A Hymn to Joy

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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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# 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

With a Guest Blogger: “Being Humble”

 Photo by Vittorio Zamboni on Unsplash

  Photo by Vittorio Zamboni on Unsplash   

   This post has been written “at two hands” in alternate paragraphs, with my Guest Blogger:   Margarida CC, 6th Grade.

     Being Humble is an attitude that must be worked out every day: as a cork on the water is constantly pushed to the surface, so we suffer from a natural tendency to become the centre of everything.

    Being Humble may include:

  • Being kind to others;
  • To be aware of ourselves: thus we keep in contact and know more about ourselves.
  • Others get more attention, they feel that someone else understands them.
  • It isn’t enough to be tender and friendly, you have yet to share actively your gifts with others, as a painter shares his pictures, a teacher shares his wisdom and a priest shares his faith.

     As any other value, we may train humility in very simple ways, on a daily basis:

  • To wait five seconds before speaking when a discussion becomes too hot.
  • While engaging in a dialogue with someone, to make a conscientious decision to listen more than to talk.
  • To appreciate the presence of others by raising non-intrusive questions, thus helping others to show the richness of their perspectives.

    To be humble is also to be able to say honestly which attitudes we don’t approve in others without  needing to hurt anyone.

Margarida CC and Ines

Text written “at two hands” according to the book “Quero Ser Escritor” by Margarida Fonseca Santos and Elsa Serra 

#EdublogsClub: Giving and Receiving Feedback

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#EdublogsClub Prompt 10 (Catching Up)

    Presently, the sort of feedback I give to my students is adapted to my work of mentoring their studies and enhancing their writing skills.

   I usually give feedback to my students through short writing prompts, questionnaires, conceptual/idea maps and oral interviews that I quickly transcribe and post later.

   On the other hand, I only receive informal feedback from my students, through their specific suggestions or if I ask them to address me a informal evaluation both in writing or orally.

      As I support their effort to achieve autonomy concerning time management, work organization and study strategies, these issues also constitute the object of my feedback. The final purpose remains to empower students to ask themselves metacognition questions, in order to monitor their own learning process.

    Usually, I use a questionnaire as a basis to provoke an oral discussion with both some wide open questions and some very specific topics that aim to allow students to become aware of the” mental gestures” that facilitate attention or memorization, thus enabling comprehension, according to what  I’ve learned from the French Author and Pedagogue Antoine de la Garanderie.

     I try to make very sensitive students feel at ease: they don’t have to share their classifications with precision; but they are invited to indicate their “strong points” as well as their “points in development” (we don’t say “weak points” any more, thanks to our school team couch Nuno Ribeiro). Then the student receives my help to formulate two concrete and feasible objectives for the next seven weeks. (This generally coincides with a school half-trimester and assessment “seasons”).

     Then, and exactly as it happens with every other student, he must be able to answer some questions to clarify and to concretize how he must proceed to achieve his goal. For instance:

  • Where, when and for how long is he going to dedicate to the subjects he chose?
  • With whom will he be studying? (Parents, mentors, older siblings, friends, all alone)
  • Which subject-matters will be under evaluation at the next assessment season? According to which criteria?
  • Which methods will he put into practice? (He may, for instance, prefer to read aloud each paragraph, outlining the main ideas, turning them into questions, writing short summaries or drawing a map of concepts, training with practical exercises…)
  • How precisely and distinctively can he listen to his own thoughts or how fine grained are his mental visual images of what he is actually studying?
  • Is he aware that only then his comprehension skills are set in movement by reasoning over these visual or auditory learning images? To become aware of what is actually happening in their own heads it’s a safe ground to build self-confidence and motivation, even if the student remains a very highly sensitive person.

     My older students ask me to study with them for tests belonging to subject-matters I don’t master – as they don’t belong to my own professional background studies. Thus, they lead me through their own paths as they already master some work strategies. Along this process of sharing the building of knowledge, my older students give me precious tips that enhance my abilities to help the younger ones.

Ines

#Edublogs Club: Celebrate and Reflect

Photo by Anthony DELANOIX on Unsplash

Photo by Anthony DELANOIX on Unsplash

#EdublogsClub Prompt 40

  • Goals: What are your blogging goals and how have these changed over the year?

    I would like to try to post more regularly, since I reactivated my old blog in English; I would love to post the texts I write along with my students, in alternate paragraphs.

      I would love to push my Portuguese blog to the next level, and that means to have parents and students commenting on their posts although I know it’s very hard to create the whole infrastructure when there is no school time reserved for students blogging.

  • Achievements: What are you proud of?

I’m proud of translating some of my student’s texts so I can post them here, where they can reach a larger audience at Edublogs Community. (They aren’t published yet)

  • Benefits: What do you see as the benefits of blogging?

  Blogging becomes exciting when it is shared, not only through comments but also through anonymous reading. As we are sitting at an invisible table with writing companions, it is easier to make a more sincere effort to reflect with rigour upon subjects we treasure.

  • Has it been worthwhile for meta-cognition?

I strive to bring my young students to the frontiers of this wide domain of meta-cognition:  we, educators, know there lays a crucial tool for achieving success in their studies and to reach a level of autonomy that will enable them to manage their own progress.

     From my own experience, I can say that the more I train reflective writing the more clearly I see how to correct, to improve or to innovate my practice as a tutor or at the students writing workshop.

  •  Building community? Gaining new insights?

Although I joined Edublogs Club at “the last hour”, I could participate on building community, as I met some awesome bloggers as Melanie Ruiz, Alicia, Nina, not to talk of the tireless help and encouragement I received from Kathleen Morris. In all their articles I discovered new insights or new energy to reinvent dayly life at school.  

  • The future: How would you like your blog to evolve?
  • I would like to progressively catch up with all the other prompts I missed, to visit and comment the blogs where they have been sparkling inspiration.
  • My older students could become my guest bloggers: I’ve already talked with some of them who liked the idea.
  • When I read a chapter or an article about something essential to educational life, as, for instance, some strategies taught by prof Maurice Elias on his great book “Emotional Intelligence Parenting”, I would like to share my own reflections upon it, as doing so turns to be a great help to put into practice the precise and reasonable strategies I just read.

 A Final word: Thank you for your generosity, Edublogs Club Staff.

Ines

“Close Your Eyes and You Will See”

 

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     I chose this quote as the title to a post dedicated to my student Miguel who was celebrating his 15th birthday last Saturday.

    It seems a particularly inspiring quote, although it provokes perplexity at the same time.

     That’s one of the ways quotes unfold their hidden power: they force us to stop the continuous flux of superficial thoughts; we surprise ourselves just staring at the improbable combination of words; then we start listening to a miscellaneous of unformed meanings, and we try to help, at least one of them, to take shape.

     A new born meaning could be like a little sun shining in our minds, sparkling new insights.

    We seem to live at high speed, rarely enjoying the delight of going for a walk out of every known path.

   After a simple pause to reflect upon how we may improve in coping with our work or study, we usually come quickly back to safer ground, where we stay in command. 

   But just by daring some few steps more into the inner wild, perhaps we could hear the underground water of meaning yet unheard of, silently flowing under our feet.

Ines