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Sunday, 7 April 2013

Bread for the Journey

                                                            CC licensed photo  shared by Flickr user avlxyz

If you've been reading my blog, you know that I like to teach several things at one time.  Don't confuse this with multi-tasking.  This is about sifting through the curriculum, and finding connections between different expectations.  This is about finding the "Big Idea".  Determining that "Big Idea" or Guiding Question is what makes teaching exciting for me; it's like solving a puzzle.

Jeffrey Wilhelm is one of my favourite speakers, and I once heard him say that one of the problems with education is that we teach everything in isolation, so children don't know how to transfer their knowledge and skills to new situations, or even across subject areas.  I agree.  Integrating expectations from various content areas to work on authentic tasks helps students to make connections and apply their learning in new situations.

I am very fortunate to be able to teach in a Catholic school.  I don't know how much longer we will be able to hang on to our Catholic education in Ontario - I don't want to get into politics here, but as long as I am able to, I will continue to incorporate Catholic themes and traditions into my teaching of the Ontario curriculum.

We are now in my favourite time of year - the Easter Season! (Remember, Easter is not a day, it is a season.)

As a teacher, the question becomes - "How can I teach my students about the significance of the Resurrection AND teach Language, Science and Math and fit it all in?"

I thought I'd share with you what I am doing to make learning fun, connected and authentic and still fit it all in!

Last week, we began exploring the Parables of the Yeast and the Mustard Seed.  (I've added links to the Scripture readings so that you can find them easily.)  As we share-read these passages, we talked about visualization as a comprehension strategy.  We also talked about the importance of background knowledge.  I explained that the people in biblical times would have been very familiar with mustard seeds and yeast.  I then passed out mustard seeds and yeast to my students so that they would have the necessary background knowledge to make sense of the text.  I explained what an analogy was.  As a class, we made connections and inferences to help us understand what the author, Mathew, was trying to convey to his audience.

Next we read John 12:23-26: 23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

Again, we discussed the importance of background knowledge.  I like to use mentor texts to help students understand themes in the Bible. I read aloud the picture book "Bread Comes to Life" by George Levenson.  This text explains the process of how a kernel of wheat eventually becomes a loaf of bread.  We also watched time lapse videos on the germination of wheat kernels.  With this background knowledge, we were ready to have a discussion about what Jesus meant when He said:  unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.  It was exciting to observe the rich deep conversation that ensued.

In Science, we are nearing the end of our unit about Space Exploration.  We have signed up for the Tomatosphere project to explore the potential of growing tomatoes in space.  We are participating in a blind study to learn more about the germination of tomato seeds.  Last week we planted our two groups of seeds, the control group and the test group.  Hopefully, this week we will see how many of these seeds have germinated, and eventually, if we are lucky, they will "bear much fruit".  Well of course, we had to read the True Vine, John 15:1-17:  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me." We discussed how Jesus spoke in metaphors to help us understand our relationship to one another, Himself and God.

I believe my students will truly view the germination of these tomato seeds with the wonder and awe that should be afforded to creation.

This coming week, we will read "The Lotus Seed" by Sherry Garland.  It is a beautiful story about a Vietnamese girl who brings a lotus seed with her when she comes to America to remember her homeland.  She is devastated years later when her grandson buries the seed, only to discover that once buried, it can finally give life!

We've also been talking about the importance of bread as a staple for survival, especially for ancient cultures.  We connected this into our Social Studies unit as we learned about how the First Nations tribes ground corn into meal to make bannock.

This week, we will read the Road to Emmaus, Luke 24:13-35, and we will note that it is in the breaking of the bread that the two disciples finally recognize Jesus.  We will explore the concepts of "bread", "life" and "sustenance".

In Writing, we will be looking at procedural texts.  We will read different recipes from "Looneyspoons" by Janet and Greta Podleski.  I  like using this cookbook as a mentor text because these brilliant sisters use all of the elements of style in their procedural texts.

We will read a recipe for making bannock.  Together, we will follow the recipe, make our own bread, and break that bread together.

I'm hoping that my students will put all of this together to understand the connections between bread and life in the Bible; that they can make the leap, and understand how Jesus, through His death and Resurrection, becomes for us, the bread of life.

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