Saturday, 29 March 2014

Parent-Teacher Interviews Round Two

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

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

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

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

TIPS (in no particular order)

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

Saturday, 22 March 2014

2 Stars & A Wish: Week 26

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

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

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

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

Week 25 Update:

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

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

My First Science Fair

     On Friday my Grade 8 class held their first Science Fair after working diligently over the past three weeks. After a very long first unit on Cells & Systems (I was getting used to teaching Science!) we moved on to our unit on Fluids at the start of January. As a summative assessment, I decided to have my students organize, plan, and administer individual science experiments that would then be showcased with a Science Fair (an event that our school does not formally have). Not only would this serve as a summative assessment for our unit, but it would also allow me to incorporate many of our Cluster 0  outcomes!

     Having never participated in or attended  a Science Fair (with the exception of serving as a judge for a local Science Fair while in university), I was very hesitant in regards to where to start. After a quick Google Search, however, I found an awesome Science Fair Planning package put together by Lora Holt. Now, keep in mind, this package was originally designed for elementary ages (K-5) but, after so tweaking, I created something that followed a similar format that was appropriate for my students.

     Friday went off without a hitch and I am so proud of everything my Grade 8s accomplished throughout this journey. Their experiments were well planned out and showed awesome scientific inquiry and great use of the scientific method. Their displays were well laid out and eye-catching and they answered audience questions like pros!

   Now be prepared for picture overload (sorry, I'm just so proud of all the work that they did!)
science fair, grade 8 science fair, science fair planning booklet, my first science fair as a teacher

science fair, grade 8 science fair, science fair planning booklet, my first science fair as a teacher

science fair, grade 8 science fair, science fair planning booklet, my first science fair as a teacher

science fair, grade 8 science fair, science fair planning booklet, my first science fair as a teacher

science fair, grade 8 science fair, science fair planning booklet, my first science fair as a teacher

science fair, grade 8 science fair, science fair planning booklet, my first science fair as a teacher

science fair, grade 8 science fair, science fair planning booklet, my first science fair as a teacher

science fair, grade 8 science fair, science fair planning booklet, my first science fair as a teacher

science fair, grade 8 science fair, science fair planning booklet, my first science fair as a teacher

science fair, grade 8 science fair, science fair planning booklet, my first science fair as a teacher

science fair, grade 8 science fair, science fair planning booklet, my first science fair as a teacher

Things That I Think Worked Well

1 ) Having students create their display-boards using boxes &
     materials from our school's recycling
- Great for the environment
- No cost to parents/families
- Fit in with our school's environmental sustainability goals

2 ) Having students share their ideas through our class blog
- Students were able to reflect on their learning
- We received feedback from parents, other students, other teachers,
  university students and even scientist Steve Spangler (often on the
  Ellen Show!)
- Check out my student's posts on their blog!

3 ) Setting intermittent deadlines to keep students on track
- As we progressed I set deadlines for certain aspects
     - Topic
     - Research
     - Experiment
     - Display
- This gave the students direction, allowed me to keep track
  of progress, and ensured no-one got left behind

4 ) Inviting all students/staff to attend
- In our K-12 school, my Grade 8s had students from Grade 1
  to 12 come to view their displays and ask questions
- This worked very well as my students had to focus on putting
  information in simple terms for their Grade 1 visitors (who
  asked what salt water was) as well as fully explain their
  understanding to their Grade 12 visitors who asked in-depth

Things That I Would Change for Next Year

1 ) Booking more time for students to complete experiments
     at school
- Some students completed their experiments at home, some
  at school (their choice)
- I would like to book more time in the home-ec room and
  science lab (both managed by other teachers) to ensure my
  students have more options & all of their supplies)

2*) NOT being sick the day before
* Ok, so this one isn't actually official but I was sick the day
  before the science fair, which caused stress for both me and the

- Other than that, I was thrilled with how everything turned out and couldn't be more proud of my Grade 8 students. Tomorrow, I am having them fill out reflections on what they thought of the entire process so I will see what they say and update this list as needed!

Friday, 14 March 2014

2 Stars & A Wish: Week 25

     This week actually represented my shortest teaching week on record due to extracurricular activities, meetings, and illnesses.
- Tuesday was our Grade 7-12 Ski Trip to a downhill ski hill
  approximately 2 hours away (a gorgeous day where I got to
  snowboard with my students!)
- Wednesday I attended a meeting at our Division Office
- Thursday I had my first sick day all year after battling
  bronchitis-like symptoms for almost two weeks
As such, I feel like I wasn't able to accomplish much this week. I am hoping to hit the ground running on Monday, however, as spring break is only a few short weeks away! Two things that I think went well this week were:

1 ) Holding my First Ever Science Fair!
- For the past three weeks my Grade 8 Science students have
  been working on independent science fair projects for our
  unit on Fluids (pressure, density, buoyancy, viscosity). While
  I've never participated in a Science Fair or held one, I did
  serve as a Science Fair judge for a local school while completing
  my B.Ed.
- I was very nervous about how everything would turn out in regards to
  planning, organization, student participation, turn-out, etc. Plus,
  I was sick the day BEFORE the event and showed up today
  completely nervous.
- After it is all done, however, I couldn't be MORE PROUD of
  my Grade 8 students! They put an incredible amount of effort
  and planning into their projects and I was beaming as they
  showed off their displays to over 70 students & staff! (Pretty
  impressive since our school has only approximately 120 students).
- If you'd like to see the science fair planning process from
  my students point-of-view, check through their blog posts!

A panoramic shot during our Science Fair!

2 ) Keeping Up-To-Date With My Marking
- This week I wrapped up my first Grade 9 Science unit on
  Reproduction and, as such, today was the last day to hand in
  any assignments from this unit (including final summative
  projects). My Grade 7 Science class finished and presented their
  volcano research projects for our unit on Geology (which
  included exploding volcano models). My Grade 8 Science class
  held their Science Fair.
- Yes, I know, I did not think this through very well!
- This schedule resulted in my room looking like a paper
  explosion went off and I had ZERO storage after factoring in
  almost 60+ display-style projects.
- Thankfully, I was able to keep on top of my marking and
  EVERYTHING can be taken home on Monday and my room
  can return to normal!

     One thing that I want to work on, however, is getting an early start on Report Cards. We are almost ready for our next round of report cards and parent-teacher interviews. This is now my third round at this (I reported on all Grades in November & just high school in January) so I hope to show improvement and be more organized now that I am more aware of expectations. I've already finished all of my Learning Behaviour reporting tonight (that's a good sign, right?!) Here is hoping that the rest goes smoothly!

Week 24 Update:

     Last week I shared that I wanted to work on  maintaining focus and direction in my Grade 9 Math class. Now, due to this week's activities, we didn't have all of our normal classes but I was able to have our principal pop-in to observe during the one day we did hold regular class. Furthermore, I was able to conference with her in-detail afterwards in regards to expectations. I think, as a first-year teacher who does not have a specialty in math, I was very focused on what I could be doing wrong as a teacher. After observing and reviewing my lessons, however, my principal assured me that I am simply dealing with a class that is pushing limits and learning to work within the different expectations of high school. Unfortunately for both me and them, this year is going to be a big learning curve but I will continue to work closely with my principal to ensure I am doing everything I can on my end to ensure success!

Monday, 10 March 2014

Free #EdTech - Apps For Your Class 3

     Free #EdTech - Apps For Your Class is a sporadic posting I do every time I find a neat new app that is not only being offered FREE (for a limited time) but that is also educational and could serve a purpose in your classroom.

     While no longer free, last sessions app: King of Maths: Full Game, is still awesome and I recommend you check it out! Today I've found:

Fun Slides

I think this photography app would be a easy and fun tool for students to create fast presentations! It allows users to:
- Upload pictures from their picture library or take new pictures
- Add transitions
- Input voice-overs
- Add music from their database or from your music library
- Add text
- Share through email, Facebook, or YouTube easily!

Regular $0.99, now FREE till tomorrow

FunSlide, Fun Slides, Free #edtech, Free apps
Fun Slides Screenshot. (2014). Uploaded to iTunes by Entappie. Available online at:

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Good Things Sunday

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

- On Friday we were having a work period in one of my classes
  where students were given time to work on completing projects.
  During these periods I often have music playing and one of my
  students began dancing to the song. In response I had one student
  look up from a project, chuckle, and mumble, "You are so weird".
  Without missing a beat the student replied with a huge smile on
  her face, "I'm being myself, I love this song and I love to dance...
  so I'm going to dance!"
  I was so overwhelmed by her confidence and self-assurance that
  it wasn't long before myself and several other students were dancing
  in the classroom too.

     What good things happened in your week?

Saturday, 8 March 2014

2 Stars & A Wish: Week 24

     I haven't reflected formally through a "2 Stars & A Wish" post in quite some time and it is something that I would like to get back into. While I've spent a lot of time reflecting informally throughout my lessons, at the end of the day, etc I feel like I benefit more when I take the time to write out my thoughts and get feedback from those around me. As such, two things that I think went well this week were:

1 ) Having my Gr 8 Students Pass 3,000 Pageviews on Their Blog!
- My Grade 8 students have been blogging in both science and math since
  September and I couldn't be more pleased with their progress in regards
  to reflecting on their learning, asking open-ended questions, developing
  their PLN, and developing a better understanding of digital citizenship.
- While I try to not make their blog stats a big focus point of this project,
  we do keep track of our pageviews and enjoy checking out our audience
  map (they've had viewers from every continent except Antarctica!).
  Passing 3,000 pageviews was an exciting accomplishment for them and
  there were so pretty exciting cheers when we discovered our new
- You can check out their blog at:

Mrs. T's Classroomg Blog, grade 8 science blog, grade 8 math blog, blogging with middle school students, blogging with junior high students

2 ) Engaging Debates in Grade 9 Science
- This week we reached the close of our unit on Reproduction with a
  final discussion on Biotechnology. Over the course of a few days
  students were provided with articles and videos on a variety of
  biotech projects such as stem cell research, GMOs, and vaccines.
  In small groups, they were responsible for learning about their topic,
  discussing possible Pros and Cons, and sharing their ideas with other
  groups who, in turn, shared their topic.
- As a closer, I shared a video on cloning from the Eyes of Nye series
  (the Bill Nye series for High School), which built on our discussion
  regarding stem cell research. After the video was completed, I presented
  students with the following reflective prompt:

  "Imagine you live in a world where, at birth, you parents have the choice
   to create a clone of you. This clone can be used as an organ donor in the
   event you ever became ill or injured.
   The clone, a fully-functional human, identical to you, is maintained at a
   medical facility until is it needed.
   Write a response summarizing what society's potential PROs and CONs
   to this program might be. If you were starting a family, would you create
   a clone to safeguard your child against illness? Why or why not?"

- I was very surprised by who much my students got into this activity, not
  only did my students have A LOT to write, but we were having thoughtful
  debates across the room as it was occurring. Students wanted to know more
  about the morality of a program like this, what would happen if the illness
  was genetic vs. environmental, if the clone could replace them if they passed
  away, etc. I also had students comparing the maintenance of a clone to having
  twins and only keeping one child or discussing how their potential spouse's
  beliefs would factor into their decision! Great big picture, thinking!

     One thing I want to work on this week, however, is maintaining focus and direction in my Grade 9 Math class. Despite having this group in both math and science, there is a very different atmosphere in each class. While science is focused, on-task, and punctual; math is disruptive and somewhat chaotic. I only get to see them three times a week and we are almost two units behind where we would like to be. I've asked my principal to informally pop in this week and even listen from the hallway (so the students don't know she is there and change their behavior) so she can give me some tips. I'm at a loss to as why there is such a big difference from one subject to the next, when the students are the same. I don't know if there is something I am doing delivery wise or what, as my classroom management is the same in both settings... Here is hoping for a more focused week!

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Share The Love

     Last week I was pleasantly surprised to receive a link to a blog post written about... me! Before I go further, I should provide some context.

     Last month, I had the opportunity to present via Skype for Brandon University's Internet for Educators class (a class which only one year ago I was a student in). I shared my experiences regarding the integration of technology into my classroom as well as the successes and challenges that have arisen from my ideas.

     Mr. Nantais, the professor of the course, has all of his students maintain a blog sharing their learning and one of his students, Katelyn, wrote about me! To see Katelyn's post, please visit her blog, "Old Dog Trying To Learn Some New Tricks".

Old Dog Trying To Learn Some New Tricks Screenshot. (Accessed on 2014). Uploaded to BlogSpot. Available online at:

     With the Internet for Educators class now at a close, and Katelyn participating in student teaching, I'd love for you to check out her blog, send her some love, and encourage her to keep "learning new tricks".

     Thank you again to Katelyn for her kind words and support, I wish you all the best as you start this new adventure!

Katelyn's Blog
- Old Dog Trying To Learn Some New Tricks
Katelyn's Google+

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Good Things Sunday

    I follow a lot of blogs... blogs written by educators... blogs written by administrators.... blogs written by friends/family... but one of my favourite blogs to see pop up in my Feedly account is One Good Thing. This collaborative blog, is a space where educators share stories of good things from their day.

     Teaching is a profession that can leave you overwhelmed, exhausted, and questioning if you are doing anything right. As this blog states, however, "Every day may not be good, but there is one good thing in every day". I love reading the stories from other educators and have been inspired to share my own version of "one good thing". Each Sunday, I'd like to reflect on the previous week and share some good things:

- I have a student who started with us two weeks after Term Two began.
  This student has only attended 2 days since I've met them, is terribly shy,
  and I've been swamped trying to figure out how to keep them on track without
  overwhelming them. One assignment we've been working on involved
  flipping a coin to determine the genotypes & phenotypes of a potential
  "alien offspring". Wanting to learn more about my student, however, I
  asked to play rock-paper-scissors in lieu of flipping coins. Each round my
  student smiled a bit more & was laughing & talking more by the time class
  was done. Will I see them more frequently this week? I don't know... but
  progress has been made.

- After explaining a new concept to my Grade 8s I was met with silence
  and stares, which is odd for this group. I asked, "Are we silent because I've
  lost you or are we silent because we understand and have no questions?"
  Without missing a beat a student piped up, "I'm quiet because I'm content
  with all the knowledge you just provided me with!"

     What good things happened in your week?

Saturday, 1 March 2014

March Currently

     March is here which means my first year of teaching is officially over half way done! I can't believe how fast the year is going by and I know that it will only continue to fly by. In most years, March would mean warmer temperatures and the start of melting snow as we near the end of the month. This winter, however, seems to be much more severe than anything I can remember and I doubt that winter will let up at all this month! Here is what March started as for us:

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Yes, you're reading that right, "Feels Like -49 Celcius" or -56 Fahrenheit
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The beautiful roads on the way to school!
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Our 4x4 truck couldn't get through the drifts, we had to walk home in -40 Celcius!
If you haven't encountered a "Currently" post before, it is just a fun post at the beginning of each month that serves as a way to share what is Currently going on in your life! You can link up and share your own "Currently" post by visiting the wonderful Farley over at Oh' Boy 4th Grade.
For the last section, Farley asked us to post the answer to a question.
Try to guess the question that matches my answer & leave your guess in the comments below!