Friday Two Cents: Playing Increases Productivity


 

    This past week I was able to work in a school as a physical education (PE) teacher. This was not the first time I supplied as a PE teacher and every time I do a quote “Leaders, lead by example.” comes to mind. I always show the students how to play the game or activity we are doing in gym, yet some how I always love participating with the students. Most of the time I referee the activity or participate if one side is winning by too much but I find that I do enjoy joining the students in the activity. And by the looks on their faces I can see that they too enjoy it when I participate with them. I sometimes get other teachers coming by and they usually smile when they see me playing with the students. Some say that I am the biggest kid in the school and I respond with a smile saying, “You have to lead by example.”

    Mind you I am a bit tired at the end of the day, who wouldn’t after teaching 7 classes in PE. Yet it’s like a good tired, like I accomplished something. Sometimes I even have extra energy to pursue my own passions such as art. I thought nothing of this until I read an article about “playing increases productivity.” The article mentioned that many companies such as Twitter and YouTube encourage their employees to take small breaks in the day to play. I have always been a big proponent that play is a great way to learn. Even the education system has endorsed this philosophy with play-based learning in the full day kindergarten program. There have been articles suggesting that play-based learning should be increased to grade 3 but we will have to wait and see about that idea.
    However, in the mean time I will continue to find every opportunity I can to play. Be it solitaire, darts, video games or just playing with my paints, pencils and simply creating what ever comes to me.
    I remember a wonderful poem written by an unknown author and it is posted at the entrance of the Louisiana Children’s Museum in New Orleans entitled “Play”.

 

Words that I truly believe and live by.

 

A verse by an unknown author at the entrance of the Louisiana Children’s Museum in New Orleans

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Friday Two Cents: A Tradition In The Heart Of The City


This week I was able to break away from my routine and go enjoy something that I have been going to since I was a child, the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE). This year is the CNE’s 140th anniversary. Every year I enjoy going to see the art, craft and hobbies exhibits, the shows and of course sampling the different types of foods they have to offer. I even have a tradition of getting a corn dog once I enter the grounds. I know that it is not a healthy choice but once you enter the grounds healthy choices are thrown out the window. Besides, it is the only time during the year when I eat a corn dog.

This year I was able to see two amazing shows; the aerial acrobatic and ice-skating show Quatro and the Legends Of The Silk Road Come To Life. Quatro is a poetic display of dazzling ice-skating and aerial acrobatics performed by a former Cirque du Soleil artist. This wonderful show is not too far from the Legends Of The Silk Road Come To Life. A spectacular indoor lantern festival where 17 spectacular illuminated sculptures make up an incredible display of lights and colour. The theme is centred on the legends and myths associated with the ancient Silk Road. These astounding shows are only two of the numerous displays and activities you can do at the CNE.
The CNE is in the heart of Toronto and is amazing every year. Unfortunately it is only available in the city for a limited time and as of the 1st day of school approaches it will be gone for another year. That’s why I always have mixed feelings about the CNE. I love going but I know that once I leave the grounds it means summer is over and school will start soon. Oh well I guess I have to just wait and look forward to next year, but at least I have some great experiences and memories to keep me going until new years edition.

Friday Two Cents: Words To Live By


 

This past week has been a bit of a roller-coaster ride of emotions for me. At the beginning of the week I was with someone who made me feel down and upset yet by the end I was with some people who lifted me up and inspired me.

Firstly I was with someone whom I have known for years and they have made no secret that they do not like teachers. They on a number of occasions have belittled teaching and teachers in general. Saying things along the lines that teachers don’t deserve the two months off or that they are spoiled and they are teaching the wrong way. If they were Premier they mentioned that they would attack the teachers by taking away pay, benefits and force them into doing things their way, things that was acceptable back 70 – 100 years ago.
At times I have fired back. Once they said they could teach a class and I responded saying, “I would love to put you in a Kindergarten class and see how far you get. I guarantee you wouldn’t last an hour let alone a year.” Yet for the most part I usually let them say what they want and it generally just rolls off me, but for some reason this time I could not. Not because I questioned teaching but the fact they will never change their minds no matter what I say or when ever I prove my point. I am seriously considering ending the relationship of many years, which put me in a gloomy mood.
With this cloud over my head I went about my business, which happened that I am attending an additional qualification course (AQ) for Teacher-Librarian (TL). A TL is more than just a librarian; they are a resource teacher who can assist the classroom teacher in how they implement the curriculum. I have supplied as a TL on a number of occasions and found it a rewarding experience.
Upon starting the course I met other teachers with the same passion for teaching and a desire to help others. This alone began to lift my spirits, however we were given the tremendous opportunity to go to an educator’s conference on the second day. This conference was called MakerEdTO. It is a conference of educators that come together to try to bring new ideas to the students by learning through making things. Yes they do the lessons and research before they build things but they encourage the students to get their hands dirty, take chances and make mistakes all the while they are learning.

A working mechanical arm I made from cardboard.

The conference was about teachers getting their hands dirty and playing so they can understand and bring back to the classroom what they have learned. I for one attended a workshop where I was able to learn to use a program called Scratch where the students can learn code. Another workshop was about building things out of cardboard. I was able to create a working mechanical arm that actually picked up an empty water battle.
The conference was good but the most important and inspiring thing was that there were over 200 teachers there to learn and get inspired for their students. At the beginning of their summer break these people went somewhere to learn to essentially help their students learn.
This positive atmosphere is what I need to remember and keep in my life. Not those people who have nothing but negativity. Yet I have to remember one good thing about all those negative people out there. You know, the ones who grumble and insult others because they are jealous or only happy when they are putting down others or mad at the world for something or another. I’ll look at them and remember this wisdom quote …

 

‘I am grateful for all those difficult people in my life, they have shown me exactly who I do not want to be.’

 

 

Words to live by.

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Friday Two Cents: Beating The January Blahs


 

This past week was not the January Blahs but at times it sure felt like it. The students where their usually sweet selves, yet the days seemed to drag on. Yet I was able to introduce a concept to the students I hope/should carry them on in their lives. I introduced sentence structure to them. Yeah you are probably thinking big deal, but it is to a first grader.

The students were writing sentences for sometime, however I noticed that many would simply string words together when writing them. Their oral language is good and many read well for first graders but I thought it wise to help them get a foundation in writing. I began with introducing the different parts of the sentence in a language they would understand. I created a chart to help them. We did some practice writing to reinforce this “What Makes A Sentence”. I also introduced a writing success criteria chart to help them. It is set up like a checklist/success criteria; something very similar to one I created to remind them to take their things home at the end of the day. Then during the week I introduced new activities that would involve them writing a sentence, such as in social studies we wrote about their favourite place in their neighbourhood. This all came together on Friday when we made sentence puzzles.
The students would write a sentence using the success criteria to help them. They would cut the words out and then ask another student to try to put the sentence back together and read the sentence. This way they can use the success criteria to help guide their thinking when recreating the sentence. The capital is at the beginning, punctuation at the end. Below you can see some of their sentences and some of them are pretty funny.

In the end we all had a good laugh and I hope they learned something. In the end I guess that is a good way to beat the January Blahs.

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Friday Two Cents: Discovering More Through Play


This week and next I will be working in a kindergarten class where the teacher has asked me to present a lesson centred on math. Math has always been my favourite subject second only to art and when given the opportunity, I raised to the challenge.

It is the beginning if the year and I know that these students are new to counting, especially in French. So I decided to begin by seeing how much do they know when it comes to counting. I came up with several activities to help them and the teacher assess where the students are in their math skills.
I began with some activities with the students using 10 frames, rekenreks, printing the numbers and a bingo game with snap cubes. I noticed a few things that made me see that no matter where I go and with whom I work with, children learn a lot though play. Several of the activities are centred on a play base system. Yes they are doing their work by learning to count in French and they are printing the numbers but to get to those numbers they have to use a spinner like you would use in a game. And the more I and the teacher played / participated in the activity, the more the students, 1) appeared to enjoy it, 2) hopefully learn something from the experience and 3) we learned where each student is in their counting.  
Every time I enter a classroom I always have this quote from Plato in the back of my mind…

 

‘You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.’ Plato

 

These activities I did with the students are a clear indication that Plato’s words ring true.

 

 

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Friday Two Cents: The Power Of George


 

This week I was fortunate to some supply teach in a kindergarten class. It was a class full of junior kindergarten children. Many people would run in the other direction at the prospect of being in a classroom of 27 three to four-year olds, but not me. I adore kindergarten children, they are so open and honest; something we all lose, as we grow older. Mind you, it did not start off as a bed of roses.

Hi Everyone!!! My Name is George!!!

You have to remember that it is only the second week of school, a Monday to boot and many of these students have never been in any type of organized school setting. So to say that there were a few tears would be an understatement. It was more of a river, yet I did something that got their minds off their separation anxiety. I brought out my trusty friend, George. If you do not know who is George he is my purple monster/dragon that sounds like Goofy and helps me read stories, sing songs and introduce lessons to the students.  
Once I brought him out and introduced him as my little friend that helps me in the class, the students were mesmerized and many of the tears began to go away. I even had a couple of little girls, “shadows”, beside me for the rest of the day. At one point the art teacher came into the room and I had to leave to go to the washroom and do some work in the office, one of them didn’t want me to leave. I told her that I would be back but she wanted to come with me. I told here I had to go to the washroom but it was the big boys washroom and she kind of understood. She asked several times if I would be back and I reassured her that I would. At the end of the art lesson I returned and the little girls saw me and I said to them “I told you I would be back.” and one even smiled.
The rest of the day went well and George helped with a few songs and a couple of stories. As the day progressed everyone was engaged in the activities in the class and many of the students were wearing smiles when it was time to go home.  
It was an amazing day and George was a big part of it. I have had George for many years and I have brought him into countless classrooms and even after all that, I am astounded at the power of his presence with the students. The morning could have been a disaster but just bring out George helped to calm things down and I was able to connect with the students much quicker. I guess children are all the same, no matter where you go.

George, you have some power that makes people feel at ease. Not only the little kindergarteners, but me too, Thank you little buddy.

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Friday Two Cents: The Simplicity Of Play


 

This past week I return home after a wonderful time with friends up north in the Penetanguishene/Midland area. We did a lot of different activities in the area including swimming, sight-seeing and taking in some local festivities. One of the highlights of my time there was going to Discovery Harbour. It is a British naval base that traces it roots back to the War of 1812. The base was established around 1828 and was a presence to defend Canada until the 1850’s.

We were able to go twice to the site during this trip. Once for a Ghost Tour and the other for a Pirate Day. The Ghost Tour was very interesting and it did give me the shivers at times. I think I even saw a sign a ghost who did not want us in his cabin, spooky. The other time was a fun-filled day where pirates invaded the site. Pirate Day at Discovery Harbour was mostly geared towards the kids but I took the opportunity to have a little fun and live a little. I decided to bring up my pirate costume and walk around the site as Captain Jack Sparrow.
I dressed up and went to the site in full costume. To say I got a lot of looks is an understatement. When the kids saw me their eyes opened up and even their parents smiled. The staff was all dressed in pirate gear and they too smiled and encouraged me to play the pirate for the day. I walked around the site learning a few things about the history of Discovery Harbour, stopping once in a while to talk to people and some even asked if they could take a picture with me. I said sure and so I posed for pictures and I got to meet and talk to a lot of people. All in all it was fun to play pirate and learn some facts about the site. Yet I did notice something that made me pause for a moment or two.
While I was walking around as a pirate talking to people, I noticed some people giving me a few, what I would call; nasty looks. It was not as if I was being obnoxious or over selling the pirate theme, in contrast I was simply walking for one building to the next with my friends. Maybe, it was because I was an adult dressed as a pirate without kids. There were some other adults dressed up but they had kids with them. Perhaps they could not understand why a grown man would dress up and pretend or in essence play pirate.
I am not sure why but if that was the case all I can say is that I feel sorry for those people. I am very comfortable being myself and being very connected with my inner child. If those people cannot understand that we all need to play, then I all I can do is pity them and I’ll give them a couple of quotes / life lessons to help them. One from a famous philosopher, the other from a famous captain …

‘You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.’ Plato

‘The more complex the mind, the greater the need for the simplicity of play.’ Captain Kirk

Two life lessons I always take to heart. Maybe we all should too.

 

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