Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Really, Really BIG Questions

I always LOVE finding a great book to add to my classroom library collection, especially when it's unexpected. Today I found this one in a clearance bin at Marshall's five minutes before the store was closing for the night (we'd stopped in after dining out to see if they had chop sticks).

Really, Really Big Questions About Life, the Universe, and Everything by Dr. Stephen Law is literally a book full of philosophical questions. A few of my favorites include:

Did someone design the universe?
What is the meaning of life?
Can I think about nothing?
Is my mind my brain?
How can you fake psychic powers?
What makes stealing wrong?
How important is happiness?
Is it okay to eat animals?
What is knowledge?
Are we all selfish?
Are there really miracles?

These are only a few out of about a hundred questions. I find them fascinating and have a feeling kids will too. I could see using this book as a inspiration piece for writing. It would be so cool to challenge kids to ask questions such as these and write what they think and then find out what others think.

It was a great find, a hardback for 7 bucks. And it has an introduction, table of contents, glossary, index, and humorous illustrations by Nishant Choksi. I always consult to find out more about books I'm interested in. Here's what they had to say...

" unusual and fun introduction to philosophy that explores life’s important but often unanswered questions. Readers will be able to explore the history of thought and the great thinkers and learn how to think rationally for themselves. Mind-teasers, optical illusions and thought experiments make this philosophic journey unforgettably fun!"

"Dr Stephen Laws a senior philosophy lecturer at Heythrop College in London and the editor of the Royal Institute of Philosophy’s journal THINK, which aims to introduce philosophy and its merits to a wide audience. Stephen has written numerous academic papers as well as books for both adults and children including the hugely popular The Philosophy Files."

It's amazing how one book can spark so many ideas...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Driving through the world like a teacher

I've been reading What You Know by Heart by Katie Wood Ray lately. The book is about teaching writing from our own writing experiences. She talks a lot about how, as teachers, we go through life differently and are always thinking about possibilities for our teaching. I find myself thinking in this way often. Ray gives an example of a first grade teacher who, while driving home from a lunch with friends, stops mid-conversation to pick up a large cardboard box she sees on the side of the road. When her friends ask what it was for she says, "I'll take it to school. The kids will figure out something interesting to do with it." Ray goes on to explain, "Mara drives through the world like a first-grade teacher. She is constantly on the lookout for things that have potential. Often, she doesn't even know what that potential might be exactly, but she knows her students well enough and she understands what she wants for them deeply enough to recognize potential when she sees it. So she stops whatever she is doing and gathers it and then can't wait for the day she can take it into her classroom and see what her students will make of it."

I've been thinking like a teacher a lot lately...

A few weekends ago my boyfriend and I took a trip to New Hampshire to go camping and hiking. We went to this great place for dinner one night called Flatbread Company. The restaurant uses local and organic ingredients and is supported by the community. Kids from the local schools made artwork for the menus and local artwork is displayed throughout the lodge-looking building. Hanging from the exposed wooden beams of the ceiling were flags designed by children and community members. I saw this and immediately thought of using this idea in my classroom. I took out my small notebook I keep with me and jotted down this idea:

I think it would be neat to have my students decorate a flag on the first day of school to express what they would like for our classroom community (fairness, friendship, respect, fun, sharing ideas, etc). We'd hang these around the classroom on a string as a reminder of our wishes and goals for our classroom community, almost like a pledge.

This is one of those things I look forward to trying someday. All I have to do is see what my students will make of it!

Here are a few photos of the flags and other artwork seen in Flatbread Co.