Saturday, 30 July 2016

Establishing a Positive Classroom Climate

Establishing a Positive Classroom Climate

Maintaining a positive and supportive atmosphere in class is one of the most important things you can do, besides actually teaching. In my kindergarten class, I have Spanish and Japanese students, and they have little understanding of my own cultural background. Even so, I try to incorporate my own culture, and the culture of my students, into the classroom when possible.

‘Teaching Tolerance’ mentions that a child’s understanding of their own race and ethnicity are instrumental in teaching and how they learn (Common). I’ve never heard my students disparage each other’s ethnicity in any language, which makes me think they have been raised similarly enough to not recognize the differences in heritage. They were all born and raised in Japan, after all. On occasion, I will work aspects of each culture into classroom activities. For example, on Father’s Day we had Spanish students make their cards early, since that holiday in Spain is on March 19th. To avoid falling into stereotypes about cultures, we tend to stick to holidays, traditions, and crafts that children of all backgrounds can participate in.

I am an American, and that means I am able to relate to my students through pop culture. All of the children, raised in Japan, have been exposed to American media that has been translated overseas. They like Frozen and Lilo & Stitch, they like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and they like Spider-man. Although the kids may recognize these characters, they won’t make the connection that they are from America unless I explain it to them. Showing them cartoons in their original English language, or showing them cartoons from Japan dubbed in English, helps to show how our countries are connected, and encourages their curiosity toward other parts of the world.

One part of a positive classroom is equality. I’m talking about all students having the same opportunities and chances. Each student can participate, share, and play. For teachers, this means anti-bia teaching: there should be no favoritism, and students shouldn’t be ignored for not measuring up. Teaching Tolerance says this can be done through methods such as ‘supporting students’ identities and making it safe for them to fully be themselves,’ or ‘creating classroom environments that reflect diversity, equity and justice’ (Critical). At the start of last year, my co-teacher and I made sure to place racially and ethnically diverse photos, artwork, books, etc, around the classroom so students would see a greater variety of worldviews from a global perspective.

Another aspect of a positive classroom is safety. I mentioned this in my previous presentation, and in the anti-bullying case study, but students function better when they feel the classroom is a safe space. I mean free of persecution, of exclusion, and of danger. Practicing anti-bullying strategies place the students on an equal level where they all feel safe with each other, and that will contribute to a positive atmosphere for everyone. We participate in multiple safety and emergency drills annually, working with the community so the students are aware of what to do in the case of emergencies, and that they can count on us to take care of them. They know not to talk to strangers, and who they can turn to for help when they are in trouble.

In the future, I would like to expand the amount of content in my lessons relating to the racial and ethnic backgrounds of my students. Ideally, I’d cover one aspect of one culture everyday, but time constraints make this difficult. I plan to continue exploring options and will seek out an easier, more effective way of making this a reality. I hope that, by continuing to integrate the cultures of my students into the their daily lives, I can make them more aware of their own cultures and the impact their cultures have on their lives and the lives of others.


Teaching Tolerances, Common Beliefs (PDF):

Teaching Tolerance, Critical Practices for Anti-bias Education:

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Why should a teacher be prepared to allow or require students to use mobile devices to achieve learning objectives?

Activity 1: Mobile Learning
Unit 5: Digital Skills for Instruction, Part II
Module 3: The Learner and Learning in a Digital Age

Why should a teacher be prepared to allow or require students to use mobile devices to achieve learning objectives?

When I was a student, smartphones did not exist. Some students, but not all, had cell phones they could use for basic texting and phone calls. I had friends who would sneak Nintendo Gameboys into class in their backpacks to play during study hall. If you wanted to access the internet, you either went to the library computers or went home. Now, every adult has a computer in their pocket, with access to the internet and the world at large. That same access is becoming more and more prevalent in schools as parents buy smartphones for their children. So why shouldn’t we teachers allow students to use these mobile devices when learning?

There are pitfalls, of course. Most students would rather surf the net than listen to a lecture. You cannot keep an eye on each student’s screen at all times. As mentioned in Tom Daccord’s article, it is more beneficial to use mobile devices--such as smartphones and tablets--as learning aides to foster creativity than plugging students into pre-made content that does not fit the scope of their lessons. ‘On average, children are 12.1 when they receive their first mobile device’ (Growing Wireless). This shows that, from a young age, many students have access to mobile devices. Comprehension of basic functionality is a necessity.

One example of a mobile activity that could be done with smartphones or tablets would be a game based around sharing information in a variety of ways. In a Project-based Learning experience, students could be granted the agency to share information with a number of peers. Giving students the freedom to choose what information they share, and how they share it--either through apps, or via email, even photographs--could reveal interesting results about the student body and the way students choose to communicate with one another. I executed an activity similar to Daniel Roggenkamp’s ESL activity, and found my students used the tablets they were given to explore the environment in completely different ways, and even went above and beyond the goals of the activity due to high interest levels.

Another example of mobile activities could be geocaching. The overview mentions this: ‘Using the GPS or the phone measurement tools on a school field trip such as to the zoo or a camping trip to gather data and complete specific project activities.’ Similar in nature, this type of activity involves using a mobile device’s GPS to locate a container placed at specific coordinates somewhere around the globe. Students are encouraged to use navigational tools in a familiar (or unfamiliar) environment to complete a task. Popular activities using geocaching are games like hide and seek and scavenger hunts. This type of activity can be augmented through collaborative teamwork and alteration of tasks and goals. The same type of activity could incorporate other aspects of mobile devices, like taking photos to show successful completion of objectives, or relaying additional information to other groups to help them meet their own goals.

The reality is that mobile devices are here to stay, and have been integrated into daily life. Preparing students to use them outside of school means allowing them to experiment in school, even at the cost of some disruptions. Finding teaching and learning strategies that compel students to use these mobile devices properly and successfully will take time, and trial and error. Ultimately, it will yield positive results, and students will be able to translate what they have learned through their mobile devices into challenges they face in the real world.


Sunday, 10 July 2016

Shareable Google Drive link for a board game

Here is a link to a shareable board game.

The rules are simple. Students roll a dice and move a gamepiece onto one of the images. They then say 'I can play' + image. For example, 'I can play drums' when they land on the picture of drums.

Click the Link!