During our two week practicum experience, my practicum partner and I chose to teach our Grade 2/3 class an English Language Arts unit on Celebrations & Traditions. We created this unit for our class so that each student would have the opportunity to share personal stories from their lives that they are proud of, as well as learning about their classmates' celebrations and traditions. This unit was a four day process for our class consisting of one lesson from our unit per day.
On the first day of introducing our unit to the students, we did a brainstorming activity which was done by asking the students to provide examples of how they like to celebrate holidays and traditions with their family and friends. Some of the examples that students came up with included the different types of activities they enjoy doing, the food they like to eat, the music they listen to, and their personal favourite holidays, The students would provide the ideas as my practicum partner and I would write their ideas on the board so that each student could see the words and ideas being used, as well as the correct spelling of these terms. This was a productive lesson involving a collaborative brainstorm that was intended to spark some ideas for the students as they began to think more about what they wanted to write about in their personalized stories of celebrations & traditions.
In order to involve the parents in this unit, my practicum partner and I created a take-home letter which provided the information about our unit plan as well as some things that parents and guardians could do at home with their children in order to encourage learning at home as well as student participation at school. We found that this letter was extremely beneficial as we were able to reach each family by sending the letter home in the students' planners. Each student had the opportunity to talk with their family to gain ideas about what they want to write about in their personalized celebrations & traditions stories.
On day two, students listened as I read part of a book to them - I'm in Charge of Celebrations by Byrd Baylor. The activities for today's lesson were lead by my practicum partner and myself. The students would listen to part of the story and then were instructed to do a variety of activities. These activities included making predictions, drawing pictures, writing words, and then the students were encouraged to share their work in front of their classmates. The students did an incredible job of using their imaginations to draw pictures of what they believed was happening in the story and what would happen next. Another positive that was derived from this lesson was how proud each student was of the work that they had completed. Almost every student volunteered to share their work in front of the class and we actually went over the intended time limit of this lesson due to the student presentations.
On day three of this unit, students began the writing process of their personalized stories on celebrations & traditions. The students were instructed to write about one or two of their favourite holidays, celebrations or traditions. These stories were personalized to their own lives so each student had a great deal to write about. My practicum partner and I would move around the class so that we could meet quickly with each student to see what they were working on if they needed any assistance - I feel that having the two of us and our sponsor teacher moving around through the class really helped motivate student participation and success.
Later on in the day, our class met with our Grade 5 buddies. Our students paired up with their buddies and created a Venn Diagram on the topic of celebrations & traditions. This process enabled our students to compare similar and different ways of celebrating with their older buddies. The purpose of this exercise was so that our students might hopefully gain more ideas for the final copy of their stories that they would be completing next lesson.
On the fourth day of our unit, students started and completed the final copies of their stories. Students were encouraged to look at all of the previous work they had done in this unit including drawings, their rough drafts, and Venn Diagrams. One add-on goal for this lesson was for the students to write their stories neatly so that they could be easily read by others. We were very impressed to see that the students put a lot of hard work and writing into these final stories. My practicum partner and I believe that the added writing in these final copies was derived from all of the conversations and ideas gained from talking with their families, meeting with their big buddies, brainstorming in class and comparing work with their class partners. Some students even had two to three pages of written work!
The day after the students completed their final copies of the stories, each student then filled out a self-assessment form. Students were encouraged to answer honestly on whether or not they met the criteria for this form of assessment. It was wonderful to see how honest the students were while assessing their work and making note on areas that they could improve on. It was also heart-warming to see each student take great pride in the work that they completed for this unit!
We celebrated our learning and hard work by hanging the students' work outside of the classroom for the entire school to see.