Posted in Teaching on June 12, 2012 by Drumly

More anecdotes from my research . . . .

Little Old Me and a Video Game

Students seem to believe that the computer can be an independent force of destruction.  By this I mean, a computer sometimes, with malice and forethought, sets out to destroy a student’s work independent of any help from the aforementioned student.

OK, I admit I have lost a word document here and there, or had a computer crash on me.  I have just never felt that this was on purpose on the part of the computer.  The universe . . . well, I have my own paranoid suspicions about the universe.  As an experienced techno-teacher (I have a loud driving bass beat), I have a good sense of when the computer or the program might be the issue or when the student might be the issue. See if you can tell which of these is probably the computer not working and which is, to use a gentle term, probably a user…

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Posted in Teaching on June 1, 2012 by Drumly

An anecdote that fits on both of my blogs!

Little Old Me and a Video Game

Perhaps gender stereotyping does lead to some interesting truths about projects and learning?

I have been working with several schools in order to help teachers understand how the Scratch programming language can be used as a way for students to express themselves and their learning. Within a grade six class,  I noticed an interesting dynamic with one of the table groups as they were working. The table group had three groups.  One pair of boys and two pairs of girls.

First, the assignment.  The groups were to create a working simulation of the Earth/Moon system.  I gave them a Design Kit that contained a Sun, and Earth and a Moon to play with.  There were seven main tasks that the simulation needed to have:

  • The Earth needs to spin all the way around once a day.
  • The Earth needs to have night and day.
  • There needs to be a sprite…

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Posted in Annecdotes, Teaching on December 12, 2010 by Drumly

Teaching Year 10

It has been a long-standing tradition for me to fix computers in exchange for food.  My favourite payment comes in the form of homemade cookies.  One year, new computers at school had kept me particularly busy, and I was getting batches of homemade cookies from various teachers several times a month. I owe a special debt of gratitude to our Mac server for this.

Two of my grade six girls had noticed that teachers were giving me cookies, and they asked why I was so lucky.  I explained that I spent extra time helping them and that they were repaying my helpfulness with the generous gift of cookies.  The two girls said a quick goodbye and whispered all the way back to the coatroom.  The next day,  a Friday, one of the girls casually slipped this question into the conversation: “Mr. Martin, do you like gingersnaps?”

Being somewhat of a cookie connoisseur, I replied that I was quite fond of gingersnaps and the two girls left again, whispering to each other.  A weekend surprise was in the making.

Monday came, and the two girls hung around after school, after everyone had left.  Smiling and pleased as punch they presented me with a container with 10 white cookies in it. “We made you cookies,” the one said, “because you help us with the computers all the time too!”

I was touched, really, and I thanked them profusely for their generosity.  I was about to bite into one when the other girl added, “we made them because we know you like gingersnaps. We found the recipe on the Internet!”

This caused a pause on my part.  I think I mentioned that I am somewhat of a cookie connoisseur.  I had never encountered a white gingersnap before. “Gingersnaps?” I asked.

They nodded, their faces showing their anticipation.  “I sure hope you like them!” they both said.

I bit into the edge of the cookie.  It was tasty, yet bland.  It had none of the flavor that you would associated with a gingersnap.

“Tasty,” I said, much to the relief of the two young bakers.

“Oh, good.  We worried you weren’t going to like them.  We didn’t have all of the ingredients we needed.”

“Not enough ginger,” added the other.

“Ah!” I said, confident that I was eating Gingerless “snaps”, I took a larger bite of the cookie.  I am a bachelor after all, and we are known for our particularly strong stomachs.  Bland, but made with love and kindness, the kind of thing that makes any cookie edible.

“So we doubled up on another ingredient.”

I had by now popped the entire cookie into my mouth and was chewing when I felt a little explosion of scent pop out my nose.  I had bitten into a clove.  A whole clove.  My sinuses were clearing and my eyes were watering.

“Extra cloves,” the other lady explained.

Gingerless snaps with extra whole cloves.  But made with love and care. I smiled.

“They kind of explode in your mouth,” said one girl helpfully.

They were so happy that I was enjoying their cookies.  So I did what any guy would do. I ate each one. . . . gingerly.

Call It Courage! – The Great Mascot Naming Fiasco!

Posted in Annecdotes, Stories, Teaching on July 5, 2010 by Drumly

Teaching Year Number 9

The Wildwood Wolves!

Our school mascot was (is) a wolf.  We had a little stuffed wolf, whose name was Little Wolf, and the children loved him.  Little Wolf went on field trips and visited classrooms.  He was rewarded to classes randomly through the year, and the students would take good care of him for a few weeks.  Getting Little Wolf given to you at an assembly was an exciting occassion, and there were always huge smiles on the faces of the students who would get to care for Little Wolf.

One Stuffed Wolf is Great! Two is practically a whole pack!

And all was fine with the world.  Until the second little stuffed wolf came.

Really, it was a generous idea.  Another school had closed, and the children coming to our school as new students had brought their own stuffed wolf with them, something that marked where they came from and the school community that had been their home before they came to us.

As a staff and a school having two wolves meant double the fun. Twice as many wolves meant you could have one of the wolves for twice as long!  Still, there was a little problem.  The new wolf did not have a name.  It was decided that there would be a school contest, a naming assembly!

Each class put forward their ideas.  My class came up with the name Courage.  Our school was a Circle of Courage school and it was a brilliant name.  Thoughtful, meaningful and full of opportunity. I was proud of my students for coming up with such a powerful name.  When the final three names were listed, I was confident that Courage was the winning name.  “Lucky” and “Growler” just didn’t seem to have the same class as a name like Courage.

My class started taking photographs of the two wolves, so that I could make an origin story for the new Wolf.  It was a brilliant piece of writing.  It was about how Little Wolf had been left outside in our environmental classroom, and he was really scared and lonely.  When the moon came out, he heard a howling noise and then he was so happy because he had found a nice new girl wolf and they could become best friends.    A 32 page picture book, with photos and text, all about Little Wolf and Courage frolicking around the environmental classroom, learning about the forest, and about Mastery, Generosity, Independence and of course, Belonging, the four main ideas in the Circle of Courage.

The book was filled with all sorts of interesting sentences with double meanings.  Little Wolf literally found Courage, the new wolf, of course, but cleverly throughout the story, Little Wolf also became courageous.  The final pièce de résistance, in my mind, was the title.  “Little Wolf Gets Courage”.

I was perhaps overconfident in the result of the vote.

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Number Girl – Part 1

Posted in Math, Teaching with tags , , , , on May 5, 2010 by Drumly

Number Girl and the Art of Counting

February, Teaching Year 8

Ah yes. Frogs are one of my favorite counting objects and tiddly frogs are one of my favourite games!

I had been working in a grade two class since the start of the year and teaching math.  For the most part, I had been succesful in figuring out Grade two math, and because I was getting the hang of it, they were getting the hang of it. Except for one girl. Number Girl.

Number Girl had her own way of counting, and no matter how hard I tried, I just didn’t seem to be able to find a way to help her see that her counting system didn’t really work.  It all started with the names of the numbers.  The numbers one through ten were not a problem.  Twenty through fifty seemed pretty solid.  Number girl used a different naming convention for the numbers between ten and twenty.  To be fair, her numbering system seemed solid.

Every day we would count “Seven, eight, nine, ten, ” she would continue with,”one one, one two, one three, one four . . . ”

Now, if you think on it for a bit, I am sure that you will agree that, if anything, Number Girl’s numbering system makes more sense than our  English numbers.  Eleven, twelve, thirteen, etc are a bit eccentric as far as the number naming system goes.  I would have left it alone and allowed her to develop out of it on her own, I mean, hearing the regular numbers every day was bound to sink in eventually.  Right? But I couldn’t because of one thing. Not only did they have special names, they also had their own arithmetic rules.

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Sonnet for Students

Posted in Poetry, Teaching with tags , , on May 3, 2010 by Drumly

February, Teaching Year 14

Sometimes, I write poetry for the students, during the poetry unit.  Occasionally one of those poems ends up being interesting enough to share.  This poem was one that the students asked me to write, explaining whether I thought boys or girls wrote better poetry. Now, I normally steer clear of gender battles. After all, students all bring individual strengths, regardless of their gender.  This time, though, I couldn’t resist. The whole thing kind of screamed for a poem.  So I took up the challenge.

A Sonnet for Students

Who writes the best poems? The girls or the boys?

Wise teacher, you must ponder this with care.

This question, once asked, no teacher enjoys.

Whenever the genders are judged, beware!

Young ladies, their poems, are worth a quick look,

For they write with a lyrical style.

Yet they post the best ones onto Facebook,

And turn in ” Ode to a Vampire’s Smile.”

But boys? They do not like to write for me,

Their words! Are they puzzles that I must solve?

Hastily scribbled, what could that word be?

Gorkle rhymes with snorkle?  I’m going bald!

So now they tell me that I have to choose,

Alas, I choose my hair, so the boys lose.

S. Martin
(c)  2009

Watch Your Language Mr. Martin

Posted in Annecdotes, Standardized Testing, Stories, Teaching with tags , , , , , , , on April 28, 2010 by Drumly

(Or Another Day That I Thought I Might Be Fired)

Is it possible that stories about days I thought I could be fired is a genre in of itself?

Sometimes laughter can break the stress of studying. Especially when the teacher puts his foot in his mouth! Photo by Bill Selak. CC Some Rights Researved

June, Teaching Year 14

Standardized Provincial Exams are a reality where I teach.  At the end of each grade six year, the students dutifully study their hearts out and do their best.  For me, I always want the students to show what they can do. If they get an answer wrong because I didn’t cover the idea, well, that makes me feel somewhat badly.

We were doing a new test in Social Studies for the brand new curriculum, and I had attended workshops and done the best that I could to help the students make sense of the new materials.  I had taken careful notes, particularly about the new vocabulary that the kids would need to understand . . . everything from Wampum Belts to Non Governmental Organizations (NGO’s).  For some reason, perhaps fatigue during the workshop, I had finished my list of things that might be on the test by writing down just the acronyms.  Now, a week later, I was struggling a little. There were some that I knew easily, like MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly) but some that I couldn’t find for anything.

The easiest thing to do in this circumstance is to make the students do the work. I gave out a list of terms and told them we were doing a scavenger hunt to find them in our books, in order to make sure that we had them all. Scavenger Hunts are often a noisy business, with people excitedly talking about what the words mean, but still trying to keep it a secret from the others.  I was helping a cohort of students, a group of four grade six girls, with their list of terms, and we were cross referencing them back to the textbook. I had found MNAA (Metis Nation of Alberta Association) and only had one more to find. Acronyms are a pain, because unlike words, you can’t always rely on an Internet search engine or a dictionary to find them. Thus, we had the textbook out, even though it isn’t our favorite way to learn things.

“I can’t find this last one, Mr. Martin,” one of the girls told me.

“I can’t find it either,” said I and I let out my trademark exasperated cry and put my head down on the desk.

Some more students came over and asked me what I was struggling with.  They are always so helpful when I am struggling to learn things.  So I told them, “The last acronym.  I’ve forgotten what it means and I can’t find it in the book.”

“What acronym?” one boy asked.

Pretending to be hysterical, I raised my hands in the air and shook my fists, “The FNA.  I can’t find the FNA!”

All noise in the classroom stopped. . .

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