Category Archives: teaching

Teaching is Very Rewarding

A student surprised me today with these very thoughtful gifts.

Teacher Gift

I was overwhelmed to see the time and effort he put in to them. He 3D printed my logo and my favourite picture from my wedding.

Wedding 3D Print

When you hold it up to the light, the picture reveals itself.

Fairy Tale Wedding

I still can’t believe that this is actually me. It’s a photograph that looks like in belongs in a magazine. It’s absolutely perfect, as are these presents from a student. The computer disk contains even more pictures.  I just need to hook up my Commodore 64 to access them. I can’t wait.

I have gotten gifts from students before and appreciate every single one. I don’t normally share them online, but felt I had to today. It’s a part of teaching that is worth sharing. It shows that I make strong connections with my students and that I make a difference in this profession.

What are some of the best gifts you have gotten from your students?

Please share below in the comments.

Teaching Tip Tuesday – inspiration and ideas from my classroom to yours

Student Choice in Instrumental Music

It’s difficult to manage student choice in an instrumental music class. There are so many things to consider. The first of which is assigning instruments to your students. It is important to have a good variety of brass and woodwind instruments so that your class can sound like a full concert band.

This is a good set up for a class of 25 students (it is only meant as a guide and you need to be flexible)

  • 4 flute
  • 5 clarinet
  • 5 trumpet
  • 2 French Horn
  • 3 saxophone
  • 2 trombone
  • 2 euphonium
  • 2 Tuba

I normally don’t assign a student to percussion in beginning band classes. At least not right away. I have found that some students don’t have a good sense of timing and if they play poorly on a drum, it can throw the entire band off. It even throws off my timing when I conduct.

Starting everyone off with a brass or woodwind instrument is a good idea. You can always move a student to percussion later.

I used this form to let my students choose the instrument they would play this year. It worked out pretty well. I was able to give most of my students their first choice. Just make sure everyone picks three different instruments.

Some students will mark “saxophone” number one, two, and three. It always seems to be the most popular instrument choice. So by requiring your students to rank their choices in numerical order, you can have flexibility with how you assign them.

Instrument Choice Form

I hope you are finding my series on Teaching Beginning Band Class useful. If you have missed the previous posts, please check click these links and explore what has been working well for me for a few years now.

AMU3O: Instrumental Music – Semester Plan

First Week of a Beginning Instrumental Music Class (Part 1)

First Week of a Beginning Instrumental Music Class (Part 2)

Teaching Tip Tuesday – weekly inspiration from my class to yours

First Week of a Beginning Instrumental Music Class (Part 1)

Instrumental Music Teacher's First WeekHere are the first few lessons I used to start off the term with a brand new, introductory music class.

I hope that you will find them useful. Teachers helping teachers is what this is all about.

Day 1 Music Lesson Plan

Creation-Time

  • Give the students ten minutes to create something out of Play-Doh. The goal is to make something that “is in some way representative of themselves. They can have complete creative license to make anything they want as long as it is classroom appropriate. Explain that the class will see their creation, you will ask a question or two about it, and then have them tell us their name. They will not have to come to the front of the room and the whole process will take thirty seconds or less. That simple explanation of what to expect helps lower the stress students feel about speaking in the front of the class.”
  • While the students are working on their creations, walk around, have informal conversations, and get to learn a bit about some of the students. You can help them come up with ideas and use all of this info to help design hooks to lesson later on in the year.
  • Next, ask them to sculpt “Music” – think of the effects that sounds have on people and the images that music brings to your mind and then give it a form

Listening Activity

  • Play “Viennese Musical Clock by Zoltan Kodaly and ask students to respond to it on the worksheet from Listening Kit 3
  • Take up the worksheet with the students

Music Play Along

  • Divide class into four sections (rhythm sticks, hand drums, shakers, triangles) and instruct the class how we will be playing along with the recording. (Also from Listening Kit 3)

Teacher Note  Even though these activities are aimed at a primary level, they work for beginning band classes in middle school and high school. My first class was a success for Grade 11 AMU3O.

Day 2 Music Lesson Plan

Beat and Rhythm Boxes

  • Draw 8 boxes on the board with a quarter note in each box. Then say, “All types of music must keep a steady pulse or beat. This is just like the clock that keeps on ticket. The beat does not change throughout the song. It stays constant and steady. It does not speed up or slow down,. Let’s keep a beat by tapping 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4. Beat is often arranged in groups of 4 that is why we are counting to four instead of eight.”
  • Rhythms change as you tap or clap different beats, but you have to make the rhythm fit the beat. Now let’s erase a few of the notes. We will tap the pattern out, when we get to a blank box, we will take a rest. Now we can try a 2 part piece. One half of the class will tap the top pattern. Let’s try it now. The other half of the class will tap the bottom pattern. Let’s try it. Now we will try it together.
  • All of the notes so far have been worth one beat. They are called quarter notes and sometimes referred to as “Ta.” Now we will work with eighth notes. These are worth half a beat. We need two of them to make one beat, referred to as “Ti-Ti”
  • Let’s play a two part pattern.
  • Now I want you to write a perform your own compositions. When you are ready to tap or clap yours for me, please let me know. When you are ready, I want you to work with a partner.

Instrument Families

  • Work through the package together going through percussion, brass, and woodwind instruments. Tell the students that they should start thinking about which one of these they would like to play this term. Write down a list of concert band instruments on the board that we will be playing – flute, clarinet, alto saxophone, trumpet, trombone, euphonium. (from Listening Kit above)

Listening Activity

  • Introduce STILL time (Silent Time for Individual Listening Logs) and complete a listening log. Play Viennese Musical Clock by Zoltan Kodaly. Ask the students what instruments they hear in the piece – tubular bells, trumpets, celesta, piccolo, triangle and what it makes them think of.

Music Game

  • Staff races – Draw a staff on the board and demonstrate where the musical notes are. Play notes on a keyboard and ask the students to stand on the correct space or line. Have a student play some notes and see if the students can move to the correct positions.

Teacher Note – I adopted this from Music Lessons: Grade 1-3 and it is still a great introduction activity for beginning band classes and a nice refresher for the other students as well.

Continued Next Week

After this brief introduction to music, I like to give the students a chance to try out various mouthpieces before they get to choose which instrument they would like to learn this term. I will share exactly how I do that next week here on Teaching Tip Tuesday.

Teaching Tip Tuesday – weekly inspiration from my classroom to yours

 

Long Range Plans – AMU3O (Grade 11 Music)

AMU3O Unit Plan

I am back to teaching and loving every minute of it. I have a Grade 11 music class full of eager students wanting to learn how to play an instrument for the first time. As such, if you are a Grade 7 or 8 instrumental music teacher, you may find this long range plan to be perfectly suited to your classroom as well.

We work on a shortened semester at my school but you can easily adapt this semester plan to fit the needs of your school and classroom.

I will be sharing my weekly plans here over the next term as well, so please bookmark this blog and come back often.

AMU3O Semester Plan – Winter 2017 (PDF)

AMU3O Semester Plan – Winter 2017 (Word)

The method book in this unit can be downloaded for free here . . .

Band Fundamentals in Easy Steps – Book One

as can the GPS – Grade Performance Steps books

GPS – The Road to Musical Success

And remember that there are hundred of tips, tricks, lessons, and best practices right here every Tuesday!

Teaching Tip Tuesday Archive

Teaching Yard Sale and Resource Exchange

I have been collecting teaching resources for the past 15 years. I have a lot of great items that I will be selling this weekend.

Other teachers will also be selling some of their tried-and-true teaching resources at the ETFO Yard Sale and Resource Exchange. Here are the details . . .
Teacher Yard Sale

I will have a parking spot at the London. Ontario office and will be selling bins of material grouped by grade this Saturday, June 4th. Here is what I have to offer . . .

Kindergarten to Grade 2

BOOKS – Grammar Handbook 1 (Part of the Jolly Phonics Program – I love this resource) Teaching with Ezra Jack Keats Books, Crayola Imagination Book 1 and 3, Painted Words, Learn Every Day: Grammar Skills, OPHEA: Jigga Jump, Creative Reading Gr 1, Guide to Effective Instruction in Writing, Connect with Words, The Teachers Guide to Building Block, Jump Start – Outer Space Unit, Fun to Learn – Finish the Picture, The Complete Book of Science Gr 1-2, Basic Skills Helper, Brighter Child Math, Family Fun Games, Learning Land – First Words, Lightning Lessons – Graphing, Hands On Physics Experiments K – 2, Calculator Math Level A, Funtastic Frogs Measuring.

BINDERS – Come Play With Us Unit, Skills for Success for Your First Grader, NaNoWriMo – Young Writers Program, 100th Day of School, My Little Grammar Books, A Guide to Effective Instruction in Mathematics, Show Me – Teaching Information and Visual Texts, Art Ideas.

Grade 2

BOOKS – Grammar Handbook 2 (Part of the Jolly Phonics Program – I love this resource) Connect with Words, Method Math, The Complete Math Smart 2, Sunflowering, Math Skills, Phonics, Reading Comprehension, Science Courseware Pack, Reading Workbook, Writing Mini-Lessons, How to: Inventions, Owl: Funbook, Learning Activities, Teach Children to Read and Write, Daily Language Review 2, Creative Reading, Daily Word Ladders, Write Now, Total Basic Skills, Words Every 2nd Grader Needs to Know, How to Make Books, Teachers Guide to Shared Reading, Think on Your Feet

BINDERS – Reading Assessment, Working it Out, Read and Understand, Strategies that Work, Reading Package K – 10, Art Ideas, Guide to Effective Instruction in Mathematics, Apple Attitude, AND a bin of Unifix cubes

Grade 3

BOOKS – Take it to Your Seat Literacy Centres (already prepped and laminated) Method Math, Science Courseware Pack, BrainQuest 3, What the Heck is a Grape Nut? Total Reading Grade 3, Words Every 3rd Grader Needs to Know, The Inuit Thought of It, Complete MathSmart 3, Creating Reading 3, Quick and Shirt Book Reports, New Start Canada, Nurturing Growth, ArchiGames – 50 Activities to Build Creative Thinkers, Math at School 3, Basics First Vocabulary Development, Canada Curriculum Teacher Helper – Art Lessons, Year Round Activity Guide – Planting the Seeds, Home Workbook – Word Problems, Daily Language Review Grade 3, Total Basic Skills 3

BINDERS – Show Me – Teaching Information and Visual Texts, Mapping Skills, Cursive Writing, Mad Minute Math, Let’s Write, The Write Genre, Guide to Effective Instruction in Mathematics, Get Writing, Land and Sea Unit

School Supplies

– 3 sets of 25 duotangs (red, yellow, grey)
– 32 page exercise book (50 blue, 50 yellow, 50 green, 25 pink)
– 150 loose-leaf paper packs (16 sets)

Craft Supplies Bin

80 foam sheets, 30 foam glider kits, 1000 craft sticks. 25 gingerbread necklace Christmas Craft Kits, 45 Reindeer Necklace Christmas Craft Kits, Assorted Christmas Craft Supplies Bin, Crayola Color Explosion 3D Kit, 3 Self Adhesive Vinyl Rolls, 16 Desk Magnet White Boards, 18 Plastic Clothespins, Artist Calendars (Monet, Van Gogh, DaVinci) Magnetic Calendar

Bulletin Board Bin

Lots of border trims of different themes and colours, letters of different sizes and colours, and magnetic border trim for the blackboard or whiteboard

Assorted Bin

Hanging Folders for your desk and filing cabinet, number line for the wall, various posters for the classroom.

Board Games Bin

Pattern Blocks Tub, Colour Tiles tub, 2 Colour Counters, Double 12 Dominoes Game, Princess Card Games, Math Board Game, Race to Read Board Game, Scrabble Junior, Parcheesi, Syl-la-bles Game, The Children’s Quiz Compendium, Early Discoveries Games

And More

I am still gathering things that I will be selling. So, come on out, say, “Hi!” and pick up a few things that you can use in your classroom

Hope to see you there!

The bins have anywhere from $200 to $500 worth of great resources in them. And I am selling them from $30 – $75.

The Inner Game of Work

the-inner-game-of-work-timothy-gallwey

The Inner Game of Work by W. Timothy Gallwey

I started a research project to see how we could let students choose what they want to learn in school and it led me to some very interesting books, articles, and videos. I will be sharing some of that with you over the course of this year as I continue this exploration.

As some of you may know, I quit teaching last year. There is an educator in me that just won’t quit, however. And so when I read this passage, I immediately identified with it.

A New Approach

“My first career was as an educator, a profession still notorious for being slow to embrace real change. Ironically, education is supposed to be about learning, and thus about change. It should provide insight and wisdom about change as well as set a good example. Yet it was not until I left the corridors of institutionalized education that I began to discover a profoundly different approach to learning and change.”

The distance away from teaching, as well as my continued research into finding a better way to teach and for schools to operate, has given me a new perspective. I am convinced that I am a much better teacher now because of that.

I love how Gallwey address my thesis topic in this passage too.

“I had to learn to give choices back to the student. Why? Because the learning takes place within the student. The student makes the choices that ultimately control whether learning takes place or doesn’t. In the end, I realized that the student was responsible for the learning choices and I was responsible for the quality of the learning environment.”

I think if students had more choice in school, there wouldn’t ne this lack of engagement and motivation that I see time and time again. School could actually be a fun place for kids to come and learn. There need to be some major changes in the public education system and the way we teach. We need to embrace change, as Gallwey contests.

Let Our Students Make Mistakes!

We also need to let our students flounder, to make some mistakes, and to discover things on their own. Here is why . . .

“Probably our parents, eager to be “good parents,” solved some of the problems that should have been left to us to solve so that we could gain skill and confidence. We come to expect this kind of help from the coach or parent. We may get an answer, but we don’t develop the skill or self-confidence to cope with similar problems in the future. In turn, we tend to validate ourselves as parents and coaches by solving the problems of our children or clients.”

We Can’t Solve Our Students’ Problems!

“Once you realize it’s not the job of the coach to solve the problem . . . for the most part the job of the coach is to listen well, but there’s more to it. Effective coaching . . . holds a mirror up for [students], so they can see their own thinking process. As a coach, I am not listening for the content of what is being said as much as I am listening to the way they are thinking, including how their attention is focused and how they define the key elements of the situation.”

Teachers as Coaches

Teachers should aim to be more like the coaches Gallwey describes in this book. In fact, if you substitute the word teacher in every place he uses the word coach in this book, the message becomes all the more clear on what we should be doing in schools to truly help and reach all of our students.

Teaching Tip Tuesday – inspiration and ideas for classroom teachers (an on-going series)

My List of 2016 Reads – an on-going reading log with detailed posts about each title

What’s Your Something Special?

What's Your Something Special book

What’s Your Something Special? by Catherine Gibson and Mary Fletcher

We all have something special locked up inside us. It might be hard to find, and some of us might not even know to look for it, but it is there.

This book taps into the power of imagination and self-discovery. It’ s a story that our youth need to see, hear, and experience. Perhaps this can be a window into something greater.

Not all of us have a physical limitation like Samantha, but I still think we can identify with her and the longing she feels to do something more with her life. It also helps to show that children in wheelchairs can be the star of a story.

Last month, I wrote about how we need to make sure our students are reflected in the texts we have available in the classroom. If you have ever had a wheelchair bound student at your school, and even if you haven’t, this would be a great book to add to your classroom library.

Teaching Tips – an archive of great resources for classroom teachers (NEW TIP featured on the third Tuesday of every month)

Harriet’s Big Adventure (Children’s Book Review)

Harriets Big Adventure

Harriet’s Big Adventure by Glenn S. Guiles and Raymond J. Whalen

Guiles is a fellow educator who believes in the power of a good story to enrich the lives of children and to help them learn. To that end, he has crafted a series of picture books featuring a miniature donkey by the name of Harriet.

The series is based upon the animals that he has on his very own farm in Adirondack State Park. In this second book, Harriet notices that her owner forgot to secure the latch to the gate. She wanders off in search of an adventure.

She comes across creatures she has never seen before including a squirrel, a porcupine, and two deer. Just when she begins to realize that her trek through the woods has taken her far from home, she notices that the trail looped up and brought her right back home.

She is thankful for her adventure and for her nice home.

This is pretty standard fair when it comes to illustrated children’s books. The story isn’t anything out of the ordinary, but the water-colour paintings really make it come to life.

I think students can identify with their yard always being the same and wanting to travel beyond the school grounds. As such, it would be a great read-aloud for a primary classroom.

Teaching Tip Tuesday Archive – Great tips, tricks, lessons, and inspiration for classroom teachers

You Need a Good Plan, Not a Good Excuse!

No Excuses (1)I got a lot out of Barbara Coloroso’s book, Kids Are Worth It. I took pages and pages of notes when I read it. The book is now full of underlines and margin notes.

I never used to be able to write in my books. I didn’t want to mess them up. I wanted them to be in mint condition even after having read them. But having a nice looking book isn’t as important as having one that speaks to you and one you can interact with. So, I recommend making underline notes in pencil (you could always erase them later.)

Here are some of the notes I made and passages I highlighted as I read

Confrontations

  1. When you are upset or angry, say so in an upset or angry tone of voice
  2. Tell the other person about your feelings
  3. State your belief out loud but avoid killer statements
  4. Close the tip gap between the hurt and the expression of hurt. Give direct feedback
  5. State what you want from the other person
  6. Be open to the other person’s perspective on the situation.
  7. Negotiate an agreement you both can accept

It is important, that as teachers and parents we model working through problems the same way and take responsibility for our actions. These seven steps are quite handy and I am going to post them in my classroom.

Admit the Mistake and Take Responsibility

Coloroso uses the term “backbone parent” to show the contrast between two other parenting styles that are not effective. In the quote below she illustrates how backbone parents would handle making a mistake. It’s how I want my students to handle them to, so I altered the beginning a bit.

[A good person] admits that she made a mistake, takes full responsibility for making the mistake, avoids making excuses, figures out how to fix the problem created by making the mistake, recognizes if and how another person was affected, and figures out what to do the next time so it won’t happen again.

No Excuses

I want my children to understand that when they have a problem, what they need is a good plan, not a good excuse.

Here are another set of steps worth posting up.

6 Steps to Problem Solving

  1. Identify and define the problem
  2. List viable options for solving the problem
  3. Evaluate the options—explore the pluses and minuses for each option
  4. Choose one option
  5. Make a plan and DO IT
  6. Evaluate the problem and your solution. What brought it about? Could a similar problem be prevented in the future? How was the present problem solved?

Remember you are helping her learn how to think—not what to think.

The Game and The Sit

When two students have a problem with each other, there is no way a teacher can solve it. The problem often will spill out into the yard and become a fight or it will spark up again on the bus. Giving the students time to own the problem and figure it out is the best solution. I’ll admit that this particular method would be difficult in a classroom, but it is still worth considering.

Here are the basics (you can find out more in the book if interested)

“You both seem really angry. Come over here and sit together on the couch. You can both get up as soon as you give each other permission to get up. What is it you need to do?”

Asking this question is very important and good teaching practice before sending students off on any task.

“Don’t demand an apology. “I’m sorry” has to come from the heart, not the head. If you demand an apology, you’ll probably get one of two kinds: (a) whiny or (b) “I’m sorry” followed by the apologizer slugging the other kid again

Neither can move. They both have the power over the other, but that power is connected to the other person’s power. Kids begin to see that they are not dependent or independent but truly interdependent—not controlled or controlling but rather influencing and influenced. Soon one says,

“You can get up.”
“But I’m not going to let you get up.”
“You may both get up as soon as you give each other permission to get up”

Finally they get the message that together they have the power to control the situation. Notice that they haven’t been punished. The goal is not to punish them. It is to discipline them. 

I still have more notes I can share with you about this book. And I picked up another Coloroso book at a used book sale last week, so I’ll probably have even more tips from her next year in this series.

Teaching Tip Tuesday – weekly advice and inspiration for teachers (over 200 entries so far)

Let Kids Make the “Cheap Mistakes”

Cheap MistakesSometimes as parents and teachers, we are afraid to let our kids make bad choices. We want to steer them in a direction that will avoid a negative consequence. So, we tell them what to do and what to think. But ultimately, this harms them in ways we probably never even considered.

Barbara Coloroso breaks if down in her book, Kids are Worth It!

Give Them Info and Let Them Go

“What kids need instead of being told what to think, is lots of information about themselves and the world around them, and the opportunity to make lots of decisions, including some less-than-wise ones. As long as their decisions are not life-threatening, morally threatening, or unhealthy, let their choices and the consequences of those choices be their own to grow with and learn from.”

Cheap Mistakes

There are mistakes that we can let our kids make that don’t cost them a lot. These mistakes may come with minor consequences, but these consequences will help them learn and prepare them for the future. We shouldn’t be afraid of these “cheap mistakes”

“I believe if you let kids make choices and mistakes when they are cheap, they rarely make the expensive one later, Kids learn from the cheap ones”

Build a Strong Sense of Self

Letting our children make the cheap mistakes gives them experience in forming their own opinions. They are not just doing what they are told. You might think that is a good thing, but at some point, kids stop listening to their parents (even if only for a little while) and that’s when trouble can arise.

The major problems arise when the teen decides he doesn’t want to please his parents anymore. . . He’s been listening to somebody else tell him what to do. He’s been doing it. He hasn’t changed. He is still listening to somebody else tell him what to do. The problem is, it isn’t you anymore, it’s his peers. The kid hasn’t learned how to think.

Lacking a strong sense of self, these teens define themselves only in relationship to whomever they have attached themselves.

Barbara Coloroso has some great advice for parent and teachers in this book. I recommend reading it if you have enjoyed this post!

Kids are Worth It

Teaching Tip Tuesday – weekly advice and inspiration for teachers (over 200 tips and counting)

Artist Wanted for a Teaching Resource

Artist WantedI have a great teaching resource that I want to develop. The only problem is that I am not much of an artist.

I am looking for someone to draw 130 clip-art style images. These sketches need to be easily recognizable and in vibrant colours. They also need to be equally sized in a square shape .

If you are interested in working on this project with me, please let me know. I will send you the list of objects I need drawn and then we can work together to create this amazing classroom resource.

So far, I have been giving away all of my resources for free on this blog. This new project is going to be part of an entire program that teachers and students will find extremely useful. It is going to take some time and effort to put together. That is one of the reasons that I will be selling this resource when it is completed.

Artist Wanted!

I have big plans for this project and need your help! Please send an email to chasemarch(at)gmail(dot)com if you’d like to be part of this amazing project!

Learning Skills

I just wrote my Progress Reports and I had a hard time coming up with personalized comments for each student in my class.

I looked at what I had written in the past and I searched online for comments I could use. I then began writing, but I was pretty much making it up as I went along. I don’t know why but I seem to do the same thing every year. I decided that there had to be a better way.

I spent an hour today, making these tracking sheets that should make the job of writing learning skills comments a lot easier for the Term 1 reports later in the year.

Learning Skills

There are six learning skill categories; Responsibility, Organization, Independent Work, Collaboration, Initiative, and Self-Regulation. Each one of these heading has anywhere from three to five look-fors.

I made these charts that I plan on attaching to a clipboard in the classroom. There will be one set of these per student in my class. I will make sure to take a few notes every week for the rest of the year. That way, when it comes time to writing report cards again, I will have very specific things to say and I will only have to look in this one spot.

Download the PDF for free or the editable MS Word document

Here are some of the comments I wrote in the Progress Reports this year. I wrote these for my Grade 2 / 3 students, I hope you will find them useful. Of course, the names have been changed.

Learning Skills Comments . . .

Brian follows the classroom expectations and school rules without needing reminders. He demonstrates responsibility by coming into the classroom after recess and going directly to his desk, ready for the next lesson. He organizes his workspace and materials to keep track of academic work. He shares his thoughts, and respectfully listens to the opinions of others when trying to solve problems in groups. Brian establishes positive relationships with peers and adults. He accepts responsibility for his own behaviour. He often takes an active role when problem solving in a group setting, and works well with his peers. He is beginning to take risks in his learning, but should continue to make this a goal for himself. He needs to continue to work on his willingness to seek out necessary teacher assistance so that he better understands the concepts under study. He is a respectful student who demonstrates tolerance and consideration for others. He usually listens attentively and follows instructions throughout the school day. Brian is a trustworthy and reliable student who demonstrates honesty in our classroom. Brian treats his peers fairly and equally in his interactions with others. He is encouraged to use classroom resources to help him during his work, such as dictionaries, textbooks, and classroom charts. Brian is also encouraged to set short-term goals (daily and weekly) and strive to achieve them consistently.

Olivia demonstrates responsibility by fulfilling classroom obligations on a daily basis. She comes to class appropriately prepared with her learning materials and agenda. She frequently completes and submits class work according to agreed upon timelines. Olivia keeps her desk neat and tidy and has no trouble locating and accessing any of the tools she needs to complete her work. She takes great care in her tasks and assignments and works well without supervision. Olivia is able to accurately keep track of assignments and is prepared for class each morning and ready to be dismissed at the end of each school day. She is encouraged to make use of the daily agenda board to stay organized on the tasks that are planned for the day. Olivia regularly collaborates with classmates by providing and accepting new roles, while usually taking on an equitable share of work in a group setting. She enjoys working in small group activities. Olivia often encourages those in her colour house to do their work and to listen attentively. She participates in class by asking and responding to questions during the lessons. She is usually the first one in class to raise her hand and always has something relevant to add to the discussion. Olivia demonstrates initiative in class when studying all subjects by showing a positive interest in the activities presented. She has a natural curiosity when presented with new learning material that is refreshing to see. She frequently monitors her learning and regularly asks questions for clarification and to deepen her understanding. Olivia is encouraged to set short-term goals while striving daily to achieve them.

Joan routinely fulfills responsibilities and commitments within the learning environment. She regularly takes on the responsibility of cleaning up the classroom by sweeping the floor and tidying up around the room. She actively participates in class by asking and responding to questions. She is encouraged to raise her hand and wait to be called upon before speaking out. She has some difficulty resolving conflicts in socially acceptable ways. She is encouraged to develop strategies for resolving conflicts appropriately with her peers. Joan generally keeps a neat workspace and organizes her academic resources throughout the day and across subjects. She works consistently throughout the school day on all academic tasks. She contributes meaningfully to the group work and collaborative tasks that we complete in class. She is usually very interested in taking academic risks in her learning pursuits. She regularly seeks assistance when needed so that she fully understands challenging curriculum concepts. Joan is encouraged to work on cooperating with her peers and demonstrating a more respectful tone while interacting with others, especially during recess and unstructured times. She should continue working on being more empathetic towards her peers in social situations and cooperative activities as well. She should continue using classroom resources to help her during her work, such as dictionaries, textbooks, and classroom charts. Joan is encouraged to set short-term goals (daily and weekly) and strive to achieve them consistently.

Teaching Tip Tuesday Archive – Over 200 great, free resources for teachers

How Successful Teachers Lead

How_Successful_People_Lead_Cover

How Successful People Lead by John C. Maxwell

Teachers are a special kind of leader. We have to lead a classroom full of students who have very diverse needs and attitudes.

I thought reading this book might help me develop further as a leader in education. While it wasn’t written with teachers in mind, I think we can still learn a lot from the wisdom of leaders in business settings too.

Maxwell believes that there are 5 levels of leadership and that successful leaders work their way up to the top echelon.

5 Levels of Leadership

First Level – Position

Every leader starts in a position that relies solely on their job title. Every time, we start over in a new school, we start all over again on this bottom rung.

Second Level – Permission

After you have proved yourself somewhat, people will follow you because they like who you are and what you do. You have gained respect and earned their permission to lead.

Third Level – Production

People follow you because of what you have been able to accomplish at your school. This is a great one for coaches, music teachers, and anyone who runs an extra-curricular club. These accomplishments are quite visible in the school and people take notice.

Fourth Level – People Development

People follow you because of what you have done for them. Teaching is all about building relationships with students and parents. It is a tough job to get to this level as it takes time and personal attention to the student body (and not just the kids in your own class)

Fifth Level – The Pinnacle

According to the author, some people never reach this level. You can fall down at any level because of poor decisions, moving locations, and small failures. It is a constant building process to make your way up this ladder.

Assessment, Feedback, and Communication

Here’s a quote from the book about relates to feedback and purposeful assessment in the classroom. I have paraphrased it slightly to fit educational purposes.

“Our students should understand their mission. Good teacher never assume that their students understand the mission. Don’t take for granted that they know what you know or believe what you believe. Don’t assume they understand how their talents and efforts are supposed to contribute to the mission of the class and their own learning. Communicate it often.

Students, and their parents, should receive feedback about their performance. People always want to know how they are doing. If they are not succeeding, most of the time, they want to know how to make adjustments to improve and are willing to change if they are convinced it will help them win.”

I love the wording “win” here. Students of all ages want to win. What a great way to think about learning!

Learn All the Time

I constantly learn how to improve my own teaching by trying new methods, reading professional books, and even from books outside of education practice. I hope you have found this post useful. Come back next Tuesday for another dose of inspiration.

Teaching Tip Tuesday Archive – Over 200 great idea, tips, tricks, lessons, and inspiration for classroom teachers.

Northern Lights Art Project

Northern Lights KW
Photo credit – David Bebee, Kitchener Record

Ten years ago this week, I had to get some gas on the way to work. As I went in the store to pay, I noticed this brilliant photo on the front page of the newspaper. I was immediately inspired by this gorgeous image.

First, we don’t normally get to see the Northern Lights in my part of South Western Ontario, Canada. Secondly, I was scheduled to teach visual arts that day and thought this would be a great a timely piece to recreate.

Since then, I have done this lesson several times with many different classes in different cities. And it has always been a hit.

I even purchased an 8×10 photo of the image and have it framed in my living room. Did you know that newspapers provide that service?

no white space

Here is how we recreate the photo in my visual arts classes.

1) We use pencil crayons to create ribbons of colour across the entire page.

colour the whole page

2) Make sure that there is absolutely no white space. Once the entire background is drawn to show the colourful night-time sky, you are ready to colour the foreground.

student examples

3) Use a black crayon to draw a hill, tree, and any other thing you might want to add.

I never want to simply recreate an image in art class. I want my students to use their own imagination and create however they see fit (that is the point of art after all)

The key here is to press down on the black crayon to so that the foreground is solid and dark. The bottom right image above did the best job.

Teaching Tip Tuesday – great tips, tricks, lessons, and inspiration every week!

The Write Club – National Novel Writing Month at School

Participant-2014-NaNoWriMoNovember is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)

The goal is to write an entire novel in the course of 30 days. It’s a tough challenge that I have only participated in one year. I was able to win it though by completing my 50,000 word novel on time. It was quite the accomplishment and a lot of fun.

This year, I want to try something new. I have started “The Write Club” at my school. I have booked the computer lab during the first nutrition break every single day throughout the month. I have also booked it for an hour after school Tuesday – Thursday.

I have 30 students who have signed up for the challenge. I will be assisting them as a writing coach so I’m not sure I will have the chance to write as well. Hopefully, I will.

If this is something you’d like to try at your school, sign up as an educator in The Young Writer’s Program. 

There are great resources, including lesson plans, student workbooks, incentive prizes, and forums.

Why not start a writing club at your school?

If your classroom is participating in NaNoWriMo, I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.

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Weekly Classroom Newsletter

I have decided to start a weekly classroom newsletter to keep parents informed of what is happening in our classroom.

We have a 10-day week in my school, which means that I only have to design one of these every two weeks. And it really isn’t as much work as it sounds. I’ve already planned out the entire 19 weeks of learning for the year. This detailed long-range plan is pretty much never seen by anyone other than myself. This is a way to share with parents what exactly is happening. I think it’s worth the effort.

So here it is. My first weekly newsletter.

comic7 comic 8 comic9 comic10

Here is the plan for this week. It includes the topic of study for each subject area, along with curriculum expectations that we will be focusing on.

newsletter 2 comic11 comic12

Teaching Tip Tuesday – Your source for weekly teaching inspiration

Save Fred! Team-Building Activity

Here is a fun team-building activity for the classroom that I found on Pinterest.

It’s based around a story of a worm who can’t swim. His boat capsizes and his life jacket gets trapped under the boat. Luckily for him, however, he is safe on the top of it. And it is up to us to save him.

Set up

The only trick is that we are not allowed to touch the cup, life jacket, or Fred the Worm with our hands at all. We can, however use the paper clips to help us Save Fred!

The students follow the scientific method to complete the task and there is a nice package for this exercise that you can print out and photocopy for your students from Teachers Pay Teachers. The best part is that it is free.

And who doesn’t love playing with candy?

It’s a win-win!

paper clips only

One of my students tries to put the gummy ring on the worm and finds it quite difficult.

lifejacket on

Team-work is always the best way to get things done.

back in the boat

Mission Accomplished – Fred is back in the boat with his life jacket on.

Time to eat some gummy worms!

Teaching Tip Tuesday – your source for teaching inspiration

Reading Salad: A Hands-On Reading Demonstration

This is an amazing reading lesson that helps our students learn to think while they are reading. It makes the entire process visual as well.

To teach this lesson, you will need three bowls. Have a large empty salad bowl and label it “Real Reading Salad,” and then two smaller bowls labelled “Thinking” and “Text.”

Fill the “Text” bowl with red cards and the “Thinking” bowl with green cards.

Reading Salad

Start out by addressing the class,

“Kids are very good at pretending. Let’s pretend together that you are the teacher and I am the student. All of you teachers are going to listen as I read. Put on your teacher faces. . . Judging from your faces, you’ve noticed that teachers are very serious about reading. Ok teachers, concentrate now and listen as I read. I’m going to ask you to evaluate me as a reader.

I got this book from a publisher who wanted me to review it on my blog. It is a long book with no pictures and has some difficult words. It is a challenging text, but I’ll do my best as I read the first paragraph for you. Read it with good expression and at an appropriate rate. Ask the “teachers” to turn and talk about my reading. “You’ll give me my report card in a few moments.”

Then explain how back when you were in grade 3 that you could read quite well. But that you sometimes faked the teacher out. Tell them that you weren’t thinking. That you were just reading like a robot. It sounded good but thinking was missing.

“You can’t always tell just from listening to someone read. Do you know what I’m talking about? Have you ever done any robot or fake reading? Turn and talk.”

“Sometimes I read the words but I don’t know what I just read. This happens to me still at night before bed if I am really tired.

I just modeled fake reading, now I want to model real reading. Real reading is like a tossed salad. Have you noticed the three bowls sitting here? We are going to use these object to help us understand more about real reading. Notice the bowls are labeled. The large bowl is labeled “real reading salad” and the small bowls are “text” and “thinking” Just like a salad might be a mixture of lettuce and tomatoes, reading salad is a mixture of text and thinking. In the text bowl, there are red cards that say “text,” they are like the tomatoes. In the thinking bowl there are green cards that say “thinking,” they are like the lettuce. With your help, we will make reading salad while enjoying a great book.

To show you real reading, I am going to do something that might look a bit funny. I will point to the text when I am reading it and point to my head when I am thinking. That way you can see the difference. At the same time, we will be making salad.

Dont laugh at me

Pick two students to help. Point to the text and read the title, “Don’t Look at Me.” – text helper drops a card in the large bowl. Point to your head, “I am thinking this book is going to be about kids who make fun of other kids. I hate when that happens.” – thinking helper drops a card in the large bowl. Keep going this way as you read the picture book.

Read the book a second time but this time, stop as ask the students what they are thinking periodically and make a new salad. This time we will probably notice more green than red cars. That is how it supposed to be. There should be more thinking than text. Now we have been doing some real reading and we have been thinking about our thinking. There’s a name for that “metacognition” – add it to the word wall

Reading Salad final

Isn’t that a great visual to teach thinking while reading?

If you loved that, you should read Comprehension Connections: Bridges to Strategic Reading by Tanny McGreggor. It is an amazing book and a must have for anyone who teaches reading.

Comprehension Connections

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