Friday, February 22, 2013

What's In A Name...

All images below are their owners property. Any mention of children's names are changed for privacy reasons. 

So here we go! My first post reporting on an actual lesson! Here we go:

What Actually Happened...

Before I go through yesterday's lesson, I'm first going to go through the Drama curriculum.

For the non Irish readers, the Irish primary curriculum has a grand total of 12 subjects. The three core subjects: English, Irish and Maths, the three SESE (Social, Environmental and Scientific Education) subjects are Geography, History and Science. We have PE, and SPHE (Social, Personal and Health education) and finally another group of 3: the Arts, which consist of Art, Music and Drama. (The 12th subject is determined by the ethos of the particular school, usually it is religious instruction.)

In the Drama Curriculum there are three prerequisites to making a drama lesson successful. These are:
  • Content.
  • The fictional lens.
  • Creating a safe environment. (Children feel comfortable acting in front of others)

Although the curriculum demands that these three are needed for each drama lesson, this weeks lesson will be focused purely on establishing the fictional lens.

Out fictional lens!
So this is the fictional lens. A board. Now it will look better as time goes on I promise. This had a fairly old display from the previous year(s) of the class teacher I'm covering for. I took it down (with permission! Don't worry I'm not one of those subs) This board is going to have the map of our world or realm and therefore shall always be the focus of my future drama lessons.

I began by talking to the children about geography, activating their previous knowledge about geographical features and what our world would "need". Keeping in the theme of games, I showed the kiddles a few world maps from Pokémon, Final Fantasy and other such games. However, being a teacher, I of course HAD to show a few maps from books so I showed a map of Middle Earth from the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit books.

World Map from Final Fantasy VII
We talked about each map in detail, comparing each map to the ones before it (and of course, the real world!) Together the children concluded that our world map needed:
  • Mountains
  • Oceans
  • Rivers and lakes
  • Deserts
  • Grasslands
  • Snow ("Icecaps" I corrected!)
  • Bogs (This unusual one might be because we are learning about turf/peat in Geography at the minute!)
  • Towns
  • Caves
  • Castles
After that, I asked the children to form groups and add to this list. This is where things became interesting. Each group (three groups of four and one group of three) attacked this task in totally different ways! One group rushed to the ClassRealm folder, the one that contains all the children's character profiles. They used the information of their characters, pictures and clothes to inspire them to think outside the box. For example: "Sir! Tom's character is a vampire! We need to make sure there's a country where it's always night!"

Chidlers using the ClassRealm profiles as an inspiration.

Two groups ran towards the class library and grabbed two very different atlases, which resulted in two very different suggestions. One Atlas was much more realistic: group gave suggestions such as "We need tundras, and glaciers, and tropical rain forests! While the other atlas was more graphic and produced suggestions more specific such as "Could we put in the Eiffel tower or Big Ben?"
The realistic atlas...

...compared to the more graphic one.
The last group decided to just use their knowledge of the real world and suggested the likes of shopping centres, jet ski's, airplanes and cruise ships.

Finally I typed every groups suggestions and that inspired even more ideas! Dragons, ice-cream mountains and sword shops just had to be included. We settled on a very extensive list, which will be narrowed down and refined every now and then during the next week. 

Next came something that I felt was very important: the Name of this new universe we were creating. I gave the class some examples "Terra, Gaia, Neo-Earth, Haven, Pandora - These are the kind of names that the kind of world we're creating usually have." 

Each child received a sticky note, wrote a potential name on it, and then put it on the flip chart in the room. Some of these suggestions were pretty inventive. Jadertiv (Which uses the first letters of most of the children's names in the class), Tartune, Dubland, and Awesomearth being ones that really made me smile. Naturally there would be a few that also made me smile in another way, (Greenland, Iceland and 4th Class Bad World) but what matters is that each child gets a chance to contribute and every suggestion is valued.
The suggestions ready to be voted for!
Here we came to the part of the lesson that I was slightly anxious about. My class of 15 students usually work well together but there are a few kiddles that could easily throw a tantrum if their name wasn't chosen. So before any voting occured, I simply asked the children "Lads, if your suggestion is chosen, is that a good reason to get upset?" Simply by asking this the kids immediately dismissed the idea of reacting in this way with one child saying "Ah sir we're not in Junior Infants!"

Through a show of hands, the children voted for the names they wanted out of the selection. We just repeated this process until we had three left. Those who were knocked out got the benefit of being told that their names would be used for countries, mountains, moons, landmarks etc.
Our three finalists!

So we finally got down to the name. The final three were Jadertiv, The Funnest World in the World, and Happyland where everyone is happy. I asked the children to come up one by one and point to the name they wanted... and the result? Drum roll please!

...not reaaaaaallllyyy what I meant, but I'll take it.
The Funnest World in the World!

So where do we go from here?

I set out to make sure that the children could create and establish their own "fictional lens" as the curriculum states. Did I do that? I'd safely say so. The children's imaginations went into overdrive and they really feel like they created the world. I caught a few talking about it in the yard and the next morning two different children came in with maps drawn for ideas!

Tune in next week to find out if I:
  • Made the world map.
  • Named the nations and randomly assigned children nationalities.
  • Got the children to meet up in their countries and introduced each other as their characters. 

 Most importantly!

It was all really ridiculously fun. Seriously, there hasn't been a lesson all year that I looked forward to so much!The children and myself were excited, giddy, jumpy, and everyone came up with a list of ideas as long as MY arm (I have quite long arms). 

Long. May. This. Last.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Exploring begins...

 Before any lessons, there must be a plan.

They say there are many different types of intelligence. Nine to be exact. Naturalist, Musical, Logical, Existential, Interpersonal, Kinaesthetic, Linguistic, Intra-personal and Spatial.
I'd like to think I have a totally different one than what's on this list. I'm a "Connector". I can take two different concepts or ideas or people, and find a way for them to work together.

This connection? All me. Before this we rubbed on the paste with fingers. The brush was for army punishments. I swear.

Lets go from the start: you need to know about me. I am Conor Bredin, an American born, Irish reared teacher. This is my second year out of college and in the real world. I adore reading, gaming and all things technological. The Internet is my second home. I browse and I stumble, and there are few things I like to look for more than new teaching ideas. When I was in college I kept saying "Oh I can wait to try this when I have my own class!" But those were always OTHER people's ideas. Finally, I have my own! (I think!)

It all started when I came across a video on For those who don't know, TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. The TED organisation is devoted to "Ideas Worth Spreading" and have specialised lectures all over the world by all kinds of people. These lectures (ranging from 5 minutes up to an hour) are filmed and put up on their site for your free viewing. One minute you are watching an American banjo player talking about her experiences in China, and the next you could be watching Jamie Oliver dumping a wheelbarrow of sugar across the stage.

The video I discovered was entitled "Teaching with the World Peace Game" and I recommend all teachers to check it out. In this video John Hunter speaks about a realistic fantasy world, where children rule their own countries and must manage, finance and better their country. It's all played through discussion and a large 3D map. It is a fascinating video. As I said earlier, "Oh I can't wait to try that out" was my reaction straight away.

So now I must introduce Kickstarter. Again, another fantastic website. (A great place to find truly unique gifts!) On Kickstarter you can "fund and follow creativity" such as music albums, books, business ideas and products. Here I came across Ben Bertolli, a young teacher like myself. Ben's Kickstarter project was the idea of Class Realm, an online classroom management
based on video games. Children create their own characters, or profiles and behaviour/effort in class earns them experience points. Unfortunately Ben's Kickstarter didn't get funded in time, but he has developed a paper version which is on his website. Once again, I said to myself "Wow, I'm so going to do this with my class!

So now, this is where the connections are made. I have a class now for the remainder of the school year. They have really taken to Class Realm, as have I. I have decided to combine John Hunter's World Peace game and Ben Bertolli's ClassRealm to make our own world. Starting tomorrow, a full hour of a drama a week will be spent exploring fantasy worlds from films, books, and games to get an idea of what our whole new world will be!

A whole new world! huh... what do ya mean that's taken?

Gradually the children will design, map and live in their own fantasy realm, where I will throw situations at their characters to survive and endure. This world will be as real as our own, I hope.

Tomorrow morning is the beginning of it all!