Tag Archives: inclusion

Whakamine – gather together

This week has been really exciting. I’ve been off experiencing the first few weeks of the school year with a room of 7 and 8 year olds. I think the most important piece of learning has been how to ensure your students feel happy, welcome and safe when they get to school each day. Half this success is getting to know and appreciate each student as a unique individual, and the other half is helping each student become part of a supportive learning team.

There are formal and informal ways of getting to know your students.
Formally, you may have a variety of activities organised so students can share personal aspects of their lives, such as all-about-me posters, books or games; as well as a variety of assessment strategies so you can ascertain student’s skills and knowledge in order to tailor your teaching.
Informally, there is before school conversation with students, and contact with parents, which helps inform you of student out-of-school interests and past-times, activities and commitments.

The team-building grows alongside the get-to-know-you strategies. Students need to get to know each other and learn to learn alongside and with each other, through a range of independent, paired and shared activities. One of the best I saw this week was the improvised band.

In groups of 4 or 5, students selected from a pile of ‘junk’. The junk was recycled boxes, bags, plastic bottles, cans and paper. Over the next 20 minutes, the groups developed a soundscape of thunder and rain which they then performed in front of the other groups. The results were varied, interesting and very, very loud. The skills of sharing ideas, negotiation and thinking “we” instead of “me” are setting up these students as a learning community which values collaboration and communication.

What activities are you using to get to know your students and/or nurture a team?

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Whakawhanaungatanga – relating to others

As a thank you for the warm welcome to the blogosphere, I thought I would share a positive experience about inclusion that I had while out on one of teaching placements in 2011 – a lesson idea that incorporated one of my favourite resources Teaching Tolerance, and some classic Kiwi content Kia Kaha.

The lesson was scheduled the week after Australian school-boy Casey Haynes became international news for fighting back against bullying. The lesson was used in an environment where respect for others and team work are already being taught through everyday dialogue and celebrated at school assemblies.

Teaching Tolerance is a web-based initiative for promoting inclusive learning spaces. I found it in my first year of training when I was writing an enormous essay on countering gender stereotypes in classrooms.
Kia Kaha is the New Zealand Police’s anti-bullying initiative for schools.

I opened the session by showing this youtube clip  (I was working with 7-8 year olds but they thought it was alright – a nice way to ease into a serious topic). Afterwards we brainstormed what ‘tolerance’ and ‘relating to others’ might look like and mean. All the students got the Big Idea that it was about accepting different kinds of people – even people who can be annoying.

I used the ideas from Teaching Tolerance’s ‘Gender doesn’t limit you’  – teaching the students responses that they could use to challenge intolerant discourse, “Give it a rest, no group is best” and “You can’t say [boys/girls/you] can’t play!” (which became a favourite).

I explained that students would be in groups of 4 to make a small movie (using a digital camera) about a situation where there is an opportunity to demonstrate tolerance. Keeping ‘on-theme’ the students then took the initiative to peacefully self-organise into groups!

I asked them to suggest school situations where they have possibly felt that someone was intolerant or where they felt excluded. Point to note here: nearly every student suggested a playground setting, which indicated to me that the playground is where intolerance and exclusion occur most.
So, we moved the learning outdoors and I gave them their cameras and the freedom to choose a scenario where they would first act out a ‘normal’ interaction – followed by the demonstration of challenging intolerance and relating to others. After a quick reminder to use their rote responses, they were off. (All the digital cameras were pre-set to film, the students only needed to turn them on and press ‘record’ – many of the students were already very comfortable with using them and could refocus, zoom, pan etc. with no issues).

The learning overview took 15 minutes, so we had 25 minutes to film and some groups produced multiple short movies – I did have one group who went from producing a rugby scenario (getting picked for teams was a hot issue) to a zombie apocalypse (sigh) but they continued to show tolerance by being very inclusive of the zombies, so … not completely off-task.

Post filming, we had sharing time – each movie was screened on the interactive whiteboard with explanatory commentary from the team who created it. Many teams also included disclaimers about how their group had worked together – who had the initial idea, who filmed, any issues that arose where they had needed to negotiate. One group had even made four clips so each team member had a chance at being the camera-operator, the star, the director etc.  I made sure to praise their fair treatment and respect shown for fellow team-mates.

I would love to be able to share these short films, but they are not my creative works to upload. What I can share is the idea, the sources and the encouragement to give it a go.

How are you promoting skills students can use for relating to others?

Links to the NZ Curriculum: Health & PE; Drama; and the Relating to Others key competency.