Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Fraction Smoothies with Seniors

Well last year I did baking with fractions, click here for the muffin recipe and fraction activity (these are sweet muffins).  You don't have to do the baking part if you do not have access to a kitchen with your class; however, everything is better with food and the kids loved it.  We had so many muffins after each group made a batch of 12-24 muffins that we decided to share them with other classes and the Summerland senior community.  My class visits a group of seniors at the Summerland Senior Village every 3 weeks and our next visit was just a couple of days away from when the students completed this baking activity.  Of course we brought muffins and enjoyed them over good conversations with the seniors.

This year my goal for our senior buddy visits was to incorporate fun curriculum based activities with the seniors.  Of course the baking with fractions activity came to mind, which would involve curriculum, a lot of fun, and something to eat over conversing with seniors.  We invited the seniors to come to our Home Ec kitchen, which has 6 stoves and all the supplies for a class to bake a batch of muffins.  However, the seniors wanted to be at their facility in the comfort of their home environment.  Of course we adjusted, but this meant that we would only have 1 oven to use at their facility.  Not the best situation with a class of 26 and 13 extra seniors!!!!  Muffins were out and an easier recipe, using the same concept, was used.  Thank you, Lana Manuel for your recipe and adaptations to make this work in one block and limited ovens.

Well, we packed 10 blenders and the ingredients needed for smoothies to the Summerland Senior Village country kitchen.  It was fabulous!!!  Some of the student/senior conversations were interrupted with the sounds of blenders going, but boy did they taste great!!!  Some of the seniors mentioned that they had never tried a smoothie before and now they really like them.  Funny how all of the students had tried a smoothie and some of them have them on a regular basis.

Below are some pictures of this activity.




Post courtesy of Jessa Arcuri 

Monday, 25 November 2013

Show What You Know- The Brain (Grade 4/5)

With our school-wide focus this year being Social Emotional Learning (SEL), our staff has committed to using the program "Mind Up". This program was chosen because of its application across the grade levels K-5 as well as its ability to teach kids specific SEL skills such as self-management, self-awareness and social awareness. The first part of the MindUp program entails teaching students about 3 main parts of the physical brain and the job each part does. Students learn that the Prefrontal Cortex (wise old owl) is responsible for planning and organization, the Hippocampus (filing cabinet) stores facts and memories and the Amygdala (watch dog) controls their emotions. One of the major learnings we want students to come away with is that in order for your PFC and Hippocampus to be available to its user, we need to keep our Amygdala in a calm state of being. After spending a few sessions learning about our physical brain, I gave the students a task of choosing between 3 formats in order to "Show What They Know" about the brain, its
different parts and each parts' purpose. Students were able to choose between demonstrating this
knowledge through the use of play-dough, window writers or auto-rap. Students were given the choice to complete this assignment individually or in partners. I specifically chose to appeal to the students' various learning styles and learning preferences. Offering these choices also offers a need-fulfilling way to approach each student's individual need for freedom, power, fun and belonging (Glasser's Internal Needs Model). It was interesting that there was a diverse mix of who chose to use which format although most students chose to work in partners. After going over the project's criteria with the class as a whole, I gave the students a 45 minute period to complete it. This turned out to be more than enough time. We then took another 30 minute period to have groups present. The class as a group decided if each group had met the expected criteria and students were given their mark on the spot based on this assessment. All students met the criteria with ease and were pleased with  both their presentation and their final product. The photos shown are from the students' "Show What You Know: The Brain" presentations.

Post courtesy of Heather Rose

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Not giving up… the results get better

Sometimes when I have tried to get students to "Show Me What They Know" - and I give them the freedom to use their own strengths or interests, I have been disappointed with the results.  Perhaps it's the fact that the samples we all show each other are those which we are proudest of and then when the results of my students don't measure up I think that somehow my approach isn't working...and that niggling thought in the back of my mind drags me back to considering marking the 'Presentation' or 'Creativity' to up the results.

However this year I am beginning to receive much better results and I think it is because:

a) I'm doing a better job
b) I've got better students or...
c) Examples that are from my own classes have given the students a chance to see the possibilities...
d) They had Russ last year and are used to taking risks

Well it's c (as you all know because it is always C and because it is the longest explanation - thanks UBC Assessment class)...and of course D but I didn't want to grow that ego any more.

It has simply taken time for me to gather up and have different examples (some big and extensive and others simple but brilliant) that have sparked my students into finding ways to show me their knowledge.  Thus my nerves have been somewhat eased and my belief in allowing students to use their own interests reinforced.

Keeping my students' work from previous years - and saving samples in files on my computer - has begun to pay off and it is great to see.

Realizing this I have asked students to record (with their cell phones) even some simple white board work - Recently I asked my students to show me the difference between a laissez-faire (1930's Canada) government and a welfare state (today) without using words.  My favorite is below.  I'm hoping that by showing it to future classes when I ask them to try the same assignment that it will lead them to think of different ways to show the difference between the two concepts.


 

(The students used the idea that some suggest those who are out of work (down and out) are told to pull themselves up by their bootstraps - while others think they don't have the skills necessary and could use a hand up)…

Post courtesy of Dave Searcy

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Connections

In an effort to build relationships and increase relevance in my courses I've been focusing on building connections. 

I want my classes to be places where students feel comfortable to share ideas and to try new things. I've worked on building connections between everyone in the class. I've designated time on Mondays to classroom discussions (we focus on current events in Social Studies, but will often talk about the weekend and what the students are doing in their lives). I haven't implemented the 2 x 10 strategy yet this year, but I consciously make an effort to check in with students (especially the ones that struggle academically or socially in my classes). Another strategy that has been very successful this year has been the use of name cards and designating the seats that students sit in each class. Students made name cards on one of the first days of class which I put in a different seat everyday so that students have the opportunity to work with everyone in the class. We do a fair amount of partner work so I'm hoping that by working with everyone in the class the students will slowly feel more comfortable sharing ideas with everyone - I think it's working (some students that were really reluctant to speak in class are starting to be more open). The cards also break up the cliques that can form when allowing students to choose their seats which really helps classroom dynamics by integrating the shier students into the class and prevents the more confident groups of friends from intimidating others. 

In an effort to make subject matter more relevant and provide students with an opportunity to create connections with the material I am now teaching Social Studies thematically instead of the more common Chapter by Chapter approach. It makes for more work when preparing my classes, but it allows students to understand why we talk about historical events that happened hundreds of years ago. Being able to learn about what's happening in Syria or changes in social media give students a chance to personalize the subject matter during our Revolutions Unit. I'm hoping that students will finish the course with a better understanding of some major themes as well as being more aware of what's happening in the world (and why it's happening) than if we focused on memorizing facts and figures about the English Revolution. If I do continue to teach English in the future I'd like to try to move towards teaching a theme-based English course as well.

Post courtesy of Marcus Krieger

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Attendance... or lack of it

Last year was an interesting year for some of the secondary teachers in the project.  When it came to thinking about a student that they wanted to really work with -- they were often students who did not attend regularly.  When you choose these students who desperately need you to focus on them, it is more difficult because the students are not there to build a relationship with, and when they do attend, the teacher often feels like they have to spend that time 'catching them up'.

We know there are lots of reasons students stop attending regularly, or never begin to attend regularly.  At secondary some of the students have just given up.  They want to get through school but until now it has not been a very positive experience, so they lack hope that attending will help them.  For others it is the chaos in their lives. Perhaps they are hungry, or drinking too much; perhaps they are easily swayed by peers to stay away or are just not in any type of environment that makes getting to school a priority.  For others it is the anxiety of actually attending school that keeps them away.

Whatever the reasons, some of the secondary staff started to try to draw some of their kids back to school.  Gordon Neufeld, in his book "Hold onto Your Kids" says "... what fundamentally empowers a teacher to teach is the student's attachment to her.  Children learn best when they like their teacher and they think their teacher likes them.  The way to children's minds has always been through their hearts"  (p. 212).  He goes on to talk about 'wooing' children, or 'collecting them'.  He gives this advice to both parents and teachers: the need to keep up the relationship, be involved, and be in their face or space in positive ways.

What we observed last year was a group of teachers doing exactly that.  Teachers who decided that in some way they were going to convince their students that they wanted them in the class, that they missed them when they were not there, that they believed in them, and needed them for the class to be complete.  In some of these cases, their classrooms for sure were more peaceful when the student was absent - but they didn't let that stop them!

Through social media, phone calls, emails, walks to the smoke pit, or walks that took them even further away, teachers attempted to give their students a positive message of 'I miss you' or "I hope to see you in class today' as well as often a second or third message - "here is a heads up on what is coming up tomorrow so you are ready" or "remember that this is due, if you need help come in before school", or a message that connected with something they knew about the student such as the following message a teacher sent a student who loved Justin Bieber:


Creativity and humour seemed to go along way!   A personal connection showing the student that the teacher cared made a difference.

When students are at-risk of not completing school, attendance issues are huge.   We can throw up our hands and say "If they aren't going to attend there is nothing I can do -- it is their problem".  Or we can do what these teachers did: attempt to look from the student’s point of view at their anxiety, at their feelings of not belonging at school, at their lack of hope, and then make that extra effort to convince them to come back.

by Judith King

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Puppet Power: The Teachable Moment


Earlier this week we had a guest performer present a puppet show to the whole school in the gym.  What an unexpected and awe inspiring treat!  The performer was a world class talent and his show was without any "flash" just him and his puppets, some as simple as just his hands and a cloth.  The whole school was engrossed in his unique creative storytelling; it was incredible.

We saw this before recess so I quickly scrapped the original day plan and gathered materials for making puppets from the art room.  I'd seen in a magazine a kids craft for spoon puppets that I remembered after having seen the puppet show.  So a handful of plastic spoons, some felt scraps, cotton balls, pipe cleaners, felts.. and we were off.  I showed the kids some examples from the magazine picture.  That's all they needed! They were thrilled to be making puppets and wanted to make more and have fun with them.  Some of them are so creative, and it really was impressive to see what they came up with.

The next day we finished making our puppets and got into groups to write a short play to be performed with their puppets.  We had a class discussion about our target audience to consider while we were writing our scripts, (the grade ones) and what that might mean for how we structured our writing.  We then discussed the goal of the story: to teach a positive lesson to the grade ones.  We brainstormed a list of about 10 ideas, things like: include don't exclude, sharing, name calling/kindness, etc and wrote these on the board to refer to.  They were then given time to write their scripts together.  There was total engagement, and they were happy to be working on this project.  They practiced the show when they were done.

The students performed their show for the class and then we invited the grade ones to come join us and watch the positive lessons the big kids had to teach them. The show went well and we performed for both grade one classes.

It was an unexpected teachable moment that led to several really good classes for our students.

Post courtesy of Kent Percevault


Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Community Teaching



This is my favourite teaching tool.   It can be used in so many different ways.  Here is one example:

Step 1: Students are taught a concept (in this case it was chores at home for FSL 12)
Step 2: Students are told to create a lesson plan...they need to teach the concept to people in the community.
Step 3: Students go on main street in different locations in their groups...they each take a large whiteboard and markers....

Task:
They have to survey 10 people.
- they first need to teach the people what the phrase "qu'est-ce que vous n'aimez pas faire" means
- they then need to teach the people (with visuals) 8 or so french vocab words (chores)
- they then teach the people how to respond by saying, "i don't like to....+ word"

**They ask the people if they can take their picture for proof to show me, or collect a signature

I also have had students go onto main st. with their group and teach people how to conjugate irregular verbs.  They use their whiteboards to demonstrate, and then have the people try it themselves!

Post courtesy of Lindsay Anderson

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Math on the Move (Math 9)


After a lesson on determining the height of objects using similar triangles and shadows I decided it was time to venture forth into the wilderness (or more exactly, the school field).  After a review and some confused questions from a couple of my students we set forth.  Armed with a tape measure, paper and pencil students were asked to determine the height of the flag pole, the height of the north-west corner of the fence around the tennis court, and the height of the statue in front of the school.

Luckily it was sunny so finding our shadows was successful, although for some reason some groups got a more accurate idea of their height when they laid down!  Every group appeared engaged in the lesson and every student was able to turn in their own copy of the results.  A short discussion regarding similar units helped to clarify some of the confusion regarding different answers between groups.

It was interesting to see who took control of the tape measures, who recorded the information and which students were confident in their computation skills and took control of the calculator.  Also, interesting was the speed in which some groups asked for help and the reluctance on the part of some groups that were having some problems in wanting to ask for help (and no, they were not all males!).

All in all, a successful lesson that I felt showed the relevance of the math in an enjoyable way.

Post courtesy of Dave Killick

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Effective Strategies for Secondary Students At-Risk (Part I)


Last  year, teachers in the different lens project followed and completed case studies for 37 students at the secondary level.  While of course all students are different and not every strategy applies to every situation, here are 3 successful strategies that appeared over and over again throughout the teacher reflections.

1.  Establishing Positive Relationships:  Establishing a positive relationship with the student was reported to be the most important strategy in working with students at risk socially or academically.  Teachers did this in multiple ways:  meeting and greeting the student, attending sporting events that the student was participating in, and making personal connections by talking about the student's interest. Teachers also tried sending students reminders through texting, facebook, or phone calls, advocating for them in meetings where the student could hear the teacher talk about them in positive ways and offer support, building trust with them, encouraging them to attend, and encouraging them to try something a different way, building a team of teachers around the student so the student knew there were a number of them supporting him/her, showing tolerance for unusual behaviour, and following up on issues and concerns.

I always used him as an example in analogies – it gave him the attention he needed.  (gr. 9)
•I advocated a lot for her – I sat in on admin meetings, counselor meetings etc., made a tremendous amount of accommodation in partnership with the alternate teacher.  (gr. 11)
•I made a point of talking to him each day he was in class at the start.  Nothing even school related… we started to develop a good relationship that helped in the classroom. (gr. 12)
•I had informal interactions in the hallway and before/after class.  I felt he liked/respected me – he brought me a novel of his own because he thought I would enjoy it.  (gr. 10)
•The more I talked with him, the better his behaviour became. (gr. 9)
•For one month we had success as she linked to a short term peer tutor that had a link to her socially in the community. (gr 11)
•After he returned to class with his leg injury, I made a point of asking him about his leg, his rehab, physio etc. every day I saw him.  I think that connection was huge in our relationship development.  He became much more pleasant, and more focused on getting his work completed and handed in. (gr 12)
•I made an effort to check in with her to find out how she was doing.  I made sure she was aware of timelines, schedules and important due dates.  I strongly believe that the simple conversations about her daughter increased the relationship between her and I.  We realized that our children were in the same daycare facility which opened up dialogue between us.  (gr 12)

2.  Giving Choice and Creative Options that build on student strengths / interests and passions:

Many teachers reported that part of the success with their students was due to either teaching in different ways, or allowing students to respond in a variety of ways.  Teachers gave choice on assignments and students responded by making films, building projects, or using music or art or verbal skills to show their knowledge.  Students appreciated choice in assessments, projects and being able to link curriculum with their passions such as skateboarding, music, or hockey.

When we did the first project he chose to work on a project on his own.  He handed it in on time and it was totally complete.  When we did a cartoon where I gave them the pictures and he had to write a story, he did not complete it.  When he was told to do the same type of assignment again where they could find their own pictures and had less guidelines he did it on time and it was complete.  For the final project he chose to write a visual dictionary style assignment.  He handed it in on the day it was due and presented to the class what he had done.  The choice of assignment and freedom to do what he wanted seemed to make all the difference.  (gr. 10)
• He loves poetry – he wrote a poem to present 10-12 facts about the unit we were studying.  It was unique and well received by the class. (gr. 10)
• Giving choices was definitely a great option for him.  We were creating magazine covers in the computer lab for a unit and the students were to pick any theme they wanted, and focus on what they were interested in.   He of course chose a skateboarding theme for his cover.  He was focused, actively participating, not looking for answers from other students and actually producing great work!  He finished the project on time, handed it in and was genuinely proud of his work!  (gr 12)
• He responded well to challenges that he was given. He also appreciated choice in the class and the ability to use music to show his understanding. Overall I think the class just really worked well with his abilities.  (gr. 12)

3.  Partnering thoughtfully:  Teachers consciously worked with groups in their classroom to support those students who had more difficulty working with others or students who needed someone to explain tasks or read material.

It was always important to place him with the right partner(s) to keep him focused.  An odd combo is the friendship he formed with a straight A perfectionist student. (gr. 10)
• The initial partnering of a pre-determined student really worked well. The other student was very good with him, and it took the pressure off me to integrate him into regular activities right away. Once he got more accustomed to the other people in the class and the general pace of things, I believe it was much easier to get him to work with others than it would have been if I had just randomly thrown him in with different partners. By the end of the course he would work with everyone. It is always my goal by the last month to be able to randomly draw names from a hat and have the students comfortably participate with any group members and I was able to do this with no fear about his group members. (gr 12)

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Getting to Know You (Student Surveys)

As another year begins and our new students enter our classrooms, children and adults alike are faced with excited anticipation. A quick option for the first few days of class is to give students a survey to help determine some information about individual kids. Teachers often focus on outlining their expectations for the course but don't always appreciate the advantages of considering the perspectives of their students. Often there is no time for individual conversations with every student (especially in that first week). A short survey can provide a small window into how a student is feeling about your course, and what types of activities or environments might help them succeed. Online software such as survey monkey is free and easy to use (and can give you quick feedback about overall trends in your class), or you can simply type up some questions, and have students answer them by hand. Whatever method you choose, an initial survey can provide insight into what might work best for your students, and it sends the message that you are interested in working with them towards their success in your classroom. Click here for a sample survey. This one is targeted at a high school class, so the language and questions would obviously have to be adjusted for younger grades or for different subject areas.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Really Understanding Real Work



We recently completed the Vikings unit in our Social Studies 8 class.  I try hard at getting students to think about the actual work that the Vikings did in order to survive and I really want kids to get how tough it was to live back then, but also realize how much we take hard, physical work for granted.

The Vikings were great mariners because they explored other areas across the Atlantic Ocean, and they just plain spent much of their time in coastal regions.  Their ability to survive was dependent on their ability to create reliable boats that could carry men (and loot), which meant a lot of time and resources went into creating decent boats.

To get students to understand the difficulty of creating a watertight boat I had students create a scale model of the real thing.  The students were split into groups of 4 and they were given some raw materials - solid maple - to cut, shape, and assemble.  Kids got into the shop and actually cut the maple into ribs, cut the maple plies, and glued and nailed their work together in a generally authentic Viking design.  It took a total of 5 or 6 classes to complete.  We then took our boats on the last day of school before spring break and floated them on the lake and tested their weight carrying capacity and their "watertightness".  Many kids had projects that held several large rocks - weighing an amount comparable to a gallon of milk.  I was impressed and the kids had a great time.

What I liked most about this project is that students had to work co-operatively, carefully, and be focused to get these in the water by the deadline.  They learned how painstaking the process is to create a quality boat - one that in real life would carry many people to far off lands.  Everyone had a good time (and learned a lot about boat building) but the best part was watching the kids proudly watch their work sail off the dock - even the students who aren't typically successful in Social Studies.



Post courtesy of Kevin Bond

Monday, 24 June 2013

The Year at Princess Margaret

Here is a three minute video with some highlights from the Different Lens collaborative group at Princess Margaret Secondary.



Or the one-minute version...

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Virtual Confederation Conference (French Immersion Social Studies)


Socials 10 Chapter 2: Canada 1840-1870 (Confederation). The level of French in the textbook is too difficult for my students and they struggle with tests but also with group projects and presentations. So I decided to try creating a social website wherein each would take on the role of a historical figure involved in Confederation. Their contributions to the site would then count as a unit project rather than a test.

We're not quite finished yet but so far the feedback has been very positive and I've only had to erase one post in English! Each student has posted a profile of their person, added a topic to the discussion board and have started expressing the opinions and reasons of their character on the discussions. Without prompting several students have added content such a photos, a video, events and groups. Although it's not part of the evaluation criteria they love using the instant chat function and most of that is even on topic.

Other ideas for a social website: Digestive system (each student takes on the role of a different organ), Francophone countries, or countries in one of the World Wars, citizens in New France, characters from a novel study....
I'm using "Ning.com", Students do have to put in an e-mail address but beyond that is secure and ad-free. Comes all set-up and easy to re-format. One month free trial. And best of all in my opinion - French interface!

Post courtesy of Denise Lipscombe 

Sunday, 9 June 2013

New Ideas (Literature 12)


Right in the middle of the Victorian unit are two poems that I have always loved but have always had limited success with. They aren't very "active" (no plot or action-mainly symbolism and imagery). At the same time they are very powerful and memorable and I wanted the students to connect them to their own lives. Earlier in the year, Shauna Reid showed me a project she did with her English 9 students where they made simple locker magnets and I thought this might be a perfect activity to help students:

a) Focus on key ideas in the poems
b) Make a personal and lasting connection with the poems
c) Create a visual connection to the words
d) Add a small hands-on activity in the middle of two fairly "bookish" and lower-energy days in class



The magnets worked very well. Students had to choose their favourite quotes from each of the two poems. Then they needed to add a visual to go with the words. Usually I require all artwork in the class to be original (because I don't care what it looks like-artistic expression is not a requirement of Literature 12) but in this case I wanted students to actually put this up somewhere public. To improve the odds of students creating something that was visually appealing,  they were given the option to bring in a personal photo or to get an image off the internet. The students decorated small sheets of watercolour paper (chopped up from bigger sheets) and then covered each side with packing tape and attached a cheap magnet strip ($2.50 for the whole class from the dollar store) to the back of each one. The students were extremely focused on the activity so the negative side was that it took 45 minutes in class instead of the 30 minutes I had allotted. I do have a fairly large number of artistic students in the class and this activity certainly lent itself to their strengths.


The activity options were broad enough that all of the students were able to create something that was personally meaningful and aesthetic. Above are 4 different styles. Top Left: the student brought in his own set of watercolour paints to create his magnet. Bottom left: student is passionate about travelling next year so he made 3 magnets (one was translated to Dutch). He used images off the internet. Top Right: Artistic student used the materials provided in class (extra fine sharpies) to create all images Bottom Right: student brought in a stamp to make an artistic image.

Post courtesy of Naryn Searcy

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Archaeology (Socials 7)


The topic of the lesson was to investigate the 5 different scientific methods used by archaeologists.  

I separated the class into small groups and gave each group a "mini-dig site".  Essentially these were shoe boxes filled with sand and shards of pottery.  To create each "mini-site" I wrote one of the scientific techniques (i.e.: Statistical Analysis, like the picture to the left) on an old pot, smashed it in a paper bag and poured the shards into a shoe box.

After students worked together in their groups to figure out what the words said, they had to research each technique and present their findings to the class.

This was one of the coolest lessons this year.  The questions and discussion that emerged from actually "being archaeologists" was definitely interesting. 



Post courtesy of Nick Korvin 

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Connecting Through In-School Suspension

The day started in the usual manner. Same old exciting routine. Students arriving at 7:30 am and equipment out and about. In walks the VP and informs me that a student will be joining me today for an in-school suspension job shadow this fine day.

Interesting way to connect to a struggling student...take the time, make that, make the time to have them complete work in your classroom.  Through the completion of tasks "Hank" worked well and expressed the personal struggle to make good choices, avoid "following", the lack of rules at home and the need for the school to help him stay "good".

Conversation led to me understanding that I am the closest thing he has to rules and imposed guidance. Hank expressed he has no rules until he comes to school.  "I don't get lectures at home." For this boy we have become much more than teachers in the realm of the classroom.

 I tried to make the day "work" as it was an in-school suspension,  not a holiday or fun connection.  Hank was given jobs to complete and I would give a behaviour/focus topic in discussion and then leave him to the task at hand.

He surprisingly enjoyed the menial tasks and completed them to a standard of high quality. I made him complete a personal workout after discussing active, healthy lifestyles. He did this weight room workout willingly and with a strong personal effort.  We discussed the importance of school completion and in this setting it became clear that he values education, values stability, values respect and values positive social interactions.

The truth of the matter is that he can not create this on his own; he lacks the home support and personal strength of conviction to steer his own ship clear of the hazards of life. With school, he swims ...without school he tends to float for awhile then sink. How long to rock bottom?

It is obvious he may need our life jackets of support to stay above water.



Note: because of the personal and specific nature of this post the teacher's name is not provided, as it could potentially reveal the identity of the student.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Mini Fieldtrip

Focus of the lesson was speaking.  I decided to take my class to The Wagon Wheel for du café et parlez parlez parlez.
It was awesome how students actually put in effort to speak in French because of the change of setting.  We pretended that we were in a real French café.
 It might be a bit more difficult to take my class of 25 there, but today worked really well with a small group.




For more examples of changing the physical learning environment, see this post. 

Post Courtesy of Lindsay Anderson

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Simple Machines Scavenger Hunt (Grade 4/5)


After having lessons on the six simple machines, my teaching partner and I wanted the kids to expand their understanding from the examples we had in class.  We made them a table with a row for each machine and one for compound machines.  They were to list examples they saw in their environment.  We gave them some time in the class then walked them around the school and went outside to the playground. Finally, we went for a walk around the neighbourhood.  They were observing, questioning, debating and noticing more things than I'd have imagined!  It was quick and simple and they always enjoy being outside.  Today we went to the S.S. Sicamous and students were noticing simple machines around the boat.  It reminds me how great it is when we can get them out of the class to apply their learning.  Just a little shift in how they see things.

Post courtesy of Judy Schneider

Thursday, 23 May 2013

The Tell-Tale Whiteboards (English 10)

In the spirit of trying new assignments, here's one that was a success. Students, in groups of 3, had to re-write a section of Poe's "Tell-Tale Heart" and make it into a poem with a creative lay-out. There were some very creative ideas demonstrated.


Post courtesy of Rick Van Camp

Note: Other examples of whiteboards in classrooms:

Whiteboards in Spanish 10

Whiteboards in Biology

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Math/Art Mixer (Grade 4)

We've been trying to link art with math, linking our geometry lessons.  The lesson for horizontal, vertical,intersecting, point, line, parallel and perpendicular was to draw in perspective following step by step directions.  The art came out wonderfully, however the students didn't seem to transfer the knowledge from geometry to the art.  To reinforce Judith suggested I have students write the terms on post-its and then attach to their art.



Post Courtesy of Norma-Jean Berg

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Testing, Testing... Can you hear me now?


At the conclusion of a large unit in science on the Human Body we had a semi-traditional assessment to measure our students' learning.  Judy and I had previously designed a cut, sort, paste test in another subject with great results.  We felt, and the students commented that by not having to write as much they were more motivated to complete the test, and the cutting and pasting allowed them to arrange their thoughts, check their answers prior to gluing them down, AND cutting and pasting for a test was more fun!

Now there was a lot of information to cover in this unit so it was a lot of cutting and pasting.  The results on the test were mostly great.  Well over half of the students scored As and the rest had solid Bs, except for 5 or 6 that failed terribly, like not even close.  What happened?  So we decided to re-test these students.  It turns out they were confused and/or a little lazy in completing the test with its different format.

The re-test was an oral test/discussion where we met one on one with the students.  The results were eye opening.  Four of the students scored As (3 perfects) demonstrating they had definitely learned the material well.  That's what we thought as we felt we'd really nailed the unit!

It was a strong lesson/reminder to allow for variety in how kids demonstrate their learning.  If an assessment does not go well for a student then follow up is needed and often the most efficient way is to talk with them and find out what they really do know.

Post courtesy of Kent Percevault

Monday, 13 May 2013

Authentic Activities (Psychology 12)




This has been an amazing week with my students!  First of all, it's been an unusual week because we have had 2 major activities that are very different from our regular classroom format. The first activity was an infant/toddler/preschooler panel where we had 3 moms bring in 7 children.  My students were to observe and interact with the kids, watching how they play, what they are able to do developmentally etc.  Both of my students I am "lensing"were engaged in the activity and participated with the kids.  They were two of the most involved students and they shone!   The second activity was where our Psych class planned, organized and put on a  party for our special education students.  Again, my students participated in a big way!   They did their assigned jobs and were fully engaged in the class.  Today we debriefed the party activity in class and students were fully engaged in the class discussion.  It is obvious to me that the practical, hands on, real life stuff is what certain students relate to best. 


 Post courtesy of Dana Kocsis

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Meeting of the Math Minds

A number of middle school math teachers in the Different Lens group have been meeting this year to discuss and develop ideas. In one meeting we met and went over some ideas for an Algebra unit and how to make it more interesting. We found several youtube songs online and thought of ways to incorporate them into the unit. We also have some smartboard "who wants to be a millionaire" and jeopardy style games. Here are a couple of quick activities we also covered that I filmed. Great to work with Pam, Shona, Travis and Nick! (Unfortunately Jessa was unable to be there on this particular day)

The videos include:

1. A hook activity involving a poem about monsters. In the end kids have to draw out monsters with one eye or three eyes to help them visualize how many of each monster was at dinner. Literacy and Math in action together... like some sort of academic superhero.

2. Some word problems to make algebra more "real life" because some people comment that you won't often use algebra in real life situations.  We thought you could start each algebra unit day with some sort of collaborative problem. Kids could come in and act like math-investigators.

3.  The last one is a problem involving cubes/manipulatives where students have to use their curiosity and some good ole' fashioned arithmetic and problem solving skills to find answers. They also build on prior knowledge. Helps hook them into algebra.

We also looked at some cool websites for virtual manipulatives. Lots of fun and good ideas.




Post courtesy of Jeff Fitton

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Let Me Move Please!

Students sorting French vocabulary at desks and on carpet
It should come as no surprise that students need to move on a continual basis. I need to remind myself of this often as it is easy to become lazy and issue tasks that are pencil/paper based. However, I have been trying to be more cognizant of this fact on a regular basis this year and am attempting to set up tasks that allow for movement and socialization within them. One type of task that I find myself using over and over includes sorting and matching word or sentence strips. I have been using these a lot with my kids in various subject areas in order to review content. Sometimes I provided the words or sentences and sometimes the kids make them up. The words may be French vocabulary, names of provinces and capitals or science terms. Kids are asked to sometimes match terms, speed sort them or work with a partner collaboratively to complete a task.

Playing a matching game
Working collaboratively to complete a task

Post courtesy of Heather Rose

Monday, 29 April 2013

Revising Hands-On Assessments (Science 9)


Original test set-up (circuit stations at front of room)
This week we finally had our first physics test on current electricity.  The students were required as part of their test to create a simple circuit from a diagram provided.  I made 2 major changes to this lab question from previous years.  First, instead of using the front 4 tables as lab stations, I used the side counters.  The reason for this was that last year's students complained of feeling the pressure of performing in front of their peers even though no one was actually watching them (see photo).  I noticed that the less confident kids did indeed choose to wait for the lab stations near the back corners of the room.  I could tell this since these 2 were the stations that required the most support.

This brings me to the 2nd change.  I made circuit question out of 11 marks.  Sensing apprehension, I told the students that building the circuit was only worth 5 of the 11.  If they couldn't figure out how the components went together I explained that after they attempted to build the circuit I would come and fix anything that they did wrong, obviously subtracting 1 point per error.  So,  in worst case scenario, they might get 0/5 but in reality the lowest score (in this class) was 3/5.  However, knowing that their circuit was going to be perfect before they made their readings on the ammeter, voltmeter and resistor (which they needed to perform the calculations required for the other 6 marks), they felt good about getting at least 6/11 possible marks.  This also made my marking much more authentic. Last year I was giving out zero marks for their calculations since their answers were wrong due to errors on reading their meters.  I feel better now about not giving marks for construction and rewarding proper calculations since their raw data is now accurate.  Of course if their calculations were wrong, now I knew that they didn't know the formulas instead of not knowing how to build the circuit.  Both are important and I like having separated the two and the students felt this was very fair and actually reduced some of their anxiety.

Post Courtesy of Tim Haberstock

Monday, 22 April 2013

Five Senses Search

As an introduction to descriptive paragraph writing, I had students search for descriptions of the five senses in a paragraph.  Each sense was colour coded and corresponded to different coloured sticky notes.  I had them take turns grabbing a sticky note and sticking it on the screen.  As we discussed and agreed on their findings, I highlighted them in the same colour on my computer (mostly because they didn't stick very well).  Afterwards, they were to write their own descriptive paragraphs that included all five senses.  They really enjoyed this activity!


Post courtesy of Lauren Vallis

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Outdoor Adventures and "Doodling" in Science


We're into another science unit, this one is simple machines.  Again, being years since I've taught science, I didn't want to do the same old, even if it did involve more hands on than other topics.  Our first task was to explain force, with reference to friction, slope and load.  We spoke briefly, putting the terms on the board and telling the kids we would be having a lesson outside.  Afterwards, they would be using the given terms to label a 'doodle' illustrating the lesson.

We took the kids to the sliding hill with a sled and a mat.  With students making predictions and observations along the way, we had one child, then two, slide from a marked point where another teacher and I held them back.  This also gave us an opportunity to introduce potential and kinetic energy.  We repeated this with the slide, the smooth side of the mat and the woven side of the mat.  They could easily predict what would happen so they were just getting the science behind what they already knew. Below is an example of a student illustration of the outdoor experience.


Post Courtesy of Judy Schneider 

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Interest and Relevance (Humanities 8)


I would like to share a one-day-at-a-time story about the bright, young, kindhearted, frustrated, disengaged and sometimes (very) difficult, student on whom I am focusing my "lens". He and I are learning alongside of each other in English and Social Studies (am realizing he is teaching me as much as I him). As I try new strategies to engage the class (and... hush... him too), our class CEA, Mrs. P, has quietly inquired as to how he is "feeling about his learning".  5= very good!  1= would rather poke out my eyeballs than experience this lesson again. You can probably see where this is going...  We did a hands on activity using playdoe in Social Studies... 2.5. (not bad).  We did a "stretch your sentence" exercise in English (he wrote a great sentence and I heaped on the accolades)...1.  We did a "scary story" exercise where students borrowed sentence structure to form their own sentence (he again wrote a great sentence)...1.  When asked why a "1", he responded, "That's just how I am used to feeling." So there it is... learned defeatism?  Whatever the case, I understood that the road that is the classroom experience was going to have to look different for this fellow.

    Enter Minecraft.  In an effort to find a medium of engagement, my student and I came up with a project that was a good fit for him. In lieu of the essay writing/public speaking assignment that was the final summative assignment of Term 1, he would teach me (his old lady English teacher) how to play Minecraft via a directive video. That very night he completed the assignment. Using a microphone and a program he found and set up, he proudly, comfortably and confidently, walked me through "Minecraft". I had never heard him say so many words with such enthusiasm! Very cool.
    This actually happened awhile ago - we celebrated the success of the assignment, and my student had an opportunity to feel success. I decided to hold off on assessment, partially because I was not quite sure how to go about it.  We returned to  "one-day-at-a-time" pace, but this afternoon I had a bit of an epiphany about the assessment of this assignment. In taking a 2nd look at Holly Colquhoun's blog on the competencies (or "21st Century Fluencies")  she had been exploring, I realized that this is what the Minecraft assignment was able to demonstrate, which is actually quite a lot!

1. Problem solving
2. Creativity
3. Analytical Thinking
4. Collaborate ( a bit less of this, but I understand when he plays regularly, he often must negotiate with other players...)
5. Communicate
Clearly - this student is part of the digital generation.

So - next the step for me is to sit down with my student, review his video, and see how the skills he is able to show in his assignment connect with the above elements. I am hoping he will see what a talented, capable person he is!

I'm shooting for a "3.5" on this one!  Will let you know how it goes!

Post courtesy of Andrea DeVito

Thursday, 14 March 2013

This Isn't Rocket Science

I remember growing up enjoying helping others (and being helped), but I also remember that there was a certain prescribed way through which problems were approached and addressed.  Of course, I am talking about school life here and when I went through school throughout the 80s and early 90s there really wasn't a lot of room for divergent thought.  I accepted that, and I was especially comfortable with that because I was also raised in a home where there wasn't a lot of room for interpretation of things - especially school.  "If the teacher said so, then I believe it happened", I could almost hear my dad say.  (My parents were good advocates for me, but they also believed the teacher).  Largely, my history is reflected in how I currently approach my own life, including in the professional realm.

Is it wrong, then, for me to forge a different path through education when I turned out fine (I think) using the old ways?

Not really, because I think specifically about one student I am teaching right now and how his history as a child, let alone as a student, could be called dysfunctional at best.   I think about how this student would not have survived past grade 8 in my school growing up because the philosophy that prevailed was somewhat of a hardnosed one.  It served its purpose for that time period, but these days with students arriving with increasing "baggage" it is hardly fair to expect such kids to succeed in life when they are tossed from school because they don't meld with the type of kids schools would like to cater to.  My student needs to be handled differently.

Really, back when I was growing up the cool teachers were the ones who could connect with anyone.  They weren't aloof, or untouchable thinkers, or judgemental, they were the opposite.  They were conversational, they were approachable, they were genuinely concerned about all the kids they came across.  This is what made the teachers cool - the fact that they cared.  Now, fast forward to now.  How many teachers are like this now?  A lot (at least at our school!).  Teachers work exceptionally hard to meeting the needs of a great diversity of kids, not because we have to, not because of any school or provincial programs or initiatives, but because we understand that kids need to be cared about.  And when kids feel cared about they are more likely to respond favourably when it comes to learning something about school.  I can speak to this first hand.

The point is this: my student shows signs of commitment to the school and his progress.  I will be honest, there have been a couple of times when I was not expecting the good work that was done, yet he was given the expectations, he "showed up" and completed it, and he indicated growth and maturity beyond what he had previously demonstrated.  Something's working (and it has to do with school).

Building rapport through showing sincere interest in a student will get you a lot more mileage than playing "catch-up" with counsellor and LAT intervention, student suspensions, and district discipline hearings.  And the best part is it's a whole lot more rewarding.  This isn't rocket science.