Category Archives: teaching

Hula Hoops on the First Day of School!

I like to start off the first day of school by pushing all of the desks to the side of the room and setting up enough hula hoops for each student in my class.

hula hoop first day

I have been doing this for years now and I find it is a great way to start off the day. I have traditionally had a pencil and paper activity for the students to do as soon as they come into the room. This year, I decided to throw away the interest inventory and get them creating something instead.

hoop close up

I found this activity on Pinterest and thought it was a great idea. I added the caveat that the students would be sharing their creations in a little show and tell.

Doh Be Shy

I love this play on words, “Doh Be Shy. Open it up and make something”

It’s a stress-free activity that lets the students build and rebuild until it’s time to share.

I managed to find a Mega-Pack of Play-Doh for a great price too. I have kept the mats so this can also a rainy day recess activity this year too. Well worth the investment of 32 cans of modelling clay.

DD play doh

I started off the sharing session by saying, “My name is Mr. March and I made a Daredevil because he is my favourite super-hero. His logo is two inter-locking D’s.”

Each student shared their creations and I learned something about them in the process.

Next, we talk about personal space and how every person in the school is entitled to it. “Your personal space is akin to you standing in a hoop and no one else breaking that perimeter.” It is a really nice visual that we can refer back to throughout the year.

Hoop Venn Diagrams

I then move the students into groups of three to create Venn DIagrams of things they have in common with each other and some things that are unique to each group member.

You can learn a lot as a teacher about the interests of your students from this activity as well.

I had a lot more planned for the first day of school. It is important to over-plan. You can download my full day plan here. Stay tuned to this blog every Tuesday for more great teaching ideas.

Teaching Tip Tuesday Archive – 200 ideas and counting

Grade 2/3 Long Range Plan

I’m teaching a split class this year. That means I have to tailor my instruction to cover two different curriculums. That is a bit of a challenge.

I’ve been working hard on my long range plan so I will know exactly what I have to teach on a week by week basis throughout the entire school year.

Of course, this very detailed document is just a framework. A long range plan should be a living document. It should be adapted throughout the year as needed.

That being said, here is my first draft of my Grade 2/3 Long Range Plan. 

2-3 Long Range Plan

The first section lists all of the curriculum expectations for each grade. Many of the expectations are similar in nature. I have placed them side-by-side for every subject area.


This is a great resource for planning lessons. I can look at both curriculums at the same time and plan my lesson accordingly. It is so much easier than having to look at the large curriculum document and flipping back and forth from the Grade 2 to the Grade 3 expectations.

I also break down the units of study on a week-by-week basis. We operated on a 10-day cycle in my school board. That means that there are only 19 weeks in the year. That is not a lot of time if you don’t plan the entire year out in advance. Trust me!

2-3 week plan

I know that I might not be able to cover everything that I have planned for. There are always things that pop up and disrupt even the best of plans. But this gives me a framework of where I want to be each week.

If we run behind or get side-tracked throughout the year, I will adjust accordingly. That is why an annual teaching plan is really just a framework.

Download my Grade 2/3 Long Range Plan as a PDF file 

Download my Grade 2/3 Long Range Plan as a MS Word .doc

More Teaching Tips – Check right back here for every Tuesday for great tips, tricks, lessons, and free resources.

Classroom Management for Dummies

Welcome back to Teaching Tip Tuesdays!

School starts in two weeks and this video is something you might want to watch before you step back into the classroom. It is full of great ideas on managing behaviour and the challenges that come with being a teacher.

1. Focus on Creating Authentic Learning Experiences

Have a product-based classroom. Something that is based on composition and not just consumption of knowledge. It makes the classroom experience meaningful for all.

2. Only 3 Rules

Build your rules around these three concepts . . .

Lateness and preparation
Caring for Other

3. Model the Cray Cray

I want to make sure my students know that I have an objective and that it will not be tolerated for the students disrupt that. Model how you might react with a loud yell. This way, the students have heard it and you won’t have to do it again. Ideally, this will be the only time you raise your voice to that level all year.

4. Have a few delivery lines in your toolbox.

Be ready to use simple lines to acknowledge bad behaviour so it doesn’t disrupt your lesson at all.

5. Avoid Punitive Humiliation

When you put a student on the spot, you are essentially elevating the situation to where the student gets some classroom credibility. Take the student to the side and do your best to empower the child.

6. Don’t Interrupt Your Lesson

Bring in the bad behaviour to your lecture. It helps let students understand that your lesson is important and that we are not going to stop because of a small incident.

7. Engage Immediately

You need to have a very specific opening activity. Give them something important to do right away so as to avoid any time for them to be distracted or engage

8. Don’t Be a Tattle-Tale

Whenever possible, try to deal with that kid as a human being and deal with it inside the classroom.

9. Connect with Each Student

Find a way to connect with that specific student.

10. Never Take it Personally

You won’t win the argument. You will lose that battle and it will negatively affect your reputation.

Play the game smart, play to win, and never take it personally.

Please come back next week for another great tip you can use in your teaching practice this year.

4 Ideal Apps for Creative Writers

Ideal AppsAccording to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the US, the employment opportunities for writers and authors is projected to grow 3 percent from by 2022, slower than the average for all occupations. Despite this fact, strong competition is expected for full-time jobs because of the attraction of the occupation.

Writers and authors provide written content for advertisements, books, magazines, movie and television scripts, songs, and online publications. Although it sounds fun, creative writing is one of the most challenging jobs out there. Even the most professional writers still struggle to think of story ideas to put down on paper.

Thanks to the rise of digital technology, various apps have been developed to make everyone’s jobs easier even that of a creative writer’s. This article will give you a roundup of some of the most amazing creative writing apps on the market.

Some of them are being used by teachers to support and enhance creative writing lessons for their students.  Teachers can also use them to stay organized in all aspects of their career and personal life as well.

Here are 4 Ideal Apps you can try . . .

EVERNOTE (Android, iOS, Windows)

Evernote is the perfect app for storing research. It syncs audio recordings, photos, scans, and text notes between devices making them searchable. Evernote is the ideal for your on-the-go needs. The free app has many features but if you want to keep a history of your notes, it is best to purchase the premium account.


Index Card is for writers who believe in outlining and jotting down notes. You can also quickly shuffle them around a virtual corkboard to fix structural problems.


This editing app puts an end to the traditional way of editing a manuscript that involves massive amounts of paper. Through GoodReader, all you have to do is save a PDF and mark up the document with a stylus. It lets you interact with the text as if it were a printed page.


The Brainstormer is an app that spins a wheel to randomly combine plots, subjects and styles. For fun, you can even add your own scenarios, if you don’t like the included wheel options.


When using these apps, it is important to make sure to check your battery life to avoid losing essential data. According to experts from mobile gaming app, it is ideal to adjust the brightness of your screen to a more suitable level, to lessen the energy consumption. This way you can prolong your mobile device’s battery power.

If you have other writing app suggestions, feel free to leave a comment below.



3 Tips for Using the Computer Lab Effectively

Computer Lab TipsThere are some cool teachers on Tumblr, Twitter, and Pinterest. I suggest signing up for these sites. You never know what inspiration you will find there.  I know I come across great ideas on them all the time. 

Here are some great computer lab tips from Classroom Chaos.


Scout Out the Computer Lab Before Taking the Class There

By doing this I discovered that 3 out of 36 computers were not functioning or missing something. (1) A computer was missing a mouse, (2) another would not turn on at all, and (3) I could not reach the wiring on another computer tower because it was under the desk and against the wall but I knew the tower was not connected to the monitor. Upon discovering this, I removed the chairs from these computers and wrote down on sticky notes describing the malfunction.

This preparation served two purposes: to deviate from students wasting time trying to make something that does not operate to work and to inform the next teacher who arrives in the computer lab that the following computers do not work and that it occurred BEFORE my the class started.

Students are Responsible for their Workstation

Oh, and I did not assign seating arrangements like I used to. Instead, I had them sit where they wanted and held them responsible for their learning space by having them sign the paper that was taped at their station. This will also help if a student should accidentally (or purposely) damage the computer or save something inappropriate (teens like to change the desktop images) and I would know who it was, or you can look at this as a preventative measure.

We are here to Work and Learn

Some students expect computer lab time to be a respite from any work or responsibility. This is something that we can overcome.

. . . with a bit of learning experience from trial and error, I have learned to teach in the computer lab and my students understand that they are here to work. 

Great ideas that will help your time in the computer lab run more smoothly.

Teaching Tip Archive – over 200 great ideas!

3 Reasons Why Teachers Should Make Regular Calls Home

Sunshine calls a great idea, but one that I have never fully embraced over the dozen years that I have been teaching.

It’s just so time-consuming to call the parents of every single child that I teach.

I follow Chris Pearce on Tumblr because he has some great insights into teaching and he does so in comic form.  He is an advocate for regular phone calls home and here’s why.

Teachable Moments: A Journal Comic by Chris Pearce
Teachable Moments: A Journal Comic by Chris Pearce

3 Reasons Why Teachers’s Should Make Regular Calls Home

Here are 3 reasons you should call home on a regular basis.

1) Parents are used to having an adversarial relationship with staff and administration at school.

It’s up to us to try to build that bridge between home and school, to make it a good relationship where we can communicate with each other and help the students work to their potential.

2) It’s always bad news.

Most teachers only get in touch when Jane is flunking or Johnny lights the desk on fire. They see that school phone number on the caller ID and they think “Oh god…” but it doesn’t have to be that way!

3) Start the year with a good first impression

Make your first round of phone calls at the beginning of the year. Make them “get to know you” phone calls where you say “Hey, I’m your son/daughter’s teacher this year. S/he seems like a very nice kid and I’m looking forward to working with her/him.” One call in September can make your next seven to eight months a whole lot easier.

How do we find the time? 

If we divide up our classes and into four groups and make an effort to call one group of parents a week, we would be making a monthly call home. Ten times to communicate with parents over the course of the year could indeed do wonders.

Teaching Tip Tuesday – weekly tips, tricks, lessons, resources, and inspiration for teachers everywhere!

GPS – The Road to Musical Success

Grade Performance StepsWhen I started teaching music, I was really disappointed with the method book. It didn’t seem like my students were learning much as we worked through the various lines of music.

I searched for an alternative and found the excellent Band Fundamentals in Easy Steps. It was everything I was looking for in a method book and I was really excited to start out this school year using it.

I was really surprised to find out that my students didn’t like this book though. I wanted to find something that they would buy into. Music that they would be excited to play and learn.

That’s when I discovered GPS – Grade Performance Steps.

It’s a resource developed by OMEA (Onatrio Music Educator’s Association) and it is designed around twenty tasks. As the students work through the tasks, the collect certificates and track their progress.

I connected with a fellow music teacher in my area and he hasn’t used a method book in years. He uses the GPS program and supplements it with band pieces.

Since, we are just starting out Term 2, it seemed like a good time to switch gears and adopt his approach.

I decided to split up the percussion book. The original file had percussionists moving between the snare drum, the full kit, and the xylophone. I have a few students who only play xylophone so I created a Bells book just for them. I also made a book just for drums.

The great thing about this program is that every student gets his or her own book. They can mark it up however they see fit. They can keep track of their progress and move at their own pace. I will write more about that in a future edition of Teaching Tip Tuesday. 

Download the PDF books for each instrument below.

GPS Year One: 0 – Conductor
GPS Year One: 1 – Flute
GPS Year One: 2 – Clarinet
GPS Year One: 3 – Alto Sax
GPS Year One: 4 – Tenor Sax
GPS Year One: 5 – Trumpet
GPS Year One: 6 – French Horn
GPS Year One: 7 – Trombone
GPS Year One: 7 – Baritone / Euphonium
GPS Year One: 8 – Tuba
GPS Year One: 9 – Percussion
GPS Year One: 9 – Drum Kit / Snare
GPS Year One: 9 – Bells / Xylophone

Teaching Tip Tuesday – great resources to help you in the classroom every week!

A Day Plan Template to Use for Your Lessons

This is what my day plan looks like for today.

Lesson Plan Template

I always write my lesson plans in a format that will allow anyone to come in and teach my lessons if need be.

You can see that my rotary classes have a name and a room number written right on the template. The coolest thing about having a computer template like that, is it saves a lot of time every week. I don’t have to worry about writing specific details for a supply teacher, they are there every day on my regular plan.

I print this plan tomorrow’s plan before I leave for the day, and secure it to my day plan clipboard. On this clipboard, I also have relevant information such as all of my seating plans and my weekly schedule.

I have made up a template for all 10 days of the weekly cycle. Every week, I just load up last week’s document and fill in my lessons for that day. It doesn’t take a lot of time to do and keeps me nice and organized.

I hope you have found this week’s tip useful.

You can download the PDF document

or the MS Word document

and then make them your own.

Teachers helping teachers is what this series is all about.

Teaching Tip Tuesday – your source for great ideas, lessons, resources, inspiration, and much more.

The Last Ten Minutes of a Lesson are Very Important

Book of Plenary

How to Teach: The Book of Plenary by Phil Beadle

I’ve read dozens of books on teaching and most of them are fairly straight-forward. It’s hard to describe, but this one is written with a sarcastic, witty, dark kind of tone. It sets it apart from other educational books, that’s for sure.

The author admits that this subject is pretty boring. He mentions another book on the topic with this rather unflattering opening, it’s “an interesting read, if your idea of an interesting read is something that is deeply and unambiguously uninteresting.”

That being said, consolidating learning at the end of a lesson is immensely helpful for students. And it’s something that we don’t regularly do in the classroom.

We need to reconsider how we spend the last ten minutes of a lesson. If we leave things hanging, or simply move on to the next subject, we are missing a key ingredient in student learning.

And all it takes is ten minutes.

You can easily “chunk down the ten minutes so that you give three minutes thinking time in groups, a couple of minutes collecting these ideas – during which the teacher collects, reframes, rephrases, and asks further questions about the learning – and then a further two minutes to go back to the groups and play with the ideas they have heard or the questions the teacher has raised.”

Phil Beadle shares with us three dozen activities we can do in the final ten minutes of a lesson to consolidate learning.

He also cautions us that sometimes new techniques don’t always work right away, but that doesn’t mean they can work or they don’t have value.

He says, “If a new teaching technique doesn’t work the first time, then you have to commit to do it another three times at least. If it doesn’t work after practice and review, then perhaps it isn’t a great idea.”

Practice and review – isn’t that the way we learn anything?

Sharing a learning goal at the start of a lesson is also very important.

“If you don’t tell students what they are going to learn, they are unable to articulate what they are learning (unless they are very bright indeed)”

I learned a few things from this book that I am eager to employ in the classroom. I will share some of the ideas with you once I have tried them out.

Stay tuned to Teaching Tip Tuesdays for great teaching ideas, tips, tricks, and lessons every week!

A Great School Doesn’t Need a Building

A great school doesn’t need a building.

It just needs students eager to learn, dedicated teachers, and a little help from the community.

I saw this on Tumblr and was completely blown away by what these teachers have created.

They built a school under a bridge in India.

Free School India

It is an unusual school in an unusual location and is run by an unusual teacher.

Free School India2

Rajesh Kumar is a shopkeeper by profession but spends hours every morning teaching around 80 children from the poorest of the poor in India’s capital.

The 43-year-old visited the construction of the Delhi transit station a few years ago and was disturbed by the sight of many children playing at the site instead of attending school.

Free School India3

When he questioned the parents working at the sites they all said there were no schools in the vicinity and no one cared.

Consequently, his open-air class room was born – between pillars and beneath the tracks of the Delhi transit system, known as the Metro.

Free School India4

Every few minutes a train passes above, the children unperturbed by its sounds.

There are no chairs or tables and the children sit on rolls of polystyrene foam placed on the rubble.

Three rectangular patches of wall are painted black and used as a blackboard.

Anonymous donors have contributed cardigans, books, shoes and stationery for the children, as their parents cannot afford them.

One unnamed individual sends a bag full of biscuits and fruit juice for the pupils every day – another incentive for the children to turn up for their studies.

I will be sharing this post with my class today. I think we need to realize how lucky we are to have great buildings, technology, and all of the resources we have at hand in our public schools here in Canada.

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

8 Tips for Young Musicians

Here are 8 tips you can use in your music classroom. I hope they will inspire the young musicians in your class.

I think using the term “young musician” is very important too. Some students won’t see themselves as musicians whatsoever. They won’t feel comfortable playing an instrument at first. They might stop trying. That’s where tip one comes in.

1. Believe in Yourself

“We choose to stop playing, or not to begin, because we don’t believe our music is good enough, which must mean we’re not good enough. And never will be good enough. Ever.”

Of course, this simply isn’t true, which brings us to Tip # 2.

2. Play Badly (At First)

“We must grant ourselves permission to play badly. Why? Because we’re supposed to play badly in the development stage.”

No one can play an instrument perfectly right away, and shouldn’t be expected to either. There is a learning curve and a process to becoming a musician. Play badly at first and play often.

3. Work Through the Material

Get it done first—get it right later. Turn your back on your inner prosecutor and declare each effort good enough for now. The defense rests.”

Keep playing and work through your method book. Learn some songs on your own. Don’t worry if it’s not good enough. Yet.

4. You Don’t Have to Master Everything

“Even superstars rarely excel in all areas; most of us compensate for weakness in one area with strength in another.”

Maybe you can’t sight read music very well. Perhaps you can pick up tunes by ear. Try playing a familiar tune without using any printed music. Learn musical elements step by step, but start with what you are good at.

5. Everyone is Creative. You are too!

“I believe that everybody is creative, and everybody is talented. I just don’t think that everybody is disciplined. That is the rare commodity” – Al Hirschfeld

Practice. Play regularly. With the proper discipline you will become a competent musician.

6. Put in the Work

“Without discipline, we may fail to seek out or recognize opportunity, what talent we possess means little. As Thomas Edison said, ‘Most people miss opportunity because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work.’ Development represents the supreme act of discipline because it not only looks like work; it is work.”

It is work. But it can also be fun. Find something you like playing and keep working on it. Memorize your scales, work on specific songs.

7. Everything is Difficult Until It Becomes Easy

Ask yourself: What do I do regularly now that once seemed impossible? What made it possible? And remember that everything is difficult until it becomes easy.

8. Inspiration Can Come From Anywhere

The passages in this post came from a book on creative writing. I paraphrased them slightly to fit with the theme of music as opposed to writing.


As I read through the book, the above quotes really spoke to me. I immediately saw the connection between what writers do and what musicians do. I knew that my students could learn from these pearls of wisdom. I hope yours can too.

Teaching Tip Tuesdays – Inspiration and resources for teachers. Right here. Every week.

A Free Method Book For Beginning Music Classes

When I first started teaching music, I used the resources that were on hand at my school. The method book we had was Standard of Excellence and I wasn’t really happy with it. Almost all of the pieces used the same five notes, were in the same key, and it was rare that new music elements were added.

I came across another method book near the end of the school year. As I flipped through the pages, I was really impressed with it. I loved how the lessons were sequential, easy to follow, and highlighted key skills on every page.

The only problem was that this method book was published in 1960 and my copies were fairly old and beaten up. Some of the books had writing in them, some were missing pages, dog-eared, or stained.

I knew that I wanted to use this method book for my instruction this year, but I also knew the condition the books were in would turn a few students off. I couldn’t order new copies since they were long out of print and I didn’t have the budget to order a new method book either.

So I photocopied each book onto ledger-sized paper and stapled them in the middle. I laminated covers that were easily identifiable by instrument and presto, just like that I had a new method book.

Music Book Bin

Band Fundamentals in Easy Steps by Maurice Taylor is an excellent resource. By Lesson 5, we are already getting first and second endings, slurs, melody and harmony, solos and tuttis.

The only problem with this book is that the saxophone are required to play notes that are lower than those of their Concert Bb scale. As such, they need to learn more notes than any of the other instruments, which is a challenge when we play beginning sheet music that uses the more familiar Bb scale notes that they haven’t been practising by going through the method book lessons.

That being, said, I think this is a small problem that is easily overcome by using Bb scale warm-ups on a weekly basis.

As such, Band Fundamentals in Easy Steps has become my method book of choice for my music classes. You can print off the PDF files for each book and take them into a copy shop. They can easily run them through a copier to print them off on ledger-sized paper so they are double-sided and can then be folded over to form a book quickly and easily.

Book 1: Alto Saxophone
Book 1: Clarinet
Book 1: Drums
Book 1: Euphonium / Baritone
Book 1: Flute
Book 1: French Horn
Book 1: Tenor Saxophone
Book 1: Trombone
Book 1: Trumpet
Book 1: Tuba

Book 1: Conductor’s Guide

Keeping a PDF version on your computer is a great idea as well. This way, you can project the piece of music you are working on directly to your Smartboard. I do this all the time and find it very useful. I hope you will too.

Teaching Tip Archive – great tips, lessons, and resources every Tuesday

Music Room Storage Solutions

Last week I gave you a brief tour of my music classroom.

Today, I want to expand that to show you how I store reeds and method books.

Class Reed Storage

I got these small drawer units from the dollar store. I also picked up some sticker labels so each class could have its own drawer.

Each drawer is detachable and since I only have 7 classes that I teach, I gave one drawer to a fellow music teacher so she could have a drawer for each of her 5 music classes.

Class Reeds

I make sure that each student writes his or her name on the plastic reed case. The reeds are stored here and not in the individual instrument cases. This is important because I have had times where a specific instrument doesn’t get returned on time and since the reeds are stored here, students can play a different instrument if need be without having to get a new reed.

This is how I store the method books.

Each bin is numbered and hosts the books for a few different instruments.

I really love this method book. It is called Band Fundamentals in Easy Steps. It is long out of print but it is such an excellent resource that I had to refreshen my collection.

The books I had were old and falling apart. So I photocopied them, laminated covers, and made them easy to identify by instrument. I will share this precious resource with you in an upcoming edition of Teaching Tip Tuesday. Stay tuned to this blog for more.

The Teaching Tip Archive – close to 200 great tips, tricks, lessons, and resources.

How to Set Up Your Music Class

This is my music classroom.

As you can see, I keep a clear aisle down the middle of the room.

This is especially important when I need to go help a student with an instrument problem.

I set up the chairs to form three rows of five on either side of the room. Each row has three music stands but a few extra stands are off to the side of the room if needed.

I really love this percussion section. The bass drum is huge and a little bit ridiculous. I don’t use it very often in my regular music classes because it is so loud and booming. But the drum kit is absolutely gorgeous.

I set up a keyboard section. The closet one belongs to the school, the one in the middle is the first keyboard I ever bought. It is a Yamaha PSR-510 and it cost me close to $1,000 back in the early 90s. Times sure have changed.

I found that air organ at a thrift shop earlier this year for $4.99. It has chord buttons for the left hand and has a great sound. I need to find a more appropriate stand for it, but it works for now.

I’ve been doing some collaborative improvisation with one of my classes and I also include two xylophones in this section. I will write a post about that unit very soon.

I will also be writing one about the routines and procedures I have in place for my music program. So make sure you come back for more Teaching Tip Tuesday posts!

And don’t forget to check the Teaching Tip Tuesday Archive for more great teaching ideas.

Long Range Plan Template

I am in the process of writing my Long Range Plan for the new school year.

I divide the document up into 5 sections.

1. Affective Goals

I want my students to learn a lot more than the curriculum. As such, my three goals for this section have not changed over the past several years.

2. Academic Goals

In this section, I copy and paste the curriculum expectations from the Ministry of Education. I do this so I do not have to check the curriculum guides throughout the year. Everything is in one place and it helps keep me focused on what the students need to accomplish over the course of the year.

3. Year at a Glance Plans

I list the topic or focus for the month and the resources I will be using in section. I also write down the expectation codes I will be covering in each unit.

4. Week at a Glance Plans

We operate on a ten-day week in my school board. By breaking down the monthly plans into weekly plans, I make sure that I can move through the content I need to at a good pace.

I also like being able to quickly see what needs to be accomplished every week.

5. Expectations by Term

We have moved to a two-term school year but I find it easier to divide the year into three portions for ease of planning. As I fill in the monthly plans, I move down to this section of my document and account for each expectation. This ensures that every expectation is met over the course of the year.

I have written about this topic before. If you didn’t find exactly what you were looking for in this article, please read my previous post on the topic, Teaching Tip Tuesday – Long Range Plans.

This template should be a great starting point in writing your annual plan. You can download it for free and customize it however you see fit. If you have a plan you’d like to share, please contact me, or leave a comment below. Thanks!

Download The Long Range Plan Template (MS Word document)

Juliet Lives – A Play Written by My Students

Romeo and Juliet (Claire Danes and Leonardo Di

I worked with a group of students in my class to write and produce a short dramatic work.

We were brainstorming ideas and one of my students suggested doing a version of Much Ado About Nothing. I thought that was a great idea but the rest of the students in her group weren’t exactly excited about it. So, I suggested Romeo and Juliet and for a different spin on it I said, “What if Juliet didn’t die?”

I originally was thinking that she would stab herself like she did in the original play but it wouldn’t kill her. So then she goes skydiving without a parachute and still doesn’t die. She then tries killing herself in all sorts of novel ways.

Admittedly, there isn’t much a story there to perform on the stage. Thankfully, my students realized this problem and didn’t entertain my original idea for very long.

They knew that Romeo poisoned himself over his grief in the original play and they decided to riff on that for their version. This time, Romeo gets poisoned and Juliet’s friends try to discover who the murdered him.

I was so impressed with their story. It works so well on the stage. It is full of suspense and humour and gives them nice parts to act out. They even played music between all of the scene changes. It was a beautiful performance and they were so into it because they wrote it.

Here is the opening scene . . . 

Narrator: “Two households, both alike in dignity, in fair Verona, where we lay our scene. This time though, Verona is the name of the small café where Romeo and Juliet are having a nice date. But unbeknownst to the young lovers, someone poisoned Romeo’s drink while he was indisposed and while Juliet was distracted on the phone.”
(Romeo enters, takes a drink, and falls down dead.)
Juliet: “No, Romeo!” (She tries to revive him)
Narrator: “When Juliet can’t revive him, she takes a knife from the table and . . .”
(Juliet stabs herself and falls down beside Romeo.)
Narrator: “And never was there a tale of more woe than that of Juliet and her Romeo”
(The surgeon enters, checks Romeo’s pulse, and moves on to Juliet and starts attending to her.)
Surgeon: “She’s still alive.”
Narrator: “Is he?”
Surgeon: “Who said that?”
Narrator: “Me. I’m the narrator.”
Surgeon, “Oh, okay”
Narrator: “Is he still alive?”
Surgeon: “No, no. He’s long gone.”
Narrator: “This isn’t the Romeo and Juliet story I remember.”
Surgeon: “This is a modern spin of the famous tale. They didn’t have the best medicine back then.”
Narrator: “That makes sense. So moving along. Juliet wakes up at the surgeon’s office.”

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Try Guided Script Writing with Your Students

Try having your students write and produce their own short plays. It’s a great way to tie in Language Arts and Drama, while having your students work cooperatively in small groups.

Teaching Tip Tuesday Archive (over 100 useful tips, tricks, lessons, and resources)

Summer’s Gone Lesson Plan

“Summer” by Buffalo Tom is a great song to use in the classroom at the start of the school year.

It’s a song that always make me sad that summer is coming to an end. I play it every Labour Day weekend as I prepare to go back to school.

This year, I used the song as a listening activity for my instrumental music classes. I even developed a great resource worksheet package to go with it. Even better, this resource can be used for any musical selection you would like your students to respond to.

I adapted the concept of Literature Circles to fit musical selections as opposed to text ones. As such, we have Musical Circles.

I have three rows of five students on either side of the classroom. My seating plan looks like this

x x x x x            x x x x x
x x x x x            x x x x x
x x x x x            x x x x x

Each grouping is assigned one of these jobs.

  1. Discussion Director – develops open-ended questions that will promote discussion within your group.
  2. Connector – explores the connections between what you hear and your personal experiences, connections to other songs or musicians, and/or to global events or issues
  3. Illustrator – creates something visual about this musical selection. You can use a picture, sketch, comic, graphic organizer, chart, or any other visual representation. Consider choosing a part of the musical selection that created strong visual images in your mind as you listened.
  4. Facilitator – helps the group function smoothly and productively. 
  5. Passage Picker – chooses a portion of the musical selection that you felt was particularly interesting or significant.
  6. Recorder – to record the main points of today’s discussion. Try to record at least one point that each group member makes. Your notes may be in point form. Just remember that you will be asked to share this list at the end of today’s music circle.

Download Music Circles worksheet package

Once each row of students is familiar with their job, we listen to the song together. I also provide them with a copy of the lyrics.

Press play and follow along with the lyrics.

If you cannot see the audio controls, listen/download the audio file here

Sight unseen, sadder seas
Summer song sung all along
Dragged across the seven seas
To the beach come follow me

Summer’s gone a summer song
You’ve wasted every day, every day

Cellophane, a grandma’s town
Summer’s letters on the ground
Seven pins, the fall begins
When the leaves burn, summer ends

Summer’s gone a summer song
You’ve wasted every day, every day
Summer’s gone, can’t wipe it off my hands
Write it in the sand, in the sand

Where’ve my heroes gone today?
Mick and Keith and Willie Mays
Broken windows trails outside
I can take you for a ride

Summer’s gone a summer song
You’ve wasted every day, every day
Summer’s gone, can’t wipe it off my hands
Write it in the sand, in the sand
In the sand

Summer’s gone a summer song
You’ve wasted every day, every day
Summer’s gone, can’t wipe it off my hands
Write it in the sand, in the sand
In the sand
In the sand
In the sand
In the sand

Then give the students time to complete their worksheet. They can discuss with the students in their row to get ideas, inspiration, and help in completing their job.

After that number the students according to where they are sitting.

1 2 3 4 5         1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5         1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5         1 2 3 4 5

Have them move to their new groups, play the song as they move, and then have them discuss and share their work. Each group now has one person fulfilling each job. They should have something to say and hopefully the “Recorder” will get a lot of great ideas written down.

Music Circles Worksheet Package

I hope you find this lesson and resource useful.

Thank you for joining me for this Teaching Tip Tuesday series.

Teaching Tip – Standardized Testing

Welcome to Teaching Tip Tuesday!

Every week I share with you a tip that I hope you will find useful in your teaching.

You can visit the Teaching Tips Archive to see all of the tips in the order I have posted them over the years. Please check that page as I will continue to update it every week with the latest Teaching Tip.

This page is all about Standardized Testing. It will include tips about how to instruct our students on taking tests such as the E.Q.A.O. and other such tests.

Please bookmark this page and come back often. I will update it with any new tip I publish that has to do with testing.

You might also want to check my Pinterest page for more great teaching ideas.

I hope you enjoy these Teaching Tips.

EQAO test

Please Note – This will be the only Teaching Tip for the month. It’s summer holidays and I need the break. As such, I will be running posts on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays this month. I will resume Teaching Tip Tuesdays and my regular blogging schedule in late August. Thank you!

Reflect Now to Improve Your Teaching Next Year

The school year comes to a close next week and I am already thinking about next year.


This is the best time to reflect on our teaching practice. We can look closely at the things that went right, what went wrong, and what we can improve on for the new school year.

I had a new assignment this past year and I have to admit that I didn’t do nearly as good a job as I should have.

I bumbled through the best I could and I learned a lot along the way. It was around March Break where I finally thought, “I have this figured out now.” I tried to implement a few changes to the classroom routine at that point but many of my students had a hard time adjusting. They were set in their ways and weren’t as eager as I was to streamline and improve things.

I am returning to the same assignment next year and I know now what I need to do differently to make things run smoother. I know what changes I need to implement on Day 1 in September. And you probably do to.

1) Make Lists

If something didn’t work for you this year, make a list of things you’d like to change.

I know that I want to have my music classroom set up a little differently next year. One day a week, I am going to use centres so I can use small group instruction to differentiate learning.

I am going to make sure I set up the classroom with five rows of three on either side of the room so that there will be a middle aisle for me and the students to move around in. I will be explaining these ideas in more detail in a Teaching Tip Tuesday post about specifically about teaching music. Stay tuned for that.

2) Use Technology 

I already use a lot of technology including the Smartboard, Clickers, Finale, Audacity, and Smart Music. But next year, I plan on flipping my classroom (in a fashion.) I will be recording some video lessons this summer. This way I can work with a small group in person but also run another small group at the same time via video.

3) Create a Detailed Long Range Plan

A year plan can be a living document. You don’t have to write one and then leave it alone. You can modify it, add to it, remove things, switch things around.

First, create one by looking specifically at the curriculum expectations. Then decide the best ways you can teach those expectations and motivate students at the same time. Decide on units, themes, and the time frame you want to accomplish everything over the course of a school year.

4) Speak to Students’ Interest and Needs

Many of our students aren’t interested in big band or classical music. As such, I plan on using pop music and songs they actually know more often next year.

Don’t Stop There

I have a lot of ideas for the new school year. I am writing them down and I am starting to work on my year plan already. My program is going to be so much better next year.

That’s the mark of a good teacher. Taking the time to reflect and being motivated to improving student motivation and learning.

I won’t be taking this summer off. I will be reading, writing, planning, and playing the instruments.

Do you have any ideas or tips you’d like to share?

Please leave a comment below!

Exams, Grades, and Marks Miss the Point

This spoken word artist captures what is wrong with education today.

Suli Breaks really makes some great points in that piece. .

I especially like what he has to say about timelines. We have artificial deadlines in school and some students truly need more time to complete a task. I shared a video a few weeks back that dealt with that same topic in comparison to skateboarding. It’s another brilliant video on education that I highly recommend.

I also don’t put any stock into standardized one-size fits all testing. I don’t think school should be about marks at all. I think we need better ways to motivate and celebrate learning and accomplishment in school.

While I agree with most of the thins Suli Breaks has to say in this video, there are a few points I need to argue.

I really believe that mathematics teach us a lot more than equations and theories. Sure, we may never use a particular advanced math skill in our entire lives, but some of us might. You can never know for sure where life is going to take you.

That being said, I can honestly admit that most of us won’t use the math we were taught in school in any real and purposeful way. So why take it?

I actually have a good answer for you. Math teaches us to look at problems, to apply a variety of methods, to tackle something that isn’t inherently readable, to make sense of it, to explain it, and to communicate our understanding. These are skills that everyone uses everyday.

I agree that we can manifest these skills in other ways and that as educators we should strive to do so in our classrooms. But we don’t need to discard mathematics in our revised curriculums.

I think it behooves us all to learn about things we don’t like, to expand our knowledge and experience, to try new things, to fail, to make mistakes, to persevere, to muddle through, to succeed, to be rewarded, to work with others, and to value hard work and education. These are the things we should be seeing in schools on a daily basis.

Visit the Teaching Tip Tuesday Archive for great tips, lessons, commentary, links, projects, assignments, and other things you can use in your teaching practice and in your classrooms.