Monthly Archives: November 2011

Visual Art in all Subjects

Interesting article courtesy of The Committed Sardine…

Visual Art as Critical Thinking

We’ve heard this story before. The first thing to go in budget cuts is the visual art program or another related art. Proponents of arts education counter with the usual rhetoric on the importance of self-expression and creativity. I, myself, am a product of arts education.

From the early age of kindergarten I was in musical theater. I eventually transitioned in music as a focus, and was a choir nerd in middle school and into college. In fact, my participation in Jazz Choir kept me in school, as I struggled with depression as a young adult. I kept singing into college, where I led the jazz and a cappella ensemble, and participated in a semiprofessional jazz ensemble the Seattle Jazz Singers. Although my schedule no longer allows me to sing on a regular basis, karaoke continually calls my name. I’m sure many of you had have had a similar experience, where art remains a crucial part of your being. These stories alone say “Yes!” to arts education.

Well, I have another argument to advocate for arts education. Visual arts (as well as other arts) are an excellent discipline to build and utilize critical thinking skills. I don’t think we often give credit to the deep conceptual and interpretational thinking that goes into the creation of a piece of art, and this is often because art is treated as something separate from the core content areas. School does not need to be this way. In fact, I have recently seen two excellent ways that art can be used to wrestle with rigorous content from the core while allowing for creativity and expression.

I had the privilege of visiting High Tech High and Middle in San Diego, California. The first thing I noticed that art was vital to the culture of the school. Whether using physics content to create kinetic art with pulleys or to create 21st century resumes (see photo above), teachers embraced art as part of the culture of study.

Chris Uyeda was nice enough to sit down with me to talk about a recent chemistry project by his students. They were told that the common image of the atom was WRONG, and that they needed to create a pitch for a better representation of it. Chemistry and the study of the atom require deep conceptual thinking, some of which is hard to grasp. Chris saw art as an opportunity to have students critically think around the content to create a beautiful art piece. The student example below shows just one student’s take on a more appropriate representation of the atom through the motif of bees and beehive. Art was a great way to familiarize students with critical content they would need later in the course.

A colleague of mine, Dayna Laur, a social studies teacher at Central High School in York, Pennsylvania, worked with her art teacher colleague Katlyn Wolfgang to ingrate the study of art and politics. Edutopia featured their story and advice, and you can use some of their resources. The driving question for the project was, “How can art reflect and inform the public about policy-making agendas?” In it, the students had to collaborate across classrooms to create an art piece that had a message.
More than just making connections, the art students had to use their critical thinking skills not only to understand all the information and nuances of their public policy issue, but also to synthesize it into an art piece that conveyed a message. Students researched legislation, background information and other pertinent content. Instead of simply creating artwork with a message (which is a natural function of art), they had to wrestle first with critical content of politics and social studies before creating the art piece. Student examples are pictured above and below.
Teachers, your mission is finding ways to integrate art into the core subjects. Use your students’ creative impulses to bring a new purpose to interpreting, conceptualizing and critically thinking around content. This type of integration can work for ANY discipline. It will help to value art as not just a separate entity, but rather integral to the school culture. Art is important as a single subject, but also should be valued as core through rigorous integration. In addition to being a fulfilling part of your students’ lives, it can engage them in the core content

ExploreLearning GIZMOS on PD Day

We are excited to have the ExploreLearning GIZMOS and REFLEX trainer at our PD day on Friday, November 25th.  All Intermediate teachers will get their accounts set up in the AM and junior teachers will be able to view the resources in the PM.  Please check your government e-mail for the PDF file that Peter Wright has shared with our teachers specifically for this PD day.

Alberta Principal’s View on Assessment

Click on the following link to read this from the “for the love of learning” blog…

for the love of learning: Assessment and Provincial Achievement Tests: This was written by Don Wielinga who is an elementary principal in central Alberta. by Don Wielinga This Is What I Think: “Assessment…

Using Social Media in Schools

Ten Ways Schools Are Using Social Media Effectively

Readers discuss how they use social networking in their schools, list helpful resources
October 21st, 2011
By Meris Stansbury, Online Editor
ESchool News
Smart phones might be getting the green light in more schools around the country, but social networking is still getting the yellow in many schools: Parents are worried about bullying, teacher-student online relationships are questioned, and school security can be compromised all too easily, some critics fear.

To understand how social media, an almost integral part of our current culture, can benefit K-12 schools and districts, we asked eSchool News readers: “Name one way you use social networking in your school/district. Or, if you can’t/don’t currently use social networking, how would you like to?”

From professional development to providing real-world examples of mathematics, readers say it’s time to make the best of what can be a valuable resource for education. Here are some of the top ways they’re using social networking in their schools.

How have social media enhanced your own district, school, or classroom environment? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

10. Professional development

“In my professional role, I’ve become very quickly reliant on Twitter and Facebook to inform me of trends and Web 2.0 tools I should be considering using with students/sharing with staff. For the most part, social networking is blocked in our district, and it’s frustrating to not have access to ed-tech blogs I’d like to check with on school time.” —Marcia Dressel, K-5 librarian, Osceola, Wis.

9. Community outreach
“At my school we use it to promote various activities, gain feedback, or start a conversation for something, and sometimes [for] recognition of a particular group, teacher, etc. We never use full names for students or tag them in photos. … I think it is a great tool for connecting with our parents who are already participating in social media.” —Shannon Bosley
8. Course assignments

“We have some teachers using to leverage social networking features in the classroom. With Schoology, we can create a private social network focused around course curriculum. Teachers can post assignments and create online assessments as well. The site is free to use, is intuitive, and works well.” —Brian C. Dvorak, technology TSA, curriculum and professional learning, school support services, Fresno Unified School District

7. Parent communication

6. Distance learning

“We use social media in two distinct ways: (1) As a communication tool between the district and parents. We are a small district, but over one-third of our families ‘like’ our Facebook page. This gives us a great tool to communicate pretty quickly with a good portion of our parents. (2) For classroom use—a teacher who taught a distance-ed class for our school and three others set up a Facebook page to foster communication between the remote students and the students she taught physically.” —George Sorrells, technology facilitator, Winneconne Community School District

5. Assessments

“I use Twitter to do an end-of-the-unit review. I tweet various topics, people, and dates for AP U.S. History.” —Ann Wright, assistant principal, Archbishop O’Hara High School, Kansas City

4. Cross-cultural communication and language learning

“A few years ago, when I used to work in … a Greek private elementary school, we cooperated with several schools from foreign countries, such as Holland, England, France, and Sweden, and used social networking in order to communicate with each other and break down the distance and language barrier. We used English as a means of the aforementioned communication and completed several activities such as writing chain stories and letters offering personal information in English, and arranged to meet in person with our students once a year in a different host country. This activity materialized with the great contribution of the internet, as it was our only means of contact. It has been a great experience and assisted young students in [becoming] communicative and confident in using English, as well as the internet, in [performing] hands-on-activities.” —E. Mantzana

3. Collaborative learning

“Our district is using the paid version of this year with the middle school and high school students and teachers. This online social media [platform] includes a social wall, very similar to Facebook, along with an eMail account, a digital online locker, blogging, … [and] many other available items. One of the main reasons we went with this medium is because of the tight security it offers our students, by using filters for slang words, curse words, hate words, porn, and more. It is a medium to teach the students how to use social media in a professional manner to help prepare them for the marketplace upon employment. The students enjoy having the social aspect of it, and the teachers are appreciative of the means to acceptably and safely contact the students. Also, the teachers can upload assignments into a specific drop box that only their students can see, where the students complete the assignment and submit it back to the teacher, totally without the need for printing anything.

“The teachers are also very appreciative of having access to YouTube through Gaggle, with the filters that are in place—they can show just about any education video without being blocked. Because it is a cloud-based program, anyone can get to their account anywhere there is internet [access], so students can access their social wall at home, as well as their homework assignments. Files can be uploaded to their digital locker and shared and worked on collaboratively, so the need to be in the same room together at all times is eliminated. As teachers create “classes” within the program, it concurrently creates a class social wall for the students enrolled in that class, where they can talk with each other, post pics, message each other, and more. So far, it has been a very positive experience for all our users.” —LeAnn Waldie, instructional technology specialist, Godley Independent School District, Texas

2. Networking with colleagues

“Our college is located in Queensland, Australia, and we are fortunate to have a one-to-one [computing] program for our students from year 4 to year 12 and for all of our staff. The power of the Personal Learning Network that our staff tap into would be impossible without the global interactions and connections our teachers have made through social networking tools. We encourage our staff to be at least active ‘followers’ on Twitter–and have established valuable networks for our teaching teams. In a recent Modern Foreign Language Teachers’ workshop, one of our team sent out a tweet inviting practitioners to share their expertise. We were amazed at the response we received, and without as so much as a blink of the eye–we switched into Skype mode and there was a ‘new’ face in our workshop–sharing their ideas and success stories from the U.K. We have just finished our review of our Strategic Plan, and we have indicated as one of our goals for 2012–the expansion of Personal Learning Networks for all of our staff harnessing the power of social networking.” —Jan MacNamara

1. Integrating real-world applications into teaching

“Social networking is an excellent real-world example of discrete mathematics. Students can post a joke and then track the vertex edge graph that results. The graph can be used to make inferences about popularity, outgoing personalities, and levels of friendship. Tracking the joke as a tree may also allow you to make inferences about natural communities, cliques. This document is one way we have used social networks to make mathematics meaningful.” —Mary Hosten

Nya:weh to Mr. Freeman for sharing this with us a few years back…
and a HUGE meegwetch to the soldiers this song pays respect to.

Teaching Student-Centered Mathematics

Mrs. Reuben asked me to share this particular resource from the Six Nations District Numeracy Plan.

It is John A. Van de Walle’s series of books entitled “Teaching Student-Centered Mathematics.”  Above you will see the K-3 text.  There are texts for grades 3-5 and 5-8 as well (see District Numeracy Plan for ISBN numbers/details).  Most of our schools have these texts kicking around, probably in a teacher resource area or on a teacher’s classroom book shelf.  If you haven’t had a chance to look through it, please consider taking some time and contacting me to try a lesson in your classroom.  For downloadable blackline masters of each text, click here.  Thanks to Mrs. Reuben for bringing this text to the attention of PAC and for recommending it be shared here for all of you!

Take the Pledge

Take the Pledge to End Bullying at this website and view the resources available to participate in National Bullying Awareness week November 14th to 18th, 2011.

Native Math and Science Listserve


We are in the process of re-designing the listserv and the website. Over the next few months you will receive updates including information about math and science lessons and activities you can use with your students. We are pleased to let you know that the listserv notices will become a regular feature of the expanded Aboriginal Access to Engineering Program (AAEP) now in development at Queen’s University Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science located in Kingston, Ontario. If you know other teachers who might be interested in joining this listserv, please forward our message to them.

To help build a strong Calendar of Events for teachers in all geographical regions and for them to receive the maximum benefits about events taking place within their province/state, please send us an email at to inform us of any Career Days, Career Fairs, Job Fairs, Career Symposiums designed for Aboriginal/Native American students within your high school or close to your community. Are you aware of any math and science teacher meetings, teacher association meetings, subject association meetings, conferences, workshops, or conventions that would be of interest to math and science teachers? Please provide the date, location and website so that we may pass it along through our Calendar of Events.

In the meantime, here is a current list of good professional development opportunities that are taking place over the coming year.

  1. Council of Ministers of Education Canada
    The CMEC Educators’ Forum on Aboriginal Education, Winnipeg, Manitoba, December 1-3, 2011.
  2. National Science Teachers Association
    NSTA 2012 National Conference in Indianapolis on Science Education, Indianapolis, US, March 29-April 1st, 2012.
  3. National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
    NCTM 2012 Annual Mathematics Meeting, Philadelphia, US, April 25th-28, 2012.

We’re looking forward to passing along more lesson plans, curriculum ideas, great websites, and other resources that you can use with your Native students.  If you have any suggestions for other listserv content, we’ll be pleased to hear from you.

Duncan Cree, PhD, P.Eng.
Interim Director
Aboriginal Access to Engineering Program(AAEP)
Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science
Queen’s University
Kingston, Ontario, Canada, K7L 3N6
Tel: 613 533-6000 ext. 78563
Fax: 613-533-6500

Copyright © 2011 Queen’s University Faculty of Engineering & Applied Science, All rights reserved.

Nya:weh to Mr. Freeman for sharing this info.

Not exactly Numeracy, but too good not to share, there is a website called We Give Books.  It is exactly what it sounds like.  There is a selection of digital books that you can read (alone, with a child, with your class) and once you are finished you will be asked to input your e-mail (so the site knows you are an individual, real person) and they will donate a book to a child that needs it.

Here is a link to the website:  We Give Books.

Today we read Goodnight iPad, a fun parody of the classic Goodnight Moon.  Check out the site!!

Saviours and Burnouts

The following article appears on the Rethinking Schools blog.  It has been copied in its entirety below.  To view it from the original source, click here.

Saviors and Burnouts: Rethinking Teachers in Popular Culture

by Elizabeth Marshall
Rethinking Popular Culture and Media

Receive 20% discount during Media Literacy Week, Nov. 7-11. Use code 5BRPCMJ11.
From movies such as Blackboard Jungleand Freedom Writers to televisions shows like Degrassi: The Next Generation and The Wire, teachers and students are regular subjects of film and television.
November 7-11 marks Media Literacy Week in Canada, and it affords educators—Canadian as well as those south of the border—the opportunity to ask the question: What sorts of pop culture stories are told about teachers, and how do these fictional stories matter in the real world?
In our recent book, Rethinking Popular Culture and Media, authors critically engage with numerous representations of teachers in television and film. It is clear that a number of stereotypes about teachers are consistently reproduced in mainstream North American popular culture. What is at stake in popular representations of us as teachers? Let’s begin with a focus on two familiar characters, the “Savior” and the “Burnout.”
The Savior: This character appears in numerous “urban” movies. S/he is usually White and seeks to save students of Color in under-resourced schools. InRethinking Popular Culture and Media, Chela Delgado analyzes these representations for readers in her piece, “Freedom Writers: White Teacher to the Rescue.” In Freedom Writers and other scripts like it, one teacher saves the students—not through structural change, but through individual pluck. Delgado suggests a different kind of plot. She writes: “I want a teacher movie where there aren’t cardboard heroes and villains, but a genuine analysis of how race and class play out in schools” (p. 226).
The BurnoutThis teacher has worked in the schools for too many years. The following clip of the economics teacher from the 1986 movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a good example of the teacher who continues to try, if ineptly, to impart information to disengaged students.
Some might argue that representations of teachers in popular culture are just entertainment; however, these images and storylines all have real life implications. For instance, the consistent use of the savior-teacher-who-saves-students-one-classroom-at-a-time continues the myth of the individual teacher and teacher education as the main problem with schools, rather than structural issues such as poverty. Images of the burnout-teacher, who teaches the same lesson year after year in a coma-inducing tone, and has a “job for life,” like the economics teacher in Ferris Bueller, help sustain the fiction that tenure is the problem with schools (Not Waiting for SupermanWisconsin). These representations then lay the foundation for films like Waiting for Superman, which have an explicit ideological agenda that is bolstered by both the Savior and the Burnout myth.
All of these representations are caricatures meant to distort, and therefore deflect, the real challenges teachers face. However, as the contributors toRethinking Popular Culture and Media demonstrate, we can promote alternative representations of teachers that frame educational issues in different and more complex ways. In her chapter, “More Than Just Dance Lessons,” Terry Burant analyzes how the documentary Mad Hot Ballroom raises for educators a number of important questions about teaching that challenges the familiar teacher-as-savior storyline, such as “How can we change the face of teaching to reflect a more diverse nation?” Similarly, in Gregory Michie’s piece “City Teaching, Beyond the Stereotypes,” he points out how a film like Half Nelson complicates teacher-hero movies, and how a documentary such as The First Year moves away from “grand or symbolic gestures” in favor of “steady, purposeful efforts to make the curriculum more meaningful, the classroom community more affirming, and the school more attuned to issues of equity and justice” (p. 233).
Too often educators focus on critiquing children’s popular cultural texts as somehow separate from that of adults when in reality, television and film cross over between audiences and share familiar images and storylines. Educators can and should use Media Literacy Week as an invitation to improve our own digital citizenship, to use technologies to resist and rewrite representations of teachers as saviors and burnouts, as well as any other number of stereotypes, in popular culture and in mainstream media.
Analyzing representations of teachers and teaching is important and necessary work. As the writers in Rethinking Popular Culture and Media suggest, thinking critically about how educators are represented is the first step for repositioning ourselves “from cogs in the machine to social actors intent on resisting and/or rewriting the status quo” (p. 11). In this way, critical media literacy is not just for youth.
Classroom Resource for Analyzing Teacher Stereotypes  
Media Awareness Network, a sponsor of Media Literacy Week, has a unit of study for grades 6-8 entitled “Images of Learning” through which educators and students can undertake a critical media literacy analysis of how teachers and youth are represented in television and film. Readers can access it here.
Elizabeth Marshall, Ph.D. teaches in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver Canada, where she researches children’s and young adult literature and popular culture.  She is co-editor with Özlem Sensoy onRethinking Popular Culture and Media. Her work has appeared in numerous academic journals, including the Harvard Educational ReviewReading Research QuarterlyGender & EducationDiscourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, and The Lion and The Unicorn.
This post represents the views of the author, and not necessarily those of Rethinking Schools.