LEARN consultant in Social Sciences, ERC, Phys. Ed., and this year an online History teacher and active blogger on real-world teacher (and student!) issues.
LEARN consultant in Social Sciences, ERC, Phys. Ed., and this year an online History teacher and active blogger on real-world teacher (and student!) issues.
Today marks the second in our series on teacher stories from the Ethics and Religious Culture classroom. After reading our previous entry by Anne-Marie DeSilva about teaching ERC in Elementary School, long-time ERC teacher and program specialist Rhonda Gibson decided to offer a few words about her secondary-level experience. We went with the same line of questioning, and she offered her responses below. Feel free to add your comments and questions to this post. And contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to participate and share your stories!
I have been teaching ERC since its inception. I was part of the original team organized to create the program.
I have the unique position of teaching 4 grade levels so I can use spiral learning and track the progress through each grade. Resources vary from popular movies and NFB films to the internet to the library. One of my favorite spiral lessons begins in Sec I with a volunteer assignment. Under the theme of Social Awareness and Autonomy, students discuss their involvement in the world and what kind of effect it has on them and what effect they can have on it. We watch the movie Pay It Forward and they are given an assignment in which they must choose someone to help: family member, neighbor, anyone they choose. They must keep a journal of what they are doing to help, how their help has affected that person’s life and how they feel about helping. It is a 5-month journal with a minimum of 2 entries per month.
Sec II takes this concept a step further. They are now looking into helping outside their home or neighborhood. I encourage them to look for an organization or group to help. Ex. guides or scouts that they are a part of, their sport team, a local daycare, etc. The project is shorter but students are expected to manage a slightly larger task within the group that they are helping.
In Sec IV, Lake of Two Mountains High School is one of 8 schools in the province involved in the Youth and Philanthropy Initiative . This initiative encourages teens to become involved in local, grassroots charities in their neighborhood. The must interview and participate (volunteer) with that charity for a period of time and present their findings in a ten minute audio visual presentation. Topics that must be covered include history of the organization, staffing, resources, funding, and people that have been helped.
Sec V students take what they have learned from Sec I through IV and must create their own charity (theoretical). They must determine a target audience and follow the procedure of how to set the charity up: its needs, office space, promotion, funding, etc. This assignment is presented to the class in the format of shows like the Dragons Den and Shark Tank. There is an audio visual and written component.
Sec I – Pay It Forward and Millions deal with doing something for someone else/selfless acts. Stand By Me – friendship and social autonomy
Sec II – Mean Girls – friendship, social autonomy, bullying Swing Kids – Human Rights
Sec IV – Avatar – Human Rights, Cultural/Religious tolerance Not Without My Daughter – Human Rights, Religions awareness/tolerance. The Great Debaters – Human Rights, justice, history. Freedom Song – Human Rights, Civil Rights, tolerance.
Sec V – A Time To Kill – Justice and Law. Iron Man – Justice and technology. The Da Vinci Code – Existential questions. Jericho TV series – covers just about everything in the senior mandate for this course. This is just an example of some of the videos I use. They may change from year to year depending on the interests of the students.
I like planting the seed and watching it grow. I like engaging the students, getting them expand their preconceived ideas and to realise that ERC is a life skills course and that it can be used in other subjects as well as life. Once they make that connection, the course becomes fun and easy. I often feel like I’m reinventing the wheel because each year brings a new crop of students with different interests and different ideas. If you have a bank of generalized lessons/topics, then you can dip into that bank to adjust to the kids you have. I have seen students use (ex.) the unit on human rights in their English or Geography classes, and the unit on Law in their Law class.
It’s not science. It’s not history (although it could be). It’s not French or math. It has no final exam, therefore, it is often not taken seriously. It is a course that is often parcelled out to teachers to fill in an empty spot in their schedule, therefore, the teacher does not put their full attention into it because their attention is on their own specialty. If the administration doesn’t see it’s value, how can the teachers, students and parents see it?
The original ERC teachers were specially trained. We took special courses and have a curriculum to follow like everyone else. It is a course that is easily cross-curricular and can be highly engaging. Its value needs to be respected.
Absolutely. I love this program. There is so much to it and so much you can do. Although I like all grades, I particularly enjoy the senior levels, Sec V. At this point, I have seen their growth from Sec I up and the pieces (for the most part) have fallen together. The light bulb is burning bright. It’s great to see.
Sometimes hearing how other teachers have faced the challenge of teaching the ERC program is, well, just what you need to hear! This is the first in a new series of interviews on how educators have approached teaching Ethics and Religious Culture in our schools. No two views are the same (and likely you won’t agree with every one you read!, but we have tried to keep the questions for each participant the same. If you would like to participate, and share your views, following the same questions, please write to email@example.com
First up, Anne-Marie De Silva – Former 6th Grade ERC Teacher, now Consultant @ EMSB
I actually only taught ERC for two years, before becoming the ERC consultant at the school board. I was on the validation committee in 2007 and was a facilitator for training teachers in 2008, so I already had some background. I am really grateful that I had the experience of teaching the course – many of those who worked on developing it did not.
I used LES rather than the textbook, as well as Zen stories from a philosophy book. They were good because they were short but thought-provoking.
The best lesson I ever taught was the LES on Gender Stereotypes, with my grade 6. They were the perfect age for that topic, as they were starting to feel the pressure to conform to adolescent gender stereotypes – in other words, they were living it. I meant it to last a month or so, but it lasted the rest of the year. We just kept coming back to it; the students kept bringing in new aspects or information, it was really gratifying and exciting as a teacher to see that level of engagement in all my students. Not just some of them – ALL of them.
I used a lot of Youtube videos on different holiday celebrations. I also had a series of DVDs called Holidays For Children, hosted by a soft-speaking guy a bit like Mr. Rogers, that included songs and crafts. They were intended for younger kids, but my grade 6 loved them, and insisted on doing the crafts.
In my earlier answer I mentioned the level of engagement from the students – as a teacher I have never seen anything like it. I think if you find the right content for your class, it is extremely fun for both students and teachers. I think this course lends itself to the classroom becoming a “community of research” that John Dewey suggested so many years ago – a place where everyone is learning together, and we don’t know where it will take us next.
Evaluation is challenging, with no formal exam and a lot of discussion and group work. The ERC teacher really has to plan ahead and consider specific things that can be marked during a project (not just at the end), so that the mark is based on valid data and not one single event.
Also the lack of time devoted to the course makes it hard to get continuity going. In elementary, the teacher can overlap it into English Language Arts if necessary; at the High school level it is trickier and involves real planning to make the most of the time you have.
I would love to teach it again! In fact it’s all that I would like to teach. I would enjoy the challenge of teaching it to the oldest kids (sec 4 or 5), especially if they had some background from previous years’ ERC class. The whole curriculum could be current events (i.e. Donald Trump)! I know some high school teachers say the kids don’t take it seriously, but I would capitalize on the fact that it is a ‘relaxed’ course, and the pressure is off. Discussions are much more rich, and questions more authentic when it is not ‘for marks’, but instead it is real life.
Subscribers to CVE and Vodzone can check out videos on Poetry and Spoken word, and also environmental-focused video in celebration of Earth Day, via the April-May newsletter.
May too has a lot in store, beyond the flowers we are all hoping to get this spring! May is Asian Heritage Month and Aboriginal Awareness week. Vodzone and CVE video collections are highlighted to support those subjects. As well the newsletter offers videos and educators guides on the delicate subject of Sexual Harassment issues at school that may interest ERC teachers.
You can also now visit and follow the CVE & VoDZone collections and news about them on Facebook.
For those of you with CVE subscriptions, this is a useful collection of videos that could help you explain and deal with subjects such as Sexting, Cyberintimidation and Bullying:
by guest blogger Anne-Marie DeSilva, ERC Consultant at EMSB
By now everyone has heard of Bill 56’s anti-bullying initiative; less well-known is the Partnership Agreement signed by the schools and the government, which among other things promises to establish “a healthy and safe school environment” for all students.
Easier said than done, as most of us on the front lines know well. There are many approaches schools can take; school-wide initiatives, awareness campaigns, guest-speakers, classroom discussions, etc. Multiple, sustained approaches will have much greater impact than any one single attempt.
ERC class lends itself to addressing bullying, with its over-arching goals of “Pursuit of the Common Good” and “Respect for the Other”, and themes such as “The needs of humans and other living beings, demands of belonging to a group, demands of life in society, justice, tolerance, freedom” and so on. Many LES (learning and evaluation situations) have been written to address these themes; by using them in the ERC class, the teacher can both cover the content and evaluation of ERC as well as contributing to creating a healthy and safe school environment.
With that in mind, I have created a list of appropriate LES for each cycle, all of which can be found on the LEARN website. These LES either directly or indirectly address the attitudes necessary to combat bullying and promote compassion and respect. Most of the LES come from the Ethics component, but several of them are also part of Religious Culture, which also focuses on open-mindedness and respect for diversity:
Shared and Different Needs (Cycle 1)
Students are encouraged to become aware that human beings have many needs in common and that their families and their class help them meet these needs in various ways. Students are encouraged to discover the uniqueness of all individuals in the way they meet their needs and the interdependence of people in meeting their respective needs.
Rules and Values (Cycle 1)
Students are asked to identify a few individual and collective responsibilities that stem from the interdependence between human beings. They are asked to recognize ways of acting that contribute to or are harmful to family life or school life, and to better identify a few values that guide action in school and in their families.
An Ideal Schoolyard (Cycle 2)
Throughout this learning and evaluation situation (LES), the students become aware that, in a common space like a schoolyard, various values and norms intended to facilitate group life account for the manner in which the space has been laid out. The students are invited to devise a blueprint for an ideal schoolyard by selecting feasible options and describing their potential effects on community life.
The Colours of Diversity: A Student Exhibit (Cycle 2)
Students are encouraged to become aware of how religious heritage is present in their environment and to make simple connections between the forms of religious expression studied and the religious traditions to which they refer.
Spring Giving (Cycle 2)
Students are encouraged to examine a situation involving helping others from an ethical point of view. They should evaluate actions that foster or hinder community life by taking a closer look at each person’s values, norms and responsibilities. Students should also recognize the influence of religion on different community agencies and cultural events whose mission it is to promote well-being in the community.
The Company We Keep (Cycle 2)
Students will be encouraged to become aware that the different groups to which they belong help to shape their identity and meet their needs. They will examine their participation in various groups at home, in school and in their free time in order to understand that there are diverse relationships within groups and that these relationships can sometimes influence individual identity.
A Community Life Charter (Cycle 3)
Throughout this learning and evaluation situation (LES), the students become aware of the fact that life in society is governed by values, norms, rights and responsibilities. They are asked to identify actions and attitudes that are considered acceptable in society and to suggest guidelines conducive to the adoption of behaviours that respect human dignity and foster community life.
Fellowship (Cycle 3)
Students are encouraged to recognize how actions and attitudes are conducive to fellowship among members of society. They are encouraged to ask themselves questions about behaviour that is acceptable or unacceptable between members of society.
Gender Roles, Norms & Stereotypes (Cycle 3)
Students will take a critical look at the effects of generalizations, stereotypes and prejudices on certain members of society, and to recognize and suggest actions that foster community life. They will explore some of the norms and rights that govern life in society and the references for interacting with different people.
Managing Tensions and Conflicts: Finding Peaceful Solutions (Cycle 3)
Actions That Make a Difference (Cycle 3)
This learning and evaluation situation is intended to evaluate the level of competency developed in ethics. The student should be able to recognize options or possible actions that respect human dignity and foster community life, and make connections between these actions and the values and norms that govern life in society. The student should be able to explain how these values and norms contribute to community life.
A Diverse Menu (Cycle 3)
Values and Norms in religious and spiritual traditions (Cycle 3)
Students will recognize that religions embody values and norms that dictate the behaviours and attitudes to be adopted toward oneself and others in order to foster community life. They will explore the moral dimension of religions by drawing upon examples from key writings.
LES 1 – Charity: Doing good or feeling good? (Secondary Cycle 1)
This LES will begin with the students investigating various charities that exist locally, nationally and globally. They will be asked to consider the benefits that are provided as well as the scandals that have occurred within numerous philanthropic/humanitarian organizations. They will deepen their understanding of people’s giving habits by designing and then carrying out a survey of their peers and adults in their community. The students will be asked to synthesize their thinking by taking part in a class-wide debate where they will be required to defend both sides of the question “Do people give money to charity in order to do good or in order to feel good?” A digital recording of the debate will allow the students to evaluate their personal dialoguing strategies and skills. To conclude this LES, the students will take part in a classroom Blog where they will be able to communicate their knowledge and understanding of charities, people and choices they make regarding the notion of “giving”.
This learning and evaluation situation is designed to allow students to recognize that there are different ways of looking at tolerance. They will use specific cases in current events to reflect on indifference, tolerance and intolerance. Students will also consider various responses that individuals and societies have had regarding such situations, particularly in Québec.
(Non-validated LES translated from French.)
Students are encouraged to reflect on the autonomy of an individual, and to discuss the requirements of autonomy and the tensions it may give rise to.
Disobeying the Law
and Its Impact on the Social Order
The aim of this learning and evaluation situation is to evaluate the development of the competency, Reflects on ethical questions. During the LES, the students will demonstrate their awareness of the different ways of understanding the social order and reacting to it, depending on the individuals or groups involved. They will draw on historical, literary and current cases in the media as well as personal experiences that involve instances of disobeying the law in order to understand the impact on the social order. They will also consider the values and norms that can lead a person or group to call into question the social order or the law.
Against Islamophobia: Teaching Tolerance in Today’s Classroom
I suppose the word to best describe what I was feeling at that moment was shock. Yes, shock which was instantaneously followed by surprise, disbelief and then uncertainty. I scanned the room, my eyes searching for a glimmer of acknowledgment; a connection, a possibility, a window through which the conversation could begin. My smile remained perfectly in place, never once giving away the overwhelming confusion brought on by the lack of response to what I truly believed to be a simple question. What was my query that appeared to stump my colleagues, seasoned teachers and respected leaders in the field of education?
“What resources or lessons have you been using in your classrooms in order to teach against Islamophobia?”
Read the rest of the article, with suggestions on what types of material to use,
on the LEARN blog at:
Thinglink is a useful app that allows students to effectively analyze an image. Students can either use a photo they take themselves, or they can use one from the Internet. Consider this image from NBC News Week in Pictures site from Nov. 27 to Dec. 5, of “Afghan schoolchildren take lessons in an open classroom at a refugee camp on the outskirts of Jalalabad, Afghanistan.” (Click image for full size)
There is a lot going on in this picture, both in terms of factual information, but also in terms of the issues it raises (education, children’s right’s, perhaps even cultural differences). Thinglink is an app to help students analyze this image on their tablets!
What’s really interesting about Thinglink is what that it allows students to do next – and that’s to add “nubbins” which, when touched, open to show text they’ve added, or a video clip, or a link, or another picture. This encourages them to label, or to show or tell more about the topic or subject of the picture.
I’ve used it in ELA to have students notice and comment on structure and features of illustrations in picture books. In ERC it could be used to discuss different points of view on an ethical issue, or to label and expand upon a family celebration, or a religious practice. (Click picture at right, from C. Bullet comment below!)
Thinglink is available for use online with a web browser, or on the iPad, and it is very easy to use. It also lets you save and export a finished product for publication or for evaluation. And it’s free! Check it out at http://www.thinglink.com and on the App Store.
This article was submitted by Wendy King – English Language Arts & former Ethics and Religious Studies consultant at Eastern Townships School Board. Thanks Wendy!
Comments and suggestions are welcome!
The application can be used by students to prepare a short presentation on just about anything. It allows them to choose videos and photos and then talk over them, using a very simple interface. For more on that check out: Using Videolicious to help students with oral presentations in a language class
But what about using it to just present a learning context, in such a way that students are captivated and motivate to learn?
Recently we went through the MELS LES entitled “Celebrations Elementary Cycle Two” (available with login on LEARN), and we added comments as to how to use iPads during the LES. We uploaded the LES with commentary as iPadified-ElemCycle2-Celebrations into the private ERC PLC portal area. At the beginning of the LES, we thought that the introduction of the context for students could use a little iPadified punch. So, we suggested simply presenting the context over top of images and videos. A simple use of iPads to help get things started.
Here’s a sample video using the technique described by Avi in the blog post above, and with part of the introductory text in the Celebrations LES. Obviously, a student could be using the application to read through their own interpretations of celebrations too!
February 7, 2014 :
The Peace Grantmakers Network is proud to present its first symposium.
“Creating Caring Communities : Social-Emotional Learning and Bullying Prevention”
For more information visit and to register visit:
This is a first in a what will hopefully be a regular series of posts offering short and easy to use suggestions, or “scenarios” on how to use technology, particularly mobile technologies, in the ERC class. (Inspired by Avi Spector’s mobile Mondays)
In this case we are offering up three different documents that basically follow then same scenario, but which examine three different religious expressions as examples: Salat (Muslim prayer), Murti (Hindu image/sculptures) and Prayer Wheels (Buddhism)
Steps are as follows:
Step 1 Describe a form of religious expression
Examine a high definition or panorama image and isolate and describe the object.
Step 2 Associate a religious expression with religious traditions
Watch a video and capture screenshots of segments that discuss and explain the religious expression.
Step 3 Associate a religious expression with religious traditions
Use a note taking application to include images, video captures, connecting lines and written explanations to indicate connections between the expression and the traditions in that culture!
Suggested applications include: