EDU 6363 Language Arts, Social Studies, and Arts

Search for Meaning- EDU 6363             

The need to incorporate character education in curriculum is essential for supporting not only community in the classroom but communities outside the classroom and within the world.  By supporting and developing a strong community of students that not only practice the vital skills necessary for cooperation with in a community but advocate for thoughtful, respectful, reasonable, and civil rights for all individuals. I define character education as providing supportive guidance for cooperative learning within communities by learning, practicing, and modeling and growth through trial and failure and for the fostering of civil regard toward one another.  I am not all together sure that all parents, teachers, administrators etc. would be on board with my definition or my idea of how it would work.  In fact I see a huge challenge in our society for any failure at all being an acceptable form of learning.  I read a fascinating article in The Atlantic called, How to Land Your Kid in Therapy by, Lori Gottlieb, that chronicles the despair our children are facing today in a society where everyone is a winner or more simply put  how the cult of self-esteem is ruining our kids.  Written from the mother’s point of view, which is essentially our role when the student is at school by virtue of ‘Guardian Ad Litem’, the expectation is to not only educate students academically but socially as well.  One story the author reflects on is whether or not to tell her young son that a friend had died of cancer. In the end she does and although he asked a lot of questions, “he did not faint from the truth.” Instead, “my trusting him to handle the news probably made him more trusting of me, and ultimately more emotionally secure.”  (Gottlieb, 2011, p. 67)   Emotional intelligence is a key component for character education.

That’s what we want right?  More emotionally secure students through a process of habitual personal discovery in a safe environment that incorporates character education.  The value of allowing for failure ceases the constant accommodation and praise for every single student, no matter what the effort, but rather supports and recognizes appropriately earned accomplishments.  Woven tightly within any academic and social classroom structure should be character education.  The Nord and Haynes lecture provides distinction between education and socialization, training and indoctrination. Indoctrination or socialization is, “…when we teach (or socialize) them to accept doctrines, or a point of view, uncritically.” This can be observed in young children when adults provide rules, i.e. you must share with your sister, and children learn to accept this behavior without question.  “We educate them, by contrast, when we provide them with a measure of critical distance on their subjects, enabling them to think in an informed and reflective way about alternatives.” (p. 4).  Especially, in the primary level we see evidence of indoctrination and socialization, but just as vital, if not more, is the need to provide disciplined modeling and repetitive behavior that allows for reflective character building opportunities to be discovered.  What are we teaching children if everyone get a medal just for showing up?  We need to teach students that strong character will serve them well in this world not that their character doesn’t matter!

One way this could be introduced across curriculum is by determining characteristics that matter to you and your school/classroom.   For example pick an important words or slogan to put throughout the school and classroom i.e.; Perseverance, Tolerance, Responsibility, Respect, Determination, and Work Hard, Be Nice, or There Are No Shortcuts.  As a class make an “T” chart of what these look like and sound like i.e., Tolerance looks like everyone working together, looks cooperative and respectful, Tolerance sound like each person in a group having a chance to share their ideas even if they are different and contrarily each person listening to one another’s idea.  Then, repetitively, ask the students to share how they have used tolerance and provide an example (they can refer to the “T” chart).  This repetition allows students the opportunity to practice important character experience and verbally define each characteristic.

Lastly, I have to, once again, share an article, What if the Secret to Success is Failure?  The focus throughout is on character education and emotional intelligence.  The following is what happened when two educators were searching to define the “science of good character.”

Seligman and Peterson consulted works from Aristotle to Confucius, from the Upanishads to the Torah, from the Boy Scout Handbook to profiles of Pokémon characters, and they settled on 24 character strengths common to all cultures and eras. The list included some we think of as traditional noble traits, like bravery, citizenship, fairness, wisdom and integrity; others that veer into the emotional realm, like love, humor, zest and appreciation of beauty; and still others that are more concerned with day-to-day human interactions: social intelligence (the ability to recognize interpersonal dynamics and adapt quickly to different social situations), kindness, self-regulation, gratitude. (Tough, 2011)

I think somehow all these characteristics hold value; our job is to share and impart the value, the action, and importance with our students.

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EDU 6363- Language Arts, Social Studies & Arts

All Things Considered

Themes…are they good?  Are they thorough? Do they make connections for students in a real way?  Are students compelled by the curriculum of a large theme within smaller contextual units?  Does it get tedious?  These are some of the questions discussed during our lecture, and some that still linger about the use of instructional themes in a classroom. Instructional themes seem to naturally supply very real interdisciplinary connections.

Good themes can help generate deeper connections to real life examples. But what is a “good” theme?  Two characteristics for a good theme as explained with reference to A. Ellis, et. al. are ideas that, “transcend time and space” and ideas that “deepen the level of learning by promoting moral well-being, literacy, and problem solving.” Development of higher order thinking and deeper thought processing are outcomes that teachers should be observing and supporting for students throughout a thematic study. In order to select a theme that is “good” it should meet a criterion that has relevance and connections to the academic and social growth of the students and have the added component of real world application.  Instructional themes seem to offer a way to weave a compelling curriculum throughout the day, over a longer period of time.  For example a thematic unit on “Human Rights” as seen through the eyes of a slave could afford opportunities to make multiple interdisciplinary connections as well as real life connections.  Students could study poetry, read novels, study the history of slavery, sing songs about freedom, search for the mathematical connections of slave trade, write poetry, journal or make a film about slavery, examine the implications of slavery on the world we live in today, etc. Although this is a very powerful and sometimes uncomfortable subject to teach, it is imperative that students learn the way to ponder the relevance to life in the world today and make personal connection so as to develop social responsibility.

Until I am applying the strategies of theme in a real classroom my understanding of the smaller details will have to wait.  However, I do see the value in the organic connections that can be made by using broader themes to relate different disciplines to one another.  Curriculum becomes naturally more compelling when teachers and students develop, reach, and peruse higher order thinking and questioning.

EDU 6363 Lauguage Arts, Arts, and Social Studies

Week in Review

This week, in our methods class, we delved into the sea of language arts.  While a discussion about various components of lesson planning for reading, writing, speaking, and listening ensued, it was the strategies for promoting literacy appreciation that really peaked my interest.  I believe it is within the promotion of literacy appreciation that budding writers and readers are inspired.  By focusing on strategies that provide guided reflection and by nurturing student’s love of books, the possibility of producing lifelong readers becomes more salient.

I heard a teacher the other day say to a student during a writer’s workshop, “Find an author that you like then stand on their shoulders while you write.” This was the statement that the students were able to visualize while discussing the significance behind what it means to be a writer.  This statement allowed the students to understand the balance of good writing versus good reading material.  An appreciation for style as well as content is personal, not everyone will enjoy the same literature.  However, this did not seem to be an obstacle in the classroom I was observed.  The classroom I observed reflected upon a design that embraced literature at all levels.  As I looked around the room I noticed this was the student’s reality.  The walls were dripping with words, books lined every shelf, bins of books were set all over the tops of cases, and every student had a book or two of their own at their seat.   Many of the boxes were labeled by author, series, genre, and/or leveled by reading score.  Students, throughout the day, were given the opportunity for silent reading and peer reading was encouraged.  The teacher read aloud to the students each day from a book that coincided with the social studies curriculum. The teacher read with voice, character, and enthusiasm while the students watched and listened attentively.

All throughout the day, the appreciation for literature was evident.  I hope to have a classroom with a foundation built on classics, new books, genres of all kinds, poetry, stories, music and more.  A classroom that is rich in words and one that inspires students to appreciate literature for a lifetime.

EDU 6363 Language, Arts, & Social Studies

The Columbia Icefield is an enormous icefield comprised of six large glaciers: Athabasca, Castleguard Columbia, Dome, Stutfield and Saskatchewan Glacier.  From these glaciers, through the Columbia Icefield, fresh water flows to three different oceans: Atlantic, Pacific and the Artic Oceans. Icefields, by definition, are colossal elongated areas of multiple glaciers that wrap around mountains to form a glacial valley leaving only the peaks of mountains showing.  These peaks are called nunatak. The area of the Columbia Icefield is about 170,000 miles; it ranges from 328 ft. to 1,197 ft. in depth, and gets up to 275 inches of snowfall per year.

Located in the Canadian Rockies it spans the continental divide of North America, fringing on the borders of two national parks; Banff National Park and Jasper National Park.  The Columbia Icefield is one of the last reminders of the thick ice mass that once covered most of Western Canada’s mountains.  From afar that glacier looks like a frozen river but there is movement from this glacier as it slowly melts.  The ice is in constant motion moving forward at a rate of about 3 cm per day.  Over the last 125 years the glacier has receded, melting away half of its initial volume and receding almost one mile.   The Athabasca Glacier is the most central glacier to the Columbia Icefield and by far the most visited.  Many visitors arrive year round to witness the glory and wonder of the glacial beauty its power is not a forced to be reckoned with.  The glacier in spite of its beauty is very considered dangerous.