Sunday, June 28, 2015

Animal Trading Cards

In the last month, I needed a quick project to do for an Animal unit in Science.  Last year, when I did Superheroes as a theme, I did a trading card on each student's every day hero.  Each student made one card which we put on display to honour their hero.  This year, I decided to do the same thing, but as an animal theme, so I geared the information on the card to match the curricular learning objectives. 

After more thinking, I realised it would be richer if students were able to trade cards with each other. That is when I pitched the idea to the other teachers of my grade that we all do Animal Trading Cards, we each pick a different habitat to cover with our classes, we photocopy multiple copies of each students' card, colour them to match our series, and then get together on Trading Day to exchange cards.  I know, I know, it is slightly stupid to pitch a project in the last month of school, but I pointed out: these cards could theoretically be done in one day, it would be a good way to quickly cover some curriculum, and it would be loads of fun.

I got 4 other classes to join in, and we quickly created a template.  (See below).

The left side is the front and the right side is the back.  When folded and glued, the paper turns into a two sided card.  The front has places for the name of the animal, a small picture, and a place for the student's name at the bottom.  The rest of the card is about information on the animal.  Each teacher picked a series or habitat: river, seashore, savannah, etc.  These series had  a matching colour to clearly denote the habitat: dark blue for seashore, green for river, etc.

The students did a draft, filling in the information and got it checked over by the teacher.  Students then completed their master copy which was two of these cards on one sheet.  The master copy was done in dark pencil which was then photocopied 2 times for each student; that way each student now had 6 copies of their cards which they now coloured, cut, folded, and glued to look like a card.

Trading Day was amazing!  We met in the gym, went over expectations, and then let loose 120 students to trade cards.  It was just like a real card swap. They talked to each other, haggled, exchanged information, and when kids had cards from each series (the objective), the sat on the sides and read or sorted their cards.

Intentionally blurry, identity-concealing picture
of students exchanging Animal Trading Cards
during Trading Day,

A bunch of cool, unexpected things happened:
  • The kids really got into it.  Some really dug into the research and found some really interesting information or printed off multiple picture for each of their cards.  Teachers told me some kids who were not strong in their writing were able to be successful because the template was easy to fill in, plus they could show their understanding verbally during the exchange or artistically with the small picture. Very UDL.
  • During trading day, students used a whole bunch of skills, and learned a lot, in terms of animals but more importantly about human behaviour. 
  • The teachers really got into it.  One teacher picked one animal for the whole class to study which made filling in the cards easy, and was a culmination of his animal study.  One teacher, instead of picking a particular habitat picked Canadian animals (this time, as a culmination of some Social Studies content), and then when we exchanged with other classes, students were able to see the overlap of habitats across Canada.  Another teacher picked the Savannah, so we were able to sharply contrast that habitat with the others. 
  • We teacher were able to collaborate in a different way.  We have done some whole school projects and activities and some "buddy" work, but this was the only work I can remember the grade 2 and 3 classes doing together.  It showed we can probably do more together if the project is right. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Interesting use of ubiquitous blinds

I was walking by another teacher's room a while back and noticed this.

Rem explained that her blinds were broken and would not longer move or open.  So she got some string and attractively fanned them. Now she could get some light into the room and increase visibility. 

I thought it looked terrific and was a way to turn something that is pretty common into something really attractive and eye-catching.

Who is reading?

I am always surprised who reads this blog.  Scratch that.  I am surprised anyone reads this blog.  It is nice that people read it, but my main goal is really to use it as a journal to keep track of some of my thoughts at the time. 

So when Gail, my colleague on my staff, mentioned something on my blog, I was taken aback.  I'd forgotten that I let people see inside my head.  Same thing when Roxanne started talking to my about electric bikes.  Or when a school trustee was talking about my favourite action hero. 

I guess in the back of my mind, I write for other people, but in the front of my mind, I am really writing to myself.