Focus Time on Tuesday – Mr. J

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EV2R_BFKcS8]

As TALONS facilitators, Ms. Mulder and I try not to make teacher-centered lectures and lessons too often the focus of our daily use of class time, preferring instead to use our common time and space for shared communication and collaborative problem solving based around many aspects of the class’ current learning. Especially in the spring semester, we often provide brief mini-lectures on topics or concepts for the day (or week), and then allow the class ample periods of “Focus Time” to be used for work and study of ongoing projects or problems.

There is a variety of different “focus” activities in the video above (Math, Socials, Adventure Trip planning, Leadership projects, etc) that attest to a diverse and productive use of class time the TALONS strive to produce on a daily basis.

Embracing Optimism – Kelly

Snowshoeing on Mount Seymour was, well, an adventure.

When it was first introduced that the Talons class would be participating in a snowshoeing trip, mixed results were received.  Some people were very excited.  Some people were indifferent.  And some people greeted this piece of knowledge with very dramatic groans.

I am slightly embarrassed to admit that I was in the last group of people.

I hate snow; I hate cold weather; I hate rain.  I basically just hate the winter, so being on a mountain for an entire day is not ideal.

Along with a couple of my friends, who had very similar feelings towards the trip as I did, I decided I was going to put all the negativity behind me, and be open-minded about the adventure that was presented before me.

And you know what?

It worked.

I can’t say that hiking through back trails in snow that is two meters deep with tennis racquets on my feet is the most ideal way I could spend my day, but I did have a good time.  I had some laughs with my friends, a few good conversations, I learned a lot about trees, and I had a really great workout.

To me, those things are more important than the fact that I couldn’t feel my toes for half of the day, and even hours later, they are still red and very sore.  My body is aching and my cold has gotten worse.  But it was still fun.

I guess this just goes to show you that, just like Mr. Jackson said in English one day, you really can create a new belief every day.  If I had given into the pessimism I felt about this trip, I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed myself.

Some Call It Insanity, But I Call It Talons – Kelly

I would be lying if I were to say that each day in Talons was not an adventure.  With teachers like Mr. Jackson and Ms. Mulder, you never really can expect what is going to happen.  Despite how linear a lesson or a unit may go, Talons classes, whether is it because of a student or a teacher, have a way of getting rather side tracked.

In Social Studies, we are studying Louis Riel and the Red River Rebellion.  Basically, the entire Socials 10 curriculum is rather dry, even though Mr. J would try to tell you otherwise.  When my older sister was in grade ten, she would force me to read her textbook to her because it was the only way she could guarantee that she would actually do her readings.  That is how painful the curriculum of a normal classroom is.

But, of course, Talons has never been known as normal.

It is really difficult for a lot of the class to pretend to be really interested in things such as the forming of Manitoba, and it is even harder for the remainder of the class to pretend that they are not irritated by the lack of interest.

And this is where Talons projects are born.

Today Mr. J assigned us a group project of ‘telling the story of the Red River Rebellions’.  And let me assure you, it is not an easy task.  Basically, we were told to use a form of a plot guide to determine which aspects of the rebellions were the most important.  With a lot of fighting within groups and imagination, the magic behind Talons happened, just like it does with every do-pretty-much-whatever-you-want-to-within-the-curriculum project, and sparks flew.  Suddenly a very dry subject came to life, whether it was through baking ‘the cake’ of Manitoba, a photojournalism display, creating word clouds with Wordle, or so many other ideas.

I guess all the reason I criticize Talons half-heartedly are all of the reason that truly make me love the program.  A project originates from an English teacher’s attempt at a lesson plan, which later becomes a song.  An assignment about Manitoba turns into four fifteen-year-olds planning to bake a cake.  Simple ideas take hours to discuss, and complex topics take minutes.

And I wouldn’t want it any other way.