inquiring minds

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Course 1 Final Project

My favorite unit to teach so far this year is our story unit.

I love stories and so do most second graders so this unit is a match made in heaven.

The unit was coming up around the same time as Jason Ohler‘s one day Digital Storytelling workshop at ASIJ.

Naturally, I jumped at the chance to see if his ideas could compliment or enrich our already well established unit of inquiry.

After the short one day workshop, not only did I feel we needed to shift the main focus of our unit, but I rediscovered my own passion for storytelling.

Ohler emphasizes the equal  importance of oral storytelling, written storytelling, and art in his process, where as our unit was only emphasizing the written aspect of storytelling. Stories have been passed down orally since before written communication existed. And the ability to tell stories to persuade, sell, or get your point across, makes it an increasingly vital skill for our current times.

My favorite example of Ohler’s Digital Storytelling is Hannah’s story, because I think it’s powerful the way Hannah tells the story orally with her hand drawn illustrations supporting her in the background. It’s something my second graders can do.

Ohler’s whole philosophy, approach and resources are on his site and are available for anyone to use.

PYP Unit Planner – Grade 2 – How We Express Ourselves


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My Literate Life

For my Reading Pt. 1 Course, I have been asked to reflect on my life as a reader.  I thought I’d share my thoughts here.

My Experiences as a Reader

Early Childhood

From what my mother tells me, my early reading life consisted of us reciting nursery rhymes and singing together.  I remember having books of Fairy Tales with illustrations that were both beautiful and terrifying.  My other early memories center more around classic children’s television programming more than books.

Elementary School

I attended a French Immersion school, so my primary school books were ‘Dimoitou et ses amis’, and Robert Munch translated into French.
My interest in books blossomed slowly and really bloomed when my mother took my brother and I to our public library.  I was introduced to Dr. Seuss and other books that I would borrow again and again.  I was fond of rhyming and repetition and rereading.

Books gradually became an escape for me in my junior and intermediate years.  I was always very heavily into television, so when I was told to turn off the TV, I would escape into some Babysitter Club, RL Stein, or Christopher Pike book and later any Caroline B. Cooney book that I could get my hands on.  I attribute my becoming a voracious reader to Archie comics and Babysitter Club books.  Although I attempted a few classics when I was stranded at my Grandparent’s house, I wasn’t really ready and ended up quickly abandoning many of them.  I did enjoy the adventures of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, and fell in love with Alice in Wonderland, but wouldn’t read another acclaimed children’s classic until much later.  My love of television got me hooked on another form of comic book as Japanese animation became popular. Through this medium I discovered Manga (Japanese style comic books) and began a collection of Heroine-centred and fantasy themed manga books.

High School

Starting high school, I continued to read for pleasure to avoid doing homework when there was nothing of interest on TV or my parents thought I’d watched enough for the day.  My feelings about the required reading in my high school English classes depended half on the book itself and half on the teacher’s personality and style of teaching.  I had very little patience for the ‘read a chapter then answer these questions’ method of reading instruction.  Now as an afterthought I find it really strange that we read so many plays in English class, but never acted any out.  Some notable books we read in High School included Romeo & Juliet and Brave New World.  I continued with French Emerson, so we had twice as many novels and pieces of literature to study.  I really enjoyed reading Le pont sur la rivier Kwai, (The Bridge on the River Kwai) in French, but I couldn’t help noticing the books we read in French class were far racier with themes of sexuality and explicit language.  On top of the required reading in high school I discovered Harry Potter series quite by accident.  Like everyone before and after me, I instantly got swept into the world of Hogwarts.


In University, I continued my study of foreign languages by majoring in Spanish language and literature.  This opened up yet another world of books.  I fell in love with the short plays by Paloma Pedrero, the movies of Pedro Almodovar and books such as Bajarse al moro.
One summer I took a Children’s literature class as an elective and was blown away by all the classics I had either abandoned or hadn’t even interested me as a child.  I was introduced to Watership Down which holds a strong position among my favorite books of all time.  This was one of the best courses I took in University and the diversity of books I was exposed to was truly outstanding.
In teacher’s college and my first years of teaching, I am thankful to have been introduced to so many great children’s authors and the power of picture books in particular.

Adult Life

Nowadays I am extremely thankful for technology, because it has really revolutionised how I read and what I read.  Because I’m living and teaching overseas, I don’t have very easy access to books in English and colleagues who share the same practices and resources as the ones I left in Ontario.  I keep up do date via on-line resources and blogs related to Young Adult and Children’s literature.  I get ideas for professional resources and non-fiction reads via renowned teaching blogs and websites.  I can carry my library with me on my Kindle and I can listen to audio books while doing the dishes or laundry.
Right now I am very into Young Adult and Adult Fantasy and Futuristic Distopian Genres.  Books by Megan Whalen Turner, Kristen Cashore, Melina Marchetta, Susanne Collins, and George R.R. Martin are some recent favorites.

How these Experiences Influence the Way I Teach Reading

The reading experiences I have had over the years have made me realise that readers develop at their own pace.  Independent of all curriculum and other mandated documents, I try to teach both students and their parents that reading is a very personal endeavour.  It’s ok to abandon books, to ‘get stuck in a rut’ of a particular genre or author, to reread and to read electronically or with your ears (audio books).  I try to provide my students with different media, such as pictures, articles, and movies to help enrich the reading experience and I do my best to expose them to different forms of reading material such as books, magazines, manuals, websites, audiobooks, comic books, manga, etc.  I also try to read a lot of books at the appropriate age level of my students and keep up to date with new authors and trends.  I am therefore able to recommend and discuss reading material with my students.  My goal is to help students find the joy in reading for pleasure any way I can.

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‘Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us’ by Daniel H. Pink

I’m really glad I read ‘Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us’, by Daniel H. Pink.

(Actually, I guess I didn’t read it, I listened to it in audiobook format.)

I liked the author’s combination of scientific research and real-life examples to explain that people are generally more motivated and productive if given autonomy over certain aspects of their work.  This applies to people of all ages.

As an educator, I guess I wasn’t as surprised by Pink’s collection of research and concrete examples as I should have been.  This is because I see the harmful effects that carrot and stick reward systems have on kids every day.

Pink really gave me hope, though.  His tool-kit for teachers in the third part of his book offered lots of solutions for both teachers and parents to foster ‘type i’ behaviour in our kids.  `Type i’ refers to intrinsically motivated people.  (As opposed to those who are mostly extrinsically motivated.)

I know from now on I will definitely be giving any homework I assign the ‘type i’ test be sure it is meaningful home learning.

I hope to use Pink’s ideas so I can better motivate my students with lessons that promote autonomy, mastery, and have a clear purpose.

I will be recommending ‘Drive’ for my school’s professional development literature circles.  I think it is a must read for all educators and others involved in the business of motivating people.