Wonder has been a keystone novel in my classroom for the past several years. Having the opportunity to share the story with many of you at Cinemagic last weekend is something I will remember for a very long time.
My sincere hope is that the message from this book and film will inspire people to look at others with more empathy. There isn't a character in the story without his or her own story and reasons for acting the way they do. An easy way to start better showing empathy toward others is to follow the precept from Wonder, and "when given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind."
The following is an article about our Wonder journey, written by Colleen Timimi and printed in Saturday, November 25th's, Post Bulletin...
Near the end of 2012, Folwell fifth-grade teacher Michael Olson had a student thrust R. J. Palacio's novel "Wonder" into his hands and exclaim, "You have to read this." Olson promised the girl he would read it over winter break. "Kids are always giving me books, and I try to read them all," he said.
Three pages in, he knew he had to share the story with the class. He returned from break and "Wonder" became an essential part of his classroom. It's not the tale of a boy born with a facial deformity but a story about how to treat one another — which is exactly what Olson wants students to learn in his classroom.
"Bullying is an action," Olson says, but he believes in giving people a second chance. "Everybody deserves compassion," he said. He wants his students to be "more than just friendly," he wants them to "be a friend."
That first year, "Wonder" was a little-known story. Today, he guesses about half the class has already read the book. But this doesn't diminish the experience of the "Read Aloud" (which Olson says is his favorite part of his job). The shared story connects the kids and makes the experience even more meaningful.
Olson could not contain his enthusiasm for the story and its message. He shared the book with his Folwell teammates and other fifth-grade teachers in the community, including his wife, Kim Olson, at Lincoln.
Knowing the book had been adapted to the screen, Olson was eager to experience the movie not only with his current students, but also all those who had heard the story in his room over the past five years. An invitation went out to Folwell graduates and their families. Olson's wife invited the current Lincoln fifth-graders.
This past weekend, 260 current Folwell fifth-graders, past fifth-graders, and families met for a private screening of the recently released movie based on the book. Nearly 70 Lincoln families also attended. Upon arrival at Cinemagic Hollywood 12 Theatres, Mr. Olson greeted families wearing his "Choose Kind" T-shirt. His current students greeted attendees and handed out precepts from the book:
"Don't be a bystander. Be an upstander."
"'Normal' is a setting on a washing machine."
The message of caring reached beyond the current fifth grade, touching older graduates and younger siblings, even extending to Colorado, where one former student opted to change the family Thanksgiving travel plans to include the movie in Rochester.
Palacio's message is this: "Courage. Kindness. Friendship. Character. These are the qualities that define us as human beings, and propel us, on occasion, to greatness."
Link to the original article: #ChooseKind
In our classroom this year we have had multiple opportunities to collaborate with students, teachers, and experts beyond the walls of our classroom. We have already gone on a virtual field trip to Guatemala, had a discussion with fifth graders in Arkansas, and gave a presentation to teachers at Murray State College in Kentucky. Soon we will be Skyping with one of our favorite authors, sending virtual Valentines to students in another state, and sending video messages to our "brother" class in Saudi Arabia (Rochester friend that is teaching fifth grade at an international school). These connections not only support our learning goals in the classroom, but they help students practice the important communication and collaboration skills they will need to be contributing society members in a global economy.
And, they make learning more fun!
For more information about our Mystery Hangouts click here and scroll down to Google Hangouts.
In our math classroom we have already completed many engaging and exciting activities to help us review place value, fraction, rounding, and other skills. An important person that has been making many of these activities possible, is Tienchin Ho. Mrs. Ho is a volunteer that has been planning and teaching math with me for the past three years. Her daughter was one of my fifth grade students a few years ago. Mrs. Ho is a true mathematician that has been using her skills and passion to teach mathematics to children for several years. We are blessed to have her on the team! I asked Mrs. Ho to introduce herself to you all. Below is what she shared. Thank you Mrs. Ho!
I grew up in Ohio and met my husband at Mayo 22 years ago. We moved to California and started a family. Two years ago, we moved back for a better job for my husband and a better life for our girls. I have a 14 year old at Century and a 12 year old at Friedell. I met Mr. Olson when my younger daughter was in his class! I have always loved math and one of my college degrees was math. When my girls started school, I realized that I see math differently than how they were learning it.
Math in my world is art and patterns and discovery and I want to share that perspective. I believe that every child deserves to learn math and that the world needs every child to become all that they can be. I am super honored to participate in the wonderful math environment that is Mr Olson’s classroom.
"Stranded" is an activity that I have completed with our fifth graders the last couple of years. I learned about the activity while reading the book, Teach like a Pirate, by David Burgess. The book’s focus is increasing student engagement.
For this activity, groups of students are asked to determine the fate of ten people who are stranded on a deserted island after a plane crash. The same storm that brought down the plane also brought down a helicopter. The helicopter can rescue five people, but the other five will be forced to live on the island for the rest of their lives.
Each of the stranded people have intriguing stories that build the case for them to be rescued. Marina’s father is sick and she would like the chance to say goodbye. Susan is a survivalist, but has three young daughters back home in the United States. The goal of the back stories is force the groups to make very difficult decisions. There are no correct answers to this activity.
After introducing the students to the ten people, I put ten minutes on the clock and let them start the decision process. I quickly let them know that if they don’t come to a consensus in time, all ten people will stay on the island. I then start circulating the classroom to observe the groups in action. I do not interject ideas or advice to the groups. I just answer questions, usually making the decision even more difficult for the groups.
When the time is up, I read each group’s list and let students explain their thinking. After all groups have shared results, we then do a “Plus/Delta” on the process. This means that we share what worked well within the groups and what the challenges were. I use this Plus/Delta to start the process of teaching students how to work effectively in groups. I also learn a lot about my students’ strengths while observing the work as well.
This year I did incur a small injury during the activity. Many students wrote in their SeeSaw journals about Mr. Olson’s bloody hand. As a “hook” to the activity, I waited until the students were working quietly on their math journals and started running around the room making loud airplane noises. I ran through our locker room and intentionally hit my hand (a little too hard!) against one of the open lockers. I continued running around the room before tripping on a stool and doing a roll to the ground. At that point I (pretended to) inflated the life raft and started pulling in my co-passengers. This year, the crash was more realistic due to the blood running down my hand.
I prefer to not actually sustain injuries during lessons, but my finger did not need stitches, and a memorable moment in class hopefully ensures that the learning will be longer lasting!
We had a great first day back today. We started with a group challenge that had all 23 of our students working together in teams to solve riddles, puzzles, and challenges to figure out how to crack the code on the six locks that were keeping us out of the classroom. I decided that it was a good sign when I saw the students working so hard to break in to the classroom! Each student then made a creation out of Play-dough that he or she shared with the class and posted on SeeSaw. If you haven't logged in to follow your child yet, please do so. There are directions under the "Our Teacher/Communication" tabs above.
If you were unable to attend Meet the Teacher, or if you would like to reference any of the materials that I covered, please click here to view a video of the presentation.
Thanks for a great start to the year!
Welcome back to the 2017-18 school year. I am very excited to start my 14th year as an educator. I have been blessed to spend more than a decade teaching great kids here at Folwell Elementary. Last year I did obtain my K-12 principal's license, but I have decided to put that in my back pocket for now. I am having way too much fun teaching 5th grade here at Folwell!