Friday Two Cents: Media Literacy Inquiry


This week I had the opportunity to “Captain” a class for the first time in the sense of setting the curriculum for the students, in a kindergarten class, as a teacher. Last week I followed the plans the teacher had laid out but this week I was able to plan for the week. During the first week, I was able to observe the students and I discovered an area they were interested in; superheroes. From this information I was able to create a program to help the students explore this subject while helping them in other subject areas such as media literacy, language and art.

If we are doing heroes, I though why not start with one of the first stories based on a hero. Therefore I started the week by introducing them to a picture book called Hercules. It is based on the Disney movie version. It is about 100 pages so we read only a few pages a day and I had my special bookmark to help us remember where we left off. The students loved this story and every morning they would ask when are we reading the story of Hercules.

Warm and cool colour art

I then helped them to start thinking of colours as warm and cool with an art project. They would create a sun in the sky, divide the paper by drawing two horizontal and two vertical wavy lines and then colour it with warm and cool colours (the sun warm and the sky cool).
We then explored the world of heroes and villains by using characters they were use to from the media. I told them media are things they see and hear from movies, television, radio, newspaper, magazines and the Internet. We focused on the characters from the Marvel, DC and Disney universes and they came up with a comparison chart of what makes a hero and villain. They came up with words such as good, happy, helpful, smiling and kind for the heroes and bad, evil, scary, fights, steals for the villains. I also asked them if they noticed the colour of the outfits each group wore. They came up with light or bright colours for heroes and dark colours for villains.

Media Anchor Chart

We than had group activities where they would create their own superhero. One day it was a male hero, on the second it was a female. We noticed that there were more male/boy characters then female/girl. I then had them talk amongst themselves to come up with a few female character names. They came up with a few and we wrote them on post-it notes and placed it on the chart.
We also explored the idea of violence in cartoons. I showed them the scene of Charlie Brown trying to kick the football but Lucy moves it at the last-minute and Charlie goes flying. It may look funny but I asked, ‘How to you think Charlie feels?’ I also showed them a scene from Peter Pan when Peter and Wendy meet the mermaids. They said that the mermaids look like the heroes but after they saw the video they said that they were mean for picking on Wendy, pulling her hair and getting her wet while Pan just laughed. Scenes like that may look innocent but I asked how do you think Wendy feels. They said the mermaids were bullying her and Peter should not have laughed. They were very aware and we had a little discussion about it.

The final project for the inquiry was to create their own hero or villain. I gave them a choice of a male or female character outline to create their own character. I reminded them about the colours they should use for their character to make them look like a hero or villain. The results were amazing to see.
We finished the media literacy inquiry with the final project but the students wanted to do more. I told them that I will have the chart up for them and we can use the iPads to help them explore more during the last week of school. We also finished the story of Hercules and as a bonus I would bring in the DVD of Disney’s Hercules for everyone to watch. They were all excited and could not wait for next week.
Next week is the last week of school and the students are engaged and excited to learn more. As a teacher and can’t think of a better compliment they could give me.


Friday Two Cents: Ancient Greece Inspired

I recently went to see the newest super hero movie Wonder Woman. Apart from the fact that I loved the movie and character, I love the fact that the comic book character was inspired by the myths of ancient Greece. After watching the movie I felt inspired to research some aspects of the character and then draw the Amazonian Princess.

Wonder Woman was created in 1941 by a psychologist Dr. William Moulton Marston. He was a great believer of the educational value of comics and wanted to create a superhero character that would use compassion over violence. The original artist was Harry George Peter. Together they created a character that has been a great inspiration to millions of girls and women.

I for one love the character and when you add the ancient Greek mythology to the mix, I am hooked. Many aspects of the character come from Greek mythology.   She is an Amazon Princess, mentioned in such tales as Homer’s Iliad. The comic book story lines mention the Greek gods and their background story of how they  created the Amazons. As well her own creation story involved the Greek gods, not to mention the fact that her primary advisory is Ares, the god of war.

You add all these together and it is no wonder I am drawn to Wonder Woman. I hope you enjoy my Ancient Greek inspired drawing of Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman


Friday Two Cents: Inspiring Tattoo


For the past few weeks I worked on something for a friend that truly inspired me. She asked me to create a tattoo for her. I created a few other tattoos but mostly they where for family or family friends. This person is a colleague and some one whom I respect and consider a friend. To be honest I was honoured to be asked to create a tattoo for her.

She wanted a tattoo of her Chinese zodiac animal, a tiger. She told me in what direction she wanted to go and after a few days I came up with a couple of ideas. She liked the stance I drew of the tiger crawling up her arm. I then thought of the lines and claws as strokes from a calligraphy pen. The thin ends and thick middles came out as a unique and stunning design. She liked the design and we continued developing the tiger to her liking.
The funny thing is that she kept asking for some changes and I got the impression that she felt bad about asking for the changes. I told her that it was ok; that this was her tattoo, that it was very personal for her and that I understand. I truly understood this because I too have a tattoo that I designed that is very personal to me. You see for me, I am creating something was very close to that person’s heart and the more she liked what I did to improve the tattoo to her liking, the more I felt proud and excited. Not just for her but for myself. Here is someone who is overjoyed with a piece of art that I created for them. What better honour I could receive then the joy I see in her face every time she viewed the image of the tiger.
She took the tiger and she got a tattoo artist to draw it on her. He liked it too and once it was done she sent me a picture of the tattoo. To say that I was overjoyed would be understating what I felt. For when I saw the tiger I drew on her and her extreme joy with it, the only word that comes to mind is inspiring.



Tiger Tattoo


Inspirational Moment

Friday Two Cents: New Rules, Positive Behaviour And Discipline

This past week has been a bit trying to say the least. The students in the class are all great yet the dynamic in the room between the students has been a bit … unkind to one another. One of them even told me that they were not being good friends to one another. These are kindergarten students so the social behaviour is something that needs to be taught and encouraged in great deal at school.

With this information the teacher and I embarked on a new inquiry, ‘Being a good friend to each other.’ I was asked to try to develop a few lessons to help the students be kinder to one another. The first thing I thought of was to create a chart of positive behaviour we need to work on. I read the book “What does it mean to be kind?” and the class and I created a chart together. We called it Manners and we came up with a few ideas. The first was saying please, thank you, you’re welcome and I’m sorry as the number one class rule. We also came up with listening to each other, helping others, being patient, sharing and treating others the way you want to be treated.   Not a bad start for kindergarten students.
The next day I reminded the students about these rules by pointing out examples from their own actions when they were and weren’t following the rules they helped to come up with.   Yet I also brought in a couple if things to help solidify these rules. One was a book called “How full is your bucket?” and the other was my Mufasa and Simba puppets.
My Mufasa and Simba puppets helps the students see that the adult lion Mufasa has rules that Simba may not like but they are there to keep him safe. These rules are not there because he wants to be mean to Simba or that he does not like him but because he cares very much for Simba. The moral is that adults have rules for kids because they care about them and they want them to be safe. As well, if Mufasa is upset with Simba for breaking a rule he is not angry with him all the time, he still cares for him. The same is true with adults like their mothers, fathers and teachers.
The book “How full is your bucket?” encourages positive behaviour by using the idea of an invisible bucket to show children how easy and rewarding it is to be kind, appreciative, and caring by “filling buckets.” This is not a new concept for the students but perhaps some reminding will help them. I reintroduced the bucket idea on Thursday and all day Friday they kept talking about filling each other’s buckets.
It feels good to see that they are embracing this idea and the other concepts I have been trying to instil in the students. Yet the one thing I have been doing as well is being very firm when it comes to room discipline. I allow the students free expression yet the rules, manners and the bucket ideas are being strictly reinforced by the teacher and myself. I thought that they may have a problem with the extra discipline I am introducing but it appears that the students are welcoming it. I have noticed a bit more smiles on the students and a feeling of calmness in the room when it comes to the students’ personality dynamics. I guess the drill sergeant in me has a place within a classroom even when I am only there for a short stay. Only time will tell if these initiatives will hold up for the rest of my stay.  

Friday Two Cents: Joie De Vivre Within The Daily Grind

Joie De Vivre – the joy of living, enjoyment of life, a French phrase meaning joy of living, used to mean enjoyment or love of life.

Joie De Vivre, I have been exploring this phrase/way of living for some time now. I have found that trying to live my life in this way has its advantages. I have found that many things do not bother me as they once did. Yet this feeling has been stirring in me for quit some time.
Many years ago, when I was working as an early childhood educator (ECE), I also worked part-time as a graphic designer/print specialist. I worked on creating ads, print materials and other advertising related tasks at an ad agency. I found the work enjoyable but a bit unfulfilling. Many people there found me a bit too liberal-minded and my art/designs reflected that thinking. In the end I decided to leave and put all my efforts in becoming a teacher. I wanted to help others explore their individual wants and desires through their own creative expression. Either through writing, math, sports, art or something else that makes them happy. The rest, as they say is history.
This week I was working in a class and even though I have been trying to maintain a sense of order and discipline within the class, I have seen many examples of the students exploring the world through their own creative expression. Watching them explore and discover just enhanced my own idea of ‘Joie De Vivre’. Even in my daily grind, I am able to enjoy life, either through the smile of a child or in a conversation with a fellow teacher.
My interaction with the students are usually very enjoyable, yet I found talking or more often than not, listening to my fellow teachers about their lives, truly filled my life with joy. Not because they have problems but because I was able to connect with them on a human level. Talking to them face to face, instead of through some form of social media about their work with the students, interactions with the parents or just on life. Connecting to people is a part of my ‘Joie De Vivre’. Unlike working at a desk and creating things, I am able to interact with people.

In the end, these interactions are the most inspiring part of my life.  

Friday Two Cents: Citizenship Quiz



This past week I saw something that made me stop and take notice. It has to do with the state of Arizona making its high school students take a mandatory citizenship test as part of their requirements for graduation from high school.

There are many people on both sides of the argument for this interesting addition to the curriculum. The state politicians argued the that many of these young people will be entrusted with the future of the country’s political landscape from serving in government to exercising their duty by voting.  This test will help them be a more informed citizen.  
Some argued that the students already have a lot of tests they must complete to graduate so why add another one. Another argument says why should there be a test on memorization, why not a test that actually stimulates the students on independent thought. Some educators say that this is a waste of valuable classroom time of a test that is, in essence, very easy.
I for one see that both arguments have merit. Yes there is a lot of testing that the students need to do to graduate yet if you think about it many of the questions can be covered in other classes. Yet with the argument that the test is easy, I refer to a 2011 study by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. After surveying over 1400 adults it found that …
  • When asked, 36% could name the three levels of the US government, where 35% could not name a single one.
  • When asked, 38% correctly said that the Republicans have the most members in the House of Representatives, but 17% said the Democrats and 44% said they did not know.
  • When asked, 38% correctly said that the Democrats have the most members in the Senate but 20% said the Republicans and 42% said they did not know.
Clearly this study shows that among regular American citizens, the citizenship test questions are not that easy.
I look at this study and at this legislation to change the curriculum and I have to agree that with adding a citizen test to the requirements for graduation. I would love to see a similar test be a requirement in Canada as well. I do not need to quote studies or the fact that only 68.3% of eligible voters actually voted in the last federal election. I have first hand experience on how much people do not know about Canada. I took a Canadian Issues course in university and out of a starting class size of 60 students we finished the course with 45. Many I talked to said that they dropped the course because they had no idea of the Canadian issue presented in the course. The topics ranged from government (elections and the make up of government), general history, indigenous people topics, global issues (that relate to Canada) and peacekeeping/Nato. Topics every Canadian should be aware of, yet 25% of the class had no idea of these topics.
I think all Canadian citizens should be aware of the issues that face our country and know how the election and how government works. If you are a Canadian and interested in testing yourself, I am adding a link to a Canadian Citizenship test site below. The site is and is a project of OCASI and was funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.  I took the test and I am proud to say I got 100% on the quiz of 30 questions. Let’s see if you can match me.



Friday Two Cents: The True Can Hurt But We Can Learn From It


This week I read a story to the kindergarten students about a dinosaur that kept calling out that the Gigantosaurus was coming to eat them. Every time he did it would turn out to be something else. Eventually the Gigantosaurus did come but the other dinosaurs would not listen to him. They almost got eaten but in the end the one dinosaur survived the encounter and learned a lesson about over reacting.

Obviously this story was loosely centred on the boy who cried wolf. Yet in the original stories that I heard as a child, the boy ended either seeing his flock being eaten or his flock and himself being eaten. A gruesome ending to tell people who the moral of the story is if you tell too many lies, eventually no one will believe you. Yet, I always thought the moral of the story was never tell the same lie twice, yet that is probably just me. Anyway the fact is that I was never shielded for the truth that reality/life can be harsh at times and I turned out all right. Why then is it, in today’s society, many adults avoid telling their children about the harsh reality of life. Why is that anything that shows any hint of something even close to telling children that death is apart of life? Why is death considered dark or taboo?
On many occasions I have been told that I cannot tell the students the reality of what happened in the past. I feel that not informing the children that there is a dark side to reality is in fact worst than hiding the truth. Today I was outside with the students and we were lining up to go inside when a grade 5 student pointed up to a couple of airplanes flying by preparing to land. He shouted out to a his friends ‘Ha Ha look another 9 11.’ and then began laughing and joking with the others. I went up to him saying, ‘You know that nearly 3000 people died on 9 11 right. Some of them I knew. Know what you are laugh about before you open your mouth.’ I then walked away and I didn’t hear anything else from that student on the subject.
All I could think about was what was he told about 9 11? If he knew the truth behind it would he have laughed about it? Something even as resent as 9 11 has fallen in to the realm of taboo, something to hide the harsh reality of the truth from. Have we as a society come to the point where we must protect the children even from the truth?
I grew up and was taught that knowledge is power. The more you know, the better informed you are, the better you can make a more informed opinion or decision. In addition, learning the truth of our past, is a part of helping to make better decisions. Even as bloody, terrible and harsh it may have been, we cannot forget who we are and where we come from. To hide the facts of history is to deny ourselves and those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, the opportunity to learn from those hard lessons. To try to not make the same mistakes twice.
My history professor once said, ‘Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.’ Is “protecting” the children from the truth that important that we are in fact condemning them to make the same mistakes. Perhaps, to make even bigger mistakes that will be so costly that the shear thought could freeze you very soul. Something to think about.


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