Let’s Dance

18 08 2010

Beach Ballerina Girl by Mike BairdOne of the things about being prepared to teach primary school is that, with a few exceptions¹, you are expected to teach across the curriculum in every area of learning.For many of my fellow students this meant the fear of being asked to teach Maths, Science, and Technology. No sweat for me, I’m a biologist. But how about something like the Creative Arts?

Luckily, I consider myself a bit of a homo universalis – and dabble a bit in the Arts myself. I was on Australian Idol, thank you very much. You can look at my Flickr to see I enjoy visual arts – mostly photography, collage and sometimes drawing. I also did senior Drama at high school, enjoy the occasional roleplay, and will compulsively consume any movie available to me. But then there is the final dimension of the Arts – Dance. Now some people might consider my singing pretty bad, but that’s nothing compared to catastrophe produced by the uncoordinated disrhythmic spasms of my lanky frame to sounds.

Despite around four years in the schools music tour group, the grace to perform dancing more complicated than a rocker’s headbang tended to elude me. Luckily though, it was gracelessness, not denseness that prevented me from carving up the floor, so the general theory of dance as well as handful of moves from country, jazz, ballroom, hip-hop and other genres still lies buried within my neocortex – so I can fulfill the age old teacher’s mantra – Those who can’t, teach.

Below is my basic dance lesson for middle to upper primary students (8-12 year olds), which could probably be adapted for lower secondary. I used it in my government interview portfolio to demonstrate, that while I am the highly desired young, male math and science primary school teacher, I am oh so much more (and modest, too!²)

Using curriculum language, the lesson aims to give students the opportunity to create with peers a series of simple rhythmic patterns of swinging movements with various body parts to a 4/4 time signature to synthesise a short movement sequence for presentation to the class.

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Some of the world’s finest teachers

17 08 2010

Part of our requirements to achieve successful teacher registration and qualification is to complete a professional learning profile, which must include a log of professional development activities.

This might include current or previous jobs, research, volunteer work, PD sessions, or even trawling through youtube and teachers.tv

So for those of you who might need something to add to those personal development logs, or just gain a clue in the classroom watch these global experts at work.

Embedded videos below the fold.

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Game: I wanna play forever

30 06 2010
Kids hard at learning.Image: sean dreilinger (Creative Commons)

Play-based learning is used in the Early Years to provide children with an intuitive learning environment suited to activities that little kids do best – playing around with stuff.

This tends to be phased out around the end of year 3, as we move into constructive activities and even, ‘oh noes’, direct instruction. This is something one the children I look after lamented now he is in a year 3/4 class at his new school, “We never play anymore”. Boo hoo, little Johnny, boo hoo. You don’t think I don’t not want to not play games too, yeah?

With gaming returning to an acceptable past time for adults – just listen to Kevin Butler¹ at this year’s E3 – shouldn’t this be reflected in our schools and curriculum? Many of the kids I taught respond to questions like “What’s your hobby?” or “What do you do in your spare time?” with some form of console or another. Many child care centres, and even libraries, these days have consoles available for visitors to use. And if you want to get into economics, I’m sure you can go and find your own figures on just how much this industry is worth.

Games in the classroom do present some problems, mostly to do with moral panic. Firstly just about “games” in general – with some of the students I’ve worked with not allowed to complete teacher-set homework on Mathletics at home because carers won’t let them². Others more serious and understandable moral panics about inadequate classification, excess violence, and depictions of sexual and criminal activities. The ethics and other social issues surround video gaming culture and industry is probably enough to design a unit (or three) all on your own – but what I am interested at the moment is what recreational video games are out there that could provide the stimulus material for an entire trans-disciplinary unit on there own.

As this Dueling Analogs strip illustrates games today are becoming more and more complex – not only in gameplay and graphics – but in background stories, character development, dialogue, and even the style or genre of storytelling themselves (also known as interactive fiction). These components should make it easier to take a single game and safely stretch it into multiple learning areas.

Below the fold are just some ideas:

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Clown science

18 05 2010

Misconceptions and wonder can be a great way to teach science.

Last year I had a thirteen year-old doubt me when I said that grasses were plants, which was surprising, but was a good place to start a discussion.

It’s all about asking questions, rather than making statements. The student didn’t tell me I was wrong, and I didn’t do the same for that. I was asked  something like “Is grass really a plant?” and I responded, “Well, what have we discussed plants are? Does grass match the description? If it’s not a plant what is it?” Perhaps to many questions at once, but I was only starting out.

Problems can happen when the questions are treated as the answer. “What is up with that?” is treated as “Whatever.” It’s enough to make a clown’s head hurt.

If this doesn’t make sense you may have to check the ICP original.





Drama, drama, drama

17 05 2010

Some classroom dramas I can do without. But classroom drama is another thing entirely.

I’ve been slowly trying out a few theatre-games I’ve found on this website. Some with after-school care and some in the classroom.

I’m finding theatre games can be tricky with younger kids. For one, even the most attention-seeking children can become shy when put on the spot, and secondly, they often have trouble expressing more complex ideas.

I really enjoy the Name Game #2 – very useful in learning students names. I also tried Emotion Party, The Park Bench and You (the last is a little crazy).

I think next I might like to have a go with Open Scenes, which could solve the problem of not being able to come up with dialogue.





Jim’s Story: Engine bodies and body engines

15 05 2010

This is taken from my Science Education textbook, The Art of Teaching Science. Is this a science lesson gone wrong? or a science lesson gone right?

Snapshot 10.1

Jim (not his real name) was explaining homeostasis to his Year 12 biology class. Homeostasis is the process where bodily inputs and outputs are balanced to maintain a constant internal environment. To model body temperature regulation, Jim used a car engine’s cooling system to show how heat input and output are balanced. Read the rest of this entry »





Creativity unleashed

22 11 2009

I mentioned in my last school post (the one about set ups), that I’d used a modified version of The Future Is Wild‘s animal design activity.

While TFiW is more focused on evolution and decent with modification, my class was currently focusing on a more ecological unit – what roles do different organisms have in an ecosystem, how do they interact and how do we classify them.

Previous lessons had gone through self-made classification schemes, traditional classification schemes (e.g. The Classical Greek), and scientific classification schemes. The two scientific classification schemes were taught in my classes. Read the rest of this entry »