Friday, 25 October 2013

When Faith Meets Pedagogy

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Today I was very fortunate to attend the Conference "When Faith Meets Pedagogy."  It was a day to engage in personal and professional reflection as guest speakers shared many messages about the conference's theme - Opening the Doors of Faith.  
One of the presentations was on Inquiry based learning and Religious education.  In an inquiry based learning environment, the teacher's role is that of facilitator, helping and guiding the children in their explorations.  With that in mind, we help students grow spiritually, academically and socially through the materials and resources we provide.  Our role is that of nurturing children to discover their "God given" talents and gifts, so that they, in turn, can share these gifts with others.  This idea was also conveyed by Jean Vanier, fouder of L'Arche who, through video presentation, spoke to us about our very important role as Catholic Educators.  We are called to spread love - love to all those we meet, especially our students.  We love them deeply and wholly.  The Catholic faith is not rooted in symbols or statues, it is essentially rooted in a person, Jesus.  He is our inspiration and our teacher.  He taught us the most fundamental gift - how to love, and that we are all worthy of love.  As educators, we are doing his work, and are trying to be "Jesus" the teacher for our students, so that they, in turn, may love themselves and others.

What might that look like, feel like, or sound like in an inquiry based program?  Essentially, how do we as Catholic educators foster a relationship between the child and God?
We do this by inviting God into our lives and into our classrooms.
It might look like naming where we see Jesus in the students.  For example, "When you helped (friend) do up his zipper, I saw Jesus."  This may lead to students modelling this language with each other.  It might lead to a social story, or class book, thereby targeting language curriculum expectations as well as social/emotional expectations.  
It might involve socio-dramatic play involving aspects such as a mini altar (they had a "My Mass Kit" fabric set for young learners), scripture stories, dramatizations of religious stories or songs.  The important part here is the co-creation of centres.  Students are involved in the building 'process' of learning, and in the physical building of the centre.  So, for example, after reading the Nativity story, you may lead students in making a list of items/things/people that were present.  Pull in literacy and mathematics into the process by creating/finding the stated items (ex. manger, Jesus 'doll'), generate new vocabulary, label what you find/make, number or order your items, and recreate the story (sequencing) through dramatic role play. 
Fostering faith through play might involve visual arts.  One example was to give students various mediums - pipe cleaners, buttons, gears, play dough, lego, etc. and have them make a cross or other religous symbol.
Faith is fostered through the language we use.  One idea was shared regarding conflict resolution.  I've heard many Catholic educators ask students "What would Jesus do?" to students involved in disputes, but this idea takes the verbal prompt a little further.  One teacher had a mirror in the classroom, and whenever students were in conflict they were to go to the mirror and ask themselves or their friend "What would Jesus do?"  This allowed them to calm, self-regulate, reflect and problem solve more independently.  Brilliant!  Another idea was the phone with the direct line to Jesus.  1-800-CALL-JESUS.  Also brilliant!  You call Jesus on the 'phone' when you're having trouble and 'listen' to how He would help you.  
The beauty of an inquiry based approach to learning is that you can truly see the potential of each child when they are free to reach their own personal best.  Not everyone's 'best' will be the same, because as it was noted today by one guest speaker - we are God's work in progress.  We are his work under construction.  If we see the children in our care in this way, we can begin to foster their God given talents by recognizing that we all have something to offer.  This brings me back to the theme of love.  Each of us, whatever we have to offer, is worthy of love and deserves to feel loved and be loved.  In offering this love to our students, as Christ loves us, and knowing that Christ lives in us and through us, "we are an alleluia from head to toe." (Michael Way Skinner)  What a great message!  

I want to leave you with a video (click here) that was shared with us today, that was inspiring!  We didn't have the title presented to us, so we didn't know what was being created!  Talk about God given talents!  Go share yours today!

And...for my give-away
The lucky number is #5 Lori Raines!
Check your inbox for the Vowels pack that has been sent your way.
Thank you to everyone who played along!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Vowels Pack Give-away!

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I haven't done a give-away in a while, and since I'm so excited about my Working With Words Vowels Pack, I'd like to give this package away to one lucky reader!  This pack is perfect for Kindergarten, but because of all the visuals could also easily be used for Pre-K (Junior Kindergarten).  There are also many activities that would be appropriate for the beginning of Grade one!

Vowel work is so important because vowels are the glue that hold our words together!  I love showing the kids this by removing vowels from words we commonly spell and then trying to say/sound them out without the vowels!  The kids get a kick out of this since the words then don't make sense!  They quickly get it, we need vowels!  And some vowels sounds can be tricky!  I find it common that the 'e' and 'i' vowel sounds are mixed up, or harder to grasp, at this age.  Like with any other skill children are grasping, they need repeated exposure to that skill in order to solidify it.  This pack makes teaching vowels really easy!  In this Vowel Pack you can find:

Thirty word cards with corresponding pictures.

 Recording sheets for the various vowels alone, or a sorting sheet to work with all the vowel picture cards simultaneously.

A vowel song to the tune of Old McDonald, that can be made into a class big book.

CVC and CCVC puzzle picture cards to practise creating words.

Identifying and writing the middle (missing) vowel sound (beginner level activity), or writing the whole word through phonetic spellings.

Word cards for various vowel sounds (-at/-an, -en/-ed, -ig/-in, -op/-ot, -ug/-ut) and recording sheets to go along with them.

Vowel poems/posters...

Additional posters
A cut and paste vowel craft
Rhyming with Vowels
ABC order
Colorful sorting header cards
And more!

To enter this give-away simply leave a comment below about how you might use this pack.  The winner will be announced Friday evening, 9 pm.  It's also on sale, here, in my store for a limited time.
Good luck!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Walk of Faith and Thanksgiving

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This year is the year of faith.  To mark the year of faith our school board has initiated a celebration of our faith through a pilgrimage with the cross, known as the Walk of Faith.  Over the past 2 weeks, our school has accepted the cross, celebrated our faith through liturgy and then carried the large cross to our neighbouring school.  This was a very memorable and reflective experience for students as they were able to carry the cross, as Jesus did.  The cross then proceeds to various schools in our community.  

This past week was also a short week, as we as a staff celebrated our Faith Day, which meant a P.A. Day for the kids.  This year's theme of faith day was 'service.'  We united as a staff to serve those less fortunate.  We made lunches and distributed them to the needy on the streets of Toronto.  While I know this does not permanently fix the problems on the streets, hopefully it helped make someone's day a bit easier.  Pictured above are Mrs. Albanese and myself, making sandwiches.

We celebrated Thanksgiving, giving thanks for our many blessings.  Here is our turkey craft.  We practised our fine-motor cutting and gluing with this fun activity.

We brainstormed what we were thankful for and practised our sight words at the same time.  This activity comes from my Sight-Word Read-Along Pack.  I always have these pages on big charts for choral reading with students.  I make it interactive as we circle or spell certain words, clap out syllables or use phonetic spellings to write/finish sentences.
We practised one to one correspondence and creating sets with our Thanksgiving Play dough mats.  You can find this product if you click here.  The students just love play dough!  This center never gets boring since I continually change the activity through the year by frequently changing the mats.

We have so many things to be thankful for.  It was such a beautiful weekend sharing it in the company of good friends and family!  I made this easy-peasy pumpkin barrel cake.  The idea came from Pinterest and was shown to me by my co-worker and friend.  I ran out of KitKats and had to get creative so I made it look like the barrel of pumpkins was overflowing!

That's it for now.  Wishing everyone a great week!