Friday, 25 July 2014

Block 1: Social and Emotional Learning - Chapter 3 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:

Link between Emotion and Academic Achievement
- Students need to feel comfortable and safe in the classroom environment
  in order to be socially and emotionally prepared to learn
- A child that is stressed, or uncomfortable/threatened, will not be able to
  effectively concentrate an absorb/apply new information
- Teaching to the Heart and Mind
     - Gifted students may experience higher levels of anxiety while at school
       do to the high amount of connections their brain makes when looking at
     - Recognize that social and emotional learning is not necessarily linked
       to economic status, home situations, peer groups, etc
     * Case Study - Micheal (chains)
- Multiple Intelligences and Social and Emotional Learning
     - Do not stereotype or label children based off of prior knowledge alone
     - Children need to know that their life has meaning, they are valued, and
        that they have something to contribute to the world
     - Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences factors in two social and
        emotional areas: Interpersonal and Intrapersonal
          - Inter: social awareness and respect for others
          - Intra: self-awareness and self-respect

The Respecting Diversity Program
- Program implemented into schools that increases self-respect and respect
  for others
- Help students recognize their individual strengths
- Introducing Multiple Intelligences to Students
     - Demystify the idea of multiple intelligences and educate students so that
       they have a platform and understanding of vocabulary and concepts in
       order to understand 
     - Specific time is set aside to discuss and explore this idea so that each
       student understands where they fit in this idea
- Script for Respecting Diversity Program
     - Includes 9 lessons to introduce multiple intelligences to students

     * Case Study - Derrick (sports impulses)

Extending the Program across the Curriculum
- Use multiple intelligence language in other curricula activities to reinforce
  concepts and diversity
     1 ) Language Arts/English
          - Theatre (bodily/kinesthetic)
          - Write songs (musical)
          - Book clubs (interpersonal)
          - etc
     2 ) Math
          - Provide manipulatives (bodily/kinesthetic)
          - Word problems (linguistic)
          - Create visual examples (visual spatial)
          - etc
     3 ) Science/Social Studies
          - Build models (bodily/kinesthetic)
          - Create experiments (logical, intra-personal)
          - Environmental studies (naturalist)
          - etc
- Include social curriculum into your regular class, as well as academic
     - hold weekly meetings
     - talk about goal setting
     - have students reflect on their learning
- RD Program Outcomes
     - Students were interviewed and shared that they felt more self-aware
       and confident about who they were as learners
     - Students felt that they understood their peers better and found it easier
       to put themselves in their shoes when someone was experiencing
     - Reduction in teasing
     - Strengthened sense of community
* Case Study - Jay (dyslexia)
- Spirit Buddies
     - Some students start the day having no connections with peers, adults,
       etc and are left with no positive interactions and a sense of isolation
     - Set aside time each morning for students, in small groups, to meet,
        share, and use active listening 

Creating Democratic Classrooms
- Involve students and provide them with choice
- Five Characteristics of a Democratic Classroom
     1 ) Teachers & students work collaboratively to ensure students'
          learning contributes positively to the community
          - Service projects
     2 ) Students demonstrate learning outside of the classroom &
          receive public feedback
          - Presentations to others, parents, etc
     3 ) Students are provided with choice (individual and group)
          - Scheduling, format, representation, etc
     4 ) Students are presented with a problem-solving approach
          to learning
     5 ) Students are held to a high degree of excellence
- Seven Principles of a Democratic Classroom
     1 ) Social is as important as academic
     2 ) How you learn is as important as what you learn
     3 ) Cognitive growth occurs with social interaction
     4 ) Children require a set of social skills in order to be successful
          - Cooperation, self-control, responsibility, etc
     5 ) Knowing our students as individuals is as important as what
          we teach them
     6 ) Knowing our students' families is vital
     7 ) How a school staff functions together is as important as
          individual competence 
- Six Teaching Strategies in Democratic Classrooms
     1 ) Class Meetings
     2 ) Rules & Logical Consequences
     3 ) Guided Discovery
     4 ) Academic Choice
     5 ) Classroom Organization
     6 ) Family Communication Strategies
* Case Study - Melissa (rock throwing)
- Class Meetings
     - Should be weekly but students can call a meeting when needed
     - Strengthens community and ensures that students know the
        classroom is a safe place where issues are solved together for
        the good of everyone
     * Case Study - Jason (my name)


Have you used the formal Respect for Diversity program in your classroom?
I have discussed multiple intelligences with my students and had them fill out surveys and reflect on their type of intelligence, but it has never been to the extent of this program.

Please leave your thoughts below :)

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Classroom Furniture: IKEA Edition

     August is almost upon us but I am not back in my classroom quite yet. We actually have a significant amount of construction happening in our school this summer (redoing the roof, redoing exterior walls.... AND a brand new science lab directly beside my classroom!) so I am unsure of when I will actually be allowed back in my classroom. In fact, depending on how the construction goes, there is a chance that I may not be back in my same classroom at all; I may be relocated for part of this year until everything is back to normal.

     Luckily for me, I was only in my classroom one year and I had very little storage area so I did not accumulate much stuff if I do have to move rooms. Regardless of what room I am in, however, I have been eagerly shopping around of some new furniture to add to my classroom. My husband and I are actually remodelling our home this summer and have chosen to install an IKEA Kitchen System while they are hosting their "kitchen event". This means that we got 20% back in the form of gift cards!! With the low costs, I'll be able to pick up a few things we need for the home as well as new things for my classroom, yay!

     I like keeping my classroom organized, colourful, but also minimal in regards to the amount of "stuff" that is around. Don't get me wrong, my classroom (like everyone else's) gets cluttered over the year; especially when I had four different classes working on large-display projects (I need to plan better, haha). I try to, however, incorporate organizational choices that keeps clutter hidden and strategically placed furniture to help create designated spaces within my room. I was fortunate to have wonderful custodians last summer that snagged two big pieces for me that are now permanent fixtures in my room and are great for organization:
My bookshelf is divided up by specific grade and all of our textbooks are
hidden away behind the curtain!

This is "Grand Central Station" for our classroom. This counter holds our Hand-In Box
and our We Missed You system. The shelves behind the black curtain hold
all of our classroom supplies that students can access.
     The one area that I want to work on this summer is our "Chill Out Space". This was an area of my room that I actually outfitted for furniture from my old dorm room! It served as an area for students to hang out and visit before class started, a silent reading area, a conference zone, an independent work area, and sometimes a napping area! Here is what it looked like this year:

The "Chill Out Space"

     The first thing I want to change is the shelf on the left-hand side. I hate this shelf! It is SO heavy, the wheels at the bottom do not roll any more, and the shelves are not deep enough to hold printer paper! I would like to replace it with the KALLAX Shelving Unit. It will still divide up the space from the rest of the room and allow for lots of storage. I'd like to pair it with the DRONA Storage Boxes, which match my classroom perfectly!
This baby is almost five feet tall! I like how it will divide up the two spaces
but still ensure students can hear what is happening while providing storage!

These storage boxes fit right into the shelving nooks and match my
blue colour scheme!
     The other thing I would like to add are two additional chairs. This area was always very busy in my room and if we happened to be doing a centre activity that featured a conference in this area, then we would run out of seating quickly if groups had 4-5 students. Chairs, however, take up a lot of room and can be quite costly so I was having a hard time finding something that looked nice but didn't eat up my budget or floor space! I did find the LOCKSTA Easy Chair which is small, cheap (only $40) and the cover is even machine washable! Plus, again, fits the colour scheme:

     I am hoping that by focusing on one area of my classroom I am able to refresh the space and make it more functional without spending a lot of money or cluttering up my classroom! How do you refresh your classroom over the summer?

*This post was written based on my own personal opinions. I was not asked by IKEA to promote their products and have received no compensation for this endorsement. 

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

A Day In The Life...

     Our summer holidays started about two weeks ago but I am only just now feeling like the holidays have began. After a busy year of go-go-go it took way longer than I thought to finally catch up on sleep and begin to relax. It probably doesn't help that it rained pretty-much straight during the first week of July and then we went right into my sister-in-laws wedding, which was a very busy time with lots of family visiting. With that being said, here is what a day in my life looks like now that the holidays are under way:

I am not a morning person at all so I am loving that I can
sleep until 10am!
Feed our dogs and our one bottle-fed calf, Simon.
Ours dogs are always trying to steal milk from the cows and
now from Simon's bottle!
Go to the gym.
This is something that I didn't do ONCE during the school year
and  it definitely showed when the year was up. I am trying to get
into a good routine this summer so that I can maintain that through
the school year. I am also using the app, My Fitness Pal, to track
my workouts; check it out!
We started renovating our house this Monday and I can't
wait to see it all come together. We are re-siding our whole home,
replacing windows and exterior doors, and doing a kitchen remodel.
Stay tuned for before and after pictures at the end of the summer.

What does a day in your life look like now that the summer is under way?

Sunday, 6 July 2014

A Framework for Teaching to Diversity - Chapter 2 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:

Universal Design for Learning (U.D.L.)
- What "ramps" are available to us to ensure that all of our students can
  access the curriculum and gain the same experience/be actively involved
- Eight Principles for Universal Design of Instruction/Activities
     1) Class Climate
         - Classroom policies and practices respect diversity and include
           all students
     2) Interaction
         - Encourage regular communication between all students and 
           students and yourself
         - Ensure everyone is included
     3) Physical Environments and Products
         - Make sure that your classroom, specific activities, centres, etc
           are accessible to all students in the room
     4) Instructional Standards
         - Have high expectations of your students and provide supports/
           resources to ensure all students can meet expectations 
     5) Delivery Methods
         - Utilize multiple teaching methods to meet the range of students
           in your classroom
     6) Information Resources & Technology
         - Make sure that any notes, handouts, assignments, assessments
           are accessible to all students
     7) Feedback
         - Provide students with regular, meaningful, feedback
     8) Assessment
         - Assess students regularly, through a variety of assessment
           techniques, and change any instruction accordingly 

Insights Through Brain Research
- It is very important that students are exposed to a wide-variety of
  stimuli so that their brain can build the necessary neuro-pathways
  to utilize that information successfully in the future
- Recognition Pathways
     - Acquire factual information
     - Information can be gathered through all the senses so it is
       important to provide multiple learning methods so that more
       recognition pathways can be built
- Strategic Pathways 
     - How we learn and how to represent learning
     - Built when students make connections between different
       concepts, practice representing information in different
       ways, and problem-solve to fill in missing pieces
- Affective Pathways
     - Responsible for motivation and attention
     - When students are challenged and engaged to discover new
       ideas they utilize their affective pathways to empower the
       learning opportunity

Seven Ramps for Brain-Based Instruction
1 ) Technology
     - Technology can be great for providing supports to students
        but it can be negative when it requires the student to leave
        the room in order to use the technology (going to a computer lab)
     - Technology should be used as a support and to help students
        take their learning beyond the classroom, but it should not be
        the focus
2 ) Gradual Release
     - Set students up so that there is a gradual release of 
        responsibility in the learning process
     - First, the teacher demonstrates a concept and students watch
     - Second, teachers and students work through a concept 
       together, discuss strategies, work through problems, and
       practice various representations
     - Third, students work independently through the concept
3 ) Flexible Grouping
     - Students have opportunities to work independently, in small-groups,
       and large-groups 
     - This allows students to demonstrate their strengths, practice skills
       modelled by other students, listen to different perspectives, etc
4 ) Integrated Curriculum
     - The brain remembers information best when it is connected to
       prior-knowledge or experiences
     - Teachers need to showcase connections between concepts and
       make sure that they do not teach their subjects in isolation
     - Cross-curricular opportunities are awesome for building
5 ) Choice, Risk-Taking, and Safety
     - If students experience too little or too few emotions, they tune out
       of the learning experience
     - Teachers can provide choice to help students feel confident and
       more engaged in an activity
     - Teachers need to help students develop their social emotional
       development, as well as their academic development, to ensure 
       they have a successful experience
6 ) Authentic Assessment
     - Assessment for learning
     - Assessment as learning
     - Assessment for learning
     - Remember what you are assessing, are you assessing their
       understanding of plant and animal cells? If so, then it doesn't
       matter what format they use to show you their understanding.
       If you give a traditional test, you may only test their reading
       comprehension and not their understanding of science concepts
7 ) Differentiated Instruction
     - Use multiple intelligences
Teaching to diversity, the universal design for learning, teaching to diversity book synopsis
Infographic (Multiple Intelligences). (2012). Uploaded by Byanna Freund. 
Bringing It All Together
- A three-block model was developed to put all of these ideas together
Teaching to diversity, the universal design for learning, teaching to diversity book synopsis
Figure 2.1 Universal Design for Learning: The Three-Block Model. (2012). Teaching to Diversity, Jennifer Katz. Page 25.

What percentage of your total assessments are teacher-created vs. student-created or co-created(teacher and student input)?

Do you use multiple intelligences regularly for ALL concepts?
If not, which one do you find hard to incorporate?

Please leave your thoughts below :)

Thursday, 3 July 2014

July Currently

     So I know that I am a little late to the game, being that it is already the third (oops!), but I thought it is better late than never! After almost two straight weeks of miserable rain, we are finally enjoying sunshine and normal weather so, needless to say, blogging has not been on my radar. I also have a new bundle of joy to keep me busy as we have a new calf that needs bottle-feeding on our farm! Meet my new baby (for now), Simon!

     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.

I am also participating in the Canada Day Blog Hop, hosted by Desiree at Reading with Mrs. D
Check out my post to grab some awesome FREEBIES including classroom posters and resources for over 10 different grades and subject-areas.