Sunday, 28 April 2013

Interview Question Prep

     A few days ago I posted that there were two jobs being posted at "S-School" and I am so happy to say that I received an interview! On Monday at 9am I will be sitting down with the division superintendent, principal and a school board member to officially interview for the positions. To prepare I've tried to pick some top questions that I feel will help me answer questions effectively. To do so I've:
- Gone through the information from my university classes
- Searched online
- Asked my PLN on Twitter/Facebook/etc
- Taken information from our universities career fair
- Reviewed information from "S-School" staff meetings
- Visited the division website
Here are the questions I've prepared for:

1 ) What are three words that best describe who you are as a teacher? What are three words that do not describe you?
Three Words That Describe Me:
1 ) Caring
2 ) Organized
3 ) Flexible
Three Words That Do Not Describe Me:
1 ) Disengaged
2 ) Traditional
3 ) Solitary

2 ) How do students describe you?
If I were asked this question I would direct them to my professional portfolio which has a dedicated section for "Student Opinions". On this page I have actual student reviews that were completed by my students during my various student teaching placements.

3 ) What do you know about our school/division goals?
"S-School's" school-wide goals this year are:
A ) Teachers will incorporate Aboriginal perspective into their lessons
     at least three times a year.
- During my time at "S-School" I have taught an entire unit on Indigenous
  Peoples in the World Issues class as well a section on Indigenous
  perspective on Natural Resources in the Geography class.
- Some of our activities have included creation story comparisons, creating
  a collaborative Traditional Seven Teachings poster, having an elder from
  TRCM visit our class, Idle No More research projects, and much more.
B ) Teachers will organize 15 grade mentoring activities throughout the year.
- I have organized a collaborative project between the Grade 8 and Grade 4
  class in which they created posters about what respect looks like in their
- My Grade 11/12 Agriculture class visited the Grade 7 Social Studies class
  to teach them about the ecological event, the Dust Bowl. The class had been
  learning about the Great Depression so it was a good opportunity to see the
  agricultural impact as well as the economical impact.
C ) Teachers will plan student events to build community.
- During the "Grade Wars" event I judged the cheer event and took pictures
  for the yearbook.
"T-Division's" goals are:
A ) Student Engagement
- See question four
B ) School Climate
- See question thirteen
C ) Education for Sustainable Development

4 ) How do you define student engagement? What does it look like in your classroom?
Student engagement is a state in which students are actively involved in the learning process and are taking responsibility for their own learning. I really think that engagement is increased when students are offered choice and the learning opportunities are relevant and meaningful to their specific interests and abilities.
Engagement is going to look differently for every single student in my classroom depending their interests, needs, abilities, and personality.

5 ) How do you differentiate your instruction?
Learning Styles/Multiple Intelligences
For the majority of my lessons I include a PowerPoint or Prezi Presentation that allows for student to be presented with information through auditory, textual and visual means. During the activation component of the lesson I like to have an activity that gets students out of their desks and engages kineasthetic learners.
Reading Levels
When using text in class I try to have more than one version so that students are varying reading levels can have information that is appropriate for them but also meets the curricular outcomes. If multiple text versions are unavailable I will provide a reading guide, include small group instruction, or provide a visual option to accompany the text.
I try to always provide multiple options when it comes to assessment so that student can demonstrate their learning in a manner that best suits them. At any time, students can suggest alternatives and create their own assessment options. I have no issue with students creating their own plan in order to best demonstrate their learning.

6 ) What is Backwards-by-Design planning? Show me a unit in which you've utilized this approach.
Backwards-by-Design planning involves "thinking with the end in mind" and focuses on what students should be able to accomplish at the end of the unit/lesson/topic. In order to accomplish this I identify the "Big Ideas" or enduring understandings for the unit, identify what students will be able to and what they should learn, and then create assessment opportunities that will specifically allow students to reach those goals. Here is a hierarchy of the planning process:
A ) "Big Idea"/Enduring Understandings
B ) What will students know?
C ) What will students be able to do?
D ) What assessment options will allow students to learn and demonstrate
      this information.
I would then show some of the units I have created using this format.

7 ) How do you motivate reluctant learners?
One of the best ways to motivate reluctant is to provide them with learning opportunities that are relevant and meaningful to them. I pride myself in understanding my student's personalities and their interests which allows me plan learning experiences which take their interests into account. One examples of this has included bringing in the graphic novel series, 7th Generation, by David Robertson to learn about First Nations culture, traditions and issues in the World Issues curriculum. Another example has been utilizing the maps and plot of the video game, Assassin's Creed, to discuss ancient Rome and architecture.

When approaching a reluctant learner it is also important to look at learning style/multiple intelligences and differentiation options to ensure the student is learning in a manner that best suits their needs. For example, a student may be experiencing learned helplessness when it comes to writing assignments. Unless the outcome specifically mentions writing, a student can demonstrate their learning in countless ways such as drawings, podcasts, digital stories, conversations, etc.

8 ) Describe your understanding of assessment for learning, as learning, and of learning.
Assessment FOR Learning
- Formative
- Occurs throughout the learning process to help the teacher understand
  how they can make sure the student experiences success.
- Assessment for learning should help teacher's guide their lesson/unit
  planning to best fit the needs of their students (individually and as a class).
- Observation, small or large group discussion, KWL, entrance/exit slips, etc
Assessment AS Learning
- Formative
- Occurs throughout the learning process to help the students understand
  their personal metacognition process.
- Assessment as learning should include a gradual release of responsibility
  as student's become more aware of their understanding on the lesson/unit.
- Self-assessed work, comment-only assessment (no grade), rough drafts,
  conferencing, etc
Assessment OF Learning
- Summative
- Occurs at the end of the learning process and provides an opportunity
  for students to demonstrate their understanding of the learning outcome(s)
- Assessment of learning can take place more than one time for a specific
  outcome and should allow for students to demonstrate their most recent
- Essay, written test, podcast, presentation, podcast, conversation, etc

9 ) Describe the three MB Report Card Categories, what type of assessment would fit in with each one?
Social Studies:
A ) Knowledge & Understanding
- Describe the period of the Great Migration.
B ) Research & Communication
- Produce a newspaper article reporting the rebellions occurring in
  Upper Canada during the 1830-40s.
C ) Critical Thinking
- Consider what would happen if First Nations representatives had been
  allowed to be active and equal participants in Confederation Meetings?
A ) Knowledge & Understanding
- List electrical devices utilized in your daily life and identify what human
  need they fulfill.
B ) Scientific Inquiry Process
- Analyze data to determine the relationship between bulb brightness and
  energy sources in series and parallel circuits.
C ) Design Process & Problem Solving
- Using all of the following materials, create an electrical circuit that
  successful lights up the light bulbs.

I believe that assessment opportunities are endless and should be determined by individual student needs, abilities and interests. In general, I see point "A" as representing the bottom two levels of Blooms Taxonomy (Remembering, Understanding), point "B" as representing the middle two levels of Blooms Taxonomy (Applying, Analyzing), and point "C" as representing the top two levels of Blooms Taxonomy (Evaluating, Creating).

10 ) How do you infuse technology into your teaching?
I do not believe that technology should be included for novelty purposes in hopes to increase student engagement Incorporation of technology should be appropriate to the specific task and should be applied in a manner that allows for practical application after the students leave the classroom.
I would then reference various lessons that infused technology purposefully and with practical application.

11 ) What impact does an interruption to internet access or technology have on student learning?
I always put a back-up plan in place in case technology is malfunctioning or not available. I don't believe that technology should be included as novelty to boost engagement so I will always have a back up plan that allows my students to still meet the same goals through whatever means are available. I try to make sure that videos are available in more than one place, information is copied down and any documents are printed off.

12 ) What do you do if a student outright refuses to do their work?
I would first consider what the student's reasoning might be for not completing their work. (Bad day? Hungry? Fighting with peers/families? Dislike of assignment option? Lacking understanding to complete assignment? Personality clash? etc). I would then ask the student why they are choosing to not complete this assignment. If they identify something specific I would try to address that issue, if possible. If they do not identify something specific I would try to suggest options based off of my personal predictions about their motive. If I am unable to come to a solution I would try to continue conversation to the point where the student might demonstrate their learning without actually completing the assignment.
I would then make sure to record the incident for future reference. Depending on the student and specific situation I may also call home and/or notify administration if appropriate.

13 ) What do you do to set up a respectful & accepting classroom environment?
When creating a respectful and accepting classroom I think the most important factors are clear, concise and consistent guidelines. All students should be aware of classroom expectations and understand the reasoning behind them. Students should also see consistency in all situations so that those guidelines are maintained throughout the year. After learning the classroom guidelines, students also need to see them being appropriately modeled by the classroom teacher at all times.

14 ) What is the role of the parent/guardian in your classroom?
Parents/guardians should be invited to play an active part in the classroom environment. When students, parents/guardians and teachers can all be on the same page the student has a greater chance of success in the classroom. In addition to personal support for their child, parents/guardians can be a great source of expertise and should be invited into the classroom to share their knowledge when appropriate.
I believe that education should be a community endeavour and by inviting parents/guardians, and other community members, into the school it allows for the students to get the a wider range of knowledge and perspective on a topic.

15 ) How do you establish communication with parents?
As a first year teacher who is new to the area I think it is important to set up an open house at the start of the year to give parents an opportunity to meet me and view the classroom before parent-teacher interviews in the fall. During this time I can also open the preliminary lines of communication and determine what is the easiest way to get a hold of parents (phone, email, text, letters with students, etc).

16 ) What extracurricular activities are you interested in?
I've always been very involved with student council, both in high school as well as university, and would be interested in continuing that involvement as a staff supervisor. I would also like to be involved in organizing and running the morning breakfast program as I think it is an extremely important school initiative.

17 ) What leadership role would you be willing to take on?
As an experienced educational blogger, and connected educator, I would like an opportunity to share this outlook with other educators and work on creating a strong online presence within the school. I've presented on this topic at the 2013 BYTE Conference in Neepawa and would like to continue working on this in the school in which I get a position.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

The Dust Bowl... by Wikipedia

     This week my Grade 11/12 Agriculture class has been putting the finishing touches on their Dust Bowl "mini-museum displays". My students were responsible for finding some type of media (photo or video), creating some type of artifact and completing a written report. Here is how their project was set up.

The Greatest Dust Bowl

Witnessing the Dust Bowl


Dust Bowl Citizen Trading Card

From the Dust Bowl,
With Love

Agricultural Causes & Effects of the Dust Bowl

Row 1 = media
Row 2 = artifacts
Row 3 = written report
Students had their choice of two options in Row 1 and their choice of three options in Row 2, but Row 3 was mandatory.

     Last night as I sat marking some of the projects I noticed that one of the written reports was clearly not student-created work. I quickly went to Google and, sure enough, a Wikipedia article popped up with the same sentences as the report I had in my hand. Was I mad? Yes. After giving a week's worth of in-class time to work on this project, why would you need to go to Wikipedia and copy your information? Was I disappointed? Yes. My students were given a very clear rubric of the information that was required and all of this information was available in their notes; there was no need for further internet research. The report I had in my hand was not only plagiarized, but it didn't even complete the requirements stated in the rubric!

     I sat down and thought about how to approach my student in class the next day. Do they get a zero? Do I ask them to redo it? Do I phone their parents? Do I send them to the office? To me, if a student is plagiarizing their work to the extent where they are not even looking at the assignment to see if they are completing what is asked, then something else is obviously going on. 

     When class started this morning I called the student up to my desk and asked them to pull up a seat. I didn't mention their project or the fact that it was plagiarized. What I did was pull out the rubric for the assignment and slowly ask them to explain their understanding of each of the points.
- What type of weathering occurred during the Dust Bowl?
- Can you explain that weathering process to me?
- What would be a specific example of this type of weathering?
- What part of the soil profile was specifically affected by this event?
- Why is that soil horizon important?
- Etc

     I did this for each of the points on the rubric and wrote down their answers as I went along. As soon as they were finished I quickly tallied up their mark and said, "Thank you sharing that information with me, now I have a good sense of your understanding. Your paper, however, wasn't able to show me that. Next time you find yourself stuck and wanting to head towards the copy/paste button just say, 'Miss L, I want to have a conversation with you about what I know.' That will be a better option, ok?". I could literally see my student's emotions change from confusion, to embarrassment, to appreciation within a minute.

     Would I do this with any of my students? Like anything, it would depend on the specific situation and their personal history but the purpose of the assignment was not, "Can the student write a written report," it was, "Can the student understand the causes and effects of the Dust Bowl," which could be demonstrated many different ways. If a student is openly choosing to plagiarize their work I'm going to think that maybe something else is going on.
- Lack of understanding on the subject
- Need another way to demonstrate their knowledge
- Situations at home
- Etc

     How do you deal with these type of situations in your classroom(s)?

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The Job Hunt is On!

Last week I was approached by the principal at "S-School" who let me know that two jobs were being posted in the school! I was so excited when I went into the staff room and saw these hanging on the bulletin board.

Here is what the two jobs are posted as:
- Grade 7-10 Science and Social Studies Teacher, Full Time Permanent
- Family Studies and Resource Teacher, Full Time Permanent

After spending both my third and fourth student teaching placements at "S-School" I've grown to love the students, staff, and learning environment that is present. I am so excited that there are two jobs posted in a school that I love and in a community that is only a 10 minute drive from home! My teachables are Social Studies and Science but I applied for both jobs as I really want an opportunity to join "S-School's" team. The posting closes tomorrow and interviews will take place next week, if I am selected for an interview.

Wish me luck!

Monday, 22 April 2013

Resources To Start Off Your Week 61

     Happy Monday everyone! Does it look like Spring yet where you are? Here in Manitoba, Mondays are getting pretty depressing as we are starting ANOTHER week with snow :( I have about a ten-by-ten patch in my yard where it has melted but in most areas we still have well over a foot of snow still. Here's hoping that spring catches up soon! The good news is that we still have awesome ed resources to make us smile :) As always, I will be adding these to my list of resources under the Fav Websites heading.

Good Video Sources for ________
- I love to include video clips when I'm teaching. It is a great
  way to differentiate your instructional method and can be really
  engaging for our students who have essentially grown up around
  a television screen.
- Richard Byrne at, Free Technology for Teachers, has been posting
  an awesome series of great video sources by subject area. Each post
  is subject specific and features about ten online resources to check
  out to find educational videos to include in the classroom. The great
  part is that, in the comments section of the post, visitors have also
  been sharing their favourite video sources too!
* If you want to learn more about using video in the classroom,
  check out my previous article, More Than Just Bill Nye... Using
  Video in the Classroom
- Social Studies Video Sources
- Science Video Sources
- Math Video Sources
Happy Monday everyone!

Sunday, 21 April 2013

2 Stars & A Wish: Finishing on Time

     My fifth week of student teaching is all finished up which means that I officially have two weeks left to wrap up my units and complete final assessments with my students!  A reoccurring theme during this placement has definitely been a lack of time and this week was no exception. This week we only had a four-day week because of a division-wide PD day on Friday and on Thursday our high school students were away at a local career fair. Unfortunately, this meant that I really only had three teaching days instead of the five that I would normally have. Even though it was a short amount of time, two things that I think went really well this week were:

1 ) Providing Students with Choice in the Classroom
- I really want to focus on providing students with learning opportunities
  that are relevant and meaningful to them so that they can have the most
  positive experience possible while at school. One of the ways that I can
  accomplish this is by providing students with choice so that they are
  working on assignments that actually mean something to them
- I understand that there is a lot of different ways to learn and demonstrate
  that learning so it is my hope that giving students options allows them to
  learn and demonstrate that learning in a way that meets their needs.
- In my Grade 10 Geography class I allowed my students to submit
  activity suggestions to me to determine what kind of activity we could
  work on for our discussion on forestry. (We have already completed
  mineral infographics, vintage fossil fuel posters, and water displays). I
  tallied the results and then, as a class, we decided what activity would
  work best for them!
2 ) Creating Successful Environments for my Grade 8 Class
- This week I had, by far, my most successful class with my Grade 8
  Social Studies class! We have been working on a QR Code
  Scavenger Hunt to learn about some of the important events that
  occurred in Ancient Greece. This multiple-day assignment has
  allowed the class to work in different groups, use the iPads,
  interact with text, read maps, watch videos and create timelines.
- On Wednesday, the students who finished first were actually my
  students who are usually disengaged and then they went to work
  on assignments that they were missing from earlier in the week.
- It is my hope that this is because I have been able to help them
  be successful in the classroom through the different activity options
  and allowing them freedom to make choices at their own pace.
  Lets hope it continues this week :)

     One thing that I feel like I need to work on, however, is finishing up my units on time (by Friday, May 3rd). This week we have badminton zones, a music field trip and a science fair for my various classes so I will have a short week again in every single one of my classes. I am working today to make sure we will be able to finish up our units appropriately within our time frame. I can't believe how much in-class time is lost to extracurricular that spring up without much notice! I would like to finish up by Tuesday, April 30th so that we  can review and complete final assessments by Friday. Wish me luck!

Week 4: 2 Stars & A Week Update

     Last week I shared that I wanted to work on getting into a rhythm with my ICT class because we got started late in the placement. Luckily we were able to move through the basic skills of PowerPoint quite quickly because a lot of my students had prior knowledge with the application. I now have all of my students working on the first part of our digital storytelling project, My Life In Ten Slides. I hope to have them finished up this first section by Tuesday and then move onto the audio component! I will make sure to post some projects when they are completed.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Dr. Kathie Nunley Part 2: Layered Curriculum

     *The following is Part 2 of a two-part reflection on a PD session I attended by Dr. Kathie Nunley. Part 1 of this reflection on, A Student's Brain, can be found by following the highlighted link.

     Layered Curriculum, developed by Dr. Kathie Nunley, is an instructional method based specifically on her work with neuroscience and how the adolescent brain functions. It is developed as a means to effectively meet the needs of the adolescent learner by taking into account how the brain processes information and reacts to various stimuli. One very important factor in this method is student choice. As I mentioned in Part 1 of this reflection, after a student's physical needs and novelty focus are addressed, a student's attention is focused on their self-made choices. As such, student choice is a "cornerstone" of the Layered Curriculum method and is built into all aspects.

     Essentially, Layered Curriculum is a three-tiered instructional method that allows students to master learning outcomes by working through three levels of increasing complexity. Using the research behind Bloom's Taxonomy, three layers are created to scaffold student learning and implement a gradual release of responsibility which allows for students to be accountable for their own learning. In each layer, students would be presented with multiple activity choices in order to explore their learning in a way that interests them. The following is a brief overview of each layer:

- Bottom layer of the tier
- Bottom 2 layers of Bloom's Taxonomy
     - Remembering
     - Understanding
- Designed to help students grow dendrites
- Might ask students to list, recall, describe,
  write notes, etc
- Layer C introduces the basic knowledge, the foundation of
  the unit, that will be built on in Layer B and Layer A

- Middle layer of the tier
- Middle 2 layers of Bloom's Taxonomy
     - Applying
     - Analyzing
- Designed to help students connect to prior
  knowledge and web their dendrites
     - Cross-curricular
- Might ask students to compare, discover, prove, etc
- Layer B often features something to "hook" students into
  the exploration.
     - Weird
     - Novelty
     - Gross
     - Edible

- Top layer of the tier
- Top 2 layers of Bloom's Taxonomy
     - Evaluating
     - Creating
- Designed to help students solidify learning and
  connect neurons for mastery of the outcome
- Might ask students to debate, justify, evaluate
- Layer A brings in "real life" questions that allow
  students to see the connection between what
  they are learning and how they can use this
  experience outside of the classroom
     - Current events


     Due to the fact that Layered Curriculum builds in multiple student options, there is countless opportunities to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of all of the students in the classroom. For example, when creating options teachers can specifically build in choices for students that address various multiple learning styles or multiple intelligences. Teachers can also account for various reading levels, ESL students, or any adapted/modified programming that is taking place in their classroom.

     Layered Curriculum has students as active and accountable participants in their own learning process and, as such, will incorporate many conversations regarding outcomes and appropriate activity choices. It is during this time, that the teacher can help guide students to activity choices that best fit their needs. For example, if you have a student who is reading below grade level, you may guide them towards the options that best fit their situation. Over time, however, there should be a gradual release of responsibility as students learn how to determine what activities they want to chose in order to have a positive experience and be successful.


     During this student teaching placement I feel like I have been incorporating more student choice than ever before and definitely see positive results from students being able to work on what interests them. What I like about the Layered Curriculum instructional method, however, is that it not only incorporates student choice but also builds in differentiation while centering on how a student's brain functions and processes information. One thing that I couldn't help focusing on, however is that Dr. Nunley hooked in each of the layers to it's appropriate letter grade (Only doing Layer C work could get a "C" in the course). To transfer this over to fit Manitoba's report card scheme Layer A would equal a 4 on the report card, Layer B would equal a 3, and Layer C would equal a 2. What do you do when you are trying to fit in a three-tiered approach into a four-tiered system? Personally, I would further subdivide Layer C so that I had a four-tiered system that looked something like this:
- Layer 1 (D)
     - Remembering
- Layer 2 (C)
     - Understanding
- Layer 3 (B)
     - Applying
     - Analyzing
- Layer 4 (A)
     - Evaluating
     - Creating

     Here is an example I created for how this type of system might work in my classroom if I were to incorporate it right away:

Grade 11/12 Agriculture: Soils Unit
Students will understand soil texture and analyze its affect on erosion.

Activity Choices
1 Layer
What information can I remember about this topic?
(ex) List, recognize, recall
- List particle sizes from largest to smallest
- Proportionally illustrate the four particle
- Define appropriate vocabulary terms
  (gravel, sand, silt, clay, porosity,
   permeability, etc)
2 Layer
What basic information do I know about this topic?
(ex) Sort, explain, describe, give examples
- Sort various soil samples by particle size
- Read an article on erosion and answer
  questions regarding soil texture
- Create flashcards (word, text, picture,
  example) for various terms
- Create examples to illustrate each of the
  vocabulary terms
3 Layer
How can I apply this information to previous information?
(ex) Apply, compare, manipulate, demonstrate
- In a lab, determine the affect sol texture
  has on porosity and permeability
- Create an edible representation of each
  type of soil texture
- Interdisciplinary math project: look at the
  proportions of sand, silt and clay in each
  type of soil texture
4 Layer
What debatable issues in the real word deals with this topic?
(ex) Current events, debates, leadership decisions.
- Debate, is the process of cultivation worth
  the increased risk of erosion?
- Create a news article, should insurance
  levels be affected by property soil
- Debate, could the "Dust Bowl" happen again 
  considering modern farming practices?
* Modified from Dr. Kathie Nunley's April 19th PD handout, page 5. 2007 Layered Curriculum Workbook.

     As a student teacher who is still new to assessment practices, and our new Provincial Report Cards, this PD session left me with a lot to think about. Overall I am very excited about the instructional aspect of Layered Curriculum and love how easy it is to differentiate and give students the choice that they need. On the assessment side, however, I would want to look more into how to best assess and make sure that student understanding is appropriately reflected in our new report card system.
     My reflections are only a small amount of information compared to what was covered in the session. To learn more about Dr. Kathie Nunley, and her work with brain research and education, please explore the following links:
Brain-based Learning, Ideas & Materials
Dr. Kathie Nunley's Layered Curriculum Website for Educators
Brainsorg YouTube Channel

Thank you to Dr. Kathie Nunley for visiting us in rural Manitoba, I am definitely inspired to think differently about my classroom instruction!
Thank you to the admin and staff in "T-Division" who set up this great PD opportunity!

Dr. Kathie Nunley Part 1: A Student's Brain

     Today all the teachers and support staff in "T-Division" had the opportunity to attend a PD session with Dr. Kathie Nunley, an educator and brain-image researcher from the eastern US. I was immediately excited because I have always been really interested in how to engage different parts of our student's brains and differentiate instruction to best meet their individual learning styles/needs. I can definitely say that I was not disappointed by this PD session! Dr. Nunley is not only just extremely knowledgeable about her subject area but is also a very humorous and engaging speaker (I spent a great deal of the day laughing!). Our day was divided into two broad sections:
- A Student's Brain (morning)
- Layered Curriculum (afternoon)
As such, I want to do a two-part reflection to ensure I am able to cover ALL of the great information that was covered throughout the day.


     Have you ever heard that in order to truly master something you need to have at least 10,000 hours of experience in it? My fiance is a Phys-Ed teacher and this was a statistic that he often heard in his classes throughout his time in university. Personally, 10,000 hours always seemed like an incredibly large number to me. Dr. Nunley, in comparison, defined mastery as the point in which you can complete a task while fully engaged in something different. Have you ever pulled into your driveway, turned off your vehicle and then realized you have absolutely no memory of actually driving home? Perhaps you were thinking about what you needed to do that evening, what you were going to prepare for supper, or the trip you are going to take on the weekend. Regardless of what you were preoccupied with, your brain was able to go into "auto-pilot" and allow you to complete the task of driving even though you were engaged in something completely different. Dr. Nunley shared that this means that the skill of driving has been internalized in your brain and has now become a skill that you have mastered. A new driver, however, still needs all of the steps for driving a vehicle in their cortex which means that they need to fully think through each action that is required to operate the vehicle.
multitasking, student multitasking
If your students can complete their assignments while
engaged in other tasks, it is time to move on!
What does this mean for teachers and students? Do you ever have students who are able to fully complete the assignments that you give them while listening to their music, texting another student AND talking to their peers around them? If so, your students have already mastered that specific outcome and are no longer being challenged. If this is something that we are noticing with our students we need to move on, if it is the entire class, or think about differentiation in order to challenge those specific students who have mastered that outcome already.


     I've always heard lots of statistics thrown around like, "Video games have ruined children's attention spans" but have never actually looked into any of the facts behind these statements. The truth is though, that today's children are interacting with electronic devices when they are as young as one year old; infants are placed in front of televisions, toddlers have their own tablet devices, and children know how to use computers before they can write their own names. This means our students grow up surrounded by high-stimulation situations and are used to being presented with A LOT of information in a very short amount of time. Does this sound like the classroom setup that you are used to? Unfortunately for our students, many classrooms function at a significantly slower level than the super-speed electronic world that they've interacted with since infancy.

     To help ensure student success, it can be beneficial to look into the brain's Reticular Activating System (R.A.S) which controls motivation and helps determine what our students are going to be focusing on while in the classroom. The R.A.S has what can be termed a Hierarchy of Novelty which features three tiers:
1 ) Physical Needs
- If a student's physical needs are not addressed (hunger, thirst, sleep,
  safety, comfort, etc) they will not be able to focus on their learning.
* This is where Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs would come into play.
2 ) Novelty
- Anything that is new, different, and exciting for students will catch
  their attention and hold it until that novelty wears off.
- This can be seen at the start of the year when the teacher, classroom,
   subject material, etc is all new and exciting for the students.
3 ) Self-Made Choices
- Once a student's physical needs are taken care of, and the novelty of
  a situation has worn off, a student is going to be most interested in
  activities that they have chosen themselves.
- We see this day-in and day-out with our students and once they have
  picked what most interests them (whether that is classroom material or
  their peers) it is hard to move their attention to something else.
* This is why Layered Curriculum focuses around student choice (in
   Part 2 of this post)


     When in the womb, our brain has approximately 520 billion brain cells. At birth this number is down to 200 billion and by the time we reach adulthood that number is down again to 100 billion. Growing up we heard all the time, "Don't do _____ you'll kill your brain cells"! Your level of intelligence, however, has nothing to do with the number of brain cells you have. Intelligence is directly linked to the number of dendrites, or branches from neuron to neuron. Dr. Nunley described brain cells and neurons like the process of gardening and pruning. It is not about the number of carrots that you have in your garden. It is necessary to thin out the row and get rid of some of the carrots in order to allow others to grow to their full potential; brain cells are the same way. It is necessary for some brain cells to be destroyed in order for others to develop and build extensive branches (dendrites).

     The wonderful thing about these branches is that we can use them again and again in different contexts. For example, something we learn in math class might branch off and be used for something in music class or something in shop class. In fact, it is said that students will only ever directly use 7% of what they will learn while in school. If this is the case, why bother with school at all? What is being used, however, is the millions of dendrite connections which allow students to consistently use all of the skills and networks that they've developed while at school. The example that Dr. Nunley shared was her football-playing students that spend their lunch hours in the fitness center lifting weights. Do they lift weights purely to have the skill of moving around heavy objects? No, they lift weights in order to develop their overall gross motor skills so that they can perform better at football so that they can further their playing careers. It is exactly the same with dendrite development. Students learn information that develops their dendrite connections that allows them to make further connections which allows them to be successful in a variety of situations.
     This is only a small sampling of the amount of information we received in the morning portion of this PD session. To learn more about Dr. Kathie Nunley, and her work with brain research and education, please explore the following links:
- Brain-based Learning, Ideas & Materials
- Dr. Kathie Nunley's Layered Curriculum Website for Educators
- Brainsorg YouTube Channel
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this reflection on Layered Curriculum!

Monday, 15 April 2013

Resources To Start Off Your Week 60

     I was going through my email account this weekend and found some emails with resources from over two years ago that I had saved for future reference! I guess it pays to go back and double check through your online files haha. This week I have three different resources that could be a great addition to a Social Studies or English classroom. As always, I will be adding these to my lists of resources under the Fav Websites heading at the top of the page.

1 ) Top Documentary Films
- Top Documentary Films has compiled over 1000 documentaries,
  organized them by topic/genre and provided current links to where
  they can be viewed online.
- This can be a great website for finding documentaries that can be
  viewed in your classroom or, if you can't watch online, it can serve
  as a search list that you can use to find hard-copy version.
- I really like this site because I love the discussions that can come out
  of watching thought-provoking documentaries but am not always sure
  what documentaries are out there. It also features a lot of older films
  that are now public domain!

documentary films, educational documentaries, online documentary

2 ) The Story of Stuff Project
- The "Story of Stuff" is an awesome animated short feature about the
  amount of trash that is created in the world and touches on a lot of
  environmental and consumerism themes.
- This accompanying website features a blog, other movies by the author,
  podcasts, classroom resources, and various downloads. The videos and
  podcasts can easily be used to incorportate a "flipped classroom" lesson
  and the resources and blog has a lot of great project ideas to build on the
  themes brought up in the video.
*The "Story of Stuff" video can be found on YouTube, I've embedded it

3 ) Resources For History Teachers Wiki
- This wiki, created by education students at the University of Massachusetts,
  features hundreds of great resources for social studies teachers! Resources
  are organized by grade level and topic area and are specifically organized
  by specific learning outcomes. Each outcome features textual information,
  video clips, maps, images and/or sound clips that can utilized in the classroom.
- These resources align with the Massachusetts, United States curriculum but can
  be utilized to fit the needs of any classroom. I can't imagine how useful this would
  be if I was actually in Massachusetts; all of the work is done for you!
* Thank you University of Masachusetts!

social studies resources, history resources, geography resources, social studies wiki

Happy Monday everyone!

Imagine All The Water

     In July I shared one of my Fav Websites, Imagine All The Water, which illustrates how much water it takes to create some of our everyday items like paper or a pair of jeans. Fast forward nine months and I am now teaching Natural Resources in Grade 10 Geography and we have just started talking about fresh water resources! Last week I showed my class the following video which showcases a group visually depicting one of the water statistics from the website using water balloons:

     We decided to use this video as our inspiration to create our own display in our school's main hallway. When the students came into class today we divided into three groups:
1 ) Poster
- Responsible for creating a poster to explain our project
2 ) Layout
- Responsible for deciding how they wanted to organize our
  resources (cups)
- In the video they used water balloons to create a hamburger
3 ) Water/Filling Cups
- Responsible for deciding how much water they needed, based
  on what statistic they wanted to represent and how many cups
  the layout group wanted to use

     After polling the class, they decided that they wanted to showcase the statistic, "It takes 13L of water to create 1 piece of paper", because they use so much paper while at school. The layout group quickly went to work creating a number 13 out of dark blue cups, surrounding it by white cups, and adding food colouring to make the 13 stand out. The water/filling cups group were responsible for figuring out how to divide 13L of water so that each cup was filled evenly. The poster group created a large background featuring our statistic, the website that inspired us, our class name and a visually depiction of the statistic using paper and water bottles. Here are some pictures of our display:

Filling the cups

Our finished display featuring 13L of water and poster background

A bird's eye view showing the number 13 to represent how many litres of water is needed

Posing for a class picture
     If you haven't had an opportunity yet, check out the Imagine All The Water website and share what statistic surprises you.

Friday, 12 April 2013

2 Stars & A Wish: ICT Whirlwind

     My fourth week of student teaching is now complete and I can't believe that I am over half way done my LAST student teaching placement! This week offered a really great blend between academic goals and social goals as we had two extracurricular days to celebrate the Day of Pink and Think Day. Two things that I think went really well this week were:

1 ) Merging ICT, Social Outcomes & Student-Relevant Ideas
- This week our school celebrated the Day of Pink and worked towards
  creating awareness about bullying, discrimination, and homophobia. One
  option our school suggested was creating some sort of classroom video
  and my Grade 10 class really wanted to do their own version of the
  Harlem Shake!
- I wanted to make sure we were still focusing on the message behind the
  day so we first worked on creating a collaborative mural at the back of
  our room that would serve as the "backdrop" for our film. Students
  created posters displaying relevant statistics, positive messages or
  personal stories/confessions about bullying, discrimination or homophobia.
- Once our backdrop was finished we filmed their video and spent time
  editing it to include images of our mural, the film, and credits to
  reference the audio sources we used. It was a really fun project, the
  students had a blast, and it was even shared with the school over the
  lunch hour!
2 ) Teaching Music
- On Thursday we ended up being short-staffed at the last minute and
  because I read music and have a music background I was asked to fill
  in while my cooperating teachers covered my classes.
- This was an awesome experience for me as I really enjoyed music class
  when I was in high school (I actually wanted to originally teach music) but
  haven't spent much time on it over the past few years. It was really
  rewarding to have an opportunity to utilize those skills again, practice
  conducting and help students practice their various pieces.
- A lot of times there isn't a qualified sub to cover the music classes so I
  felt like I was really able to help out and hold a "regular" class with them!

     One thing that I feel like I need to work on, however, is getting into a rhythm with my ICT course. Due to the number of extracurricular events happening in the school, my students just finished up their unit with "Mr. L" on Tuesday. This means that my unit on PowerPoint & Digital Storytelling needs to be introduced and completed in a manner of three weeks as opposed to five-six weeks. So far I am finding that my students are fairly familiar with PowerPoint so I am hoping this will allow us to progress quite quickly but I will still be making some modifications so that everything can be completed within our time frame!

Week 3: 2 Stars & A Wish Update

     Last week I shared that I wanted to work on creating meaningful learning opportunities for the students in my Grade 11/12 Agriculture class. This week we began a case study on The Dust Bowl and spent a class and a half watching the documentary "Surviving The Dust Bowl" and discussing the agricultural and environmental implications. From there I created assessment packages that gave students assessment options based off of suggestions they shared with me. Overall, we are working on creating "mini museum displays" that include some type of media, an artifact, and a written report. Here is how I set up their options:

The Greatest Dust Bowl

Witnessing the Dust Bowl


Dust Bowl Citizen Trading Card

From the Dust Bowl,
With Love

Agricultural Causes & Effects of the Dust Bowl

Row 1 = media
Row 2 = artifacts
Row 3 = written report
Students have their choice of two options in Row 1 and their choice of three options in Row 2, but Row 3 is mandatory. So far I have gotten a pretty good response from my students and they have begun working on their choice from Row 1. I think they are enjoying having options and being able to pick what they want to complete. I will make sure to update and share some of the finished products!

"T-Division" Think Day

     Today "T-Division" organized an extracurricular event involving the Grade 7-12 students from most of the schools in our division. When we arrived at school this morning we loaded buses, by grade level, and traveled an hour to attend Think Day at "A-School". Inspired by the incredibly popular, We Day, this event was all about inspiring the youth in our school division to get involved in positive projects and make a change (either personally, locally, or globally).

     We started off our day by welcoming the group, Live Different, who shared personal stories of situations they have overcome as well as introduced their project, Hero Holidays. They were accompanied by the band, Mosely, which played some great sets in-between the different talks. Here are three videos from the Live Different YouTube Channel that I think really demonstrate the ideas we got from the live presentation:

     In addition to the presentation by Live Different, we were also treated to musical performances by the "A-School" garage band group. It was nice to see our division's own students be part of this great event and I was very impressed with their performance. Here are some of my pics from the entire day:

Mosely putting on a great show for the students
Live different, mosely
Panoramic shot of the gym
live different, mosely
"A-School" garage band's performance
     I want to send out a big thanks to Live Different, Mosely and "A-School's" garage band, as well as everyone who put in their time to organize this event for the students. I would also like to thank all of our students who helped clean up the chairs and tidy up any garbage before we headed back to "S-School".

If you are interested in learning more about what we saw at Think Day, here are some links:

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Student Teaching Update

     Yesterday marked the official "half-way point" of my LAST student teaching placement ever. I have been progressing through my units with my four classes and am really happy with how everything has been going so far. Despite a multitude of missed days, (snow days, guest speakers, "Grade Wars", field trips and sporting events!), I feel like we have been able to accomplish quite a bit in the last 3 1/2 weeks and wanted to showcase some of the awesome work my students have been creating.

Grade 10 Geography

     We have been discussing Natural Resources and have so far made our way through minerals and fossil fuels and are now just beginning water resources. Last week I shared the Vintage Parody Poster assignment we were beginning as part of our discussion on fossil fuels and I'm happy to say we are now all finished! Here are some of the results:

Miss L's Whole Brain TeachingMiss L's Whole Brain Teaching

Miss L's Whole Brain TeachingMiss L's Whole Brain Teaching

I'm very happy to point out that ALL of the images that we used, fit in with Creative Commons usage rights and were all appropriately referenced either on the poster itself or in an attached bibliography! :)
If you'd like to see the inspiration for this assignment and see our poster criteria, see my post from last week. We also took a break yesterday to celebrate the Day of Pink and created a mural and Harlem Shake video!

Grade 9/10 ICT

     Due to the number of extracurricular events going on in the school, my students just finished up their previous unit with "Mr. L" last week. This week we have been progressing through a general review of PowerPoint and will begin working on digital storytelling on Monday. I hope to share some of their work within a week or so.

Grade 11/12 Agriculture

     We have been working on a unit on Soils and have, so far, been discussing the components of soil, forces of formation, the soil profile and soil textures. As we progress we have been relating each of these topics back to it's effect on agriculture and what it can mean for farmers. One of the projects we completed was creating "Facebook profiles" to learn about the soil profile. (Our class is quite small so each student was able to focus on a specific soil horizon from the profile.) We came up with the following criteria for our profiles by looking at what was included in their own personal Facebook profiles
1 ) Name of the Horizon
2 ) Profile Picture
3 ) Birthday (using dating information based off of the last glaciation period)
4 ) 8 Friends
     - Could be the other soil horizons, specific minerals, or living organisms
       depending on which horizon they were completing
5 ) 5 Status Updates
     - Includes information related to your specific soil horizon
6 ) 3 Extras
     - This could be any other sections that you might find on a Facebook profile
       (picture albums, favourite movies, songs, activities, quotes, etc).
     - All information had to be related to the specific soil horizon
Here was one featuring information on the B-Horizon (also known as top soil):
We are now working on creating museum displays about our case study on The Dust Bowl. I will share more information when the project is completed.

Grade 8 Social Studies

     With my Grade 8 class I am experimenting with creating outcome based portfolio assessment projects. They are currently keeping all of their work samples to be added into a portfolio assessment that they will compile and reflect on for assessment purposes. As such, I do not have a specific project that I can show right now but I can share what we are working on.
Interactive bulletin board, QR codes in the classroom

     At the beginning of the unit I put up the following bulletin board in our classroom with a center map, images on the sides, and timeline along the bottom. Since then I have added QR Codes to most of the images and they are currently working on projects that require them to scan the QR Code, answer questions, shade in portions of the map, and add artifacts to the timeline. It has really become an interactive, collaborative piece of work! I will post more pictures once they are completed and all of the information has been added :)