Category Archives: Teaching Tip Tuesdays

Paperless Classroom Solutions

I am teaching a Grade 11 Communications Technology class this term. It is my first time teaching anything like this. The students are creating websites, making photo edits, producing, recording, and editing audio and video files, and other digital projects. As such, I thought it would be a great idea to have a paperless classroom this term. This is what I tried.

Edmodo

This is a platform made specifically for teachers and students. It looks like Facebook and is pretty easy to use. Only your students have access to the page and they have to sign up using a code that the website provides for you.

I have used it for almost two months now but I think I am going to stop using it for the simple fact that posts get buried in the timeline easily. This happens in Facebook too. Edmodo has modeled itself on the Facebook platform and I don’t think it is the best fit for education.

Google Drive

Google Drive is a great solution for sharing files with students. It is easy to organize your files into folders and you can choose how to share them. You can invite people via email or share a link for anyone to access the files.

Right now, I only have one folder set up for all of the classroom assignments. I also attached the class syllabus here.

Clicking on the Assignment folder will give you access to the subfolders for each assignment. I number and title every assignment so it easy to keep track of everything.

When you click on an assignment, you get all the materials needed to complete it. The word document is there for students to download and edit. They can then submit their work in a .doc file and I can add comments and send it back to them. It’s a great way to target feedback and keep digital records of student work.

Email

Even though I use Gmail for pretty much all of my email communication, I make sure I only use my school email account to interact with students. This is just good practice and gives you protection as a teacher

Rubrics

I have been saving the rubrics and comments I make to each student in a PDF file that I store in a folder on my computer entitled “TGJ3M Portfolios.” Every student has his or her own folder and it serves as a portfolio of their work and marks.

Student Websites

Each student in my class created a blog for the first assignment of the term. Much of the work I want them to do can be completed there so they don’t have to hand in any papers or email me assignments. It saves us all a lot of time.

What Do You Do in Your Paperless Classroom?

I’d love to hear what tools and strategies you are using, please leave a comment below.

Teaching Tip Archive

Visit the Teaching Tip Tuesdays archive for over 200 great tips, tricks, and lessons from my classroom to yours. Teachers helping teachers is what it is all about.

Website Design Assignment

This is the third assignment I gave my students for TGJ3M – Communications Technology. It builds off the skills we have been learning so far this term. First, we looked closely at the five different types of logos and collected examples of each. Then, we created a fictional media company and designed a logo for it. Now, we are going to use that logo to build a functional website.

Here are details for the first two projects . . .

Assignment 1 – Collecting and Analyzing Logos

Assignment 2 – Designing a Logo

and the details for the third project . . .

Assignment 3 – Website Design Part 1 – PDF, MS Word

Teaching Tip Tuesdays – over 200 great tips, tricks, and lessons from my classroom to yours

Logo Design Assignment (Teaching Tip)

This is the second assignment I gave my students for TGJ3M – Communications Technology. In it, the students create a personal media company and design a logo for their brand.

This will be used in the website they will be designing in the next unit. My goal is to have as close to a paperless class as possible. Every student will have a website for their fictional media company. This will serve as a digital portfolio of all the work they complete this term. This way, I can simply check their blog every step of the way and nothing has to be physically handed in.

I showed them how to use various design programs. Inkscape is a free program that is similar to Illustrator and has several useful tutorial videos on how to use it such as this one.

Last lesson, the students collected examples of the five types of logos. For this assignment, they will create a logo of each type for their brand. The first step is coming up with a name for a company. Keep in mind that we will be doing photography, animation, audio and video recording and editing, and website design. Possible names could be _______ Media   or ________ Productions or something completely novel.

Resources

Logo Design Assignment – MS Word or PDF

I will be sharing the unit plan and complete lesson plans for this entire semester in future editions of Teaching Tip Tuesdays. So stay tuned!

The 5 Types of Logos (Lesson Plan)

It’s been a long time since I posted a Teaching Tip Tuesday article. I have been meaning to get back into the swing of things again. I’m sorry for the absence.

I am teaching a new course this term and am very exicted about it. The class is TGJ3M – Communications Technology. It covers web design, animation, photography, sound and film production and editing, and more.

I started off the year with a unit on logo design. This is the first lesson of the unit.

I will post the unit plan and individual lessons over the next several weeks. So stay tuned!

Here is a brief summary of the lesson.

Powerpoint Presentation – Go through the 5 different types of logos (Phonetic, Abstract, Phonetic Abstract, Symbolic, and Pictogram) illustrated on the PowerPoint slides.

Importance of Colour – Discuss choosing colours for businesses, colour branding, and the psychology of colours. Work through the remaining slides.

Analyzing Logos Assignment – Show the students how to download the MS Word file to complete the first assignment. Show them how to copy and paste logos into the correct column and how to write two jot notes for each one.

Free Teaching Resources 

Analyzing Logos Assignment – Word doc or PDF file

5 Logo Types and the Psychology of Colour for Branding – PowerPoint Presentation

Teaching Tip Tuesday Archive – over 200 great tips, tricks, and lessons, from my classroom to yours.

Sonya Sahni and the First Grade

Sonya Sahni and the First Grade: Its International Day! by Soma Mandal and Tim Williams

Having a foot in two different worlds can be difficult for anyone. Even more so for a kid trying to figure out how to fit in with her friends at school and please her parents at home. Sonya tries her best  to do just that in this bright, colourful picture book.

Sonya doesn’t like that her parents push her Indian culture on her. She wants to assimilate into American life and not have to worry about traditional clothes and food that looks and smells different from her peers.

She doesn’t understand that it’s important to acknowledge who she is. She doesn’t have to give up her heritage to fit in at all. To help her see this, her teacher decides to celebrate all of the cultures in the class on International Day. The students fly two flags that day. Sonya sports an Indian flag in one hand and an American one in the other. Her fellow students do the same thing with flags of their ancestry.

The teacher worked with parents to make sure different foods were available for everyone to try. Sonya saw all sorts of different foods that didn’t look like the regular lunches her fellow classmates bought or brought. She started to appreciate the differences and embrace her own heritage.

It is very important for children in our classes to see themselves reflected in the texts we have available. That is why I will be proud to add this to my classroom library.

One criticism I have of this book is that the entire story is written in rhyme. There are times where this seems forced. This story could have been told without the consistent end rhyme. It might have even been more powerful that way.

My List of 2017 Reads – continually updated with every new book I read this year

Teaching Tip Archive – over 200 great tips, tricks, lessons, and inspiration from my classroom to yours.

Educators Wear Many Hats

Educators Need To See Themselves As

Here are some of the many hats that teachers wear.

Researchers

I read articles on education nearly every day. I seek out books from the library to help me in my teaching practice, and I continually look for ways to improve in the classroom.

I found this graphic from one of the dozen educational blogs I follow. You can read the original post by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano here. 

I want to look briefly at the other seven areas she highlights.

Adventurers

I try new things in the classroom all the time. I don’t stick to the tried-and-true methods because they’re really is no such thing. Every class has a different dynamic and things that work one year might not work the next. I constantly redesign my instruction and am not afraid to try new things. This also serves as a model for the students. We can all step outside of our comfort zones, experience new things, and grow.

Scientists

Science is my least favourite subject but I appreciate the metaphor here. We can test out new things and see what works. We can move beyond our limited senses and not just take things for what they are.

Storytellers

Nothing connects with people more than a well-told story. If we can figure out ways to bring storytelling into our lessons, our students will be more engaged. Story might even be the nature of reality (Yes, I am still working on this theory and hope to flesh it out for you all soon)

Teachers

We must have a passion for teaching and demonstrate a dedication to life-long learning. And we can have our students teach each other and even us.

Parents

Those of us who are parents understand this one. We have a duty of care, but it goes far beyond that. We can be a positive role model for our students. Some of the kids in our class might not have a father-figure at home. I understand that and try my best to connect with these kids and show them that I care about them.

Pioneers 

Have the spirit to explore uncharted territory. Try something that has never been done. Know your students, find ways to connect, and get creative.

Innovators 

I’m not afraid to fail in the classroom. There is a mantra in teaching, “If something doesn’t work, commit to trying it three more times.” I have lived by this mantra and have figured out how to be successful with new approaches. Sometimes I need to tweak the original idea or execution, but I am committed to innovate.

Let’s Create the Best Classrooms Possible

Teaching can’t stay in the past. We need to move on from old and outdated methods. We need to be pioneers, to innovate, and to continue to further our own learning, We need to incorporate new research into our teaching practice. And we can never lose out sense of adventure.

Teaching Tip Tuesday – inspiration from my classroom to yours.

School Life (Talking with the Filmmakers)

I had the chance to interview Neasa Ni Chianain about her documentary film School Life. We talked about how schools are different in Ireland, the concept of boarding schools, passionate teachers, arts programs, and much more.

The film focuses on John and Amanda, a married couple who have been teaching for over forty years. They work at Headfort School, the only primary age boarding school in Ireland.  As they approach retirement, they can’t imagine a time where they wouldn’t or couldn’t teach. They are passionate and dedicated teachers. They also have no idea what they would do next or where they would go. After all, they live on the school grounds, a cottage that will be demolished when they finally leave the school.

School Life is being screened at Hot Docs running from today until March 7th in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. If you are a film lover, this is an event you will want to check out. And if you get the chance to see this film, please leave a comment with your thoughts on it.

If you are an educator, look for my series, Teaching Tips. There are over 200 posts offering inspiration, ideas, and resources for you to use in your classroom.

You can also download this podcast here. 

Thanks for listening!

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 2)

Instrumental Music Teachers First Week (Part 2)This is part 2 of an on-going series for new instrumental music teachers who are leading a class of beginning music students.

Last week, I shared the first two lessons I taught my classes this year. This week, we will look at the next two lessons that you can use to kick off your semester.

Trying Out Mouthpieces 

Before the students pick the instruments they will be playing for the semester, it is a good idea to give them a chance to try out different mouthpieces. This gives them the chance to see how the the brass and woodwind instruments create sounds differently.

Small Group Instruction

One of the best ways to get your students playing quickly is to coach them individually or in small groups. I worked with four students at a time for a few lessons so that each student could get a chance to play both the flute and trumpet mouthpieces.

Small Group Ensembles (Orff Instruments)

  • Divide the class into groups of four. They can choose their own groups if they wish.
  • Demonstrate how to make a four piece band using the instruments we have (shakers, rhythms sticks, triangles, hand drums, etc.)
  • Ask them to create a piece together. (The teacher will work with one group of students to learn the flute and trumpet individually at this time)
  • Once they are done, a group that is ready to present a routine will present and trade spots.

Instrument Demonstration

  • Show the students how to get an instrument ready to play.
  • Set the case on the floor in front of you. Stress that it’s important to make sure the correct side is up.
  • Show them all three parts of the flute but that today, we will all get a chance to make a sound using just the head joint. This practice will help to ensure that the muscles in their lips develop so they can obtain a good sound on the flute.
  • Repeat this with the trumpet, show the students how to properly insert the mouthpiece by gently pushing it in until it stops. Do not push, shove, twist, or force it. If you push it in too hard, it will get stuck and we wont be able to get it out without a special tool that we don’t have. This will cost you or your parent’s money.
  • Never make the popping sound on a trumpet. If the mouthpiece gets stuck, you will have to pay to have it removed. Demonstrate this noise by by holding the mouthpiece slightly out of the instrument. Stress that this is something that is strictly not allowed. Ever! If the mouthpiece gets stuck, the case won’t even close. This is an easy repair to avoid.

Sterisol Procedure

  • Spray the mouthpiece. Wait two minutes, wipe it with a paper towel.

Flute Instruction (Small Group)

  • The student should put his/her lips together. Tell him to close his mouth completely but not tightly. Blow the air out through the lips. Do not pucker the lips and do not smile. The opening of the lips is a result of blowing the air and not making any special shape.
  • The student should use the syllable “pu” to blow the air out. You are holding the flute for them at this point so you can adjust it as need be. Praise any sound produced at this point.
  • When the student gets a few good sounds in a row, remove the mouthpiece from his mouth and quickly replace it and have him play again. He should get a sound easily. If not, move it for him. Then have him place his hand at the end of the head joint but not covering the open end.
  • Once they make a sound, remove your hand and have him play again. Once he gets a few good sounds, ask him to place the headjoint on his lap, reposition the mouthpiece, and play it again. The student should remember the best place to place the flute now.
  • If time allows, have them place their hand against the opening to produce a tugboat sound. Then challenge the student to play “Mary Had a Little Lamb” by using his index finger at different depths in the opening. Then ask them to play a high and a low sound simply by blowing.

Trumpet Instruction (Small Group)

  • First, wet your lips and try to buzz them. Now try it with a mouthpiece only. Make a siren sound. Gently, place the mouthpiece into the trumpet. Do not push, shove, twist, or force it. If you push it in too hard, it will get stuck and we won’t be able to get it out without a special tool that we don’t have. Never slap or tap the mouthpiece when it is inserted. Never pop the mouthpiece.
  • Left hand holds the trumpet. The thumb goes to the side of the cylinders. The ring finger may go into the third valve ring. The thumb of the right hand is placed under the tubing leading from the mouthpiece. The first three fingers go over each valve with an arch in and the ends of the fingers over each valve.
  • Try to make a sound. If they are having difficulties, ask them to make a sour lemon face and buzz with that shape of lips. Have them play an open note (either G or C, don’t worry which one they make) Praise the note and then ask them to play a lower / higher one. Have them practice with whole notes and quarter notes.

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.

Teaching Tip Tuesdays – Lessons and 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

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)

Look, It’s Me! – Making Our Students Visible in Print

Look, it's me!I taught in Northern Ontario on a First Nation Reservation. It was pretty much at the top of the map of Ontario. There were no roads into this community. The only way to get there was to fly on a little charter plane and land on a dirt runway. In the winter, you could drive over the frozen lake when the winter road was open. It certainly was a brand new experience for me.

The isolation was really something. Without the distractions of city life, I found the time to write the novels I had always wanted to. With one title under my belt, I kicked around some ideas for my next work of fiction.

I was walking home with the principal one day and I told him of my idea for my next story. He seemed indifferent to what I thought was an amazing story idea. And then he said something that really inspired me. He said that the kids up here really needed to see themselves in more stories.

Something clicked in me when he said that. Almost immediately I began work on a young adult novel set on a fictional reserve much like the one I was living in. When I was finished the story, I read it to my class and they thoroughly enjoyed it.

I hadn’t thought much about the characters and settings in the books I chose to share with my class prior to that. Now, I am very conscious of choosing stories and making books available where my students can see themselves reflected in the work.

I have always seen myself in popular culture I am only now beginning to understand my white privilege. There isn’t a lot I can do about that, other than call attention to it, and embrace other cultures as much as possible.

I am enthusiastic about sharing works of other cultures. I would also like to do this in very subtle ways if I ever happen to run a library. I would feature books, articles, comics, and online resources that reflect the heritage of my students. I would place these in open sight and let the works speak for themselves.

Teaching Tip Tuesday – The Third Tuesday of every month!

Why You Should Always Ask for Advice

This is a great video to share with your students.

I know many students who are afraid to ask questions in class. They stay quiet and struggle with their work, or worse yet, they don’t do the work at all.

It’s always best to build a culture of learning in the classroom that allows our students to feel comfortable not knowing something. It’s okay to ask questions, of your peers, and of your teacher.

I do my best to admit, publicly, in class when I don’t know something or when I have made a mistake. I hope this role-modelling will teach my students that it is okay not to know. It’s okay to ask for help. We all need it some time.

I just discovered this animated YouTube series and there are lots of great videos with educational material in them. Well worth checking out.

Teaching Tip Tuesday – now coming at you on the 3rd Tuesday of each month

8 Online Tools for Students and Educators

8 Tools for Students and EducatorsSomeone approached me and asked to contribute a guest post for my Teaching Tip Tuesday series.

Over the years, I have had some great tips submitted from readers all over the globe.

I found out that this latest one though was a thinly veiled attempt at self promotion. Even worse that that, it linked to a site and service that cut against everything I believe about education.

I almost deleted the post outright. Instead, I edited in heavily and let it stay in place. I have since reconsidered. I wrote this rebuttal and erased the entire post.

I am sorry that I was duped this way and hope not to be again. I will be very critical of further guest -post submissions.

Thank you!

Teaching Tip Tuesday – advice, lessons, tips and tricks for classroom teachers  (once a month)

Schools Can Be So Much Greener

Making Our Schools GreenerWhen we think of the cost of school, we rarely think of the buildings themselves. It is important to remember that they have both a financial cost and an environmental one.

Energy Use

“School buildings are the third biggest energy users. A mid-size school district may spend $1 million yearly on energy, a number that is increasing by around 19 percent each year.”

I found that number to be mind-blowing when reading the article, 10 Ways to Green Your School by J.H. Fearless. And that wasn’t the only thing that caught my attention.

Environmental Costs

“Poor indoor air quality negatively affects students’ performance, and schools remain a huge source of pollution and waste that degrades the environment.”

I know some of our old buildings aren’t the best places for students to learn. I hadn’t even thought about any negative health consequences associated with our schools. It definitely is something worth considering.

“Going to school can actually harm your health. Nearly half of all schools (43 percent) have unsatisfactory indoor environmental conditions, and 20 percent have unsatisfactory air quality. That’s partly due to aging school buildings, but also related to an overall decrease in indoor air quality thanks to reduced air circulation and more synthetic substances in our daily lives. One in ten school-age kids now suffer from asthma, so poor air quality isn’t just an annoyance—it can be life threatening.”

What Needs to Be Done

Our schools need some major upgrades. But there are also things that we can do as teachers and students to makes things better.

So, let’s “take action to improve indoor air quality and reduce exposure to toxic substances for all teachers and students.”

Organize Classroom Cleanup Days

Sometimes, it’s hard to keep a classroom clean. I try my best to keep my work area clean for purely aesthetic reasons, but there are health benefits too.

“Some of the biggest health concerns lurking in your classroom exists under all your stuff. Cluttered surfaces, cupboards, and corners harbor dust and mold. Organize some classmates or fellow parents to stay after school once a month to declutter. You’ll help reduce asthma triggers, and your teachers and custodians will thank you.”

Use Green Cleaning / Maintenance Materials

“Toxic cleaning supplies, pest poisons, paints, furnishing finishes, and even chemical fertilizers and ice melt threaten kids’ health. They’re also toxic to cleaning and maintenance staff. Ask your school administration to seek out green solutions to various issues, including sidewalk weed control, ice melt in the winter months, and cleaning products.”

Get an Air Quality Meter

“Want to get a clearer idea of what you’re really breathing? Work with students and parents to raisefunds for or ask the school to invest in air quality meters, which will help students manage asthma. Additionally, the meters notify the school of any serious air quality issues, such as high CO2 levels, or elevated moisture that could cause mold.”

Organize a Local Food Day

“Consider teaming up with local restaurants, farms, or even food trucks to bring fresh, local food to school once a month or once every few months. Kids will get a chance to learn the benefits of local food, and you’ll be supporting the small businesses in your community.”

Set Up A Green Club

“Take environmental education into your own hands. A student club can take real action on school issues. Your club may create a school-wide recycling or composting program; learn about growing your own food with a school garden; organize cleanup and planting days; raise funds for green initiatives; and even take part in statewide and national green schools competitions. Through all this, students will learn leadership, teamwork, and how great feels to make a positive difference.”

Form a Carpooling, Cycling, or Walking Group

“Save time for busy parents, conserve energy, and make friends with a community carpool or other transportation group. By getting together with your neighbors, you can find new, more efficient ways to get to and from school. Carpools are the time-tested solution, but if you live close enough to your school, think about organizing a group to ride bikes or walk together. As a bonus, parent chaperones will get their daily exercise, too.”

Install Energy Meters

“It’s a lot easier to understand energy use when you can see it in action. Energy meters that are visible to any student and teacher aren’t just great learning tools— they can also encourage everyone to conserve energy and water throughout the day. Many schools have started sharing their energy use in this way. Monitoring not only creates savings for the school’s power, heat, and water budgets, but can also be incorporated into friendly school-wide competitions and classroom sustainability lessons.”

Save Money, Save the Environment

“If you asked your school administration, they’d probably be the first to tell you that they would love to upgrade your school with more modern, sustainable, and healthy features. Unfortunately, most schools have tight budgets, and they have to make tough choices about how to allocate funds.”

That said, it shouldn’t be surprising that environmentally sustainable schools—with increased efficiency and health benefits—are also more financially sustainable. For example:

It Increases Efficiency and Health Benefits

Test scores and learning ability improve by three to five percent when a school incorporates natural daylight—equating to an annual earning increase of $532 per student.

Building a green school costs less than 2 percent more than a conventional school (about $3 per square foot) but provides 20 times the financial benefits.

A green school saves an average of $100,000 annually—enough to hire two new teachers, buy 250 new computers, or purchase 5000 new textbooks.

Green schools utilize 33 percent less energy and 32 percent less water than traditional schools.

On average, a green school produces:

  • 1,200 fewer pounds of nitrogen oxides (a principal component of smog)
  • 1,300 fewer pounds of sulfur dioxide (a principal cause of acid rain)
  • 585,000 fewer pounds of carbon dioxide (the principal greenhouse gas)
  • 150 fewer pounds of coarse particulate matter (a principal cause of respiratory illness)
  • 74 percent less waste

Do Your Part

How can you help your school go green? Start by reducing energy use, water use, waste, and pollution in everyday action. Calculate the savings your actions are creating, and lobby the school district to set aside that money for upgrades and improvements to facilities.

Teaching Tip Tuesday – Once a month, we feature articles designed by teachers for teachers

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

Shake it Up in the Classroom

Shake It Up in the ClassroomThere are all sorts of things you can do to shake things up in your classroom. But teachers are expected to have a certain level of decorum. That is why I included the first item in this post. From there, it gets interesting. So, read on!

Dress Appropriately 

I think teachers should dress appropriately for school. Having a professional attire is just one of the things we should all be doing on a regular basis. I wear a tie to class at least three times a week.

Even on Fridays, when a lot of teachers dress down, I still wear casual pants and a golf shirt. Although, wearing jeans and a school t-shirt also works on the occasional spirit day or the day before a holiday.

Figure out how to incorporate art, drama, movement, and props in the lesson. You could even use food or beverages to create a positive atmosphere for a special lesson. Same goes with music and lighting.

Wear a Costume

But, I also like to shake things up by wearing a costume that compliments my lesson. This year, I have gone into role as a scientist. I wore a lab coat and glasses, and spoke with an accent. I even gave this character a name and back story. It was great!

There are all sort of ways you can use costumes in the class. I regularly have myself play the role of a guest speaker. I have been a construction worker, a football player, and of course, a pirate.

Involve the Audience

You need to ask yourself questions when designing your lesson. These questions will help you make your presentation more interactive and meaningful.

– How can I consistently keep the audience feeling involved?
– Can I cue them to make certain motions or sounds at key points?
– Can I incorporate call and response in this lesson?
– Can I bring students to the front of the room as volunteers?

Here is an idea that politicians or celebrities use during press conferences. Why not bring it into the classroom too?

– Have a student play a pre-arranged role and interact with them throughout the lesson. They key here is to keep this a secret so only you and that one particular student know what is going to happen.

Try Something New and Exciting in the Classroom

I hope my Teaching Tip Tuesday Series helps to inspire you and have you try something new and creative in your classroom!

This series normally runs every week during the school year. This year, it will be sporadic. I am not teaching right now, but still have some ideas I can share with all of you. Stay tuned to the blog for more!