Sunday, 13 April 2014

Good Things Sunday

    This post is inspired by the stories at the collaborative blog, One Good Thing.

- I have a student in one of my classes who is dealing with
  many personal issues both at school and at home. As such,
  their attendance is very sporadic which results in them falling
  behind and feeling left out and frustrated when they are present.
  This week they were present for two of our three math classes.
  In the first class they were uncooperative and didn't attempt
  anything during the hour. In the second class, they not only
  allowed me to sit with them, but they even smiled while we
  worked together on an assignment. It may seem like a small
  accomplishment but it us it was huge :)

- I held a 10-station science lab for my Grade 9 class on
  Physical & Chemical Changes for out unit on Chemistry.
  One station involved mixing corn starch (which I had labeled
  as mystery powder) and water together and students were
  asked to play around with the substance and identify what
  type of change they were witnessing. While many students
  had seen this trick before in other classes or at home, I had
  some students in which this was completely new for them.
  Seeing the uninhibited wonder on their faces as they tried to
  figure out what they just created was priceless!

     What good things happened in your week?

Friday, 11 April 2014

2 Stars & A Wish: Week 28

     With Spring Break come and gone, we are on our last stretch of school before summer holidays and I know that these next three months are going to go by very quickly! It is hard to believe that at this time last year, I was student teaching here and nervously hoping that a job opening would come up. That time only seems like a few short months ago and it is mind-boggling to think about how it has already been a year!

     I didn't write a reflection the last two weeks as it was our Parent-Teacher interviews and Spring Break holiday. I am trying, however, to finish strong with my reflections so I am back at it again!  Two things that I think went well this week are:

1 ) Completing 3 Labs This Week With Students
- While I teach Grade 7, 8, & 9 Science I do not have direct
  access to a lot of supplies or our science lab as these informally
  fall under the jurisdiction of our High School Science Teacher.
  As such, I've had a hard time planning a lot of science labs due
  to the logistics of putting everything together.
- Luckily, this week I was able to book our Home-Ec room so I
  would have access to sinks, lots of space, and some supplies, as
  well as borrow some supplies from our High School science
- My Grade 9 class completed a 10-station lab regarding Physical
  & Chemical Changes for our Chemistry unit and my Grade 7 class
  completed a exploratory lab regarding heat and thermometers for
  their unit on the Particle Theory of Matter!
- During Spring Break, my husband and I renovated our laundry
  room with all new cabinetry from IKEA which meant that we had
  A LOT of boxes on hand. To take advantage of this, I brought
  some into my Grade 8 Math class so we could not only build
  forts, but then practice determining the surface area of our fort
  for our unit on Measuring 3D Shapes!

2 ) Completing the Last Step For my Masters Program Admissions
- So this accomplishment isn't necessarily something that
   occurred in my classroom, but it is something that I am still
   very proud of as it occupied a lot of my mental energy this
   last little while.
- Earlier in February I completed the first portion of the admissions
  program which was very basic (forms with general information,
  letters of reference, about me statements, etc). After that I awaited
  anxiously for my email saying that I could schedule a time for my
  writing test, the second and last step to be considered for acceptance.
- On Thursday I was issued my timed writing test via email and now
  it is just a waiting game for a few weeks to see how it all turns out!

     One thing that I want to work on for next week, however, is organizing material for substitutes. I will be away Wednesday and Thursday to present at the MTS Awakening Possibilities Conference as well as attending meetings on Monday for my school. After factoring in that there is no school on Friday that leaves me with just one teaching day... the shortest teaching week for me on record. This will be the longest time I've planned for a sub so I hope it all turns out!

Week 26 Update

     Before Spring Break I shared that I wanted to put together some independent study packages for my students to finish over the break. After talking to other teachers, both in my school and through the blog, I decided against it. Many teachers agreed that the work wouldn't get done and I would be in the same place after Spring Break, but also have frustrated students. As such, I didn't put anything together and am just trying to get through the material that I can.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Fanning The Flame of Curiosity

     “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.”[1] Can an individual’s pursuit of knowledge ever truly cease? Educators the world over are diligently attempting to arm their students with the skills and values so that they can become life-long learners; learners who recognize not only that education is not limited to the confines of a classroom, but also that self-guided learning often times provides the most rewarding and valuable experiences of all. In a profession that is built upon the ignition of students’ curiosity, there are many teachers who not only end their formal education with their Bachelors of Education but also take a passive approach to new educational experiences as well. One only needs to listen in on the staffroom conversations prior to a Professional Development session to pinpoint just how high this number can be. I firmly believe that it is our responsibility as educators to not only ignite our students’ curiosity, but to also maintain the flame of our own. I am currently pursuing acceptance into Brandon University’s Masters of Education program (Curriculum & Instruction Stream) based on my personal belief statement listed above as well as my desire to focus on the purposeful implementation of technology into curriculum outcomes and delivery.

     While there are educators who recognize the importance of implementing technology into their classrooms, there are not as many who recognize the necessity of this practice within today’s society. Gone are the days where the teaching staff and school libraries accounted for the sum of knowledge within a division. The development of the internet, and its insurmountable associated programs, has expanded the possibilities of education to the point where the public school education model I graduated from, a short seven years ago, is now laughable. Technology allows students everything from accessing information and connecting with real-world experts to tailored learning adaptations and experiential learning opportunities. Two areas that I am especially interested in are the purposeful integration of “Maker Spaces” for both formal and informal scientific exploration and student-lead/student-created online environments. One of my goals as an educator is to focus on purposefully implementing various technologies not only into the delivery of my lessons, but also into the curriculum outcomes themselves.

Please accept this writing sample as part of my formal application to Brandon University’s Masters of Education program; I hope it not only provides an indication of my writing level but also of my personal desire to continue on the path of formalized education. Within a graduate program, I will be provided with the guidance and support that will be required as I work towards my goals. In the same way I design a variety of learning opportunities for my students, I recognize that a graduate program will further my professional education through specialized courses and supported experiences that would not be accessible to me otherwise. My previous six years of post-secondary education at Brandon University provided me with the opportunity to explore my interests, identify and develop my passions, and connect with amazing people in various fields; it also left me wanting more. Please allow me an opportunity to fan the flame of my curiosity.

[1] Unknown Author; often misattributed to Socrates or Plutarch, although no findable citation to either philosopher is available.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Introducing 3D Shapes

The week before Spring Break marked my Grade 8's introduction to 3D Shapes.
This is our 6th unit of the 8 that we will cover this year and, personally,
I think it is one of the most fun!
Here are some of the activities we completed over the week,
they were NOT all done in one day.

     I started off the unit by having students, in groups of 4, brainstorm ALL of the ingredients they would need if they were going to bake a cake. Some students went very simple with the boxed-cake-mix approach, others had detailed lists for baking one from scratch, and others were much more focused on the decorating options!

     When completed, I asked my students the following questions:

What is the shape of the container that that ingredient comes in?
Does the shape of the container match the shape of the ingredient?
What things do companies keep in mind when selecting package shapes?

I was really pleased with the responses of the last question, which ranged from convenience and usable marketing space to environmental sustainability and purpose.

     I then presented my students with the two images below and asked them, "If both golf balls and tennis balls are spheres, then why does one often come packaged in rectangular prisms while the other often comes packaged in cylinders?"

Again, my students had excellent ideas and one student quickly pointed out that, "I lose WAY more golf balls than tennis balls so when I buy lots of boxes they stack in my garage!"

     We then revisited the concept of a 2D Net for a 3D Shape, a concept they were introduced to in elementary school. We discussed how a net is a pattern for a 3D shape and, while some nets include small tabs to help them glue easier, a net does not have any overlaps or gaps. They were then presented with the image below which depicts the 11 different nets that can form a cube. I then asked my students:
What 3D shape can be formed by these nets?

Does each net form the shape successfully?

How do you know?

     I then put together 6 centers/stations that my students worked through over the course of 2-3 classes. We do centers/stations almost every time we have a new concept and my students respond really well to them, plus it gives me a great chance to focus on small-group formative assessment.

Station 1
- Concentration/Memory Match Game
     - Students were tasked with matching 3D shapes to their
        respective nets

Station 2
- Crazy Nets
     - Students were provided with complex nets that would create
        3D shapes like icosahedrons (soccer balls) and hebdomicontadissadron
        (the Death Star from Star Wars)
     - Find complex nets here

Station 3
- Conference with Me
     - I always build in one center/station that allows me to sit down
       with students and complete formative assessments for the topic

Station 4
- Computer Activities
     - Students were provided with three different computer activities/
        games to explore through
              - Short introductory information interactive
              - Good for students who need to review information first
     - Play Nets
              - Answer various questions and challenges about nets &
                 3D shapes
              - Various levels of difficulty and teachers can track progress
              - 3D shapes game from BBC KS2 Bitesize Maths
              - My students seemed to enjoy this game the most

Station 5
- Nets Challenge Game
     As a group, pick a 3D Shape. Some examples might be:
          - Cube                  - Rectangular Prism
          - Pyramid              - Triangular Prisms
     - Assign measurements to each side length. 
        Draw the 3D shape below and label in all the appropriate 
     - On square dot paper, take turns drawing as many 
        different nets as possible.
     - Score two points for a net not already used yet. 
        Score one point for a net already used.
     - If someone draws a design that you do not think forms 
       the correct shape, you may challenge them. Check their 
       design by cutting it out and folding it. If it does not form 
       the shape, no points are scored. If it does form the shape,
       you miss your next turn.
     - Play ends when  no one can draw any more nets.
     - The winner is the person with the most points.
     * Game adapted from the Math Makes Sense Textbook Series.

Station 6
Workbook Questions
     - Our school provides individual student workbooks from the Math
       Makes Sense series and this center/station allowed students to work
       through questions regarding nets & 3D shapes for practice
     - I could check these questions for understanding during Station 3 or
       at the end of class


     After Spring Break we will wrap up our discussion on nets and move onto measuring surface area and volume of 3D shapes. Do you have any online resources, activities, tips for this section?

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

April Currently

     I am currently writing this from the luxury of Spring Break! Last week included the delivery of our spring report cards and our second formal parent-teacher interviews of the year (read all about my experience & tips here). This week has brought a much needed break and despite it still being -30C, and feeling nothing like spring, I couldn't be happier!

     If you haven't encountered a "Currently" post before, it is just a fun post at the beginning of each month that serves as a way to share what is Currently going on in your life! You can link up and share your own "Currently" post by visiting the wonderful Farley over at Oh' Boy 4th Grade.
What are your thoughts as we enter April?
What are your must-dos during Spring Break?

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Parent-Teacher Interviews Round Two

     On Monday of this week our second round of report cards went home and officially kicked-off spring Parent-Teacher Interview week. Being that we are a K-12 school, our K-7 teachers scheduled and organized their own meetings which ran throughout the week. In the 8-12 end, our school secretary scheduled our meetings for us which were primarily held on Thursday after school and Friday during school-hours (there were no classes on Friday).

     Compared to the 30+ interviews I had first semester, this round was a breeze with only 20. I think last semester I had a lot of interviews because I was new to the staff and hadn't had an opportunity to meet very many families yet. As such, I found that many of my interviews were quite formal. This time around, my interviews were much more relaxed and comfortable.

     While last semester I reflected on the content of my interviews, I never shared any pictures of how I set up for interviews. So, without further adieu, here are some pictures I snapped before interviews got going on Thursday:

parent teacher tips, how to prepare for your first parent-teacher interviews, parent teacher tips
A quick selfie before things got underway.
Rocking my teal blazer & multi-colour top (both from Eclipse)
 in attempts to break the winter-slump!
parent teacher tips, how to prepare for your first parent-teacher interviews, parent teacher tips
I had these tables set up outside my room, along with several chairs, for
parents/guardians/students while they waited.
parent teacher tips, how to prepare for your first parent-teacher interviews, parent teacher tips
This table showcased our Grade 8 Classroom Blog and included
step-by-step instructions on how to access specific student posts as well
as how to access our Classroom Website (used by all students).
parent teacher tips, how to prepare for your first parent-teacher interviews, parent teacher tips
This table held the student folders my students prepared with
exemplars of their work. Each bucket held the folders for each of
my classes and were assembled in alphabetical order.
parent teacher tips, how to prepare for your first parent-teacher interviews, parent teacher tips
I also had displays of student work up along the hallway.
This is an example of a project my Grade 9 Science students completed
regarding genotypes and phenotypes of their theoretical "alien babies".
Each poster included a QR Code that could be scanned in order to
access their research.
     Here is a list of tips I've put together for all of my wonderful student-teacher friends who will be holding their own parent-teacher interviews next year!

TIPS (in no particular order)

- Speak to what was communicated on the report card (both academically
  and behaviourally). This ensures the parent/guardian fully understands
  what the report was telling them.
- Having print-offs of the most current achievement report (including
  report card comments) is a great reminder if you're on your 101st
  interview and can no longer think clearly!
- Write notes to yourself after each interview (if needed) so you can
  follow-up effectively (I would never remember otherwise)
- Have your anecdotal records handy, don't mention behaviours or
  situations that you can't back up with documentation!
- If your discussion warrants a follow-up phone-call make sure you
  note this and put it into your planner after interviews are done, there
  is nothing worse than promising to do something and then forgetting!
- If you are not the right person to talk to regarding a certain situation
  then make sure you direct the parent to the correct person, don't try
  to tackle something that isn't in your area.
- Relax, focus, and take it one interview at a time! :)

Saturday, 22 March 2014

2 Stars & A Wish: Week 26

     After two weeks of battling bronchitis-like symptoms* I am finally feeling better and this week felt like a fresh start! (*I have no idea if I actually had bronchitis because I couldn't get into the doctors office). Not only did I hit the ground running in regards to my lesson plans and classroom activities, but our report cards were due for review this Friday as they go home with students this upcoming Monday. Thank goodness I was feeling better because this week definitely had some stressful moments, but two things that I think went well this week were:

1 ) Finding Fun Learning Opportunities That My Students DON'T Want to Quit
- My Grade 9 Science class is currently at the beginning of their
  chemistry unit and this week we were introduced to the Periodic
  Table. As a short-review I planned an "I Spy" game that I found
  from a friend where students have to spy the appropriate element
  on their Periodic Table.
- For example, "I Spy an element with 8 protons". Answer: Oxygen.
- I had planned on going through 5-7 questions like this but my
  students didn't want to stop! They organized themselves into teams
  and decided we should implement all types of questions like:
  - "I Spy an element with ___ neutrons" so they would have to
    do math before they could answer.
  - "I Spy an element with the chemical symbol ________"
  - "I Spy the lightest element in the ______ family"
  - etc
- I was surprised by how excited they got about this style of game
  but I went with it and we continued this activity for almost 50mins.
  I was able to touch on all of the aspects that I had hoped to
  review through another activity anyways.

2 ) Not Having Any of my Report Cards Turned Back
- While I completed report cards for my High School students at the
  end of January, this was only my second time having to prepare
  report cards for all six of my classes at the same time.
- Last time, in November, I missed several key formatting aspects
  in my report cards and ended up spending several hours in the
  office adding in details with our secretary at the last possible
  time (thank goodness my students were attending a presentation
  that day; very convenient!).
- Luckily, this time around I did not miss any details in regards to
  information, formatting, comments, etc and I couldn't be happier!
  I know that appropriate and accurate reporting is very important
  and I hope to get more comfortable in this area as I become
  more experienced as a teacher. (I'm already excited for next year
  because I feel like I will be so much more prepared!)

    One thing that I want to work on, however, developing math packages for my students to take home over Spring Break. I have on math class in which we are very far behind in our curriculum for a large variety of reasons. (As my Week 24 Reflection, I actually set a goal for myself to help get them back on track.) I'd like to put together an independent, guided, package to send home with my students to complete over the Spring Break in an effort to strengthen their understanding. I don't want to overwhelm them or take away from their vacation, but I would like them to work on this package so that we can stay on track despite missing a week of school... What are your thoughts?

Week 25 Update:

     Last week I shared that I wanted to get a head start on my report cards in order to meet my Friday deadline. Read #2 to see how it all turned out :)