Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Hook, Line and Sinker for building journaling practice

I’m excited!
I can’t help it.
It is back to school time. Today I spent 75 minutes with 12 wonderful teachers who are preparing to bring classes to the brilliant Edmonton Inquiring Minds site called U School.  I wanted them to feel inspired, empowered and eager to begin the skill of journaling. I could have talked the whole time but that is always my problem; I know that telling is not really the path to true enlightenment. So I tried to spend at least some of our time writing and walking.
These are the links to some of the ideas, websites and books I mentioned.
Boost your metacognition and brain vocabulary and read Brain Rules by John Medina. The brain science is so clear about how effective this is for learning.

Hook – Get a big idea that grabs you then find a collection of things your students can touch and/or experience to make a start. Today, I took in my personal horse collection but suggested Dollarstore seashells or free-for-the-picking-up-outside right-now spruce cones. One of the teachers mentioned collecting smooth rocks and then using them to create story stones. (Google “story stones” to see some lovely ideas).
A good collection needs to have at least 6 items more than kids in the class so everyone has a choice. If you are smart, things are not too breakable or expensive. Back in my ICE School days I filled a bin with old skates Sports Central was going to throw away. I have used old and new small things from the farm to prompt inquiry and writing about agriculture.
Check out the videos at Edmonton Inquiring Minds by Gillian Kydd about writing and drawing about objects. 
A great book with lesson plans around a variety of objects is Inquiry Based Learning Using Everyday Objects by Amy Alvarado and Patricia Herr.
Write about them. Connect them, reflect on them, observe them, wonder and sketch them.

Line – Take journals, pencils and get out and walk with your class. One of the teachers today suggested a one-time, year-long blanket permission to cover walks with-in a six block radius of the school. Great idea. She also mentioned making the job of caboose or back gate keeper one of the regular rotating class jobs. She has a bright safety vest for that student to wear and they love it.
This fall is an excellent time to walk and connect with the federal election. Watch for lawn signs, count them, see if the number changes. Take a look at this lovely humorous video called Election Signs by Edmonton Journal photojournalist, Ryan Jackson. Then look at his behind-the-scenes of its creation.
The City of Edmonton has created a wonderful resource called Make a Better City. It includes a set of activities centred on walking the neighborhood in the section City Scene.
Looking for prompt ideas for the walk? My favorite collection is How to be an Explorer of the World (this link is to one of my favorite blogs about books and how I found this book in the first place) by Keri Smith. Or check out the Write About website. It is free for an individual teacher to register and has some organized opportunities for joining groups based on interests.
Or maybe just inspiration? Consider Alexandra Horowitz’s On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes. Think about inviting some experts on your walks. Ask them lots of questions.
So, take some walks. Write about them. Stop and sketch on them. Map them when you return.

Sinker – All the brain research is supporting engaging learners and taking them deeper. Let your big idea include doing something that makes the world a better place.  Plan some action because of it. Write some letters, make some videos. Here again Make a Better City has some suggestions in the section Make it Real.
Michael Norton has done research that discovered spending even a small amount of money on something for someone else makes us happy.
Create something to share.
Consider a pop-up museum event. Invite parents to bring in an object related to the big idea for a celebration of learning. Get your students to view the museum and you guessed…write about an object, connect it, wonder about it, sketch it.

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