Monday, July 15, 2013

Picture This - Summer School Learning

July in Toronto is hot. July in Toronto in a section of a school that isn't air-conditioned is REALLY hot. However, what makes the heat bearable is the enthusiasm of my now-sixteen Grade 3 summer school students as we continue to work and learn together. My class size bumped up unexpectedly today because a student from another room made a respectful but persistent pitch to the administration to be transferred to my class. He explained that the other class was not challenging enough for him and that he heard that the activities occurring in Room 206 would best suit his needs and would  best match the expectations he had upon enrolling in summer school for technology enrichment.  That's a big compliment and I hope that our tasks will live up to his hopes. He thanked me profusely for allowing him to join our group at the end of the day, so I believe that's a good indication that he's happy. I admire his tenacity and polite advocacy.

The "technology enriched environment" that is supposedly in my room does not equal a laptop for every student. Many of the devices I'm using for summer school this year are my own personal gadgets (iPad, laptop for IWB, Live Scribe pen). One of the most delightful devices I'm employing is my digital camera. Every day I take photos and post them on our class wiki. I've had several parents comment on the pictures they've seen of their children in action. Although they've all signed media release forms, I'll limit myself to sharing just the shots that don't directly include the students in them. I feel that the photos really do a great job of illustrating the learning (and the kind of learning) that we are engaging in this month.

 Day 2 - We conducted a melting experiment to see which would melt in the sun fastest - ice, chocolate, or wax. Ice won by a landslide, but it lead some groups to investigate the melting temperatures for different substances (including the melting temperature for mice - ewww!)

 Day 3 - We had indoor recess because of the rain and so the students cracked open a set of DIY butterfly gliders I brought on a whim. They drew their own designs and then flew them in the hallway. It turned into a math lesson as we measured how far they flew.

 Day 3 - We took photos of the process of our drying experiment. Which J-cloth do you think would dry quickest - one soaked in Coke, one soaked in apple juice, or one soaked in water? The results showed that the juice crossed the finish line first. This led us to try other liquids and do a more thorough job of timing our experiments.

 Day ??? - This is a photo of the room just before the students arrived in the morning. I feel proud of the way this space has been cleaned and created by all of us - with the exception of the French posters at the top of the wall near the ceiling, we are completely responsible for the rest of the content on the walls, boards, and desks.

 Day ??? - Another view of the classroom. We have our iPad app list we jointly decided to make available for our numeracy center, a calendar for our daily Twitter post, our free choice reading area, and a nice wide open spot in the middle of the class for our rug that can be used for reading, building, or whatever the students want.

 Day 4 - We use a lot of inquiry questions to guide our daily work. This experiment answers the question: "How can we harness the power of the sun to clean contaminated water?" Despite this being the most complicated of our three procedures / experiments, many of the students chose this one for their good copy. Final copies appear on the wiki.

 Day 8 - This is a photo of our SMART Board as we collaboratively planned an explanation. I think it was a comment from one of the students that led us to directly connect our guided reading texts to supplement the information on our plan sheet. (Our guided reading groups are named after ancient civilization deities of the sun.)

Day 9 (today) - Here is a completed solar oven cooking a s'more. One thing I learned from them was the existence of halal marshmallows - unfortunately, they were hard to find to buy. One thing they learned from each other was to position the angle of the top flap of their oven AND to position the direction their oven faced for maximum sunlight and major melting. One thing I learned from nature - you cannot leave food unguarded or marauding seagulls will try to steal it! (The kids happily read in the shade, running up once in a while to check the status of their creations; I circled the group of ovens frying in the direct sun, shooing away birds and explaining to curious parents why we look like we littered the playground.)

What do you think our summer school class is like, based on these photos? What do you think I have learned, as a teacher? What do you think the students have learned? I know I've learned plenty, but I'll save my reflections for the final week of summer school, which is only two weeks away!!

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