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