Guest Blog Post: Paper Mache Globes!

Deirdre and I started our international school careers at the same time four years ago here in Seoul. After two years in Seoul, she moved on to India! She is truly living the life of an international school teacher. I currently teach some of her 2nd grade students from her first year at my school, and they always tell me about the fun times they remember from her class!

In grade 4, we love creating, constructing and composing! We also enjoy getting a little messy from time to time. As part of our unit on Canada and cultures from around the world, we made paper mache globes. Students labeled and identified the seven continents and oceans. Below you will find instruction how to create your own paper mache globe …

1. Cover all desks with newspaper.

2. Collect old newspapers and have the students tear into long pieces, about one inch thick. Have one student from each group place shredded newspaper on the groups’ desks.

3. Blow up balloons and leave balloons on the student’s desks. You may want to blow up the balloons prior to the activity for younger students. We used heart balloons because it was Valentine’s Day!

4. Create paper mache mixture:

  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • ½ white glue (think of Elmer’s glue)
  • 2 cups of water

The measurements may need to be adjusted … you will know when you have it when the mixture is slightly thick. I did this with my students and had a few measure out and add the flour, water and glue. I mixed it until it became thick enough, first with a spoon and then with my hands. Then I modeled exactly how to take the paper mache goop, cover a strip of newspaper and place it onto the balloon. We talked about what the students noticed: that I was calm, that I only placed the goop onto the strip of newspaper and balloon etc. Then I poured the mixture into four bowls (we have four groups) and asked who was ready!?

This activity is best to do on a Friday because it allows the paper mache to dry over the weekend. Then on Monday the students can paint the balloons and let dry for a day or two.

We used acrylic paint:

We used a blank print out of the continents, colored them in, labeled them, cut them out:

Finally, we hung them up in our room!

Happy paper macheing!

Guest Blog Post: A Call for Nitty Gritty Teachers

Our next guest blogger, Bradford, was one of the first friends I made when moving to Seoul, South Korea. He also happened to be with me at the fateful picnic where Jee Young and I first met (small world), meeting her at the same time that I did! After spending 2 1/2 years in Korea, Bradford went to the next logical location… rural Africa.

That’s me and my buddy Jack pictured above. We were canoeing on Lake Tanganyika in Central Africa when we made an impromptu landing at a small fishing village. The locals greeted us like we were rock stars. We spent a little while teaching them frisbee, doing some magic tricks, showing them how to write their names in English, and taking their pictures and watching as the kids went wild after seeing themselves on the camera display. We just got back from that trip on the unspoiled waters of Zambia and Tanzania (near where Stanley met Livingstone in 1871). Tanganyika is absolutely beautiful with perfect weather, palm trees, friendly locals, and clear waters. It was a nice way to spend a week off after my first 6 weeks of teaching at my new school. It was just one of many amazing opportunities I’ve been privileged to take advantage of since leaving home.

But the list of challenges I (and almost all international teachers) face is longer than the list of niceties: trying to teach without using paper because it doesn’t come cheap in rural Africa…teaching a winter camp in Seoul in an unheated classroom in which students can’t turn the pages of the books because they are wearing mittens…power outages so frequent you are forced to change your teaching style away from your strength of using technology…teaching in a former colony about colonialism when you look like you are from the group that colonized.

For every trip you take that looks like once in a lifetime vacation to people back home, there are so many more challenges and difficulties that must be overcome in the classroom. Teaching abroad is way more challenging than traveling, and that is why it is worth doing. This is a call for more teachers with tough, enduring love for students to teach abroad. Our reputations as international teachers are deeply linked to other teachers in our respective areas. As with any minority in any place, there is a tendency for others to judge us not as individuals but as a group. Teachers who are out here for the beaches, the nightlife, or the hammocks make us all look worse. We need more teachers who love the challenges of this job more than anything else. We need teachers with nitty gritty love for students who don’t give up when teaching gets especially difficult and the postcard moments are few and far between.

Math Stories for Newbies!

Our first guest blogger for two apples a day is Joelle, who is not only fluent in English, but her native tongue is French. She has taught in elementary schools in Canada, before making the plunge to the international scene. She is currently teaching third grade at an international school here in Korea and happens to be our amazing co-worker. 

Let’s make Math Journals come alive…

Yes, math journals are great ways to communicate and see what your students learned during a particular lesson.  I will not argue the importance of math journals. However, what if I offered you an idea that not only got the students writing about math, but got them excited about math?

Turning Math Journals into Math Stories

Often math journals include a math problem where students create or complete a math question. Examples are; Jenny has 8 marbles, she gives Lucas 3 marbles. How many are in total? Another one may be, what is a fraction? There are so many questions we can ask our students to see if they really grasped a concept.

What if math journals were more than just a reflection or an answer to a problem? What if journals came to life?

What are Math Stories?

Math stories are written by the students about a particular concept you are covering in class. I personally use it at the end of my unit as a review of vocabulary and concepts. At the beginning, these stories may take your students 3 or 4 (50 minute periods) to write, however, the more the students do them, the easier it becomes and eventually may only take 2-3 (50 minute periods).  For teachers, the best part of Math stories is that there is absolutely no planning involved, as long as you keep a list of key words or concepts going on Word Wall or Math Wall. This way, students can refer to this “already made list” on the board when writing their stories.

Math Stories for NEWBIES!

Model! Model! Model! Choose a math story and do a read aloud. If you are not sure where to begin, here is an excellent website with book lists for every math strand:

Afterwards, discuss with your students the various components of the story. What makes a math story? This lesson should look no different than what you do in language arts.

Day 1-2: In groups of 2, have your students start brainstorming and writing out a draft of their math story. Since the focus is on ideas, I usually don’t give them more than a period and a half to finish this portion.

Day 2-4: Using chart paper, have your students start writing and illustrating their story.

Day 5: What you do on this day is completely up to you. What I have done in the past is have students rotate to different groups and read each other’s stories.

Benefits of Math Stories

  • Students are making connections with the concepts taught in class with real life examples
  • Students who don’t like math will often find this activity amusing and not realize they are working or reviewing
  • This activity can be adapted for any grade level
  • Cooperative learning
  • Easy to prepare
  • Assessments can be made both for Math and Language Arts