New Year Transformations

Wilson Leonel Painting 149

Wilson leonel via Compfight

     Guest Blogger: 6th Grade Rafael

      This Year, something changed:

  • I’ m  already able to help my Mother a bit more:
  1. By going shopping with her;
  2. By going out to fetch bread for my brother.
  • I manage to deal with others in a more inspiring way and I study better: 
  1. I Concentrate more deeply;
  2. I take small breaks; each twenty minutes, I stop for a five minutes halt;   
  3. I write in my personal notebook which imitates a “Lego”.
  • I also feel that I have discovered something more about knowing how to give:
  1. Not  only when someone at School doesn’t bring a snack;
  2. But also to help people  who are in need, offering goods.
  • I went to Ajuda, with my Sister, to live an experience of Beauty: I built my sister’s foot with two pounds of clay!

Rafael Cy, 6C

Encouraging High Quality Writing

three cookies with a bit of chocolate meltin on the heater

  Image: “How to melt bits of chocolate on cookies at the work place

Better Blogguing with Students Course – Week Four #edublogs

I

      Taking the risk to be trivial, I would start by remembering the fundamentals: 

      I really believe you must love deeply both the unique students you have the privilege to serve and the creative and somehow amazing process of writing. Otherwise it just won’t work; as Christian Bobin so vividly puts it: “To write and to love are the same.”

II

a small girl writing

Image: Writing in our tiny Workshop

     Then, I will share just what I live, in my daily context: our Writing Workshop doesn’t take volunteers; on the contrary, kids are sent to us through a process that involves both language teachers, “responsible for the classroom teachers” and our wonderful staff of Educational Psychologists.

     Thus, my young “clients” usually struggle with at least one of the main abilities and skills that writing implies, such as low fine motor skills, dyslexia, dysgraphia, emotional fragility, PHDA, or any sort of hidden obstacle that is blocking their creativity or their effective learning.

     Concerning technical difficulties, the internet connection remains slow on the third floor – where we work – and my kids haven’t been immersed, yet, in the culture of typing, although I suggest them to download a typing software and try it by themselves, five minutes a day. As the young students of Mrs Yollis so clearly explain in their video: “Typing Matters”.

     The other feature that characterizes our work background is the lack of stimuli and training concerning reflection. One could expect that it should flow naturally from young minds, but within our traditional learning environment, it seems to have turned into a hard task, painful to accomplish, due to the load of subjects to deliver. Of course you also find those amazing teachers that master the art of reaching beyond the short horizon of the curriculum, to support their students in the quest for raising the questions that ignite the sparkle of reflection.

III

an empty nest

Hopefully, young writers will be leaving the nest of their confort zone and fly away…

     Finally, students must be helped to discover that they have something unique to say; that they are sent into this exciting mission of conquering their own voice. They don’t have to become professional authors or published writers – although some do, indeed. Their goal should appear like an inner adventure, slowly discovering their own orignal strengths and unsuspected possibilities to create, elaborate and reflect that only come to light through writing.

IV

tthree students bowing so we can't see their faces

Image: Three young heros of the writing quest

     After these foundations are settled, students are empowered to aim for high quality writing and we may build upon this solid base by trying a wide variety of strategies to inspire and enhance their writing:

  •       Letting them choose among several hypotheses, the first one being always their own idea. The freedom to choose opens their imagination and is a powerful solicitation to their free will. Then we may brainstorm with them to gather and organize the first draft.

 

  •     Keeping different kinds of prompts ready-to-go, related with a wide range of subjects. For instance, some will prefer to write about their favourite sports, or to discuss the “value” of the month – our global theme for this year – or even share what they are building in our brand new “Makerspace” – “The inventors”; others will choose to recount their birthday party, to speak about what they love to share with friends, to invent a story of action and danger, or of love and phantasy, just by looking into a map or an image, or just remembering a videogame they enjoy to play.

 

  •      Using prompts made by other students: two kids, for instance, elaborate a list of questions about a thrilling subject for others to write about. By taking photos of their drawings and digitizing them, the prompts are decorated, digitized and then plasticised:  kids get easily used to be surrounded by a beautiful appearance of the writing stuff they or their peers created and have been embellished as the content deserves.

 

  •       Children’s books, with simple but deep poetic text or amazingly illustrated, may become a source of relentless inspiration; creative exercise books as “Quero Ser Escritor” and “Setenta e Sete Palavras” always provide us with challenging ways of writing along together: by changing our notebooks at regular intervals; by following a rule that prevents to use a certain letter along a short text of 77 words and so on.

 

  •    Although it may seem a useless duplication of their work, young writers always receive a printed coloured copy of their posts or a printed coloured postcard of their poems. In some cases, they will lose the sheets of paper; in some cases they will be carefully collected in a binder by themselves or by their Mothers. I’ve seen many students who arrived at the writing workshop without a scintilla of enthusiasm who finished fiercely with a binder full of pages.

 

  • Our Writing Workshop is also the tiniest room in the school: up in the attics, 60 steps above the ground, pressed between the Laundry and the Library. It’s open from midday until half past six, where most of the older kids go just to prepare for tests, to learn a better management of time and to train strategies of study.

        Finally, a word about the meaning of the first photo on this post: this minimal place in school also works as a shelter, a cosy spot for a halt: that’s why we may listen to some sweet music and enjoy three cookies and 4 bits of chocolate while we learn to create and to reflect, in an always renewed astonishment, through the wonder of writing.

Ines

Peace In Nature



https://unsplash.com/photos/b9drVB7xIOI
Imagem: Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash  

     Guest Bloggers: 7th grades write “at two hands”: 

    Peace is a moment of tranquillity that allows you to reflect upon life and to consider what you have done wrongly or wisely.

     It’s like being in a forest under the moonshine, enjoying good company, silence, and feeling everything around you.

     To feel this ambiance, those smells, that buzz from the bees … in a wonderful landscape.

     Something beautiful, refreshing and quiet like the salty mist, the ocean smell and its incessant movement.

     To plunge into the sea and this being so refreshing, as if you and the sea were just one: this is Peace.

     An eagle that cuts the wind with its awesome wings wide open, flying over the glacier of a magnificent mountain. 

     Me, surrounded by animals, sitting by their little house, building a tiny wood house for another being.

    So much Peace inside you, everything around you is full of quietness and wonder.

    Nature talks to you with silence and with the breeze in the forest, going through drew drops on the verdant leaves.

(Text written “at two hands”according to the bookQuero ser Escritor” de Margarida Fonseca Santos e Elsa Serra)

Alexandre T and André R, 7A

Why Do You Write?

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       Image:Stencil

      All of us write.

      Among so many other reasons, we also write:

  • To pacify confusing inner voices by bathing them in the silence that makes them legible again.
  • To figure out what we stand for about an essential subject.
  • To liberate imprisoned strengths that remain captive inside us and long to be made flesh in words.
  • To sharpen the blade of critical reason and break the chaos for a harsh decision making.
  • To decentre oneself and make two steps towards the unexpected.
  • To give an obscure intuition the form of a diamond.
  • To celebrate the unconceivable wonder of being.
  • To remain aware of the uniqueness of life and how lucky we are to have been here once.
  • To capture the fleeting movement that denounces the dwelling of a wild beauty  in the hearts of humans.
  • To decipher the ineffable footprint left by the loving presence of others.

And you, why do you write?

Ines

A Hymn to Joy

https://unsplash.com/photos/tvc5imO5pXk

   Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash

Fifth Grade Guest Bloggers:  Text at Three Hands

    As a seed germinates and becomes a flower, hope springs and easily rejoices our heart, as, such as a seed, Joy needs to be cared until it grows and becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

    On Christmas Day, we just awake and happiness comes in:  we look at the day, we find ourselves in Joy. Christmas is a Family moment, everyone is happy from his heart and, with passion, we receive and give presents – we feel gratitude.

    When we rejoice, it’s something extraordinary: in love, there is such Joy that we can’t stop smiling.

    True friends are always at our side, when we need them and even without being called: they play with us, they are like brothers for ever and they never will leave us.

   If Joy was an animal, it would be a little rabbit, running in its freedom, passion and unending emotion.

    The Joy of the Family is such a tender thing we can’t even explain it, for there is so much love flowing that, if we try to count it, it reveals to be infinite.

    The dove of Joy flying and spreading through our souls: we jump, play and sing rejoicing for loving others and for being loved.

    There may be no end to Joy: at its best, it unfolds as love towards friends and family; to be good, to get along with people and a total well-being with friends.

    Joy: an open heart to help who needs us most.

    As a torrent pouring over us, Joy is able to keep growing, without boundaries.

    Free, singing over me, the rain of Joy!

 

Mariana L.,  Matilde Cons. e Joana Cb.

5th A

Translated from the Portuguese by Ines 

“Let the Children Reveal Themselves To You”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R03zw6FIoQc&t=16s

Image: Céline Alvarez You Tube

#Edublogs Club    Prompt 21

“Take a Look, it’s in a Book”

    While I was visiting several different sites belonging to “Dynamic Schools” and “Democratic Schools” in France, all drawing inspiration from the American Subdury Valley School, I stumbled upon a young French Author – Céline Alvarez – who achieved a unique experience, along three years, with kindergarten children. 

    “The Natural Laws of the Child” (downloadable in free pdf) is not only a vivid description of an outstanding educational adventure, but also a clear exposition of the principles and values that framed and guided the unfolding of the learning experiences actually carried out by the children.

    Céline’s site is now accessible in English and a growing number of teachers, all over the world, are participating in this approach;  in french, they are also freely sharing in the forum  different kinds of didactic material.

    Although I have also been reading some critical reviews on this powerful book, I would like just to present some valuable and inspiring messages it unveils. The work of Céline has been built upon the heritage of Dr Montessori, which she has enriched with the modern discoveries of neurosciences and cognitive psychology. All her way she has been supported by prof Catherine Gueguen, prof Stanislas Dehaene, and “The Center of the Developing Child” at Harvard University.

   27 children, aged 3, 4 and 5, issued from humble families, in a suburban public school, Genevilliers, have shown a deep enthousiasm and real commitment to deal with the learning activities that were individually presented to them by Céline and her assistant Anna Bisch.

     They were invited to exercise these activities freely and whenever they wished, all by themselves, in pairs or in small groups – the older children spontaneously taking care of the youngers and helping them. Most of the children learned to read and to count, among many other subjects; the older learned to write and to use the four mathematical operations; at the end of the experience, they were all in advance concerning school standards for their age.

     Both adults acted as facilitators and supporters, by presenting the activities and by creating a learning environment permeated by reciprocal kindness, respectful tolerance of differences and a cheerful tranquillity. In the video we may appreciate the relaxed concentration and the calm joy of the kids in action: they seem to feel secure, happy and actively engaged in their learning.

     According to the author, we can’t really teach, but we can and must accompany and support a child’s natural strong will to learn; and he will only learn trough his own free commitment into a chosen activity in accordance with intrinsic motivation. And the Author invites her readers: “Let the children reveal themselves to you”.

Ines

A Story about Reading and Writing

Image: Writing Workshop

#Edublogs Club Prompt 16 Tell a Story

     The simple acts of reading and writing remain at the heart of my memories as a perpetual source of enchantment.

     Before I learned to read, my mother would read aloud, both in Spanish and Portuguese, thus unveiling the secret worlds that lay in silence within children books. She would encourage me to dictate my own stories long before I was able to write: I would stand by her, while, sitting, she would patiently put down word by word the fragile fragments of tales I entrusted to her caring attention.

     I remember having learned to read very early – thanks to my parents who were both eager readers; I would go alone to hide in our backyard in a silent place, holding my treasure, just to plunge in the mystery that was to me, at that time, the fact that I could reach another space and time and apparently share a different life with the characters.

   Later, when I was older, and looked for a book in the family library complaining about not knowing what to choose, my mother used to say: “Write what you wish to read”. Her advice became progressively more difficult to follow, but I never really gave up, and I keep cherishing writing among the best things in life just next to Family and Friendship.

   I reencountered the magic of these moments, many years after, with my young students, while reading aloud “The Ink Drinker”, “The Report Card”, or simply telling in my own words –  and reading some chosen passages – the adventures I finished to know almost by heart, like the “Chronicles of Narnia “and “The Hobbit”.

    As for writing, my young student texts have blew me away as soon as I started to teach. I discovered their feelings and thoughts could express an implicit but so strong insight about the human person, the meaning of life, a certain vision of the world that was still germinating but was already present as a promise of future.

     Their clumsy, novice writing was energizing, it concealed the power to make things happen in their own lives and could throw off balance some well-established prejudices  to make a better world.

    I began to collect their writings; then to share them in the classroom as a real “reading activity”; to use them for interpretation as the main text on tests; to publish them in the old school bulletin, later in our class blogs –  helping in their translation; we even participated in the Edublogs Blogging challenge in 2008, and took our turn to be in charge of the student’s blogs “Bringing Us Togetherand “Students Friends” (with my help for translations)  without any infrastructure in school that would allow us to blog; and finally, to print the texts typed in colours before giving them back,  just as an humble homage that seeks to enhance the discreet  and often unknown voice of young students.

    This was a story about the love of reading and writing and the transforming power that lies in both of them.

Ines

Effecting Change: the Power of Free Will

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Image: Stencil

# Edublogs Club Prompt 3

    While having always taught and tutored students in the realm of the traditional learning system, I, as well as so many colleagues, have been constantly worried about the central role our free will plays in the process of learning and the different ways to challenge it, to configure a valuable interpellation to students.

    Yesterday, I found this same concern in the deep reflection of David GuerinIs it possible to teach Grit?”:

“Kids with willpower habits do better.“

“Sometimes, I think we simply tell students to work harder or to persevere, but we aren’t giving them tools they need to learn these skills.

We aren’t teaching the behaviour we want to see.”

“Could we be doing more to explicitly train students how to have willpower?”

      Some of my older students are being introduced to the inspiring book “Make your Bed” by Admiral William Mc Raven – in Portuguese version – just hoping they will feel the power of the injunction to act by self-determination that goes through all the chapters as a burning fuse.

      Earlier, I had found this kind of vital inspiration in the approach of Team Couching proposed by the author Jeff Boss, ancient Navy Seal, in whose work the values instilled emanate from the power of free will as from a burning nucleus.   

    Many of my older students that struggle at school are deeply engaged in boxing, jujitsu, surfing, sailing, tennis… where they may be brilliant and feel empowered, thanks to their total dedication and relentless training.

    However, although these extra school activities allow them to win self-esteem and discover the deep joy of confronting obstacles, we don’t know how to help them to transfer these new competencies and skills to the inner – and only apparently more abstract – realm of academic subjects.

     Angela Duckworth – the author of “Grit, the power of passion and perseverance” – would say the gap between both is due to the fact that the former have been freely chosen, while the latter have been imposed upon students.

     She gives us some strong hope to be able to help our students to  “effect change” by stressing that “there is a surprising parallelism between teaching and parenthood” [1] and she describes how the communication of genuine affection, respect and high expectancies may arouse, in students that struggle in school, a more refined motivation and a stronger resilience in the adventure of learning.

    Yet, the question raised by David Guerin remains actual and urgent as ever:

“Could we be doing more to explicitly train students how to have willpower?”

Ines

[1] – My translation from the Portuguese version.

“In their weakness, a saving power…”

https://www.ncronline.org/news/vatican/launching-world-day-poor-francis-says-no-christian-may-disregard-serving-themImagem: The Catholic Reporter

 

 On the 19th November, by the invitation of the chief of the Catholic Church, we are celebrating the “World Day of the Poor”.

      In Portugal, each parish chose to open a special space and time, for anyone who may wish, to come freely and spend some time together, all different groups of people, just having a light meal and talking to each other, just deepening human links.

     At the same time, on the backstage, intense campaigns are collecting offers in species or money to support vulnerable families and help them to live  Christmas and through the whole new year, at least until spring, where the campaigns start over again for Easter.

     According to the site “Our World in Data”, along the past two hundred years, extreme poverty has been progressively decreasing in intimate connexion with improvement in health and the expansion of global education.

     However, they are also aware that “living conditions well above the International Poverty Line can still be characterized by poverty and hardship.”

    That’s precisely the case in our country, striving with external debt, high unemployment rates, thousands of people living with minimal salaries, with 40 hours of labour per week, 2,6 million people on the risk of poverty and, only this summer, 418 thousands hectares burned mostly in criminal fires. 

http://www.paroquiadecascais.org/content/view/39808/1/Image Author: João Pinto

     What can we do? First, there’s a lot we are already doing all over the world. Not enough, though. Secondly, then, we must simply enlarge our common actions and multiply our solidarity initiatives.

    Today, the seventh week of the Students Blogging Challenge, Miss Sue W has published the awesome initiatives of young people like Mahica Halepete who created a foundation aiming at contributing to end extreme poverty as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. Miss Sue herself gives us some precious and easy tips to contribute locally.

     Our small parish in – Cascais – is engaged in dialogue and support with the martyr town of Erbil, in Iraq, with whom we exchange visits and help to rebuild their clinic.

      The 29 November, our solidarity Foundation AJU will held its Christmas fair, at a central hotel, to gather funds for the 350 families it supports trough several projects on a daily basis.

https://www.facebook.com/fundacaoaju/photos/a.387710261282085.91831.387710131282098/1467202813332819/?type=1&theaterImagem: AJU Facebook

      In our school, all the campaigns, along this school year, will support three centres in Cape Vert (from where hurricanes are blown), mainly poor schools whose buildings are too old and have no adequate resources.

     Just a drop in the ocean, that makes a difference to our brothers, the Poor, and, according to Francis, it makes a difference also to each of us, as

“In their weakness, a “saving power” is present.”

     “What we invest in love remains, the rest vanishes.

So we must seek what really matters, and the courage to love, not in words but in deeds”. (1)

     (1) Pope Francis on “the World Day of the Poor

Ines

An Exercise for Creative Writing

   Imagem: Oficina de Escrita

      Some days ago, a Science Teacher asked on Twitter about the eventual interest of an exercise of creative writing that consists in writing by alternate paragraphs, with our students, or to invite them to do it in pairs. I’ll explain here how I do it, as it became one of my students favourite ways of writing

 I learned to write in this way in the children’s book “Quero ser Escritor” (I want to be a Writer), which offers a wide variety of exercises to enhance creative writing. 

  • First, we create together a very “light” prompt – just the general ideas, to preserve the “effect of surprise” this kind of writing provides.
  •  Than we start writing, but must change our notebooks at regular intervals; usually I wait for students to give me the signal. If both writers are students, we agree upon a certain time interval and I warn them when they must change notebooks.
  • Each co-writer is supposed to read the other’s paragraph and to continue his line of thought.
  • When writing with the teacher, Students may be confronted with a paragraph that is out of their immediate “writing-context”, as it is spontaneously more complex and more elaborated; as they must continue the line of thought expressed in the sentences, the adult’s paragraph operates like a model that usually impels young students to structure their sentences more carefully and to enrich their vocabulary.

 I’ve tried this exercise with short narratives – even at “three hands” – and although they usually turn to be very funny, the writing level remains simpler and the vocabulary tends to show less variety.

    This year, in our school, we are working a global theme concerning values: “To be +”. Its abstract and reflective nature makes it easier to alternate paragraphs by different authors.

    In both ways, there is a special empathy and genuine communication growing between co-writers.

Ines