7th Electives

Welcome, 2015-2016 newcomers to this page! I am leaving it as I wrote it last year, so that readers can see an example of an option that 7th grade students have when they go to choose an elective. This year Ms.Gomez will take a similar elective, while I will be working with all sixth grade students in a Literacy class. I loved taking this elective, because as it unfolded, students found that they loved this elective too. Read on and find out how Creative Blogging developed over the second semester of last school year:-)

At the beginning of this trimester, I began working with seven 7th grade students. Being new to SIS middle school, this is my first elective class ever, and I have really enjoyed creating something new, but with elements in the program that students understand. The Creative Blogging Elective was created so that students could take a fresh look at the free resource they have to use, in this school. As well as using their blogs for their professional (school) work, students have now had time to make their blogs more personal. They have spent most of their time focused on their blogs. The class is split into two groups and the group below comes in for the last part of the period: Jimmy, Hans, Eleanor and Ben.
An added feature of the Creative Blogging curriculum, is that students get to learn about cultures that are not to do with the study of countries. This is usually what students do when they study culture. They learn what culture means, and they then look at their own traditions and customs, from the country they call home. CBA (Creative Blogging group A) and CBB (Creative Blogging B) have now worked on activities that would help them understand the big picture of what culture can mean. The elective description tells what this big picture of culture is, and also gives an outline of the whole semester’s program.
Essential Questions: What is meant by the word Culture? How can we learn about ourselves and our perspectives, when we study a broad range of cultural identities? Why would we want to? Through the creative use of their blogs, students will carry out action research on a selective range of cultural identities – guided by their choices. They will present their findings in a way that can be shared with several audiences.
Culture often refers to the traditions, customs and beliefs of groups of people from different countries. It can also refer to the cultures that exist within smaller groups – a school culture, a company culture, or the culture of a sports organization. This is about organisational culture.
carpenter-fig08_005 Image found on https://new.edu
There are also cultures in science and in the study of specific groups of animals.
The New Charter University says this about organisational culture: “Just as water is invisible to the fish swimming in it, yet affects their actions, culture consists of unseen elements such as assumptions and values that affect organisational life.” https://new.edu
At the very beginning of this elective, students did a sorting activity that helped them understand the difference between visible and invisible aspects of culture.
The analogy used was that of an iceberg – we only see the visible parts of it, but there’s a great deal more of an iceberg we can’t see. This is the difference between the food that different cultures claim as their own, and the ideas that different cultures have about raising their children (starting school at certain ages).
This elective aims to ensure that students are blending opportunities for the use of technology with opportunities to learn about other cultures, while increasing their reading and writing skills through their blogging activities. The picture below shows Eleanor, Janika and Giullia adding to their travel adventures on “About Me” pages, and working on their Coffee Culture articles.
These can be found on their own electives pages, and is evidence for the work they have been asked to do on their new and more interesting blogs. Let’s take a look now at their first study of a culture – in this case, the coffee cultures of Starbucks and Costa Coffee.
Once students had an understanding of what was meant by culture, they were told about upcoming field trips to two local Starbucks coffee shops. Following is an image of their next task:
We took 30 minutes to visit each Starbucks, and gathered a great deal of information – which indicates that students saw more than they normally would, if they were visiting these coffee cultures during a weekend. The chart below shows one group’s collaborative work, that is a collection of their observations, while they were at the E-Cool located Starbucks:
Individual students took this information and synthesised it into statements. Here are some of their conclusions:
* Starbucks values art and design, which makes them unique-with a recognisable aspect of their culture.
* Starbucks sells food that is internationally recognised, which can help make customers feel at home.(Danish, French, Italian, English)
* Outside, Starbucks provides umbrellas at the tables and chairs, so when the sun is shining outside, the customers will have a nice place in the cool shade.
* E-Cool is very organised because each worker has a specific job. For example a worker is at the cash register, 2 workers prepare drinks, and one work welcomes people in. Maybe Starbucks is also successful because if a customer comes and is greeted, maybe the person will come more times to buy food and drinks.
* E-Cool has expensive cups on sale, because they have their own designs that can be collector’s items. Starbucks knows that they will make lots of money from these items.
* Starbucks sells merchandixe for different occasions (Christmas, Valentine’s Day) because people can maybe use it as a gift or to celebrate the occasion – make it festive.
* E-Cool considers customer’s privacy, by organising their chairs and tables, so everyone feels that they have their own space.
* E-Cool prepares a big variety of drinks – not only coffee – (iced tea, hot chocolate, frappuchino) so customers will come, even if they don’t like coffee. Starbucks can bring in more customers – make more money.
* E-Cool uses neutral color schemes which allows people to relax and won’t hurt eyes, unlike big, bold colors.
* E-Cool doesn’t have much music playing in the shop. They don’t have music in order to not disturb customers that come to relax or to study. And maybe because every person has a different taste in music.
To finish off their study of this Coffee Culture, students went online to find some of the answers to their original questions. Here is what they found:
* The Starbucks logo is a Siren from Greek mythology- mermaid like creatures, who called sailors to them.
* The name of Starbucks came from “Moby Dick”, the book. A rumour says that Starbucks like to drink coffee.
* The first owner was Jeremy Baldwin in 1971.
* Originally, Starbucks just sold roasted coffee beans and they began selling fresh brewed coffee.
* The Starbucks CEO got his inspiration from Italy.
* No Starbucks in Italy – already coffee traditions there. Too risky to go in there – a smart business move.
* Starbucks is in many developed countries – 12,000 stores. No Starbucks in Mongolia.
* Starbucks employees – 140,000 full time.
* First Starbucks in China – 1999 – now 1,000 stores in China.
According to Giulia’s research, Costa Coffee was founded in London in 1971 by the Italian brothers called Sergio and Bruno Costa. Costa coffee is the second largest coffeehouse chain in the world (first is Starbucks) and the largest in the United Kingdom. The CEO of Costa Coffee is Chris Rogers.
UnknownUnknown UnknownThere are 2861 Costa Coffee stores across 30 countries. Bruno and Sergio Costa created the Mocha Italia Blend and started selling it to the UK business. Before in 1971, the Costa brothers sold their coffee to local caterers. In 1978 the Costa’s opens their first coffee shop in London. In 1999 first ever international store opens in Dubai. In 2009 Costa opens the 1000th shop in the UK.
IMG_5332 2
There are some things that are similar to Starbucks, in the Costa Coffee shop that we visited in Seaworld, just five minutes by car, from this school. The bench for getting sugar, spices and paper napkins is similar to those found in most coffee cultures today. It’s a piece of organization that is separate from the food and paying counter, but close enough for customers to find it convenient.
Because they are a smaller shop, they have a smaller magazine stand, but it still works.
Something that is a little different with Costa, is their decor and designer styles – lots of wood, rounded seats with soft backs and colourful designs on chairs and carpet.
When students returned from their field trip, they completed their KWL chart, but had so much to write, that they created a whole chart that was a collection of their observations and research. One interesting point was that the first international coffee shop for Costa, was opened in 1999, in Dubai. Below is the chart that one group completed, when they returned from the coffee culture that is Costa Coffee.
Something to Appreciate is the level of writing from this Electives Group
One of the goals of this elective is to make sure students practice writing skills learned or consolidated in their Humanities classes. Here is what Eleanor wrote, as part of her conclusion from visiting Costa Coffee in Sea World.
* Like Starbucks, Costa Coffee provided outside seating for customers. It will help get more customers, as if people have dogs, smoke or prefer the outside more, they have a choice.
* Costa Coffee can attract customers from England, as it is a successful business in England and is well known there. Therefore, Costa in Sea World can earn more profit.
Here is what Janika wrote, as part of her conclusion from visiting Costa Coffee in Sea World.
* Similar to Starbucks, Costa Coffee has free wifi which attracts customers who might also buy their coffee, while using the wifi on their devices.
* Costa Coffee took about 28 years until they got enough money to open internationally. Then in 1999, they decided to open their first international shop which was in Dubai. About 10 years later they opened a Costa Coffee in Moscow. They keep growing, but they grow slowly.
Eleanor and Janika both demonstrate that they can write complex sentences, and both are using transition phrases and words well.
From Coffee Cultures to Classroom Cultures – We visit ECLC at the Mountainside Campus!
Students in this elective understood what it was like to be a kindergarten student – they have very strong memories of their teachers and the spaces that they played and learned in. Some had memories of having to learn, learn, learn, and they did not always feel safe in these environments. Some students just played.PicCollage
Before we visited the ECLC classroom, students wrote down what they knew about ECLC (not a lot!), and they also asked some great questions:
* How do they learn?
* Are their classrooms creative, so the children are happy?
* What are the noise levels like?
* Do they share nicely?
* How do teachers get to different places?
* Can they be independent? How independent?
When we visited, students used a survey form to fill in, so that they could use their observation notes as the evidence for their learning and also to come up with conclusions about what they learned.
A topic that came up before we visited, was safety and security, especially after hearing about Eleanor’s experience of being hurt at her Kindergarten, and having her parent remove her from that school to attend another Kindergarten. (Neither were SIS) As you will see, students took note of security and safety measures as soon as we reached Mountainside. We had to call down to the office to get into the building, which was locked from the inside. Today we know how it important it is for schools to be safe places for all who attend.
The two different student groups visited two different ECLC classes, mostly because of the days that we could book in with their teachers, Ms. Anna and Ms. Kylie. Each group had successful experiences, and were surprised by what they found – students who worked for the most part, independently, and who were happy, organised and QUIET.
PicCollage 2
Here are some of the notes that students wrote, when they made their posters about what they learned from their visit to ECLC classes:
I think what I enjoyed most about this visit to see how different, school cultures can be, is what students wrote in their conclusions. It says so much about how our middle schoolers view what is important at SIS – no matter if you are four years old or fourteen years old. Here is work of the two groups combined:

After our trips to the Jingshan ECLC campus, we came up with the following conclusions:
1. Based on how the kids worked on their assignments, I can that they have really good independent learning skills. also good communicating skills, talking with their teachers about their concerns and questions. Overall, I think they were wonderful learners that hit all of the ESLRs standards.

2. I was working about the classroom’s logistics, and for my conclusion, I think this classroom was a just right place to work for the children. There were two teachers who gave them assignments and helped them independently, one by one. I could also see the organised classroom, full of their work and books for their education.

3. When we went to visit the school, they were having a art class. I saw the teachers were really good teachers. They teach and help every student one by one. They give them ideas, telling them what to do and also asking them questions. They also recorded the good times that students were having. They take care of the students really good.

4. In the room there were a lot of really cute things: Mini clothes, small mats, and a lot of things we used to have at home. It was really cute in there. There were a lot of decorations. I think they do all of these things for making sure the students will feel safe and happy, and have a good time at school.


5. In ECLC, there were 5-7 workspaces, which gave 4-5 year old children many choices on what to do. The teachers gave the kids free choices, and that’s why everyone was happy.

6. Similar to middle school (SIS), the ECLC had some really cool designs; for example, a round window to the next classroom and a tiny house.

7. In ECLC there was a learning carpet with alphabet and a colourful poster that teaches the weekdays. The children were able to learn while playing with other kids. IMG_5742

As you can see, middle school students learned about another part of their SIS school and learned a lot. What we do know is that throughout this school, there is a sense of caring about who we are, that technology can be found in all classes at SIS, and that we have some really cool designs in all of our campuses, from Mountainside, to Parkside, to our own workspace, Bayside.


Independent Studies: My students have had time to choose their own independent studies of a broad range of cultures. Here are their choices:
1. Shoe Cultures: Nike versus Adidas versus other popular brands
2. Boeing versus Airbus
3. 7/11 versus 7/11: Two shops competing for customers in Shekou
4. CNN versus BBC
5. Barcelona versus Real Madrid
6. Amusement Parks
7. Apple Versus Samsung

They have almost finished their studies, while I am just beginning mine. Once students have completed this last task, they have completed this elective. My action research topic is the same as Giulia’s – CNN versus BBC.Their job has been to ask some big questions about the cultures they are studying.

1. What makes these competing cultures so different, so unique?
2. What is the internal culture like for each of these companies – for those that work there.
3. Where and when did each of these companies begin, and have they changed much in that time?
4. What do I prefer and why.


1 Comment

  1. Carlene says:

    Thank you for visiting the ECLC division. It was wonderful to read about your impressions and overall observations. I look forward to more collaborative projects between the divisions @ SIS. The children really enjoyed having the “big kids” take notice of what they were doing as their world is just as valuable in their eyes as everyone else’s! This whole project was very interesting to read about – thanks for sharing it!

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