Monday, 28 January 2013

Pomegranates, Date Cake and Couscous

They say that the best way to learn is through experience...and then reflection upon that experience. This is what made my afternoon one of my most successful teaching moments yet. All it took were pomegranates, date cakes and a bowl of couscous...

Before I get started, here is a little background info.
My goal this year was to create an all year inquiry-based unit that mainly included my science and social studies outcomes. Of course, many other subjects are touched in the processes, especially Language Arts and art.
So far we have been having so much fun our adventure. Since we study four countries throughout the year (Tunisia, Ukraine, India and Peru)  I decided to create a year-long trip. We started the year by focusing on basic mapping skills and familiarizing ourselves with the location of our community in the world.  In each country to learn about the culture, geography, economy and government. Our projects are all science based and focused on our science outcomes.

I created a fictional character named Mr. Smithwick using the awesome program The idea is that Mr. Smithwick is the CEO of a NGO called Global Community Helpers. He has hired our class to travel the globe helping out different communities. After finding out that our first trip would be to Peru, we quickly set to planning and researching. Finally the day came when we set out to Peru. Hopefully I will have a chance to blog about our in-class flight, but at this moment here are a few pictures that show our flight day.

The teachers as flight attendants.

Our in-class flight.

In-flight movie, snacks included.

After our adventure in Peru, we have traveled to Tunisia. We've only been there for less than two weeks, but our excitement is still high.

Today we visited a Tunisia Souk. I began by having the students watch Tunisian Street Walk video found on YouTube. After that we discussed what the markets look like, what was sold there and how the people were similar and different to us.
Next the students had a chance to divide into 8 groups. Four groups acted at vendors while the other four groups became the tourists. The vendors each had a cue card to read that explained the goods they were selling. The tourists used the money they had made in Peru (and exchanged at the airport in Tunis for Tunisian Dinars) to buy different items at the market.
As you can imagine there was so much learning going on like selling goods, making change, reading facts and tasting and new foods and flavours.

These were the four vendors I had as well as the write-up that the students read before selling:
  1. Pomegranates –  Pomegranates have been grown in Tunisia for hundreds of years. They are often eaten like many fruits or used for juice, wines, baking, or salads. Pomegranates are exported from Tunisia to many different parts of the world. Cost – 3 TD       
  2. Clothing – Right now in Tunis the climate is wet and mild. May people are wearing long pants, sweaters and rain jackets, especially in the evenings. Come and buy a rain jacket, umbrella, or some warmer clothes for your stay here. Cost: umbrella – 15 TD,  jacket 20 TD, pants 15 TD, sweater 20 TD
  3. Couscous – Couscous is the most popular dish in Tunisia. It has been eaten in Tunisia since the day of the Berbers, these are the first people to live in Tunisia. Couscous is made in a two-layered pot called a keskes. We just have plain couscous for you to try so it will not be as flavourful as you may think. Usually people eat couscous with meat and vegetables. The most popular way to eat couscous is with lamb. Cost: 5 TD
  4.  Date cake – Dates are grown in Tunisia. There is a city in the southwestern part of Tunisia called Tozeur, which is home to the country’s biggest oasis containing hundreds of thousands of palm trees. The people there make money by exporting of dates and also by giving tours of the Sahara Desert. Often dates are used in Tunisian sweets. This is a date cake made with dates that have been boiled.  Cost – 10 TD                       
After our afternoon at the market, we went back to our desks to count how much Dinar we had left. Since we all started with the same amount, but ended up with different amounts, each student was expected to figure out how much was spent. It was an awesome introduction to 3-digit subtraction. Finally the students had a chance to journal about their adventure in their travel journals. My one student was so excited about this afternoon, I invited him to blog on our classroom blog. This is what he said:

Today I went to the market. I worked there and bought things too. At the market there was food and clothes. I worked at the couscous vender. It was awesome! I hope I get paid tomorrow. When I got to buy things I bought 1 pair of pants, 1 cup of couscous, and pomegranate juice. The pomegranate juice was awesome and the couscous tasted like rice but it was a little better than rice. Some of my friends bought pomegranate fruit and date cakes. I liked selling and buying. I thought the souk was pretty cool.

For a kid who prefers to read and solve math problems this was his best journal entry yet! Another reason why today was so successful.

Eventually I would like to write a little more about our adventure. Until then, I'd love to hear how you are engaging students with hands on and authentic learning.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Monster Descriptions - Descriptive Writing

Getting kids to write descriptively can be challenging. Often time they write something down and in the middle of reading it to you, they stop and say, "so what I mean is that..." or "and he also has...". My immediate response is that they need more detail and description.

My grade team partner and I found a great idea on the Teaching Chanel called Monster Match. We had our classes work on writing descriptively by having them create a monster and then write a descriptive paragraph. Oh, the learning was abundant.

Prep: I drew my own monster and had wrote a descriptive paragraph about him.

Day One:
I displayed my paragraph on the SMARTboard and gave the students a piece of scrap paper to draw on. I read the paragraph and allowed the students time to draw what they were picturing in their mind.
I revealed my monster and they compared. It was great for them to see how close their drawing was to mine. Some, of course forgot to add a few pieces of detail. I also was reminded that I didn't add some detail that was important, and it was a perfect teaching moment.
The students were then asked to design their own monster. The room fell silent as they carefully worked away and hid their picture from wandering eyes.

Day Two: 
The following day we jotted down a few words that would describe our monsters. The students then wrote paragraphs using a lot of detail.

Day Three: 
After a time of revising and editing, they shared their paragraphs with a student in the other grade three class. The quickly learned how must detail they included or left out. It was a great and fun way to practice descriptive writing.