3 Week block Update 3 – The End.

I wish I could put my entire experience for my Pre-Internship into words but this was the best I could do!

I’ve tucked everything into the back of my mind to pull out for my Internship. I was so extremely lucky and thankful for my Cooperating Teacher and for the students that I had.

Although pre-internship is over, my career as a teacher has just started and I can’t wait to take it even further.

3 Week Block Update 1 with Miss. Kanji

My oh my, the first two days of my three week pre-internship block has come and gone and boy have a loved every second of it!

Thursday was a great way to ease back into our teaching experience! Our class had a great day of building robots with Tata Consulting Services GO-IT, Students program. Our grade 7/8 students were able to build and program a robot to perform a specific task and then have a friendly competition amongst their classmates to win cool prizes. The mission for their program was to introduce student to STEM(Science, technology, engineering and Math) driven activities and to build awareness to how these skills are actually things we do on a daily basis. Our students had a great time building, testing and programming their robots. We have some very hands on students in our class and this was a fantastic way to have them show the class the great things they can do.

This program was a hit in our classroom – in fact we were the first class in Saskatchewan to try out the GO-IT workshop! I would definitely suggest having something like this in your classroom at some point. If this is something that interests you, or something you think your Co-op might like to try check out the website here:

http://www.tcs.com/about/corp_responsibility/corporate-social-responsibility/Pages/goIT-Student-Technology-Awareness-Program.aspx

Our Co-op was a big fan of it and is going to try something similar again before the end of the school year. If you know of anything like this please comment down below.

Friday was our first teaching day! Amanda and I were both super excited but also super scared at the same time. Amanda and I have decided to both teach Math so that we can make all the possible mistakes we can now before our actual Internship! Since we were new to teaching Math, our Co-op gave us a chance to teach something easier like Geometry 7. We decided that one day I teach math and the next day she teaches it so that we are both able to have a chance to work with it. The first Math lesson that I thought on Friday was a Pre-Assessment Lesson of the geometry unit they had studies in Grade 6. We played a Jeopardy game with the students to gage where their understanding of the content from grade 6 was and how they might be able to translate those skills into grade 7 concepts. We were very pleased with how the game played out and the information we were able to collect from this Pre-Assessment. As an extension of the game I also decided to give the class a worksheet to complete with similar skills that the Jeopardy game tested – this was a more written form of what we were looking for.

Take a look at our Unit Plan: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1uaRWF57-O1vb_TdQ08hxGOh6FyerM6Gl_J1xmUXEze0/edit?usp=sharing

I have posted the lesson plan: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1GujX2NCTHvhLkszflb_arbEOYW40oWxlic-RJCUI-xk/edit?usp=sharing

The Jeopardy Game: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_a-pKHj3ibwX0lIZThDbnBFVFU/view?usp=sharing

The Worksheet: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1qimJAEAUbCpirWnatj9Nn9E4aXqT2c3FFCyp-uFjYfM/edit?usp=sharing

As always, whatever works in my classroom might now necessarily work in your classroom so please adapt lessons to make them work for you.

Watch this video to know more about how my first week back has been and what I wish to do for the rest of my Pre-Internship experience.

Be Great In Your Classroom

My three week block is just around the corner and as I sit here trying to figure out what I want to share with you, the only obvious thing that seems to be popping up are the 3 simple ” life lessons” that I’ve learned.

When I say “Life Lessons”, I don’t mean things like being an organized teacher, being flexible, ect., ect. What I’m referring to are the little things I can do in my life when I am in the classroom – the little things that I want to do every day to make my day and my students day that much better. I don’t think these things would have clicked to me if I wasn’t made aware of them by Cooperating Teacher in my previous pre-internship. I didn’t know that I was unconsciously already doing these 3 things, but once I was made aware of it, I decided that I would forever do these 3 priorities. I’m happy that I am able to put these elements into practice so early on in my career and I wish to share them with you as well.

My Cooperating Teacher made an interesting comment to me and it has stuck with me ever since. He said, ” you will have students who will be great in your classroom, only if you will be great in your classroom as well.” What does that mean to you?

Here are the three elements in my classroom that I wish to share with you:

1) Laugh!

Laugh at your mistakes! You are human for goodness sakes and so are your students. Invite your students to laugh at their mistakes and to learn from them and move on. They say laughter is the best medicine for anything. I believe it. What teachers do you remember from your schooling days? I’m sure we all can remember that one grouchy teacher who just made our lives miserable all the time. I think my favorite teachers though were the warm, caring teachers – the teachers who loved life, loved teaching, knew how and when to have fun and were just overall pleasant to be around.

When I see catch myself doing this, I automatically think back to my grade seven teacher, Mr. Pittman who literally would turn red in the face from laughing so hard at himself or at a situations. I can’t always remember why he would be dying of laugher, but I know his love for life was so infectious and contagious to use normally cynical, hormonal seventh grade students. I know that he wasn’t laughing at the expense of other students in our class. He laughed with us.

2) Learn. Learn. Learn.

Although your students are here to learn, you are the BIGGEST learner in your class – you are the one learning ever day. There is nothing wrong with allowing your students to witness you learning. There is no harm in saying “Good question! I don’t know the answer to that”, or “Let’s find out together!”, and even “I want to share something I learned today with you”. Say it often, because although you are masters of your trade, you will NEVER know everything there is to know. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that everything you collect in your first 5 years to teaching is all that you will learn and then use that for the rest of your career. I strongly believe that you are doing a service to your students and your profession when you become a lifelong learner who is always trying to better themselves and to build an understanding of the world with their students. Isn’t that one of the reasons you joined the club to start with; because you love to learn and are never satisfied with what outdated information?

3) Nourish your genius

Your biggest job is to seek out and help nourish each student’s “genius”. I know we hear this day in and day out, but why do we think that some students are gifted and others aren’t? I don’t think that’s at all true. All your students are loveable, capable, creative, amazing, talented, gifted geniuses. Each and every single one of them are. They are geniuses, right now(even if you can’t see it on the surface).

I know you won’t be able to “touch” every student. I’m fully aware of that, but it is your responsibility to try to reach every student. You need to get to know what makes each of the students in your classroom tick, what floats their boat, trips their triggers, tickles their fancy, flies their kite, lights their candle, tosses their salad…and so on…and so on…

Often times we have those students in our class who acts as if they don’t like learning or that they don’t want to learn. The truth of the matter is that everyone loves to learn something, you as the teacher must invite your students to learn things they are passionate about as often as possible.

I came about this tweet a while back. Why would you want to capsize a students’ potential when they are in your class to become great people. Ten of the Best Ted Talks on Improving Education.

I know these are things that I have promised myself to do daily for the rest of my career as a teacher. These are just values that are important to me and everyone might have different opinions on these. Wherever you stand on the spectrum, I think every teacher has their own interests that they wish to focus on. I don’t think every teacher needs to have the same goals as long as an active effort is made to improve themselves and their students. Education is the one profession where both partners are trying to work towards a common goal together.

Both New to Each Other..

We are lucky enough to live in a country that allows other’s to intermingle into the cultural make-up of Canada. Within our classroom, we see a multitude of different faiths, ethnicities, cultures, traditions and often even languages. Although English is an International Language, many of our newly arrived Refugees and Immigrants have a hard time reading and writing English. Unfortunately, while as a teacher we try to do the best that we can for them, sometimes it’s harder when we have a language barer. We have support teachers who try to ease students into a new language and often times it works wonders, but there are times when it take longer than usual.

We will all be faced with a situation to this degree at some point, especially with Canada opening their doors to so many new people. As I’ve been thinking about how I wish to tackle this situation in the future, I think I’ve made a list of things I wish to try. I think its these little things that we can do in our classroom to incorporate and welcome ESL students. Just imagine how these children feel regardless of age, about coming to new a country with customs so different from the ones you have grown up with. These newly arrived children are just as much a part of our classroom are other students and we want them to contribute to society just as much as we wish other students to participate.

Here is what I think we as teachers should do to try to help our new learners:

Culturally Conscious: I think that it is important to be aware of all the cultural differences that you have in your class. If you aren’t too sure about the cultures in your classroom, that’s okay. Take time to learn about the different customs and traditions that populate your room. For me personally, it is important to celebrate these differences with my students and have them share their culture with their peers. This makes also provides a comfort zone for the new students and it allows other students to share their identity. With this, you might be able to find someone in your classroom who shares similar traditions as your newcomer. This will help you assign a buddy to help the new student with the know-how of the school and the daily schedule. This will assist the new student in finding their way around the school and classes. Check in the student from time to time to make sure they are okay as the day goes on. It might even be nice for you as a teacher to learn some common phrases and words from their native language to help communicate. Google Translate is a great way to learn these and even to use as a medium of communication with the student back and forth.

Let Them Speak Their Native Language: I’ve seen this happen a lot when I was in Grade School. I’m sure my teachers had good intentions for not allowing ESL to speak some of their native language but I found that it was often frustrating for that student. I’ve often heard people say that students who have a stronger foundation of their native language will have a shorter route to acquire English. I think that if you block students from expressing themselves in whatever language – let alone whatever way. Discouraging them their language might actually result in negative feelings about their culture and might discourage them from acquiring English all together. When the time is right, they’ll expose themselves in small bursts.

Be Hands On and Use Manipulative: According to William Glaser, we learn 80% of what we experience, and 95% of what we teach others. No matter how shy them seem to be, give them the opportunity to be involved in projects that will get them in talking as much as they can to their peers. Start simple and work your up to bigger projects. Some ideas might be things like Art like drawing, painting and sculpture, and acting such as charades. These can be fun activities to lighten the atmosphere and get them participating. You can also have pictures symbols placed around the classroom so that the ESL student can point to objects when they need have a laps of communication. Have a picture of a desk, or a pencil, and other objects to make communication easier for the both of you. This constant repetition will also introduce them to new words and will widen their vocabulary.

Be Connected With All Their Teachers: Whether you teach them every subject or they transfer from teacher to teacher, make sure that all the teachers are on the same page and are working together to make sure these students are being helped as much as possible. Try to work with your teaching team to provide some sort of consistency in the students routine and the way you approach the language barrier. If your school is fortunate enough to have an ESL Teacher, keep up with that them as much as possible so that you have a good idea as to where they are making progress. I would also have the students parents come in to meet all the teachers in their child’s schooling. Have a translator available to help make communication accurate and successful. I personally feel when the parents are in on what their child is accomplishing at home, things will flow smoothly in the students life.

These are just some of the aspects that I want to cover in my classroom when I have students who are ESL. We will always have new faces and new voices in our country and our schools. This can be a learning experience for you, your students, and the ESL student and their family.

 

I Don’t See F-U-N in the Word M-A-T-H

Math. I hate it. I’ve never liked it and quite frankly, I don’t think I’ll ever like it. Why you ask? Well, I don’t know, I guess I’ve never really been good at it. Unfortunately for me, as a Middle Years teachers I have no choice but to teach everything and anything. Especially in my upcoming three-week block. URGH!

Well I guess instead of drowning myself in pity I could be a grown up about it and figure why I’m not exactly thrilled about teaching math(other than the very obvious point that I don’t actually enjoy it). As I sit here and think about it, I think the biggest fear that I seem to be having is over the fact that I’ll never be able to make Math fun and engaging for students. I can only imagine that if Math was never intriguing for me, there must be so many other students who think and feel the same way that I do.

I think this must explain the reason why I decided to take on the topic of Math for my Inquiry project for my ECS class. Before I start my three week block I hope to become some sort of wizard who can just zap her students to like, understand and even want to do math. Is it possible to do these things? I guess when I think about it, math is so heavily dependent on using a textbook, but is it possible to rely less on textbook activities? Another struggle I’m likely to face is tackling students who learn in different ways. Some students learn from pictures, other words, and some numbers; can you take a concept that is so heavily based on one of those and change it into something everyone can understand. I remember asking myself why in the world I had to learn math as I was doing it in Elementary – was there any relevance into my real world? I think that’s an important concept to bring into your classroom when it comes to math; how can students apply this into the “real world”.

Currently, I am in the process of trying to find different resources to support my theories and the approaches that I plan to use in my class. I am trying to find fun math games on Pinterest, videos on YouTube and even different Math Apps that students can use on their devices.

If you happen to know anything that is helpful in getting Middle Years students engaged in Math please comment down below! That would be greatly appreciated.

Cheers!

 

Curb your Curiosity

How do we cap our own curiosity? Usually, we search it, find and answer and boom! Case closed. We’ve grown up in a society where we crave new information and try to be as knowledgeable as we can. But, have you ever stopped to think about what it might be like to implement something similar into our classrooms? There might be some teachers who aren’t particularly keen on the idea because of the fact that it calls out on the importance on the role of our institution. I personally think that kids of this generation are lucky to have access to information from sources other than school – as long as this information is passed through a teacher for clarification and explanation. We need to let students have their own agency over the information they want to learn and comprehend.

Inquiry Based Learning is a new way to get students thinking for themselves. It starts naturally by the teacher and sometimes even the students asking a simple question, problem, or an instance. This is different than the typical way that a teacher simply gives out facts or spoon-feeds knowledge. The great factor about Inquiry-based learning is that it encompasses problem-based learning. Many teachers prefer to have teacher-based Inquiry Learning where the students would check in often with their teacher about the progression they’ve made, as well as have the teacher introduce and show different ways of finding the information that they are looking for. Inquiry Based Learning is moving ahead so quickly, that there are now teachers who conduct their own Inquiry Based Learning of topics and subjects that they want to explore before bringing it into the classroom.

For me personally, the most beneficial component of Inquiry Based Learning is that it combines the curiosity of students but also incorporates an approach to critical thinking. Critical thinking is a life skill that we already try to engrave in our students so why don’t we continue to remind them to keep questioning and ask them to seek answers? Inquiry based learning acts as another avenue to successfully gather more skills and knowledge. It gives students and even teachers a chance to better understand the world that we work, live, learn and function in.

So how can you go about adding Inquiry Based Learning in your classroom? It’s simple! There are so many ways to do it, some are nice and short, and others require a little more work (all of which will pay off in the end for yourself and your students). Here is how I would use IBD in my classroom:

1) Be Flexible:

Let students explore in a way that is comfortable for them and let them present that information to you in whatever way they choose. When you give a specific way to look for information and ask them to present it in a particular way, you might be cutting off students who aren’t skilled at that option. While you want to build that skill for the student, you also want to gives them different options so that they are more inclined to seek new skills.

2) Flip the Classroom:

At the end of the day, post a video or tell the students the content that you will be discussing in the classroom. Have students read and gather their own information so that you can spend the following class sharing information and having hands on discoveries and activities.

3) Don’t Spoon-Feed, show them how to Feed themselves:

Our job is to educate and that includes giving students answers but try not to give them the answers to quickly. I know that there are times when I just give them the fish, instead of teaching them HOW to fish for themselves. We don’t want robots in our society, we want individuals who understand and demonstrate a process. As teachers, we need to be prepared for the different directions a simple conversation can go.

These are just some way in which you can use Inquiry Based Learning in your classroom. Initially, it might take some times getting use to implementing something like this, and there will times when your students don’t understand information from what they learn. As you get familiar with the process, you’ll be able to help your students with their learning as well.

The best thing about Inquiry Based Learning is that both teacher and students are learning together.

Backwards and Forwards…or is it Forwards and Backwards?

I won’t lie – I was never a huge fan of Backward by Design Lesson Planning! I wasn’t a fan of how it looked, to me personally it didn’t make much sense and overall I just found it confusing. I think the problem was that I had started off my Teachers’ College experience in a school that actually taught me how to lesson plan a particular way and that’s the way I’ve been lesson planning. When I got to my current institution, I was kind of thrown into the BbyD ship without any precursor as to what it actually was and how to successfully use it. Truth be told, I hated it – I still sometimes do, but I’m starting to understand why it makes sense and how efficient it actually can be. I’ve noticed that all my professors use this format to lesson plan, so I’ve decided that I am now all hands-on-deck for this concept. Maybe there is actual method to the madness! Here are my thoughts on my new found love of BbyD Lesson Plans:

It actually does make a whole lot of sense! I would hope that a teacher would know what they wanted to teach and what they wanted from a lesson before a they went about creating a lesson, but there is so much more to just the bare bones that we don’t think about when we need to make a lesson. For example how will you find out if your students have understood and learned from what the lesson was about? When we use BbyD Lesson plans that the first thing we tackle and from there we are able to plan out the rest. Think about it logically, you don’t plan a vacation with purchasing a ticket to an unknown destination, you choose the destination then purchase the ticket.

I’ve noticed that there are three basic steps in this lesson plan:

1) Identify desired resulted

2) Determine Acceptable Evidence

3) Plan Learning Experiences and Instruction

Trust me, I know it seems completely weird to be doing things from the end and then moving forward but that’s the beauty of this design – you start from the opposite end of the planning process we typically go through to design course. BbyD however leaves teaching activities until the end and starts with the desired results of that teaching.

 

Give your Brain a Break

As much as we know this to be true, students spend a good portion of their day cooped up in a desk with their brain constantly being bombarded with new, useful information and skills. We as adults get antsy and anxious when we have to sit still for a period of time – just imagine how the kids feel! With more and more time being cut out of movement activities such as physical education and a whole lot of indoor recesses in the winter times, it’s important for teachers to squeeze in some physical activity whenever they can and Brain Breaks are a great way to do that.

We’ve been doing this years but very few people have asked why it is we choose to learn being seated for minutes, sometimes hours on end. In my ECS class, we are currently exploring with Brain Breaks and I have so far learned that sitting all day can actually have some serious drawbacks for students. Students find it hard to pay attention and focus when their brains are turned off and you can see it on their faces – those blank faces mean something!

All teachers can pin-point that one students who naturally starts to fidget in order to get their body to desperately move in order to turn their brains back on. But why then do we as teachers instantly request them to get back in their desks, sit still and pay attentions – essentially getting their brains to shut off again?

Okay, so maybe we can’t exactly add more PE into our schedules or send kids out in -40 weather, but we can give students “Brain Breaks” throughout the day. Brain breaks are great because they are short, little, energizing bursts of activity that kids up and out of their desks and get the blood flowing which sends oxygen to the brain. Brain Breaks don’t need to be elaborate plans they can be as simple as a quick two minute stand up, stretch and run in the place next to your desk activity. Brain breaks can be done periodically and be scheduled right into your lesson plan! It’s really not that hard to do at all and students, regardless of their grade love them! You can do a fun little dance to a new song, a touch your nose and pat your head exercise, or even a few yoga moves they can do while standing!

Below are some great resources for you to use in your classes when you do brain breaks! These make them fun and super easy to do. Best of all they’re all free! There are hundreds of different activities you can do with you classroom if you surf the web. Find the ones you think your class will love and use those as a guide to adapt them to meet your needs, making sure to always switch it up!

 

Move to Learn Fitness Energizers: More than 30 fitness videos for students K-8 with routines kids can do alongside their desks.

Go Noodle Brain Breaks: Tons of free, short videos to get kids moving in the classroom, including short Zumba routines.

Teach Train Love: This teacher has compiled several lists of fun Brain Break videos from YouTube.

Action for Healthy Kids: A Pinterest page full of classroom brain break ideas, including some for middle school.

You never have to go through “it” alone.

I am now back to grind in my second semester of Teachers College, and over the break I did a lot of self reflecting on how the previous semester went for me. As I was reflecting, I realized that I was burned out – I was tired – emotionally and physically drained, and I lacked motivation. When I asked myself how I ended up getting to that spot I found myself thinking back to all the times my professors had said “It only gets tougher from here on in”. What the heck was that suppose to mean? I know teaching is a demanding profession. I know that there are sacrifices that need to be made. I know my job isn’t your typical 9am-5pm job. My question was, why is everyone trying to convince me of this? It felt as though I was stressing myself out from all the upcoming years of even more stress.

This semester I am looking forward most to my Elementary Health Education class. Initially, I thought this course would just be about how to teach Health education to students in the Middle Years. I thought it would be how to look at Health Education as a cross-curricular component(which it is), but I never thought that it would be a course about how to take care of health of myself as a teacher. I was interested in learning the different strategies used by other Educators about how they take care of themselves as well as their students. What has been the most interesting so far has been all the different ways we’ve been looking at how to deal with stress and the pressures of being a first year teacher.

Here’s what I’ve gotten so far (I’m sure this list will be added to throughout my career and by no means will I ever be an expert at dealing with such a thing)!

  1. You are never going through your stress alone!

Every teacher and educator has been in your spot before and there will always be someone else who will be in your situation. Chances are you have another teacher friend going through the same problem, so don’t be afraid to accept it and look for help.

  1. Do something you love once a day.

This one is super great because you can take this into the classroom and challenge your students to do the same in their lives. Find something that you and your students can do together, but also find something YOU love doing. It can something as small as bringing in fresh flowers to work or something like making your favorite meal once a week. This gives you something to look forward to throughout the day and adds something different to your daily routine. I dare you to try something different everyday!

  1. Find great support outside of work.

We know teacher friends are the best friends, but it’s important to have a voice of reason and a listening ear outside of the work life. Friends outside your teacher circle, your gym buddy, your significant other, and family might be the people you need to talk to at the end of the day. Often times when we surround ourselves with likeminded people we tend to complain more about situations. When we have a good support system outside of this we tend to vent out our situations instead of complaining…yes! There is in fact a difference.

  1. Every day is a new day!

Okay so today wasn’t the greatest; you spilled coffee on your shirt, the photocopier jammed first thing in the morning, your principle needs you to change your bulletin board, your students were having “one of those days”, and report cards are due in t-4 hours….so what?! Tomorrow when you wake up, it will be a new day, with new adventures and maybe even some new obstacles. Leave the past the in past and look into the daily future. You have students with blank minds waiting to be filled with new knowledge. Embrace it!

These are just some of the small concepts I’ve picked up along the way in my EHE Class that I think were especially important. Everyone has different ways or dealing with the stress that comes with our profession. The most important thing is to remember that there are resources available for you when you need them – ask you administration and your teacher friends for resources if need be, but never be afraid to admit that there is an issue. There is often a stigma that comes along with being a teacher; that we always have “all together”, but the fact of the matter is that it is hard to be “together” all the time. Every teacher before, after you and even right now with you know the feeling. Do what you need to do in order to look forward to the next day.

If you need more ideas here are two other great blogs that I found to be great help!