My teaching practices have changed a lot over the years. Just this summer, I decided to do a major cleaning of my basement, and here’s the pile of boxes (all full of photocopied materials and blackline masters) that I recycled.
— Aviva Dunsiger (@avivaloca) July 29, 2013
Yes, now I’m very vocal about not providing the same activity for all students and reconsidering what we photocopy and why, but I used to constantly be at the photocopy machine. It wasn’t even that long ago!
Probably the subject that I photocopied the most in was Health. I taught Kindergarten, Grade 1, and Grade 2 Health, and I’m sure that I’ve done a healthy food sort, placemat activity, and menu plan for all three grades. I had hundreds of photocopied pictures, and students sorted them all. They always seemed to enjoy it, and spent hours colouring, cutting, and pasting. Why would I change something that worked?
This year, after reorganization, I found out that I was teaching Health again: this time, to my Grade 5 class. At one of our recent grade team planning meetings, I was speaking to my grade team partners about Health, and I mentioned that I was going to try an inquiry approach. Growth and Development isn’t until Term 2, and I realize that due to the sensitive nature of this topic, inquiry may not work. I could address Healthy Choices, Substance Use, Addictions, and Related Behaviours, and Personal Safety and Injury Prevention through inquiry though. Since there’s much overlap in Health topics throughout the years, students probably have a strong foundation in all three areas. I could let the students pick the one or two areas that interest them the most, and use provocations and curriculum expectations to help guide the inquiry activities.
Today this is exactly what I did. Early this morning, I set up various books around the classroom all on substance abuse. Then I added a “Look Closely” page with questions related to the long-term and short-term effects of using these substances and how people can avoid these addictive behaviours. I also asked for empty food boxes, and displayed a large selection of them and their labels. Again, I used some “Look Closely” questions to get students thinking about food labels and how we can use them to determine healthy foods. I also grouped the curriculum expectations into the three main areas and put them out around the classroom with the books and boxes. Together we generated some questions and “wonderings,” and then just as students were eager to share more, I let them go and generate their own.
Some students worked alone and wrote down their questions. Some students discussed various questions in partner groups. Other students logged into the HWDSB Commons and joined my Health Inquiry Group. They posted their questions here, and then started responding to the questions of others.
The room was buzzing with Health excitement. When we re-grouped to share our various questions, I also had students reflect on this approach to Health. All students groaned when I initially said that we were starting Health today. What did they think now?
Wow! What an eye-opening reflection! Today reminded me that I need to ask students what they think and why, and I need to be willing to reconsider my teaching practices even if this may be a difficult thing to do. Students deserve voices … are we ready to hear them?
I’ve done all of the activities before (multiple times) that the students mentioned in this podcast. Not only have I done them, but I truly thought that the students enjoyed them. I never asked though. Would I have been willing to change my teaching practices if students shared with me back then what they did today? How do you give students a voice? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!