Friday, 23 May 2014

Welcome to Our City: Math Tech

     For the past week, my Grade 8 students have been working on creating 3D Model Cities as part of their summative assessment in our math unit, Measuring 3D Shapes. They were asked to develop a unique city that required them to:
- Create appropriate 2D nets (with measurements) to create the building shapes
   they wanted
- Determine the surface area of each building
- Determine the volume of each building
     As a side project, we then created videos to show off their awesome creations! Each student filmed and edited their own movie using their personal devices and the WeVideo program; although I helped getting files loaded and with some formatting glitches!




Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Diversity from A-Z! Chapter 1 of U.D.L

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

Teaching to diversity, the universal design for learning, teaching to diversity book synopsis

Teaching to Diversity Cover. (Accessed 2014). Uploaded to Amazon; Portage& Main Press. 
Available online at:

What is Diversity?

     This chapter starts us off by looking at the concept of diversity and what it looks like in the classroom. A quick Google search defines diversity as:
When you ask a teacher to think of their classroom(s) they could probably make a multi-page list of all of the different ways in which their classroom is diverse. Even when you have a one-grade classroom that, from outside perspective, appears relatively homogeneous, it is full of diverse learners that we work everyday to address. Katz does a great job of summarizing this on page 3 of chapter 1,

     "Diversity is neurological. Diversity is societal. Diversity is human.
      Teaching to diversity requires that teachers create a learning climate
      in the classroom and devise activities that allow all children to feel
      safe, respected, and valued for what they have to contribute."
     - Page 3

Diversity & Social and Emotional Learning

- Shift towards inclusive education of the past few years
- Classroom climates need to be built upon compassion, community, and understanding
- At the same time, curriculum requirements are growing
- Students enter the classroom with various levels of social-emotional states and
  we must be prepared to teach and nurture that aspect of their lives, in addition to
  the academic curriculum

Social Inclusion & Social Exclusion

- Inclusion = all students have opportunities to learn, grow, and belong
- Aboriginal schools typically receive less funding
- Students with disabilities often spend time outside of the classroom

- Laidlaw Foundation 5 Criteria for Successful Social Inclusion
     1 ) Valued Recognition
          - Giving credit where credit is due
     2 ) Human Development
          - Supporting specific talents & interests of others to recognize
             that they can make a positive difference in the world around them
     3 ) Involvement & Engagement
          - Being involved, and having a voice in, decisions occurring around them
     4 ) Proximity
          - Sharing of social spaces
     5 ) Material Well-Being
          - Available material resources for full participation

- On page 7, it mentions that, "...working on a modified program in a regular classroom
  ... is not real inclusion." This part confuses me because I have two students in my
  Grade 8 room that are on a modified program (approx. Kindergarten level) and I feel
  like they are included in what we do... what would true inclusion look like for them if
  this is not it?

Diversity & Academic Complexity

- Meeting the academic needs of all of our students at the same time can be challenging
- In the past (and sometimes still):
     - Lower-level learners spend most of their time on rote-worksheet activities
       with an EA rather than more time with a qualified teacher
     - Higher-level learners are fast-tracked or placed in enrichment programs that
       are intellectually stimulating but socially isolating
- How come we tend to place our low-level students with an EA when our high-level
  students can often grasp content without a lot of teacher support (they don't need us!)

Academic Inclusion & Academic Exclusion

- Inclusion = all students are enrolled in close schools, are responsibility of the classroom
  teacher, and are all provided with an opportunity, regardless of outside factors
- Exclusion = enrolment denial, tailored academic exposure, time away from specific
  staff, time away from peers
- How do you teach a math class where some students are factoring trinomials and others
  are learning to recognize their numbers from 0-100?


What is the biggest diversity challenge you have to overcome in your classroom?

What does true inclusion look like when students cognitive ability places them 8 grades lower than their peer group?

Please leave your thoughts below :)

Saturday, 17 May 2014

7 Chapters To a Better Understanding of U.D.L

     One of our school goals this year is to purposefully implement the Universal Design for Learning approach to our formal planning. Sometimes referred to as "Backwards by Design", "Understanding by Design", or "Planning With The End in Mind", the Universal Design for Learning is a three-block model designed by Dr. Jennifer Katz at the University of Manitoba.

mRLC backwards by design planning, barb galessiere, greg schettler, understanding by design, backwards planning, planning with the end in mind

Design. (2011). Uploaded to Tach @ Riverdale by Meg Krause. 
Available online at: 

     Being fresh out of my B.Ed, the Backwards-by-Design method is what we were exclusively taught in our Assessment & Evaluation classes and is something that I feel relatively comfortable with in regards to vocabulary, set-up, purpose, and implementation. This isn't the case for everyone on our staff, however, who range from 1-30+ years experience. Throughout the year, our principal has been allowing us leave-time to collaborate with other staff members to develop a formal unit plan that fits the Backwards-by-Design or Understanding-by-Design models. In addition, we also had a formal PD day with representatives from the mRLC in February to help us develop these plans with guided support.

     Approximately a month ago, each staff member was provided with a copy of Dr. Jennifer Katz's book, Teaching to Diversity: The Three-Block Model of Universal Design for Learning. At around 200 pages, this book:
- introduces the Universal Design for Learning model
- thoroughly covers three-blocks that create this model
     - Social & Emotional Learning
     - Inclusive Instructional Practices
     - Systems & Structures
- addresses Aboriginal education
- includes surveys to use with students
Teaching to Diversity Cover. (Accessed 2014). Uploaded to Amazon; Portage& Main Press.
Available online at:
     After a few multiple false-starts with this book I've decided to formally review each chapter in a similar format to what I completed while at university. I can't help it, when it comes to professional reading I am one of those people that does not comprehend and internalize what I am reading unless I am writing about it!

     So, over the next six weeks (hopefully) I will be posting regularly as I make my way through this book. If you'd like to follow along with this journey I will be labelling these posts with a U.D.L tag that you can access by selecting it from the Labels heading on the right-hand side of the page.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Masters Here I Come!

     Earlier in the year I submitted my application for Brandon University's (B.U) Masters of Education program. After completing my Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Education, and working in their own-campus residence program for 5 of those 6 years, wanting to reapply felt like going home. Last month I shared my pre-admissions writing test, which was the second portion of the application process, and I am now happy to announce that I have officially been accepted into the program!

     Starting in the fall of 2014 I will officially be a student again (only this time by distance), working towards my Masters in Curriculum & Planning (with a focus on tech integration). I am very fortunate to have an awesome support network around me and can't wait to start this new adventure :)


Tuesday, 6 May 2014

No Notes? No Problem!

This year I've struggled with my Grade 9 Math class, a concern that I've mentioned a few times during my embarrassingly infrequent 2 Stars & A Wish posts.

While there is no note-worthy behavioural challenges, this particular group of students is incredibly diverse in their foundational math skills & we have everything from Middle School to post-High School levels. Furthermore, there are still a few students who are still adjusting to the different requirements of High School compared to Middle School (although this transition is fairly smooth being in a K-12 school).

I have been trying my best to differentiate instruction, provide various learning opportunities, and offer lunch-hour & after-school support to help ensure that my students are as successful as possible. 

Our exam schedule begins the second week of June and although that is still six weeks away, it is still a short amount of prep time for those students who need to put in extra time in order to solidify their understanding and successfully obtain their credit.

A situation that I am very nervous about is having a full classroom every day at lunch or after school during the week before exams due to a large amount of students wanting to cram before finals. If I am offering extra support I want it to be as one-on-one as possible in order to provide sufficient support. To help alleviate this situation I came up with an Exam Prep Schedule:

preparing your students for final exams, high school exams
A screenshot of the Exam Prep Ad I uploaded onto the main page of our classroom website.
I've included a form for students/parents to sign-up for sessions directly online!

Every Tuesday/Thursday, from now until our exams, I have created Exam Prep Sessions that run for 30mins over the lunch-hour & 1hr after school. I've set a session maximum of 3 students to ensure each student gets sufficient support during their session, which still allows for up to 6 students a day or 12 students a week. Overall, my students are provided with 26 potential Exam Prep Session opportunities (depending on how many they sign-up for & available sessions). Not only was the sign-up sheet available in-class and on our classroom website, but I also sent a mass email to all parents as well.

It is my hopes that this will encourage students to begin studying earlier, help them spread their studying over a longer period of time (less cramming) and more one-one-one support during the final weeks/days before exams.

I also added a NEW page to our classroom website featuring a digital copy of ALL of our classroom notes (to date) and blank copies of tests we've written throughout the year. Any students who lost their notes, didn't take quality notes, missed days, or didn't take notes at all, now have access to all of our information. Students can also retake our old tests and then correct them together with me during an exam prep session!

preparing your students for final exams, high school exams
A NEW page for our classroom website!
What do you do to help prepare your students for final exams?
(outside of the standard reviews & study packages)

Leave your ideas below!

**It is important to note that these efforts are implemented in addition to formal review periods held during classroom time**

Friday, 2 May 2014

Teaching Interviews 1 Year Later... Interview Prep

     It has officially been one year since I went through the interview process and was offered a position at my dream school only a 10 minute drive from our farm! This was also the same school where I completed two of my hour student teaching placements so I felt very comfortable with both the students and staff. My husband was offered a job in the same division (15 mins down the road from my school) two weeks later and our grad, wedding, and 8 months of teaching later we are in May again.... can someone say busy year!?

     With the school year coming to a close my Facebook, Twitter, and texts are full of teacher friends posting jobs in their division and/or looking for their first positions. Is it just me or do teachers attract other teacher friends? As such, I wanted to share some of the resources I put together when I was looking for my job:


The Best Advice for New Teachers (Article) - Larry Ferlazzo is an AMAZING edublogger that has multiple lists of resources
   that I recommend you check out. He's put together a great list of websites that
   offer advice for new teachers and people preparing to be teachers. 

The Rookie Teacher (Website)
- This website has a variety of great blog posts about everything to do with
   being a "Rookie Teacher" including subject specific information,
   curriculum, professional development and interviews.

The Hired Teacher (Website)*
- I found this website very useful and it had many examples of
  interview questions provided by new teachers who had just gone through
  the interview process.
* Unfortunately, this link now says that this website domain is now pending
   renewal. I am still included it as part of this list in hopes that they renew
   because it had some very good resources.

What Do Principal's Look For When They Hire (Article)
- Peter Jory has written a great article on his blog, "I Have an Opinion About
  Learning". Being a principal himself, I value Mr. Jory's opinion and think he
  provides some great insight on what administration looks for during the hiring

How to Find Your Dream Teaching Job (Article)


Apply to Education (Database)
- Apply to Education is an online database that school divisions and private
  companies use to post teaching positions. I check this website weekly to see
  what sorts of jobs our area has available.
- You can search through jobs from any area without having to become a
  member of the website!

Interview Questions (PDF)
- Although not teaching-specific I'm including a list of interview questions
  from my university's Career Planning & Placement Office. Most of them are
  very general so they could be a good starting base for any interview.

EduEdge (Website)
- EduEdge is an entire website devoted to preparing future teachers for the
  interview and hiring process. They have several great articles, blog posts,
  workshops and resources all designed to help you get a job.
- I've selected a few of the best articles and added them to this list.

Advice to New Graduates About to Enter the Teaching Profession (Article)
- David Andrade has put together some great points on his blog,
  "Educational Technology Guy". He touches on everything from
   staying organized, to asking for help to copyright concerns.
- At the end of the article he also includes some more great resources for
  new teachers.

First Day of School by Harry Wong (Book)
- During my first student teaching placement by principal at "S-School"
  lent me this book stating that, "It was a fantastic resource to use
  throughout your teaching career". Since then I have also seen it
  praised in many of the edublogs I follow. I definitely recommend it
  to any teacher, new or experienced.

Student Teacher, Temporary Teacher or Substitute Teacher? What to do if a Teaching Job is Rumoured to be Available at Your School (Article)
- This article by EduEdge (also on this list) offers some great advice on
  how to get your foot in the door and start building yourself a teaching career.

Top Strategies for Selecting References for a Teaching Interview (Article)
- This article by EduEdge (also on this list) offers some pointers on how to
  pick appropriate references for your teaching application. Who should be
  a reference? Do you pick different references depending on the school?

131 Tips for New Teachers (Presentation)
- Richard Byrne included a free slide presentation on his blog, "Free
  Technology for Teachers" that highlights 131 tips for new teachers.

A Principal's Reflections (Blog)
- A school administrator's blog.
- A great blog to read and see how an administrator interprets different
  aspects of education.

Interview Questions Forum on A to Z Teacher Stuff (Forum)
- What an amazing resource! This teacher forum is filled with lists of interview
   questions teachers were asked when they went for their interviews.
   The lists are divided by year and I recommend going through all of them!
- There are some really tricky questions I hadn't heard before.

How to Ace Your Interview for a Teaching Position (Article)
- This article lists the top 3 skills that are important for showing you are capable
  of preparing students for 21st Century society including internet presence,
  blogs and portfolios.
- Scott Ziegler has worked as a teacher, school administrator and then district

Teacher Interview Portfolios: Top 5 "Must-haves" and "Should-haves" (Article)
- From EduEdge, this article reviews the top 5 "must-have" things to include
  in a professional teaching portfolio as well as the top 5 "should-have" things. There
  are some great tips about those things that you may be on the fence about including.

Applicants Should Ask Good Questions During Job Interviews (Article & Video)
- This article and video reviews how to ask questions during a job interview that
  effectively communicate a positive image of you as an employee. Would you think
  to ask, "What do the most successful applicants for this job have in common?"
- Definitely a must read/watch before your next interview!

Substitute Teacher Interview Questions (Article)
- This website has a list of almost 20 interview questions that could work for either
  a Substitute Teacher or a Classroom Teacher!
- Thanks to Jonathon at Architect Interview Questions for letting me know about this
  website (I've added his blog to this list too!) 

Architect Interview Questions (Blog)
- Jonathon has put together some AMAZING posts that list potential interview
  questions for any type of teacher! He has resources divided by specific classroom
  subjects, different classroom positions and much more.

Learning to Learn: 10 Essential Skills for Teachers (Article)
- It can be easy to get overwhelmed when teaching and this article does a great job
  of summarizing 10 skills that all teachers should keep in mind, no matter what stage
  they are at in their career.
- This list covers everything from differentiation and content to time management and

Teaching Happily Ever After: How to Get a Teaching Job (Article)
- Mrs. Cross just recently went through the interview process and has summarized
  some tips from her own experiences.
- She shares some great ideas of unique portfolio options using Facebook Timeline
  and Prezi which could be great for those of us who want to showcase their techie

New Teacher 1st Year YouTube Channel (Videos)
- This YouTube Channel is just getting started up but promises to deliver
  helpful teaching tips, explain different strategies, share inspirational videos
  and be a great resource for teachers when they start out!
- This channel is monitored by Lisa Dabbs who also organizes the #ntchat
  on Twitter so I trust that this channel will soon be full of great ideas :)

The New Look Teacher Interview (Article)
- Greg Miller is a principal at an early-years school in Alberta and has
  made a list of new questions that he would ask teachers. I like that he
  moves past the traditional questions (which he lists at the start of the
  article) like "describe your philosophy of teaching" and, instead,
  asks questions like "have you built a PLN?".
- This is a great resource of questions to look at before heading into
  your next interview!

SAMPLE QUESTIONS To Prepare/Practice

1 ) What are three words that best describe who you are as a teacher? What are three words that do not describe you?
2 ) How do students describe you?

3 ) What do you know about our school/division goals?

4 ) How do you define student engagement? What does it look like in your classroom?

5 ) How do you differentiate your instruction?

6 ) What is Backwards-by-Design planning? Show me a unit in which you've utilized this approach.

7 ) How do you motivate reluctant learners?

8 ) Describe your understanding of assessment for learning, as learning, and of learning.

9 ) Describe the three MB Report Card Categories, what type of assessment would fit in with

10 ) How do you infuse technology into your teaching?

11 ) What impact does an interruption to internet access or technology have on student learning?

12 ) What do you do if a student outright refuses to do their work?

13 ) What do you do to set up a respectful & accepting classroom environment?

14 ) What is the role of the parent/guardian in your classroom?

15 ) How do you establish communication with parents?

16 ) What extracurricular activities are you interested in?

17 ) What leadership role would you be willing to take on?
Any tips/ideas/suggestions for those going through the interview process?
Preparing my interviews and have a question?
Leave your comments below!!
Good luck to everyone interviewing for their dream positions this spring :)

May Currently

     I don't know about you, but I cannot believe that May is already here. At this time last year I was preparing for my teaching interview and it has been a whirlwind every since! For us, we are still in school until the end of June, but between sports tournaments, field trips, prom, exams, and grad, it is going to go very fast!

     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.

currently post, oh boy fourth grade, farley currently