Friday, 19 September 2014

Have You Checked Out ManACE!?

     Today I spent my first day out of the classroom attending the annual planning meeting for ManACE (Manitoba Association for Computing Educators)

Manitoba Association for Computing Educators

Being that I am almost 4 hours out of the city I don't get to attend many meetings in person so it was awesome to catch-up with those that I only see once or twice a year! Furthermore, we are welcoming four new members to our board so I am adding new contacts to my circle :)

Here are some of the awesome things you want to know about!

1 ) SAGE Sessions
- ManACE is the only SAGE group to offer PD opportunities
  across the province rather than centralized in Winnipeg or
  Brandon! In fact, this year we are offering sessions in:
     - Winnipeg
     - Warren
     - Oakbank
     - Decker Colony School
     - Lorette
     - Swan River
     - Portage la Prairie
- Check out the any of the 17 session descriptions here or
   register for a session here

2 ) SEED Grants
- Every year ManACE offers up eight grants of $900 to promote
  ICT Literacy in Manitoba schools. These grants can go towards
  hardware, software, professional development, etc and are 
  available for early years, middle years, senior years, and admin
  levels.
- This year's SEED Grant applications will be available in November!
- Check out our webpage to read over information from last year
  to get you thinking!
  
3 ) How to FOLLOW Us
- Website www.manace.ca
- Instagram @manacemb
- Twitter @manace_manitoba

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Welcoming a New Set of Grade 8's to the Blogging World!!

     Today my Grade 8 Science class joined the blogging world with the official 2014-2015 launch of Mrs. T's Classroom! This blog is one that I actually started last year with my Grade 8 homeroom, who ended up blogging regularly for their science class as well as featuring a weekly "Mathlete Friday" post.

     This year we are maintaining our online presence at Mrs. T's Classroom as opposed to starting all over again with a new domain. Some of my students have already been checking out last year's posts and are excited about the potential of competing for page-view statistics!


     We will be using their blog to:
- Share their learning with an authentic audience
- Catch up on lessons that were missed due to absences
- Review lessons to get a better understanding
- Connect with other classrooms around the world
- Integrate multimedia of all descriptions 
  (text, images, videos, podcasts)
- Practice responsible digital citizenship
- Receive feedback on their thoughts

     To celebrate we had a full-out Launch Party complete with whole-school announcements, a count-down to our first post, a visit from our school secretary, and pizza! I was also pleasantly surprised to be visited by the Grade 9's who were already waiting to post comments on this year's posts. It was so awesome to see them interested in the project and volunteering to take on some leadership positions to help get this year's Grade 8's started.

blog launch, grade 8 science blog, Mrs's T's Classroom, student blog
A heated "Rock-Paper-Scissors" competition over who got
to be the first official blogger!
blog launch, grade 8 science blog, Mrs's T's Classroom, student blog
A group shot to commemorate the event
     I have a very diverse group this year so I am excited about incorporating more multi-media options on our blog compared to last year. I can't wait for my students to share their learning with a broader audience and get a chance to make a larger impact!

     If you are reading this post, please head over to their blog, read their updated "About Us" page, and comment on their first post; I want them to realize the audience they have!

http://mrstsclassroom.blogspot.ca/2014/09/intro-to-grade-8-science.html

Friday, 5 September 2014

Classroom Reveal!

     During the last week of school in June our school began major renovations which included redoing the exterior walls of an entire wing of our building, some roofing restructuring, and a brand-new science lab/classroom. While everyone in our building was (and still is) excited about these upgrades, the construction may continue all the way until January. Understandably, this is creating a lot of inconveniences as we all adjust to new classrooms, half-finished classrooms, unavailable resources, loud noises, etc.

     Amidst all of the craziness, however, I was surprisingly able to keep my classroom! I am so thankful that I didn't have to pack-up and move to a whole new area. The science lab construction is directly beside me, which makes for some loud days, but I am very fortunate compared to some of our teachers.

     With that being said, here are the official pictures of my room for the 2014-2015 school year! While I've maintained a lot of the basic themes and ideas from last year, I feel more organized this year after experiencing the routines of a classroom:

View looking in from the door!
Last year I had to seat enough for 30 students but
this year I only have to accommodate 20; I love how
much more room there is!!
My Math Area at the back of the room.
For a close up of my "Do You Think Like a Mathematician"
posters and a free download, check out my classroom revealpost from last year!
The Student Supply area in the back-west corner of the room.
The bookcase against the wall houses our Mental Math, Interactive
Notebooks, textbooks (hidden behind the black curtain), and will eventually
include student binders. The other shelf holds our microwave for lunches,
paper, and general supplies. (see close-ups below!)

Bookcase close-up
General Supply close-up.
View of the west wall of my room. I added the curtains as an
accent this year and made them out of plastic tablecloths and duct-tape!
The Chill-Out Area!
This year I was able to add a beautiful carpet depicting the
seven teachings! I love how the colours through the carpet and
my posters tie the room together.
The front of my room.
This year I added the numberline along the top of the whiteboard.
The News Area section of my whiteboard. Each class has their
own area but I've also housed the master Interactive Notebooks
for each math class to keep track of.
I also got a new filing cabinet so I'm no longer holding supplies under
tables!
Information Central!
This area holds all of my teaching resources since I got rid
of my desk last year. The top of the counter holds our hand-in box,
my out-box, and an area for extra photo-copies.
Our Tech Area!
This area is used for our blogging projects and is where the
hook-ups for the SMART Board are.
     While not a lot of large-scale changes occurred this year, I am loving my classroom and feel way more prepared this year!

     Wishing all the teachers out there an awesome back-to-school start!

Monday, 1 September 2014

September Currently

    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.



Sunday, 31 August 2014

Aboriginal Education & Universal Design for Learning - Chapter 7 of U.D.L

   To help us work towards our school goal of purposefully implementing the Universal Design for Learning approach to our formal planning (sometimes referred to as "Backwards by Design", "Understanding by Design", or "Planning With The End in Mind), my principal has provided our staff with a copy of Dr. Jennifer Katz's book, Teaching to Diversity: The Three-Block Model of Universal Design for Learning. As I make my way through the book, I will be summarizing my learning as a means of organizing my thoughts and getting clarification on particular ideas.

Teaching to diversity, the universal design for learning, teaching to diversity book synopsis
Teaching to Diversity Cover. (Accessed 2014). Uploaded to Amazon; Portage& Main Press. 
Available online at: http://www.amazon.ca/Teaching-Diversity-Three-Block-Universal-Learning/dp/1553793536

- Non-aboriginal teachers often feel nervous and unqualified when
  it comes to teaching about aboriginal culture

Challenges to Social and Academic Inclusion
- History of Racism
     - Once Canada became a country, education was divided into two
        categories:
        1 ) Status Indians had their education regulated by the federal gov.
        2 ) Non-status/Inuit/Metis were under the provincial gov.
     - After several years of inadequate programming, with little focus
       on academics or cultural integration, the Indian Control for
       Indian Education asked for:
       1 ) Local community control
       2 ) More First Nations teachers
       3 ) Creation of relevant curricula & resources for F.N students
       4 ) Instruction in F.N languages & culture
     - Suicide among F.N use is higher than those of other backgrounds
- Underfunding & Dehumanization
     - Funding is regularly lower for F.N communities than others
     - Many times issues jump between the federal and provincial
       governments and things fall through the cracks
- System Does Not Reflect Aboriginal Experience
     - Most on-reserve teachers are not from a First Nations background
     - Teachers should make education a priority for themselves and
       acknowledge their lack of background
- Lack of Awareness & Misunderstanding
     - Students coming from reserve schools often have large gaps due
        to lack of educational environments & are placed in exclusive
        learning spaces

Opportunities for Social & Academic Inclusion
- Elders recognized that every person could contribute to society in
  some way

Connecting Block Three: Systems & Structures
- All provinces & territories have policies in place in regards to
  Aboriginal perspective and education
- Teachers have to hold the bar high & challenge students to
  meet the high expectations we see them to be capable of
- Some Aboriginal teachers do not have a memory of a compassionate
  teacher to model themselves off of

Connecting Block Two: Instructional Practice
- All students need to learn about F.N culture
- Each province/territory has educational resources and supports to
  assist in this if you do not know where or how to start

Connecting Block One: Social & Emotional Learning
- Model respect with all students and families
- The Medicine Wheel
- The Seven Teachings

Monday, 25 August 2014

Random Back-to-School Thoughts & FREEBIES!

     Today begins the LAST week before school is back in full swing and, to get a sense of how my day is going today, check out my latest tweet:


     I find that when I sit down to work on stuff for school during the summer I have NO problem flying through the curriculum aspects... you know... the content, "what do I need to teach" stuff. The small details, however, like anchor charts, hand-outs, course outlines, organizational labels, etc, are SO much harder to get done. I'm one of those people that has a hard time visualizing those elements without actually being in my classroom. Which brings up another point, our school is still a crazy construction-zone! (so is my house, but that's another story).

     Last year I ventured into my classroom for the first time around the beginning of August. I spent the next two-three weeks peacefully painting furniture, designing bulletin boards, etc in complete silence as I was often the only person in the building besides the custodians. I could then spend the week before school putting together small details and mentally-preparing for the year to begin. Fast-forward to this year and I have yet to get into my classroom... *deep breaths*

     Technically I could have gone in today as the construction is far enough away from my room now, but we still didn't have any access to internet and I couldn't print anything off since the floors were being done in front of the main office (the only colour printer is in the office). Hence, I decided to hibernate freak-out at home and attempt to create some of those "small detail" items that had been alluding me all summer.

     First off, supply labels! My supplies are kept in deeper rubbermaid-style tubs in a shelving unit in the classroom... yes you can pull them out to see what is in them... but supply labels are much cuter and more efficient. I made a set of 9, which includes one for our Interactive Notebooks (I.N.B) and Mental Math (M. Math) folders. I've uploaded the set of all nine to Google Drive, so feel free to download and use in your own room!
classroom supply labels, free classroom supply labels, classroom supplies printable

      Speaking of supplies... do your students walk off with your pens and pencils ALL the time! In my room, it is like an epidemic!! Our school secretary actually has a cute habit of taping giant silk flowers to the ends of her pens so that people remember to put them back before they walk out of the office with them. In need of a solution, but wanting something my students could relate to, I came up with my own set of classroom supply memes. (remember I teach High School). I plan on printing these off in colour, laminating them over a pipecleaner or straw, and taping it to the ends of my pens in similar fashion to what our secretary does! I created these using Meme Creator, feel free to use them if you'd like!







Good luck with all of your small-details in your classroom!

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Leadership, Policy, and Practice: Block 3: Systems & Structures - Chapter 6 of U.D.L

     To help us work towards our school goal of purposefully implementing the Universal Design for Learning approach to our formal planning (sometimes referred to as "Backwards by Design", "Understanding by Design", or "Planning With The End in Mind), my principal has provided our staff with a copy of Dr. Jennifer Katz's book, Teaching to Diversity: The Three-Block Model of Universal Design for Learning. As I make my way through the book, I will be summarizing my learning as a means of organizing my thoughts and getting clarification on particular ideas.

Teaching to diversity, the universal design for learning, teaching to diversity book synopsis
Teaching to Diversity Cover. (Accessed 2014). Uploaded to Amazon; Portage& Main Press. 
Available online at: http://www.amazon.ca/Teaching-Diversity-Three-Block-Universal-Learning/dp/1553793536


Policy and Practice in Ministries of Education
- The essence of the education system is still closely modelled after
  the post WWII design, which did not address inclusive education
- Inclusive education has been formally addressed by UNESCO for
  more than ten years
- Policy on Inclusive Education
     - Every province in Canada has a policy towards inclusive education
     - Manitoba's policy is called the Appropriate Educational Programming
       Act or Bill 13
       "Inclusion is a way of thinking and acting that allows every individual
        to feel accepted, valued, and safe."
     - Many times, students are placed in the classroom but are on such
       an individualized program or segregated with an EA that they are
       not involved in the social or academic life of the room
     - Inclusive classrooms help all types of students (gifted, low achieving,
       those with learning disabilities, etc)
     - Perceived lack of resources, lack of training, or unavailable support
       leads to resistance towards inclusion
     - Incorporating the Universal Design for Learning has been part of the
       Appropriate Educational Programming Act since 2005, yet many
       schools have not incorporated it
- Curriculum Development and Assessment
     - Curriculum does not always allow for cross-curricular opportunities
       which result in students sometimes covering similar topics in
       multiple classes without the teachers realizing it
     - Standardized testing has not been changed to be inclusive
- Community Education and Involvement
     - Teachers and parents should see each other as allies
     - Make sure that what you asking of families is realistic; try to find
       their strengths
     * Case Study: Jose (reading with a light box)

School Divisions: Supporting Inclusive Education
- Creating a Vision for Inclusion
     - Segregated classrooms leads teachers to believe that other teachers
       are responsible for "those students"
     - To successfully implement change, divisions need to:
           1 ) commit to and believe in inclusion
           2 ) see difference as a resource
           3 ) encourage collaboration between staff & students
           4 ) encourage willingness in staff
           5 ) approach inclusion as a social/political/academic issue
           6 ) commit to inclusive ideals
- Professional Development and Capacity-Building
     - Teachers need support and regular feedback with new ideas,
        just like students do
     - Implementing UDL on a school or divisional level requires a multi-
       year plan
     - Some tips for UDL include:
          1 ) Focus on the big picture, you can't choose to just differentiate
               assignments yet still keep students in rows. Focus on one of
               the three blocks, if needed
          2 ) Have school "experts" that have been trained in certain aspects
               and can help support others
          3 ) Bring in a professional for PD
          4 ) Follow up
- Hiring Qualified Personnel
     1 ) Teachers need to have a strong understanding of curricula
     2 ) Teachers need to mix their understanding of disabilities,
           teaching strategies, and curricula, so they know how a
           student will interpret the information
     3 ) Teachers need to take full responsibility for their students
     4 ) Teachers need to fully understand their students as 
           individuals

___________________________________________________

     I looked more into the Manitoba Education Philosophy on Inclusion, which is summarized as:
- Inclusion is a way of thinking and acting that allows every individual to
   feel accepted, valued, and safe. An inclusive community consciously
   evolves to meet the changing needs of its members.
- Through recognition and support, an inclusive community provides
   meaningful involvement and equal access to the benefits of
   citizenship
- In Manitoba, we embrace inclusion as a means of enhancing the well-
   being of every member of the community.
- The philosophy of inclusion goes beyond the idea of physical location
   and incorporates basic values and a belief system that promotes the
   participation, belonging, and interaction