Every morning over breakfast I absorb a view which stretches over the backyard, across the dam to the paddocks beyond, and beyond that…the blue-grey blur of the Australian bush. The judicious placement of native plantings act as a frame to the vista, at the same time blocking out neighbouring homes to create a sense of ownership of all that is laid out before me. The framed image is ever changing and recently I was rewarded with a visit by a flock of ibis. This poem is the reult:)
Ibis in the paddock
Brought there by the swollen waters of the dam
Promising tasty morsels to eat.
White crescents in the yellow grass
Meandering along the tree line
To dam’s edge
Feasting on a smorgasbord.
Vanishing as suddenly as they appeared.
When food and climate conditions are favourable they may swarm then settle. They are a sudden destructive influence. You may be picturing swarming locusts, descending on lush, green pastures; stripping it bare of anything that can be devoured. My voracious feeders are not insects but rather two young men home from college, my son and his friend. The effect was the same as invading, voracious insects.
Take your eyes of the game and there goes the avocado for the evening’s salsa; now on toast with the tomato you had set aside for pizza. Their afternoon snack of biscuits and dip turned into a feast for kings with the addition of the sharp cheddar, homemade relish and pesto. Litres of milk a vehicle for the new tin of milo then the final straw, the gourmet ice-cream purchased to go with Easter Sunday desert. It leaves me standing – gobsmacked.
They stayed a week, cleaned out the fridge, pantry and freezer and have left again. I have been told the conditions will be favourable for another swarm in early May. This time not two but a hoard and will consist of music festival attendees. So I have two questions for you: 1. What food stores should I lay stock to in preparation for the impending invasion? And 2.what is the collective noun for a group of hungry college students who are never sated?
We have been having glorious weather here in Central Victoria. T-shirt weather, not a jumper in site. Perfect for enjoying the Easter break.
However, the weather has resulted in some confusion. Amid the brilliant autumn reds and oranges there is a smattering of Spring blossom. If a picture says a thousand words then this image screams one – CONFUSED.
My daughter came home the other night and groaned about her impending Maths test the following day. I asked her what she was studying and she replied with “sin, cos and tan” quickly followed by “why do we even need to learn it? I mean, when am I ever going to use this?’ I admit, the teacher in me automatically stepped in to formulate a ‘because you just do/because it is in the curriculum’ type response but then the realist in me took over and, after pondering for a few minutes, replied ‘actually, I don’t know.’
I too studied sin, cos and tan in high school. (I remember it distinctly because it was the 1 maths topic in which my twin sister was better than me.) Truth be told, I still cannot actually name 1 situation since high school that has required me to use any of the functions. I remember my teacher saying at the time that he had used it the weekend before he taught us about it when creating a pergola at his house. (Great that he could give it a practical example but really, as a female I can’t say I was immediately convinced of the importance/relevance of it me and my future).
Discussing the work that my daughter had done in maths while learning about this topic I was astonished to discover that the historic method of every 2nd question down the left hand side is STILL being employed to teach Maths concepts (that arguably shouldn’t be taught anyway). With all of the advances in technology (including the ability to share research and best practice) I was surprised to find this method still being employed. This prompted me to wonder -Have I missed some mind blowing research sprouting this effectiveness of this model of teaching maths? I digress.
I have spent a bit of time since the sin,cos tan question from my daughter wondering about our high school maths curriculum today and I am left with a few questions…
- Is this style of teaching prevalent across other schools/states/countries?
- Should we be moving our Maths teaching to a ‘just in time’ model rather than the ‘just in case’ one that I believe we have now? Is this even possible? What would it look like?
- What are the must have Maths skills for students leaving high school? What makes these skills must have?
- What research is there on the effectiveness of problem based learning in a secondary Maths classroom? (Surely, this is a more effective method of teaching than a focus on repetition and drills of abstract concepts?)
- What Maths does the average person use most in real life after high school? Is there any room in the curriculum for real life Maths applications such as the credit cards maths, life budgeting maths etc?
- What role can streaming play in ensuring the curriculum is relevant for the students? When should this streaming start? Who should decide on the stream a student follows?
I will commit myself to paying more attention to Numeracy from now on, in search of answers to my wonderings. Until then, I have introduced my daughter to the wonders of Wolfram Alpha
and the Khan Academy.
Participating in the SOLC had allowed an exploration of writing and I have been surprised, on many levels, where the journey has taken me. In todays slice I will reflect on what I have noticed and the implications for me as a teacher of writing.
What the SOLC has taught me about writing.
|I have spent a lot of time ‘writing’ without actually putting anything on paper
||Students are not procrastinating when they just sit there. Quite likely they are rehearsing in their heads.
||Allow students the space to think and create without the pressure to put something on the page
|Ralph Fletcher was on the mark when he said a subject must interest me and it must be something I think I can write well about.” I agree it is easier on both counts
||Ditto for students.
Really highlights the importance of choice in writing for us all.
|Assign writing less. Allow more choice with topic, genre and audience
|Reading other peoples Slices has given me inspiration, ideas and encouragement.
||Mentor texts are very important for writers. We need to match our students to mentor texts.
||My students and I need to learn to read like writers and build a resource of mentor texts.
|The more I write the more I reflect on what I need to do with students
|Developing our own habit of writing does support our teaching of writing
||Keep feeding the habit.
|I am more observant of the world around me
||As Donald Murray says “Writing makes me aware of the extraordinary in the ordinary,”
||Foster writing opportunities for students that require them to observe colour, life, people, places, sounds…everything
|I have relied on my Writer’s Notebook as a source of ideas.
||Keeping a writer’s notebook is effective as a collection of seed ideas for writing.
||Make Writer’s Notebook a non- negotiable part of the Writer’s Workshop
|It has been powerful being part of a writing community
||Audience is a motivator – it influences what we write
|| Students need authentic purpose and audience to influence their writing
|The more writing I do, the more I get out of it
||Ditto for students
||Daily writing where students have choice is essential
|The more I write the more I am rehearsing sub consciously, and ‘interviewing’ the flotsam and jetsom of my day as a perspective writing topic
||My journey is taking me along the road to a writerly life
||The more students write the more we introduce them to a writerly life
| Thank you Ruth and Stacey for this fantastic learning opportunity
“It’s always a bit of a struggle to get the words right, whether we’re a Hemingway or a few fathoms below his level.” Rene J. Cappon
Yes I often struggle with finding just the right word but now and again I surprise myself. If we were to do a PMI on the Slice of Life challenge, one of the ‘interestings’ for me is how occasionally a word will end up on the page that I am not even certain I have used in the correct context. (I have had to actually use a resource to check, just like we encourage the students to do) So how do I ‘know’ these words to be able to use them correctly. How did my son know at age 9 to say “Look at that fox skulking home,” accurately describe the way the animal moved off the road.
There is a plethora of research on building vocabulary. Some, like the role oral context has, is not new. The research that surprises me most is that which suggests reading doesn’t play the role I once thought. “In terms of learning new words in the course of reading, research shows that it does occur but in small increments” (Beck, McKeown, Kucan). They go on to say calculations of how many words are learned from reading overestimate what occurs for many students. I must confess this initially did cause a dissonance with my previous thinking, forcing me to dig deeper.
So reading may not be the omnipotent vocabulary builder I once thought it to be. However, I think what reading does is provide us with a reservoir from which we can draw from when writing. It is not enough for us to help students fill their reservoir through direct vocabulary instruction, or wide reading or even immersion in rich oral language, we must also build their capacity to draw from the reservoir when they need to. Pearl Strachan said “…words have more power than atom bombs.” We must help students unleash some of this power.
Becoming a reader of poetry coincided with returning to work while raising three very active boys. I found I had time to read poetry whereas I had time for little else. I didn’t have any desire to analyse, just to enjoy the emotions and wonders told in a few verses. As my children have grown I again have time for reading novels but continue to regularly dip in and out of poetry.
Through poetry I first began to notice the craft of writing and how powerful a few words can be. Raw emotions and shared humour – no matter what was happening in my life there was a poem that captured the moment. Yes I know I need to attempt capturing those moments with my own poems – one day soon I will try.
I recently came across Timothy Walsh’s At the Goodwill . (yes this too did capture a moment in my life but that is for another slice) I couldn’t help but smile at the images which came while reading the first verse. This is one I will tuck away as a mentor text when working with students on similes, imagery or word choice. Do you have a poem which is a favourite mentor text for an aspect of writer’s craft?
At The Goodwill
Timothy Walsh (Verse 1 only)
Like crows tearing at roadkill,
people rummage among the aisles
and clothes bins,
ransacking the discarded clutter of other lives
for that special undiscovered something.
It is the International Year of Cooperatives, Chinese Year of the Dragon, Australian Year of the Farmer but, in our house, 2012 is turning out to be the Year of the Broken Hand. The first was our 19 year old, in remote Central Australia, an accident while rock climbing. “Just bad luck,” he said. – “Just bad luck you were 5 hours by 4WD away from medical attention,” I said. Nine weeks later and there is a second lot of surgery to remove the wires and pins. “Good luck it wasn’t your head,” I said.
Not to be out done in this the Year of Broken Hands, our tween manned up against a large striker in a soccer match at a state carnival. A rough game for a non-contact sport. Half time there is a call of ‘Hey Mum’ across the ground. A sea of Mum’s heads turned in response. I was the Mum needed. “The team Manager thinks I have broken my hand.” he said. “You have got to be kidding me’” I said. An afternoon in emergency, break confirmed, another plaster. “Good luck it wasn’t your writing hand,” I said.
Yes competition is alive and well in this the Year of The Broken Hand. The tween has the more attractive plaster but the near adult the more complex break. We still have 9 months of the year left, plenty of time for our middle son to show us what he is capable off. “And it won’t be breaking my hand,” he said. Thank goodness for that!
Anita in her Slice ‘My Husband Thinks I Might Have Scripturient’ introduced a new word into my lexicon but more importantly got me thinking about my own compulsion to crib a moment here and there to write. Like Anita, my family have also expressed a number of concerns regarding some of the behaviours I have been exhibiting which they can trace with certainty back to the beginning of March. The list of the identified aberrations includes
- A pre-occupation with needing to be able to describe the exact shade or hue of a colour.
- Giving complete strangers more than a passing glance.
- Inspiration, which like a fever, comes unbidden and often in the middle of the night. It cannot be put to rest until pen meets paper.
- Eaves dropping on the conversations of complete strangers – very unseemly they say.
- Pulling out my notebook and pen at the most unexpected times – can be embarrassing.
- The sudden, unexpected pulling over to the side of the road when being their taxi driver to again make a quick note.
- Worse still, asking them to jot down a quick note which proves my insanity because what I ask them to write is nonsensical.
- Staring out the window for long periods of time
- One they don’t know about – dreaming of hashtags
- The worst behaviour of all – not once, but twice, allowing their tea to burn while adding a ‘slice’.
Do any of your share some of these symptoms of slice-itis?
Postscript: Since writing this slice my 17 year old wishes to add another behaviour – being late to pick him up because I wanted to finish writing my slice.
Anita’s blog on March 21st from which inspired this Slice http://drferreri.blogspot.com.au/2012/03/sol-21-my-husband-thinks-i-might-have.html
My son recently had day surgery on his hand, the result of a rock climbing accident but that is another story. I had filled the afternoon in as best I could and as the rain set in I made my way back to wait in the café of the large metropolitan hospital.
I joined a colourful group of people depicting every stage of life, proud parents down from the maternity ward with bub in a clear hospital crib; patients in dressing gowns, glad to escape their rooms and pay for ordinary coffee. Families meeting, talking in hushed tones, their distress evident; staff on a break catching up with a friend or colleague for social talk.
Conscious of not trespassing on precious moments, I took my coffee and writer’s notebook and settled next to a group of university students, laptops out, conversations animated. They discussed their workloads, hopes for the year and dreams for the future. “I want to go overseas.” “I want to write a book” …and then the one that made me smile…”We have readings to do.” There is always one who has the role of grounding influence, pulling friends back to the here and now. I wonder if they were aware of life’s montage around them.