. However, I decided it was more important that my adult learners had choice--and I was delighted to see them solve problems and negotiate who should work on what committee.
Panel guest list: all students had the opportunity to provide suggestions for potential panel guests, then our invitation committee made the final decisions and contacted them. Our invitation committee was committed to a balanced and representative committee, paying close attention to factors such as gender, Indigenous/non-Indigenous, years of experience, and role/position. Even the panel members themselves commented on the broad representation and balance of the group of speakers!
Thank you cards and gift certificates: four students took on the task of creating beautiful handmade thank you cards. We held a class vote to decide on gift cards for our panelists, concluding that Chapters/Coles gift cards would be the best choice.
Refreshments: the students felt strongly that we needed to offer our guests refreshments and have a "meet and greet" after the panel. The refreshment committee approached the director of PENT and asked for funding to cover the costs of refreshments and gift cards. I was thrilled when Mr. Minshull asked the students to draft a letter outlining their requests and submit a budget. As a class, we discussed these fantastic teaching and learning opportunities--numeracy, learning how to develop a budget, letter writing, and persuasive writing.
Mr. Minshull agreed to support our project and the students had the great idea of comparing prices between Tim Horton's and Forbidden Flavours for coffee and tea. Forbidden Flavours was only $1 more with the added bonuses of setting up and taking away the coffee for us (as well as being a local business), so we decided to go with them. Fruit, dainties, and bottles of water for the speakers were the other items on the menu. Delicious treats from another local business, Chez Angela, seemed perfect for our event.
Dress code: I made the suggestion that students might want to dress up as they would be meeting some well-known educators from the field who could influence their future careers. We discussed how Brandon University logo wear was a great option to dress clothes. On the day of the event, our class looked sharp!
Social media: as part of our course, all the students set up Twitter accounts and learned how to use hashtags to participate in Twitter chats and back channels. We decided to stay off our devices as we wanted to be present and focused during the panel, but we did want someone to share on social media as the event was happening. Kyle McIvor agreed to be our official tweeter, taking on the role of paraphrasing and sharing important information from the panel using the hashtag #PENTteacheridentity.
As always, following a project-based learning experience, I came away feeling amazed with my students' abilities and the amount of learning that had taken place--as well as incredibly grateful for the opportunity to guide a wonderful group of future teachers.
Interested in trying project-based learning? Find out more here:
Strengthening Students' Numeracy Skills Through PBL
A Road Map for Success in Early Years: Project-Based Learning
Walking for Polar Bears
Reindeer Rescue: Project-Based Learning in Junior Kindergarten