But, I explain, it's not just having well trained dogs with exceptional manners which is going to improve classroom dynamics. The dogs are used in the lessons sometimes as a prop, sometimes a prompt, examples are:
People understand why a lesson needs to be fun. We have all been a student watching the clock while the teacher drones on and on. I explain that my classes are fun, creative and memorable because a well trained dog is present encouraging the learning process. It’s amazing how a dog can be used in the classroom to encouraging learning. Examples are:
There are many, many ways the presence of a dog promotes student attrition, concentration, motivation and confidence. Researches have confirmed dogs can improve the learning and development of students. Students often form stronger bonds with dogs than people and because of this fact, dogs can be used as a conduit in closing the gaps when students are showing issues relating to literacy, empathy and self-control.
I am reminded, and it is true, there are some delightful dog assisted reading programs already available. Canine Comprehension is bringing rigour, professionalism and cognitive understanding. The point of difference is that when schools work with Canine Comprehension they are working with an educator, who holds a Masters in Teaching, has a solid background in literacy and curriculum development and is also a professional dog trainer, with years of handling experience. Oh, and more importantly, someone who loves their job!
It's always wonderful to be able to talk to people about how and why you love your job. I am lucky that I have managed to combine working with dogs and my love of teaching literacy together. But the best bit of my job is when I make a connection with a student who has been struggling to understand. That 'lightbulb moment' doesn't just reflect understanding then and there - it will act as an illumination, helping the student find connections and light when learning is difficult in the future. They remember a time when they 'got it' and they work to have that feeling again. Those 'lightbulb moments' create lifelong learners - and THAT'S why I love my job!
The beginning of the decade saw an advance of electronic devices. This should surprise no one, every decade is witness to a leap forward in electronic and technological pursuits. However, this decade saw a new spin on an old theme. The reinvention of the old book. When eBooks and the iPad came onto the market many people were making reference to an end of an era.
Would the new technology mean an end to the humble paper book? Paper book doom-dayers were threatening that our next generation, ipad in hand and earplug in ear, would not know what a library looked like, nor recognise the satisfactory thud of a heavy book closing at the end of a chapter, nor the seductive pleasure of a whiff of an old and much loved paperback being reopened for the thousandth time.
Why the slide in eBooks sales? Many people are blaming the electronic devices themselves. We read differently on a screen, we need to concentrate more, it hurts our eyes, we can’t sleep after reading in bed, we are forever distracted by the device’s handy ability to multitask.
Rather than blame our fresh, sleek and new love, the e book; I'd rather see it as we have remembered our first, faithful love, the paper book. Yes, it may not remind us when to take the dog to the vet for a check-up, or be able to define a word for us in a second, or fit snugly in our handbag. But our relationship with our old love runs far deeper than mere accessibility and functionality.
For those of us in love with them, we each have our own romance when it comes to paper books. Some lovingly bend a page back as a bookmark. Others lightly touch the pages, fearful that one crease will change the books meaning forever. We store them on our bookshelves as a reminder of the journey we took together, or we generously give them to friends, desperately hoping they delight in the books company as much as we did.
I have a ritual that goes back to my childhood. Once I finish a book, it is only then that I will gently peel the price tag off its cover. I don't know why I started doing this and I don't know why I kept doing it. But this act marks the end of my time with this book - like a goodbye hug, until we meet again.
And then there is the sensory gratification. Many lovers of paper books mention this and I cannot press the point enough. Books smell right. A new book has that fresh yet grounded trace. Old books have an earthier spice, which we inhale with every page we turn. Smell evokes memories, and while we are enjoying the rhythm of the words on the page, we are also letting the memory of all the past journeys we have taken with books flow through us.
There is also the touch of the paper. Quickly flicking the pages with our fingers, slowly turning the pages to reveal the plot, running our hands over the cover when we close a book, mind digesting the words as hands are contemplating the feel.
I may be getting romantic, but it is a romance! And one I don’t care to give up anytime soon. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t fear technology*, but it has a place. And in my heart, my bookshelf and comfy chair in the office there will also be a place for a good book, a good paper book.
*I admit it, I wrote this blog on my iPhone. Walking to the train after work I was very much looking forward to opening my new love “Parade’s End” on the journey home, but couldn’t, as there was no seats on the train and this book is far too big to hold one handed while clutching a cold rocking handrail and trying to not be pushed against a strangers hot sweaty shirt. Instead of reading, I grabbed my iphone, and wrote this blog. See, technology has its benefits.
And all of you who would like to point out that I could have easily held a kindle an inch from that sweaty back, well – I’m not interested!
How can we achieve Smooth Transitions?
For some kids the transition from primary to secondary is easy. Many of their friends will be joining them and they love their new three-sizes-too-big uniform.
For others it can be harder. A time of high anxiety, worry about not fitting in, fear of getting lost or not understanding timetables.
What can be done to help kids transition into ‘big school’ with a smile on their face? Many schools have transition co-ordinators, or hard working year coordinators who liaise with primary schools in their catchment zones and work behind the scenes to get to know their new kids before they arrive. Some schools hold ‘transition days’ allowing kids to spend time at their new school before they break for holidays. Most teachers understand relationships are key to settling in and will do their best to make sure students make friends quickly.
But, what can parents do? Here are a few tips to help you help your child transition easily.
1. Positive stories.
Perception of the new school is very important. Parents need to help create a positive image of their child’s new school. It is not helpful to hear about the bad experiences their siblings, older friends, their grandparents or even their parents had when they entered high school. Stories of older kids picking on the younger ones, getting lost on campus or not remembering sports uniform on the first day will only add to your child’s anxiety. Talk to the family and agree on a positive approach when discussing transition.
4. Make happiness a priority.
For parents and their children, concerns about making friends, bullying and harassment often arise. Your school will be holding events to help your child settle in and will also have anti bullying whole school policies. Encourage your child to get involved in lunch time and after school activities (it will only add to their academic development, not distract from it!), remind them about other times when they had to make friends and read the school anti bullying policies and discuss this with your child if you feel it necessary. Celebrate the first day or the first week with something special that your child can look forward to.
Keep in mind that although, as a parent, this may be your first or even tenth (!) child who has transitioned from primary to secondary, but remember your child’s school has experience transitioning thousands of kids. Let your school know if your child is extra nervous, they may have more advice, or just to allow teachers to keep a close eye on them on the first day.
Good Luck, stay positive!
If you have any other ideas for how parents and juniors can prepare for the school year, please write your comments below.
Start Fresh for the New School Year – Be Prepared!
Successful grades are not a matter of studying hard before the exam. They are about all the work you have done throughout the year to get you there. If you can start your school year in January, rather than February, when school commences, then you are already ahead of the game. You should be doing some work during the holidays to prepare you for success in 2015.
Here are six ideas to help you get ready for a successful school year.
2. Read your English texts before you start school.
This will not kill you. Do it at the beach, in a café, before bed. Before you start school you should have a good idea about the plot of your text and how the characters interact. This is really going to help you get ahead. At VCE level, teachers want to discuss themes, motifs and characters motivations in your text. These discussions with your teacher will allow you to analyse and show your understanding at a deeper level. This cannot be achieved if you are still struggling with plot.
3. Structure your homework timetable.
Before you start school, most of you would have a pretty good idea of your social timetable, your work timetable and your family commitments – you need to structure your homework time around all of these distractions and school! Type up an Excel / Numbers document to schedule your homework timetable – if it’s done on the computer it is easy to change if you need to.
While creating this, think about when you work best. Some of you could easily fit in a solid hour study with a clear head before school, munching down breakfast. Other’s couldn’t even think about study before school – getting out of bed is hard enough!
4. If you have been given holiday homework – do it!
Many schools run a ‘Head Start’ program, where your teachers will give you a summary of the units in the new year and may even leave you with some work to complete over the holidays. It may be the last thing that you feel like doing, but it will give you a good start to the new year. It is easier to learn when you already know what you are going to be confronted with – if all content of the subject is a surprise, you will be dealing with surface level understanding, leaving less time for in-depth analysis and memorisation.
5. Organise your work desk, and start the way you wish to continue.
Make sure you have the files, paper, pens and highlighters etc you think you will need. Organise them neatly on your desk. Purchase a small cork board, or magnetic white board – you can put any important reminders up there as well as your homework timetable. Make sure your computer is neat too. If you have loads of documents on your desktop, organise them in files and store them in a system that makes sense to you. You do not want to be wasting time searching for a file or pen when you could be studying.
6. Create a list of goals for 2015.
Some of these goals can be short term, such as ‘Read my text book before school starts.’ Some can be long term such as ‘Average 60% in all my English grades’. Keep your goals SMART goals, and by SMART I mean S.M.A.R.T. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. – I will be writing a blog shortly about goal setting, stay tuned. You should also have ideas to help keep you on track with your goals. Have them written in a place where you can see them, think about a reward you will grant yourself when you achieve your goal, or a new approach you can take if you fall short.
It is no surprise that senior years can be stressful and feel like time is moving very quickly. This stress can be reduced by being organised and prepared for your year. A little work now will help you feel on top of things later. It will also help your success throughout the year. 2015 is going to be full of learning, remembering, testing, revising – help yourself by early preparation and a less stressful start to the school year.
Good Luck, stay positive!
If you have any other ideas for how seniors can prepare for the school year, please write your comments below.
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