Monday, 30 September 2013

2 Stars & A Wish: Week 4

     I can't believe that September is already done!! School has already been 1/10 completed and there is only a few short weeks before my first experience writing my own report cards! Everything seems to be going by so quickly and I am so thankful for my blog and the reflection opportunity it provides me. With month 1 done, two things that I am proud of this week are:

1 ) Having My Grade 8s Plan Their 2nd Blog!
- That's right, with only a week under their belts, my Grade 8s
  asked if they could begin blogging for their math class in
  addition to their science class. To say I was proud and
  excited is a definite understatement.
- As a class we decided that we could use our existing blog
  for both subjects and while we'll continue to blog every
  science class, we will blog once a week for math (on Fridays).
- I can't wait to see where their blogging adventure takes them
  but I am thrilled that, after only a week, my students saw the
  benefit and fun of blogging and decided that they wanted more!

2 ) Taking Time to Conference With My Students
- In my grade 8 math class I took time with each individual student
  (while others were working on an assignment) to conference
  with them about:
        - Their thoughts on the material
        - Their thoughts regarding their own learning
  I also took this time to assess them using 4 practice questions
  that allowed me to gauge their understanding and provide
  immediate feedback and support.
- I found these sessions incredibly helpful and my students liked
  the one-on-one support!

     One thing that I want to work on, however, is keeping my students up-to-date in regards to their grades and missing assignments. We use Maplewood as our grading system and it does offer an online portal that can be checked 24-7 but it is under-utilized. I never want my students to be surprised by their marks so I would like to provide them all with  monthly progress report this upcoming week.

Week 3 Update

     Last week I shared that I wanted to work on creating a math development activity at lunch hour for my students who either need extra support or are looking to explore enrichment opportunities. I had originally planned on offering structured support every Friday over the lunch hour but I quickly learned that a specific date isn't necessary optimal in a school that ALWAYS has lunch hour activities springing up. What we ended up doing was that if a student is looking to be involved in math development, I will be available in my classroom at 12:15pm each day and they can find me there.

     For the first week, I had 3 students come for extra support and none for enrichment options. I am pleased with these numbers for now and I know they will increase as we progress throughout the year.

Friday, 27 September 2013


     One of our school goals is to build in classroom spirit activities/routines for our students as a way to help foster school spirit and classroom community. One activity that I came up with for our class is #FunShirtFriday that I've seen on Twitter.

     Every Friday, I encourage my students to wear a "fun shirt" to school. Over the summer I found a lot of funny and interesting shirts online related to math, science, art, and teaching in general so I was pretty excited to share these with my students.

     To take this spirit activity one step further, we have begun charting our class #FunShirtFriday participation using a bar graph. Our final math unit of the year is Statistics & Probability so I plan on creating a project out of the data that we'll collect throughout the year!

     Here is my "fun shirt" for today! Of course, while at school, I also wear a blazer to still meet our teacher dress code. You can get your own at:

#FunShirtFriday in school

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Interactive Notebooks in Math

     This summer I was introduced to the idea of Interactive Notebooks in math class through Jennifer at 4mula Fun. As a first year math teacher, I'm always looking for different assessment ideas and the setup of Interactive Notebooks seemed like an interesting instructional method that would provide an easy assessment option for me.

     Fast forward to the end of September and I've officially implemented Interactive Notebooks (INB) into all three of my math classes at the Grade 8, 9 & 10 levels. After searching through different edublogs I've found a lot of different ways in which teachers are using INBs in their classrooms. In my classroom I bring out our INBs after we've been introduced to a new concept and have had a few days to practice our new skills.

     Students use their INBs as a way to show me their understanding of the concept(s) they've just learned. I ask them to write out how to solve specific problems in their own words and include an example of their choice. Here are two examples from my Grade 8 and Grade 10 class:

interactive notebooks, interactive notes, interactive notebooks in grade 8
Grade 8: Working with Integers
interactive notebooks, interactive notes, interactive notebooks in grade 8
Grade 8: Working with Integers
interactive notebooks, interactive notes, interactive notebooks in grade 10
Grade 10: Types of Payroll Deductions
interactive notebooks, interactive notes, interactive notebooks in grade 8
Grade 10: Types of Payroll Deductions
     By using this type of setup:
- Students are able to review their understanding of a concept
- I am able to see how students explain a concept in their own
- Students have pre-made flashcards to help them review before
  assessment activities

     So far, I really like the idea of INBs and my students have said that they like that they already have pre-made flashcards for studying and that it is, "way cooler than boring notes"!

Monday, 23 September 2013

Resources To Start Off Your Week 79

     You might have noticed that a lot of my posts lately have discussed the math classes that I am teaching. Of the 6 courses, I have 3 math classes (Grade 8, 9 & 10). As such, here are two AWESOME math-related resources to start off your week! As always, I will be adding these to my lists of resources under the Fav Websites heading.

1 ) Resource Lists To Accompany Grade 8: Math Makes Sense
- If your school has the Math Makes Sense set of textbooks from Pearson
  then you might find this website really helpful! The Hastings & Prince
  Edward District School Board has put together a list of online resources
  that align with each of the chapters in the Math Makes Sense textbook.
- Resources include activities for the SMART Board, supplementary
  practice, and enrichment options. If you follow the textbook closely in
  your classroom then you will appreciate that they've even gone as
  detailed as to list the page numbers that they are aligned with!
- If you are like me and don't necessarily use a textbook, this website
  still has a lot of supplementary math resources that can be used to teach
  the concepts in Grade 8 math!

pearson math makes sense, math makes sense grade 8, math makes sense

2 ) Explore The MathTwitterBlogosphere (MTBoS)
- This 8-week series of challenges are designed to assist
  educators in exploring the online resources that can be found
  through Twitter, Blogs, etc. This is the perfect challenge for educators
  who are interested in expanding the PLN and connecting with other
  educators who are sharing about their experiences with math.
- As a new math teacher I am really looking forward to finding other
  educators who are blogging about math. I hope to connect with
  educators and find some lesson plan ideas that I can modify for my
- Follow them on Twitter at @ExploreMTBos

Explore MTBos, MTBos, mathtwitterblogosphere

Happy Monday everyone!

Sunday, 22 September 2013

2 Stars & A Wish: Week 3

     I am now in a solid routine with all six of my classes and am feeling a lot more comfortable than I was in the first week of school. I even took advantage of my first pay cheque and bought a brand new pair of black Dr. Scholl's flats that are SO comfortable and perfect for any teacher!

     Two things that I am proud of this week are:

1 ) Having My Grade 8 Class Launch Their 1st Blog!
- This week my Grade 8 Science class launched their first blog! As an
  avid blogger for almost 2 years, I have seen all of the amazing learning
  opportunities that can arise from sharing your experiences. I am so
  excited for my students to begin their own blogging journey and can't
  wait to see what opportunities open up for them.
- Our first blog post was published at 11:30am on Tuesday and we will
  officially be posting 3-4 times a week (during our Science classes).
- If you would like to visit their posts and send them your thoughts and
  ideas, the link is:

2 ) Preparing For My 1st Substitute
- This Friday I was in Winnipeg for my first ManACE board
  meeting. As such, it was also my first time out of the classroom and
  my first time getting a substitute.
- On Thursday I felt very confident about being away on Friday because
  I was well-planned and each of my classes were right in the middle of
  their activities (so my substitute wouldn't have to start anything new).
- When I sat down after school on Thursday to print off my sub-plan,
  however, my computer decided to crash and take all of my student's
  work with it. Since I had to leave for Winnipeg by 4:30 I immediately
  had a panic attack, cried, set out to create back-up plans for my sub.
- It took me a little extra time and  I didn't end up leaving school until
  5pm, but I feel like I was still able to plan effectively for my students
  and substitute.
- Here is what my desk looked like when I left my classroom. Do you think
  I used enough Post-It Notes?? If you'd like to check out my Substitute
  Teacher Binder, see my past post:

planning for a substitute teacher,  planning for a sub, substitute teacher binder

     One thing that I want to spend time on, however, is to work towards establishing a lunch-hour math development activity for my students. I am currently teaching three different math classes (Grade 8, 9 & 10) and my students represent a wide-range of comfort levels when it comes to working with mathematics. As such, I would like to have some type of math development activity at lunch-hour where any of my math students may come to receive extra support or explore enrichment opportunities.

     Right now, I envision opening up my classroom on Friday's at lunch time simply because I have a prep-period prior to this where I can eat my lunch. This would allow me to focus my full lunch hour to my students who come for math development. I am going to survey my students tomorrow, however, in order to get their thoughts and see if it is something they would take advantage of. Does your school offer lunch-time development for certain classes? If so, how do they operate?

Week 2 Wish Update

     Last week I shared that I wanted to work on engaging my Grade 10 Essential Math class. So far, we have been working with personal finances and different types of wages. I created a project that asked students to research their dream career choice(s) using the website Inside Jobs and then answer various math questions using the information that they found. As such, each student had an individualized project that reflected something that was more meaningful to them compared to just answering random questions that had no bearing on their lives.

     On Thursday, we moved on to our discussion about payroll deductions and I asked students to bring in paystubs from their actual jobs (if they had one) in order to explore the main deductions of income tax, CPP, and EI. For the students that weren't employed yet, I brought it paystubs from when I worked as a waitress and gas-bar attendant. This allowed students to see real-life examples and practice calculating these deductions themselves. Overall, I was very pleased with how the week played out and I will continue to work on creating engaging lesson options for my students.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

ManACE Board Meeting

     This Friday I attended my very first meeting as a ManACE board meeting. I was very excited as I hadn't had an opportunity to meet a lot of our board members yet and I was looking forward to connecting with more educators who were interested in the same things as me. The meeting took place at St. John's Ravencourt (SJR) in Winnipeg & I really enjoyed touring the beautiful campus and seeing some of the differences between the public and private education systems in Manitoba. This was my first experience with Manitoba's private education system and it was definitely very different compared to what I am used to in the public sector. Here's a quick pic of me enjoying SJR's outside classroom!

St. John's Ravencourt outside classroom

     As it was my first ManACE meeting, I spent a lot of time listening and learning about all of the different endeavors that we are involved in. Here are some things that you can watch out for:

1 ) New & Improved Web Presence
- One of our goals this year is to update and streamline our online
  presence. Stay tuned for a new & improved website with all of our
  updated links to our other areas of online interaction.
- In the mean time, make sure you follow us on Twitter and check out
  our brand new Instagram Account!

2 ) Amazing PD Opportunities for SAGE
- ManACE has helped organize THIRTEEN different PD opportunities
  for the Manitoba-wide SAGE Conference on October 25th. There are
  still spots available in all of the amazing sessions so head on over to
  our Eventbrite Page to check them out. Topics include everything from
  blended learning environments and digital photography to video games
  in education and Google docs.
- Worried about travel? We thought of that! ManACE's SAGE options take
  place in Carman and Swan River, as well as in Winnipeg.

3 ) Continued Seed Grants
- ManACE continues to be committed to supporting teachers that promote
  ICT Literacy in Manitoba schools. As such, we will continue to provide
  our Seed Grants to qualifying educators/projects.
- Check out last year's Seed Grant page to learn more about this awesome
  opportunity and stay tuned for information for the 2013-2014 year!

4 ) Even More TIN (Technology Information Night) Events
- Our informal TIN presentations focus on techniques and tips for integrating
  technology into curriculum. Usually lasting approximately 3 hours in length,
  these presentations include supper and a chance to connect with educators
  who are putting technology practices in place in their classrooms.
- This year, we hope to hold events in Winnipeg, Brandon, & Neepawa!
  Stay tuned for more information about a TIN near you :)

ManACE, manace, ManACE TIN, ManACE SAGE events

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Welcoming My Grade 8's to the Blogging World!

     Today my Grade 8 Science class joined the blogging world with the official launch of Mrs. T's Classroom!

     They 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 principal, and pizza!

The self-appointed "PR Staff" making announcements over the PA System so
everyone knew about their launch!
A proud group shot to commemorate the event!
A party isn't complete without pizza!
     I would love if you could head over to their blog and let them know that they have an audience and/or give them some blogging tips! Visit them at:

Monday, 16 September 2013

Resources To Start Off Your Week 78

     We are now entering our second full week of school and I am getting into our first units with each of my classes. The following resources are resources that I am actually using with my classes this week! I am excited to share theses resources with you and hope you enjoy them as much as me and my students do :) As always, I will be adding these to my lists of resources under the Fav Websites heading.

1 ) Ecosystem Labeling
- This interactive, from the University of Alberta, allows students to
  explore a virtual ecosystem and answer questions about biotic &
  abiotic components, mimicry, producers, consumers, parasites,
  mutualism and commensalism.
- This is a really good activity to do on the SMART board for
  students to practice vocabulary and understanding of ecosystems.

ecosystem interactive, ecosystem labeling, parts of an ecosystem, ecosystem activities for the classroom

2 ) Cell Size & Scale
- This interesting visual allows students to see the size relationship between
  certain cells and other everyday objects like sesame seeds and grains of
- By sliding the bar at the bottom of the screen, users can move between
  large and small objects to see the comparisons. This can be really helpful
  for students to actually visualize just how small cells are.

the size of cells, cell size and scale interactive, teaching about cells

3 ) Colour in Motion
- This interactive showcases colour in many different ways. It allows
  students to explor colour in regards to sybolism, complimentary
  colours, and what it can mean in different cultures.
- In addition to textual information, different colours also have
  animated videos explaining their characteristics which is perfect
  for our different types of learners!
- Students can even use the "Colour Lab" to direct their own movies
  about the colour!
*This website does take a little bit to load, so be patient!

color in motion, the symbolism of colour,

Happy Monday everyone!

Saturday, 14 September 2013

2 Stars & A Wish: Week 2

     My first full week as a teacher is under my belt and I am feeling really happy to be getting into a routine (both in the classroom and in my personal life). Things are progressing like I expected, more-or-less, and I've managed to work around some of the obstacles that can be thrown at teachers like:
- New students joining the class late
- Fire drills
- Broken photocopiers
- Tech break-downs, etc

     All-in-all things have been going really well and it is hard to express just how rewarding this job can be. I feel blessed to have such a great group of students to work with! I am very excited to see how the year continues to play out. This week, two things that I am very proud of are:

1 ) Meeting One of Our School Goals in Our First Week
- One of our school goals this year is for teachers to plan at least 10
  grade mentoring activities throughout the year. On Friday, my Grade 8
  class partnered up with our Kindergarten class to complete a collaborative
  art project, introduce them to the school, and make them feel comfortable
  at "S-School".
- This project was a big success and I am so proud of my students for being
  so caring and patient with our new Kindergarten class! It was so awesome
  to see them walking down the hallway showing off their completed art
  work and feeling more comfortable at school.
- I cannot take credit for this idea though, as it was the Kindergarten
  teacher who approached me about the project, but either way, I am very
  happy that I was a part of meeting one of our goals so quickly!

2 ) Getting Involved in Extra-Curriculars
- I was always nervous about the interview question, "What extra-curricular
  activities do you want to be involved in?" because I know that there is always
  such a high need to people who can help out with school sports. My issue,
  I never played one school sport, ever, and I don't even know the rules of most
  common sports (basketball, volleyball, soccer, etc).
- Luckily, I was able to sign-on to co-supervise our school's student council with
  another teacher, which is right up my alley! I was involved in my high school's
  student council when I was a student and I continued with student council for
  5 of my 6 years at university as well. We have a great group of students in
  student council this year and I am really looking forward to helping them
  create events for our school.
- Additionally, I also signed on as a PD rep for our school. Our division has a PD
  Chair who organizes PD opportunities in our division and my job is simply to
  make sure our staff know about these options! This job is actually super simple
  and I am a big fan of always learning more about this profession so it seemed
  like a good fit for me. The first PD I advertised? Save Your Sanity: Proactive
  Strategies For Children With Challenging Behaviours.

     One thing that I want to work on, however, is engaging my Grade 10 Essential Math class. This class is mandatory in our division and covers practical math skills that people would use in their day-to-day lives. This includes things like Personal Finance, Consumer Decisions, Measurement, etc. While I can see the benefit of learning this information, many of my students who are on track for post-secondary options are more interested in taking pre-calculus and feel like this class is a waste of their time. My remaining students seem to have a learned-helplessness when it comes to math, or are not interested in attending class in general.
engaging students in math, 2 stars and a wish

     So far I am struggling with trying to find that balance in order to engage everyone effectively. We complete activating strategies everyday to get them thinking mathematically, I let them work in groups if they like, I use examples from their own lives in the questions, I let them develop their own questions, I move between large and small-group instruction and yet I can still only get about 13 of my 26 students to participate. For example, on Friday it took us 50 minutes to correct 3 questions because I couldn't get any response from students at all. I've met with each of them and asked what they would like to see and my biggest response was simply, "I don't like math". What can I do?

Week 1 Wish Update

     Last week I shared that I wanted to work on communication with parents. Our school does not do any Open House activities so I really wanted to take the time to introduce myself to parents so that they first time we talk isn't Parent-Teacher in November. I am still working towards this goal but am nowhere near to achieving it yet. I've only found time to make phone calls home to my 19 families in Grade 7, which means that I still have over 50 to go! It is slow-going but this is important to me, so I am determined to make time to complete this goal.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Teaching Truths I'm Learning The Hard Way

     It has officially been one week since school started and I couldn't be happier with how things are going. I am so happy to be part of such a supportive staff and spending time with such amazing students! Overall, I am feeling confident in my planning, curriculum, and management... but I don't think I was actually prepared for how busy teaching is!

teaching truths, teaching is busy

     I spent a HUGE amount of time this summer planning and I am very organized. I have my supplies and plans in place, I have back up plans... and yet there is still just SO much to do! I just don't think I realized how time consuming everything can be.

After one week in, here are some teaching truths that I've learnt the hard way:
- Invest in truly comfy and supportive shoes
- Pack lunches that can be eaten on the go
- Somehow drink enough liquids to stay hydrated, but not enough
  that you need to go to the bathroom because there is no time!
- The photocopier/printer will break on the day your students lose
  their handouts
- Caffeine, at any time of the day, is a good idea

Teaching is definitely a busy job but I wouldn't trade it for the world!
Do you have any teaching truths to share!?

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Missing Work Log

     When I was student teaching I always had one, two, or more, students who didn't get their assignment in on time. A lot of times, I would find that I would only get assignments in at the end of my student teaching placement because of the fact that they absolutely HAD to have them in because I was leaving and there was no other options after that.

- I tried giving students choice in their assignments so that it would be more meaningful for them,
- I tried giving flexible deadlines,
- I tried offering assignment assistance at lunch hour and after school,
- I tried calling home...

     Well, you get the picture. No matter what you do, there will always be circumstances throughout the year which result in you chasing students for assignments. Lets face it, our students are very busy and/or are still learning time management and completing assignments isn't always priority number one. Furthermore, it can be hard to keep track of it all! I have six different classes (all different subjects) and it can be hard to remember the individual circumstances for each missing assignment.

     This summer, however, I came across this pin on Pinterest that lead to the blog E, Myself, and I. Elizabeth's post on Classroom Organization Tips from April 2011 shared her, "Yellow Sheet" or missing work log. Using her model, here is the form I am using in my classroom:

how to handle missing assignments, my students are missing assignment, how to keep track of missing work

Here is how it works in my classroom:
- When an assignment is due, everyone has to hand in SOMETHING
- If they don't have the assignment ready to hand in then they grab a
  Missing Work Form which I have photocopied in a folder by my
- Students fill out:
     - Their Name
     - The Assignment Name
     - The Date It Was Due
     - The Reason Why It Isn't Done
          - I Didn't Understand
          - I Didn't Have The Necessary Supplies
            (they can tell me what they were missing)
          - I Didn't Use My Time Effectively
          - I Had To Work
          - I Had After-School Extracurriculars
          - Other (explain)
- Student then have to sign the form at the bottom
- They then hand in the Missing Work Log in place of their assignment

This log serves many purposes: 
- It allows students to take ownership for their learning by admitting in writing
  that they didn't have an assignment done on time
- It provides a written record for me to track throughout the year
- It lets me know if I need to change things that I'm doing in the classroom
  (if students don't understand then I know that I need to spend more time on a
  concept, differentiate instruction more, provide more support, etc)(if students
  don't have supplies I can make sure I provide supplies or plan activities using
  less supplies)
- It lets the students know if they need to change things that they are doing
  (they may need to look at how they are using their time, consider cutting
  back on other activities, etc)
- It provides parents/guardians with a written record from their child, not from
  the teacher

     When an assignment is handed in the student fills in the day that they handed it in and signs the form again. I keep any Missing Work Logs in my Student Tracking Binder so that I can access them at any time and provide information for myself, administration, parents/guardians, etc. It is important to note that these are not used if a student was absent. If a student missed a class the day an assignment is due, their new due date will be changed to accommodate the time that they missed. If they don't hand in an assignment on their new due date, however, then they would fill out a Missing Work Logs like any other student.

A BIG thanks to Elizabeth for sharing this idea.

What are your thoughts?

Monday, 9 September 2013

Resources To Start Off Your Week 77

     Week two is underway and I wanted to share some of the neat resources I've been sitting on for a while. With school on now it seems like I haven't posted a resources post in FOREVER but in actuality I only missed one week because last week I posted my classroom reveal. If time flies by like it is, it will be June before I know it (scary thought)! As always, I will be adding these to my lists of resources under the Fav Websites heading.

1 ) 4Mula Fun Math Blog
- This is a new blog that I found this summer through Pinterest. This
  year I am teaching Grade 8, Grade 9, and Grade 10 math and I
  really need some inspiration and examples.
- Jennifer posts some awesome lesson plans, activity suggestions, and
  helpful tutorials! Some of my favourites that I've actually used this
  year already are "Math About Me" and "Interactive Math
- This blog is a great resource if you are teaching math!

math blog, math lesson plans, math unit plans, math activities

2 ) Talking Glossary of Genetic Terms
- This interactive dictionary not only includes textual explanations
  of terms, audio definitions, illustrations, 3D animations, and quizzes
  to test your understanding.
- This is a great resource for a biology and upper-years science
  classes. I love that it meets the needs of all different types of

3 ) Travel Videos
- This website features thousands of videos that help you, "travel the world
   with videos." There are featured videos, documentaries, and user-uploaded
- Users can search the videos by town/city name, or by countries. This
  website could be used for students who are working on geography
  projects, interested in learning more about an area, or need something
  to use as a writing prompt!
*Teachers may want to pre-screen videos before using them in class, as they
  can be uploaded by anyone and may not always be school appropriate!

Happy Monday everyone!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

2 Stars & A Wish: Week 1

     During my last student teaching placement I began completing a "2 Stars & A Wish" posts every week where I would reflect on the events of the week, mention two things that I was proud of, and identify one area to work on in the following week. As my my Professional Growth Plan, this is a practice that I want to maintain throughout the school year as well. 

     If you aren't a teacher, it could seem silly to be writing a reflection for the first "week" when we only actually had students for two days. Those first two days, however, are PACKED with activities:
- Welcoming students to your class
- Assigning lockers and completing school paperwork on each student
- Giving out and reviewing course outlines (for Grades 7-12)
- Completing activating strategies
- Getting to know your students (as much as you can in two days)
This list could go on and on, but for right now I want to mention two things that I am proud of for this week:

1 ) Getting my Student Tracking Binder Organized and Ready
- I use my Student Tracking Binder to keep track of information regarding students
  so that I have a written record of information in case I need to look back on 
  something, contact a parent, provide information to our resource department, or
  submit my records to administration.

- While there are a lot of different ways that teacher organize this information, I want
   to share my system. First of all, I have one BIG binder with tabbed sections for each
  Grade (7-10). Within those tabs, I have information for each of the students in the
  respective grade. For each student I have:
  a ) Preliminary surveys that they filled about themselves in the first two days
  b ) A form to keep track of Learning Behaviours (our new MB Provincial Report
       Cards keep track of learning behaviours as well as academic assessment)
  c ) A form to keep track of Parent Contact (you can download your own copy
       by following the link)
  d ) A few pages of loose leaf for me to use for anecdotal records
  e ) I will also be placing Missing Work Forms in when needed (I will post more
       about these this week)
- In the binder itself, I also have copies of our attendance warning forms and student
  at risk forms in case I need them.
- What do you have in your student tracking binder that you think I should add?

2 ) Taking Time To Allow my Students to Introduce ME to Their Ideas/Attitudes/Etc About The Subject
- I find that a lot of times teachers jump right into content, whether it is at the 
  beginning of the year or the beginning of a new idea. For me, I wanted a more
  student-lead approach where they told ME what Science and Math was, what
  it meant to them, what their past experiences have been, etc.
- I mentioned that I kept preliminary surveys in my Student Tracking Binder. Part 
  of this was surveys where students filled out what they thought about a subject,
  what their past experiences with the subject have been, their confidence level in
  the subject, words they associated with the subject, and how I can best meet
  their learning needs in the subject.
- This gave me a lot of insight and the class then created a Wordle to illustrate
  what they thought of when they thought of a given subject:
- Grade 7 Science
- Grade 8 Math

- Grade 10 Math

* There are still a few classes that I haven't had yet, which is why I can only show
  three instead of my full course load of six.

     One thing that I want to work on this upcoming week, however, is to complete a phone call home to a parent/guardian of all of my students. I went back and forth with the idea of whether to call before school started or after and I decided to make phone calls during the second week of school. My reasoning for this was because it gave students a chance to meet me, get their course outlines, and go home and share information. The purpose of the phone call will be for me to introduce myself, address any questions they may have, and open up the line of communication early in the school year. To achieve this goal, I will need to make about 15-20 phone calls each evening this week, wish me luck!

Thursday, 5 September 2013

First Day of School

After all of the thought and planning that I put into my classroom, this is definitely how I felt when I woke up this morning!

     Our first bell rings at 8:50 a.m so I was at school at approximately 7:50 a.m. The reason for this is that I wanted to be in my room and relaxed when students first started arriving. It was a good thing too, because in the middle of the night the heater turned on in my room and it was SO hot when I got there. Furthermore, because of the heat, some of my decor had fallen off the wall because the tape wasn't sticking anymore. Luckily, I was able to get the heat turned off and replace all the decor before a student ever walked through the door!
first day of school as a teacher
A quick picture of my "First Day of School" before the students arrive!
Big thanks to my teacher-neighbour, "Ms. R", for the picture.
     After reading different teaching blogs I've kind of gotten a sense of all of the different "First-Day Routines" that different schools practice. "S-School's" routine is a lot different than what I was used to from when I was in public school so I was a little out of my element, but it went off without a hitch! Here is a look of what my first day looked like:

8:50 - 9:20
- Students go to their homerooms (I am the Grade 8 homeroom teacher).
- School registration and information forms are given out and explained.
  These cover things like school registration, health information, parent/
  guardian consent forms (for a variety of things), etc.
- Lockers are assigned and locks are given out.
- School agendas are passed out.

9:20 - 10:00
- Grade 7-12 go through a "Walk Through" of their schedule to familiarize
  themselves with the different rooms and ensure there are no conflicts in the
- During this time, our secretary would ring the bell approximately every 
  5 minutes and students would move their way from class-to-class as if it
  was a full day. 
- Essentially, they go to each of their scheduled classes and meet their 
  teachers quickly before the day actually starts for real.
* This type of routine is very new to me as we never had anything like this
  on our first days of school. It is a bit difficult because you see the students
  so quickly but you can't actually do anything with them yet.

10:00 - 10:47
- At this time, students were done the "Walk Through" and went to the
  class that they had scheduled to start at around 10 a.m.
- This period was actually my prep period so I could relax and get ready
  for my first "real" class.

10:47 - 12:00
- Time for Grade 8 math!

1 - 2:15
- Time for Grade 10 math!

2:17 - 3:23
- Time for Grade 7 science!

     For each of my classes that I had I did very similar activities. It is important to note that I've taught every single one of my students before during student teaching, and they are with the exact same peers that they were with last year (cut down on a lot of ice-breaker style activities). The first thing that I did was introduce my classroom expectations and pass out the respective course outlines (which are mandatory for Grades 7-12). After that, all of the activities that we completed were to help me understand my students as learners and we had an open discussion about what I can do to help them be successful in the classroom. These activities included:
- A survey that shared their attitudes and confidence about the subject
  (what words do you think of when you think of math, what do you like most
  about math class, what do you like least, etc)
- A discussion and questionnaire to help students determine which type of
  intelligence(s) they align with, as per Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences
  (this helps me plan out what type of activities we will do)
- A kineasthetic survey, "Step Over The Line", to determine what my student's
  out-of-school-lives are like
  (how many extracurriculars they are involved in, how far they commute to 
  school, if they have an after school job, etc)
  (this helps me know how much time they have available out of school so I can
  set reasonable expectations)

     All-in-all, the day went by SO quickly and I was definitely left feeling tired (in a good way). After writing it all out, it doesn't seem like I really did much of anything. I understand, however, that all of this information helps me understand my students better and ensures that I establish a learning environment that has a high chance of student success. Tomorrow we are on to Day 2 and I know that it will go just as well :)

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

I Promise...

     Students, tomorrow is not only your first day back to school but it is also my first day as a full-time teacher. I've spent hours over the summer accumulating resources, preparing lessons, differentiating plans, and attending PD... I've organized our classroom and tried to put my personal flare into the room while leaving space for you to make it your own... I've attending our back-to-school meetings and checked (and double-checked) to make sure I have everything ready for our first days together.

     As we enter this new, exciting, overwhelming, awesome experience, here is what I promise you:

- I promise to welcome you into my room each day with a fresh slate
- I promise to provide a safe environment where you can explore your
  interests and feel free to take risks with your learning
- I promise to always have your best interests in mind
- I promise to always take the time to listen to what you are telling me
  (verbally, through your work, through your behavior, etc)
- I promise to learn just as much as you every day
- I promise that I will make mistakes
- I promise that I will own up to those mistakes and learn from them
- I promise to allow you to learn in the manner that best suits your needs
- I promise to attempt to create lessons that are relevant and meaningful to
  your lives
- I promise to not let myself get bogged down with all of the requirements &
  other duties that teachers can be involved with

     I promise a lot of things... but most of all, I promise to never forget why I want to be a teacher... because of all of you.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Barbara Coloroso: Kids Are Worth It

     Today was our first day back at school full-time for teachers! Although students don't officially start until Thursday, teachers are back attending meetings for today and tomorrow. Today all of the teachers and support staff in "T-Division" had the opportunity to attend an PD session with Barbara Coloroso, an educator, mother, and author. To be honest, I was a little apprehensive about this session going into it because I couldn't find a very strong online presence for Barbara and I wasn't exactly sure what specific topics our session was going to address. I must admit, however, that I was pleasantly surprised! Not only did Mrs. Coloroso's talk provide hordes of practical information but it was also engaging and humourous. I love a presenter who can tell a good story and work humour into their information, and she did just that!

Barbara and myself, following her presentation!
     If you visit Mrs. Coloroso's website, you will see that she offers 7 different lectures for public presentation and I think we must have had a mixture of a few of these today. Through our 5 hour presentation, the primary focus of our discussion was on:
- Positive School Climate
- Bribes & Rewards
- The Bully, The Bullied, and Those Not So Innocent Bystanders
- Discipline
- Restorative Justice
While it is hard to effectively cover everything that was covered in Mrs. Coloroso's presentation, here are two of the main topics I took away from it.

The Bully, The Bullied, and Those Not So Innocent Bystanders

     The high school that I went to had about 600 students (which is a big school compared to others in rural Manitoba). I did experience bullying as a student and I did see teachers and administration let bullying issues fall through the cracks. (That's an issue for another blog post.) The nice thing about "S-School" is that our high school only has around 80 students. Now I would never suggest that this means that bullying doesn't exist, but as educators I think it is a lot easier to see the signs and notice issues when there is only 80 students compared to 600 (or 6000)!

     Barbara has actually written an entire book on bullying and I found her discussion on the topic not only informative but practical and proactive. I've been to many discussions on bullying where I, as an audience member, was flooding with statistics and horror stories of extreme bullying, but wasn't left with a lot of strategies to utilize. Barbara, on the other hand, discussed this topic from the perspective of:
- How to identify bullying
- The different bullying roles and,
- The Do's & Don'ts of what to do

     First of all, Barbara discussed how many teachers will use conflict resolution strategies with bullying situations and deal with the situation in the same way they would deal with their children fighting over a toy at home. "You two can either share this ball, both leave it alone, or you can come up with an agreement that works for you both." The main problem with this being that a bullying situation is not the same as a conflict situation. Conflict is two or more parties that are in disagreement over some type of scenario. Bullying, however, is a situation where one party purposefully means to cause harm to the other person, whether that harm is verbal, physical, or relational. Here are some notes that I took down:

General Ways That Bullying Takes Place
1 ) As a 1-time event where someone is mean to another person
     purposefully (verbal, physical, or relational)
2 ) As a continuous event (which also includes harassment)
3 ) As part of a hazing situation (involved with athletics, clubs, etc)
4 ) Through a digital medium (cyber-bullying)

Means of Bullying
1 ) Verbal: usually the first step in bullying
2 ) Physical
3 ) Relational: exclusion from social groups, "shunning"
* All 3 of these affect people psychologically

Roles of Bullies
1 ) The Instigator
- "Plants The Seed" in other student's minds
2 ) The Planner
- Determines how the bullying is going to happen
3 ) The Perpetrator
- Actually carries out the bullying behavior
- Often the one most-easily caught

     One of the language choices that I liked was her use of the term, "Target" to identify those students who had been bullied. I often hear of these students be referred to as, "victims" and Barbara pointed out that this can often lead to students feeling ashamed because "victims must have had something awful happen to them". The term target comes from the fact that someone is aiming in at you, they are the one with the negativity, not you. Here is an image from one of Barbara's handouts, available here, illustrating The Bullying Circle and all of the people that are involved in bullying scenarios.  What letter would you want your students to be part of?

barbara coloroso, the bully the bullied and the bystanders, barbara coloroso Manitoba presentation
Bully Handout: The Bullying Circle. (Accessed 2013). Uploaded to Kids Are Worth It by Barbara Coloroso. Available online at:

   After she had provided us with the information on how to identify bullying (at all different levels), we were provided with some very basic Dos and Don'ts in regards to dealing with bullying situations.

What NOT To Do
1 ) Do not minimalize the situation
- If a student has identified that you are a safe person to confide in,
  prove them right and let them know you are listening.
2 ) Do not rush into solve the problem quickly
- Bullying situations often have many underlying issues and details
  that need to be understood and addressed
- Bullying is not something that can be stopped over a lunch hour
3 ) Do not tell the student to avoid the bully or ignore the situation
- A bully knows how to get to their target, simply avoiding a person at
  lunch hour will not stop a bullying situation
4 ) Do not tell them to fight back
- Bullying is not a fight between two people
- Aggression fuels aggression
5 ) Do not confront a bully or their parent/guardian alone
- It is best to always have another person with you in any type of
  bullying situation to act as a witness

What TO Do
1 ) Make sure the student knows that you hear and understand their concern
2 ) Make sure the student knows  that you believe what they are telling you
3 ) Make sure the student knows that it is not their fault
4 ) Make sure the student knows that there are things that can be done
5 ) Make sure the student knows that you are someone safe to talk to


    Although our discussion on bullying was woven throughout the entire presentation, the last main focus of Barbara's lecture was on discipline vs. punishment. She points out that punishment is often a "one-size-fits-all" and more often than not ignore the intent. She shared the story of a school that had a strict no-cellphone-policy in place... but also had a student population that had 33% of students with parents who were deployed in Afghanistan. While deployed, parents did not have the luxury of phoning often and, when a Grade 11 student felt his phone vibrating, he stepped out of class to answer his mother's call. A teacher quickly came over to address his violation of the policy and, even after the student explained the situation, he was given a 5-day suspension. This punishment clearly did not take into account the student's intent and, frankly, showed that they don't care about their students.

     Discipline, on the other hand, should be:
1 ) Constructive
2 ) Place ownership on the student
3 ) Provide ways to solve the situation so it doesn't happen again
4 ) Keeps the student's dignity in tact
Barbara effectively summarized this by stating that students need to, "own it, fix it, learn from it, and move on!"

     When discussing how discipline looks in her classroom, Barbara shared her use of the, "3 Rs: restitution, resolution, reconciliation." While many schools actively practice restitution (own it, fix it) and resolution (learn from it), most do not factor in reconciliation. It is important that we identify that students need to "heal with those that they harmed" and recognize that their behavior hurt another human being. Now, the important aspect of this is that reconciliation needs to be on the target's terms, not the bullies. There will be instances where a target may never feel truly comfortable with that individual and that is up for them to identify, but make sure that you offer the option and identify to the bully that reconciliation is important.

     Another thing that I really liked was that Barbara had a practice of notifying home every single time an incident occurred in her classroom (she didn't wait until it got to an extreme). She pointed out that, if you were a parent, you would want to know if you child was called a "*****" in class today by another student. It is better for parents to be aware rather than have  the student internalize the problem and not share it openly. She also pointed out that, if you were a parent, you would want to know if your student had called another student a "****" in class.

     While contacting parents is not a new concept (I'm very comfortable calling parents), I really connected with Barbara's choice of language. When talking with a student who had been targeted, she would ask students, "would you like to be able to talk to your parents first before I contact them?" or "how long do you need to tell them?" When talking with a student who had been bullying, she would ask them when their parents/guardians got home and would then add on an hour. For example, "you have until 7 tonight to tell your parents first" as it provided the students with an opportunity to own up to their behavior and open communication between parent/guardian and child before the teacher called home.

     My personal reflection is only a tiny bit of information that was covered in today's presentation. To learn more about Barbara Coloroso, and her work with teachers and parents, please explore the following links:
- Kids Are Worth It Website
- Barbara Coloroso Presentation Handouts
- Kids Are Worth It Twitter Account
     Thank you to Barbara Colosoro for visiting us out in rural Manitoba, I am left with a lot of practical information to utilize in my classroom!
Thank you to the admin and staff in "T-Division" for providing us all with another great PD opportunity :)

Monday, 2 September 2013

Classroom Reveal & Freebies!!

     With school right around the corner, my classroom is officially ready and awaiting students! I am so excited for my students to see my first classroom and start using all of the resources that I've put together. In case you don't remember, here is what my classroom looked like before:

miss l's whole brain teaching classroom reveal, classroom set up, setting up a classroom for blogging, high school classroom, high school classroom setup
Panoramic View
There wasn't a whole lot of anything in the classroom when I got there, t
he furniture in the middle of the room wasn't mine.
miss l's whole brain teaching classroom reveal, classroom set up, setting up a classroom for blogging, high school classroom, high school classroom setup
Everything that was in the classroom was pretty much focused in this one corner
because it held all the storage for the room.
     Here is what my classroom looks like now, get ready for a picture overload!

miss l's whole brain teaching classroom reveal, classroom set up, setting up a classroom for blogging, high school classroom, high school classroom setup
Panoramic View
from the back of the room
     I will start at the back of the classroom and move clockwise around the room:

miss l's whole brain teaching classroom reveal, classroom set up, setting up a classroom for blogging, high school classroom, high school classroom setup
My Math Area
(The bulletin board at the back of my room)
miss l's whole brain teaching classroom reveal, classroom set up, setting up a classroom for blogging, high school classroom, high school classroom setup
Close-up View of: Do You Think Like a Mathematician?
These posters outline criteria for mathematical thinking and were
inspired by ones created by Sidney at Teaching is a Gift!

miss l's whole brain teaching classroom reveal, classroom set up, setting up a classroom for blogging, high school classroom, high school classroom setup
Close-up View of the Bulletin Board: My Life in Math.
The is going to be our 1st project of the year that I am going to do with 
all 3 of my math classes to get them thinking mathematically. 
Rather than fill out a survey telling me about themselves, 
they have to explain themselves using math equations.
This project was inspired by the "Math About Me" project shared by Jennifer at 4mula Fun!
miss l's whole brain teaching classroom reveal, classroom set up, setting up a classroom for blogging, high school classroom, high school classroom setup
Remember the ugly bookcases that were blocking my bulletin board? 
They are now painted and moved to the back corner of my classroom.
I have room for each of my classes to store their supplies!
miss l's whole brain teaching classroom reveal, classroom set up, setting up a classroom for blogging, high school classroom, high school classroom setup
The textbooks for each of my classes are hidden from view 
with a black curtain that I had from when I lived in residence while at university! 
I love having clutter hidden away because I feel like it makes 
the room more calming and organized.
miss l's whole brain teaching classroom reveal, classroom set up, setting up a classroom for blogging, high school classroom, high school classroom setup
The far wall of my classroom. 
I had originally wanted to put up colourful curtains along the length of windows 
but I was informed that it was against our codes so I had to scrap that idea.
I have my desk pushed up almost against the wall to save space in the room.
miss l's whole brain teaching classroom reveal, classroom set up, setting up a classroom for blogging, high school classroom, high school classroom setup
On the far left you can see the microwave stand that I painted 
bright blue to match the bookcases. 
The frame on the wall behind my desk is the SAME shade of blue 
and I found it at the Dollar Store!
miss l's whole brain teaching classroom reveal, classroom set up, setting up a classroom for blogging, high school classroom, high school classroom setup
Close-up view of my Bloom's Taxonomy Posters!
I have these up in my room as not only a reminder for myself
but for my students as well. During student teaching I would
reference Bloom's Taxonomy a lot with my students and they would
use it to evaluate their level of mastery. They also used it when
creating their own assessment questions!
These were inspired by the ones created by Jennifer Jones at

miss l's whole brain teaching classroom reveal, classroom set up, setting up a classroom for blogging, high school classroom, high school classroom setup
My "Organization Headquarters" at the front-left of my room.
The custodians brought this cupboard out of storage for me. 

I painted the doors to match the bookcase and microwave stand 
and added curtains to hide the clutter.
On top, from left to right, I have storage for myself (things to hand out, copy, etc),

 the "Hand-In Box" for students and our "We Missed You" 
station to hold handouts for students who were away.
On the whiteboard, I also have a place to write important notes, homework, etc for each of my classes.
miss l's whole brain teaching classroom reveal, classroom set up, setting up a classroom for blogging, high school classroom, high school classroom setup
Here is a view of what it looks like behind the curtains!
I have my teacher resources on the far left and supplies for students on the right
(crayons, markers, scissors, calculators, etc)
miss l's whole brain teaching classroom reveal, classroom set up, setting up a classroom for blogging, high school classroom, high school classroom setup
A close-up of my Hand-In Box, it is hard to see because it is so sunny
but I used binder clips to label each of the drawers so they are easy to
change next semester. I got the idea from this Pin on Pinterest

miss l's whole brain teaching classroom reveal, classroom set up, setting up a classroom for blogging, high school classroom, high school classroom setup
A close-up of my "Important Info" board that I sectioned off on my
white board. I made each of the labels on Word using clipart from I plan on using this to display important dates, upcoming
assessments, homework, etc.
miss l's whole brain teaching classroom reveal, classroom set up, setting up a classroom for blogging, high school classroom, high school classroom setup
The interior wall of my classroom.
If you scroll to the very top of the page, you can see what this area
looked like when it was all covered by giant bookcases!
Now it is all open and ready to display student work :)
miss l's whole brain teaching classroom reveal, classroom set up, setting up a classroom for blogging, high school classroom, high school classroom setup
At the right-hand edge of my white board I have this shelving unit that I, again,
covered with curtains. Not only does it hold more classroom supplies, but it
helps create a division between the classroom and the work space 

that I have in the far right-hand corner!
miss l's whole brain teaching classroom reveal, classroom set up, setting up a classroom for blogging, high school classroom, high school classroom setup
Here is a peek of what it looks like without the curtain.
Can you see why I was so eager to cover up all of my storage areas!?
I think it looks so nice when it is covered up and out of sight.

miss l's whole brain teaching classroom reveal, classroom set up, setting up a classroom for blogging, high school classroom, high school classroom setup
Here is the space I created at the far right of my classroom 
(on the other side of the shelving unit).
I had both the futon and the chair from when my husband and I lived
in residence at university and they fit perfectly in the classroom!
I plan on having this space available for students who need a comfortable place 
to work or read independently. You will notice in the previous pictures that I
have clipboards on top of the shelving unit if students need a hard surface to work
on while in this area.

miss l's whole brain teaching classroom reveal, classroom set up, setting up a classroom for blogging, high school classroom, high school classroom setup
A close-up view of my "What Makes A Good Blog Post?"
checklist for our blogging station. It is a good run-through of
everything a students blog post should have before it is posted!
miss l's whole brain teaching classroom reveal, classroom set up, setting up a classroom for blogging, high school classroom, high school classroom setup
My Tech Corner
The back right-hand corner of my room (right beside the door).
I had to have both computers here due to the amount of available hook-ups.
The computer with the chair is my students blogging station with blogging points
on the bulletin board beside them. The computer facing the picture is my own.

To celebrate Back-To-School and my First Classroom I am making the following files 
available to you for FREE! 
Simply click on the titles to go to the file :)

- Do You Think Like A Mathematician? Criteria for Mathematical Thinking
  Set of 6 Posters
- Bloom's Taxonomy For Teachers & Students
  Set of 6 Posters
- What Makes A Good Blog Post? Blogging in the Classroom Checklist
  Set of 5 Posters

A BIG thank you going out to all of the edu-bloggers out there that inspired so many of the elements in my classroom!
Wishing you all a great year :)