Monday, December 03, 2012

Teaching Children to Care

Last week I went to a Kindergarten class at a local elementary school. The teacher I worked with shared with me a way to create a caring classroom environment. She said that she teaches a unit on caring at the beginning of the school year, and refers back to it throughout the year. What she teaches can be easily connected to the Prescribed Learning Outcomes of Health and Career Education in the BC curriculum.

The unit introduces the following slogan:

We care about ourselves, each other, and our place.

In the three categories, children explore different ways they can take care of themselves, each other, and the places they are in. For example, "taking care of ourselves" could include dressing appropriately for the weather, or eating healthy food. "Caring about each other" could entail sharing materials or toys during work time or centre time, and "caring about our place" could be about keeping the coat room or the cubby area clean...etc.

The slogan is actually used as a school belief system at another local elementary school as well. This chart shows various places and situations where this slogan can be connected to.

After exploring the three categories, the teacher explained that she would catch the children doing things throughout the day which fit under one of the categories of the slogan, and take pictures of them. For example, there might be a picture of students sharing pencil crayons or cleaning up after lunch. Afterwards, the teacher would print the pictures out, put captions and symbols along with the pictures so that the Kindies could understand, and create a classroom book for the students to look at! Since the "Caring Book" was placed in the classroom book shelf, students would take turns reading the book with each other during reading time, which reinforced the idea throughout the year. I imagine that the kiddos would be quite excited to see pictures of themselves in the book!

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to take a picture of the book itself, since it was in another classroom at the time. I got the general idea though, and I'm excited to try it in my own future classroom :D

On another note, I'd also like to share with you a cute line-up song the teacher used in the classroom. She told me that while dealing with the little ones, she realized over the years of teaching that using music and singing with them seemed to reach them more effectively then simply talking to them. This song is sung to the tune of Gilligan's Island.

For more songs like this, Piggyback Songs for School Days has some great songs for primary grades, which fit right into the school schedule. There are tons of songs with themes related to the BC curriculum, and effective transition songs as well. All the songs are chorded for those who play the guitar! I've ordered a copy for myself from Amazon and can't wait to get it in my mail!

Well...I'm going to go back to studying for my math final exam I have tomorrow :( Looking forward to working in schools every day starting Wednesday though! I'm sure I'll have some more ideas to share here!

Sunday, May 06, 2012

End of First Practicum and Titanic Jeopardy Lesson Freebie!

Last week on Friday I had the last day of my three week practicum. Although I was relieved that I was finally able to relax afterwards, it was sad to say good bye to the students I had gotten to know over the weeks.

To put a closure to the time I was at the middle school, I ended my poetry unit with a poetry cafe event where the students each chose one or two poems to read which they had written throughout the weeks. For the poetry cafe, I got the students to bring in treats to create a cafe atmosphere, and played some calming instrumental music in the background. To go with the whole cafe theme, every time a student finished reading, we all snapped our fingers which helped create the mood. We also had a student be an MC, which he did an excellent job doing!

Here was one of the treats the students brought in for the poetry cafe on the last day of student teaching!

I am so thankful to have been able to do my practicum with such supportive staff and amazing students! They were so cooperative, sweet, and helpful. I will miss them a lot for sure! I've learned through these three weeks and also from being an assistant last year that an important part of being a teacher is to learn to let go and being able to say good bye. This can be quite hard...

Last week I taught a Jeopardy lesson on the Titanic which I'd like to share with you today. It's a one time lesson that doesn't require any background information from the students, so I think it would work well for substitute teachers teaching any grades between four to seven.

The lesson is started with a picture or a short video related to the Titanic as an attention grabber, followed by a discussion on what the students already know about the topic. The class is then divided into two teams. There are strips of paper with facts written about the Titanic posted on the walls of the classroom. Students have a short period of time (I initially said 5 minutes, which I think ended up being too long...3 to 4 minutes should be enough for grade sixes) to memorize as many facts as they can. All of the questions in the game will be directly taken from the facts posted on the walls. Once the time is up students return back to their groups and decide on a speaker. Only the speaker is allowed to state the answers to the questions. The teacher takes off all the facts from the walls. After playing the Jeopardy theme song, the game starts! 

Here are the basic rules:
  • Each group will take turns selecting the categories and answering questions.
  • Only the speaker can answer the questions. The team members will therefore discuss the answers to decide what the speaker will say. 
  • If one team gets an answer wrong, the other team can steal half the points if they get the question right.
  • Each team has 30 seconds to answer each question.
  • If a team gets a daily double, they will first decide how much they will wager. Then, the team will answer the question. (eg. If a team wagers 500 points and they get the question right, they will win 1000 points. If they answer incorrectly, they will lose 500 points.)
  • *An optional Final Jeopardy session can also take place for the final round, where each team decides how much they will wager for the final question. 

The grade six students absolutely LOVED this lesson and I had so much fun teaching it! The great thing is that this lesson can be adapted easily for other subject areas or topics as well, especially as a review activity at the end of pretty much any chapter.

 Here is the lesson plan, along with the facts to cut into strips of paper to post onto the walls of the classroom, the questions and answer key, and the Jeopardy category sheet. Enjoy!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Heart Maps!

The last two weeks have gone by so quickly! It's amazing how time passes by so quickly when you're busy doing something you love! After the first three days, I've pretty much been teaching every day and am gaining a lot of hands-on experiences. I'm so lucky to be able to do my practicum with such supportive staff and amazing students!

Today I'd like to share a lesson I taught as part of my poetry unit which I got a lot of good reviews on! They are called heart maps, adapted from the idea from Georgia Heard's book, Awakening the Heart which has loads of useful ideas on how to teach poetry. The heart map is a great way for students to get in touch with their emotions and realize what makes life meaningful for them. It's also a useful tool for students to go back to during the school year when they can't think of topics to write about.

I introduced the activity by telling the students that they will be making maps of their hearts. None of the students had ever worked on this activity before, and seemed very curious. I told them that their heart maps would represent different things that they care about, memories that have stayed with them, qualities that make them special or unique, or experiences which have shaped how they are today. 

I also gave them the following list of guiding questions to help them come up with ideas:

  • What was the most fun you've ever had?
  • What makes you unique?
  • What people/objects/activities are important to you?
  • What has really affected your heart?
  • What secrets have you kept in your heart?
  • What are some experiences or central events that you will never forget?

I was so amazed and inspired by the finished work that the students handed in! They are now all put up on the bulletin board in the hallway, and I've been asked to teach this lesson in another class as well :)

Monday, April 09, 2012

Making Connections with Text

My practicum is finally starting tomorrow! For the last couple of weeks life had been quite busy with final assignments, projects, and exams, but now the good stuff starts! I'm so excited to finally be able to be in the classrooms.

Over the next three weeks I will be in a grade six classroom teaching a language arts unit on poetry, and European Handball in PE. I'd like to share with you a great idea I borrowed from Kim at Finding JOY in 6th Grade which I will be incorporating into my poetry lessons on how to make personal connections with the text. I thought that this strategy would fit perfectly into the Prescribed Learning Outcomes of English Language Arts here in BC:

A4: Select and use strategies while interacting with others, including
  • making and sharing connections

B8: Respond to selections they read or view, by
  • explaining connections (text-to-self, text-to-text, and text-to-world)

After spending the first day on an introductory lesson on poetry, students will begin making personal connections with various poems they find which they can relate to. To explain the three different kinds of connections, I will use a poster which will hopefully help them understand how to make such connections, and the differences between the three types: text-to-self, text-to-text, and text-to-world.

After I model how to make such connections through a think-aloud, the students will work on making their own connections, then sharing their thoughts with partners. I'm going to use the form below for the activity. 

Next week the kids will start creating their own poems, using heart maps (mentioned in my previous post titled Great Resource for Teaching Poetry) and other activities to spark their interests and creativity. I'm thinking of ending the unit with a poetry cafe <3

I will be teaching this lesson towards the end of this week so please let me know if you have any suggestions or advice on improving the lesson. Thanks!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Great resource for teaching poetry!

Last week I visited my mentor teacher's grade six class and met the students in his class for the first time! When I saw the kids and how smiley and awesome they were, I just got so excited and eager to start planning lessons for my practicum. The count down begins! 4 weeks until my first day :) I'm planning to visit the class one or two times a week once spring breaks is over (it's two weeks in our district) so that I can get a head start on getting to know the students.

When my mentor teacher and I discussed what subjects I should teach, we both agreed that poetry would be a good unit to work on. It also ties into a language arts assignment I have in once of my courses at the university, which requires me to create a unit consisting of three lessen with a writing, reading, and oral language focus in each lesson. In order to start planning, I've been reading through an amazing book which my professor has recommended to me. I'd like to share this highly practical resource with you, which I feel would benefit both new and experienced teachers.

The book is called Awakening the Heart: Exploring Poetry in Elementary and Middle School by poet Georgia Heard. I'm sure many of you have heard of it, since it seems to be a quite famous book in the field of education. The book is divided into chapters which explore how to effectively teach different elements of poetry, such as "Making a Poetry Environment", "Reading Poetry", "Writing Poetry", "Crafting Poetry", and "Sharpening Our Outer and Inner Visions". I found that many of the ideas mentioned are easily adaptable to many of the grade levels in both elementary and middle school settings. What I really like about this book is its focus on teaching in a way that helps students open their hearts and develop personal relationships with the world they live in through poetry.

Here are some of the ideas that stood out for me:

  • The Heart Map

This is my favourite! Children start by each drawing a shape of a heart, and inside it illustrate important memories and things that they care deeply about. This activity is a great tool to help children develop ideas on different topics they can write on. An example of a heart map can be seen on the cover of the book. 

  • The Living Anthology Project

Students post poems in various areas of the school to create a learning environment where poetry becomes part of their daily lives, and hence more accessible. The students try to choose poems which relate to the specific location where it will be posted. (i.e. A poem about water, or waiting, would be posted beside the water fountain. )

  • Poems on Desks

As a way to introduce middle school students to poetry, the teacher tapes poems to the students desks while the students are out for lunch or recess. When the students come in, they are encouraged to silently walk around the class to read the poems on the desks and to sit down at a desk that has a poem which they like or are able to relate to.

*As an extension to this activity, I thought that it would be a good idea to have two or three copies of the same poem taped on different desks, so that once everyone has sat down the students who choose the same poem can get together and discuss their thoughts afterwards.

  • Six-room Image-poem

Students are instructed to take out a blank sheet of paper, and divide it into six squares. These squares will be labelled into the following categories: Image, Light, Sound, Questions, Feelings, Repeating Word(s). Students are encouraged to close their eyes, and visualize an image or a particular memory and write down the words you come up to describe each category. The author further notes that the number of these boxes can be adjusted according to the grade level. Moreover, she also states that students can rearrange or substitute the labels with other categories such as smell, voice, touch, ...etc

Needless to say, I've almost finished reading the book and it's FULL of post-its all over! I'm so excited to use some of the ideas for my poetry unit!

Thursday, March 08, 2012

One Lovely Blog Award!

I'm so excited to write that I've received my very first blog award! Emmy from Daydreams of a Student Teacher has given me the One Lovely Blog Award! Thank you so much! That just made my day :)

So the rules are the following:

1. Link back to the blog that gave you this cute award.

2. Pass this award to 15 other lovely bloggers.
(I cheated...only got to 10 people.)

3. Follow the person who sent it to you.
Already following.

So here are the blogs that I've found really helpful and very lovely :D
Just click on the buttons and they will link you to their blogs.

In no particular order...

1. Mrs. McKown from Little Literacy Learners

Little Literacy Learners

2. Amy from The Crazy Adventures of a University Grad

The Crazy Adventures of a University Grad

3. Abby from The Inspired Apple

4. Angela from Just Love Teaching

5. Hadar from Miss Kindergarten

6. Lesson Plan SOS

7. Kim from Finding JOY in 6th Grade

joyin6th Homepage

8. Rachelle & Natalie from What the Teacher Wants!


9. Miss Klohn from Adventures of a 6th Grade Teacher

Adventures of a 6th Grade Teacher

10. Jen from Runde's Room

Thanks everyone for reading!

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Kindergarten Creative Dance Unit and Practicum Placement!

On Tuesday we finished teaching the last lesson of a creative dance unit in PE with a team of three student teachers.  We went to a Kindergarten class at Braefoot Elementary School four times in February to teach a dance which we choreographed to the song "You've Got a Friend in me" from the movie "Toy Story" based on the theme of friendship. The main focus of these lessons was to teach the children how to gallop, and to encourage them different ways to use their bodies to represent friendship while imagining that they are cowboys or cowgirls. This also tied into the rest of the curriculum, since the classroom teacher had initially told us that the students had been working on a friendship unit, and therefore had background knowledge to build on.

On the last day, when we were setting up in the gym during lunch recess, three students came up to us and told us how they had been practicing their moves at home, and spontaneously started galloping across the stage over and over again! They seemed so excited about the new skill they had gained, and were extending their learning outside of the four walls of the classroom. The goose bumps I get at these moments are what make me truly know that I had chosen the right career path.

We mostly taught the lessons by starting off with some yoga to get the students calm and focused. This, by the way, seems to be an excellent activity to start off the day as part of a morning routine. Last week, when I worked as an assistant in a grade one class, I was simply amazed by the calming affect this simple routine had on the children. Moreover, when the yoga music started, every child new exactly what pose to do in what order. Not to mention how adorable it was to watch!

Anyway, back to the dance lesson. Afterwards we would get them to gallop in lines across the gym and then into open spaces. As a majority of the dance was based on partner work, we had to figure out a simple way to help the children understand who would gallop first, and who would go next, while the other partner stayed frozen in their pose. We decided that the easiest way to show this to the Kindies was to create name tags of with different colours, and call out cues on which colour needs to be galloping at the given times. This also worked out well since we wrote down the lyrics of the song onto a large sheet of paper to show the relationship between the different movements and the colours of their name tags. Even though Kindies would not be able to fully read the lyrics, they would still be able to see from the chart that red goes first, then blue...etc The sections where the partners would move at the same time was written in purple, as red and blue makes purple!

At the end of our last lesson, we divided the class into two groups so that one group would be the audience while the other group performed the dance. The audience group was told that their job while watching their friends was to pick one thing they liked about the performance. I was SO impressed by the feedback the Kindies gave to each other! One child said that he liked how another student had stayed in character as a cowboy while galloping across the gym. Another child praised another pair of students for how well they were able to display their friendship in creative ways. I guess I had underestimated the Kindies a little bit!

Since there were many groups of us student teachers going Braefoot Elementary to teach different creative dance lessons, our professor had planned an assembly on Wednesday so that the children could perform the dance in front of the school and their parents. It was also going to give us a chance to see what the other trios had been working on, which I was quite excited about. Unfortunately, this won't be happening this week, and may be cancelled as a result of the teacher's strike happening in BC right now. Hopefully the assembly will be rescheduled.

On another note, my three week practicum placement has finally been confirmed!!!! As I had requested earlier to the university, I will be teaching a grade six class at Gordon Head Middle School in April. I'm so excited, since I worked at this school last year as an educational assistant and I had the most amazing experience! Bother the staff and the students were amazing, and I grew so much during that year. I'm planning to go visit the school soon so that I can start learning names and planning lessons :D

Wish me luck!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Classroom Management Strategies

Today I'd like to list some classroom management strategies I've learned from observing teachers while working as an assistant.

1. Compliment! Compliment! Compliment!

 In our university classes, we've been constantly reminded on using positive reinforcement instead of punishment. However, I was starting to think that realistically, using punishment to some extent is unavoidable, since I saw it being used in so many classrooms by experienced teachers. This is why I was so excited when I saw a substitute teacher manage a grade two/three split class beautifully through the art of complimenting. 

These are the things she would say throughout the day, to keep the children on track:

  •       “Who can I compliment who’s showing that they’re ready to learn ?”
  •       “Who can I compliment who’s a hard worker ( or doing a good job)?”
  •       (Name of student), please compliment a person (or two people) who are showing that they are ready (to learn).”
 (In the last strategy, the teacher lets a student compliment on other students. I love this approach, since it shows children that being respectful listeners or workers directly affects each other's learning. This strategy worked well especially before a specific student presents something in front of the class, through activities such as show and tell, or simply showing their project to the class. Sometimes the teacher has to specify and say "Please choose one boy and one girl" in order to prevent girls just calling on girls and vice versa.)

2. Sing a song

 This strategy seemed to work well to get the children to quiet down and focused during carpet time. The teacher used this song, but I'm sure there are other songs out there which would work well for the same purpose. 

I like the way that (name of student) looks ready.

I like the way that (name of student) looks ready.

I like the way that (name of student) looks ready.

(Name of student) looks ready too.

3. Star Worker

This strategy is useful when students need to stay on task during individual desk work. The teacher puts a star on the white board and says, “In this star, I’m going to be putting the names of people who are at their best behaviour and working hard. People who have got their name in the star, please come see me after class.”The teacher told me that she usually gives out rewards to those students, such as scented stickers or candy. I thought this strategy would especially be good for substitute teachers. 

4. Magic piece of garbage

During clean up time, I've been in many classrooms where the teacher constantly needs to remind the children to keep cleaning up after art, or activities with high degrees of freedom, such as centres. The teacher told me that this strategy is an excellent way to motivate students on getting the room cleaned up. 

When students start cleaning up, the teacher tells them "I have chosen a magic piece of garbage. The person who picks up the magic piece of garbage gets a prize after cleaning up." The teacher keeps his/her eye's on the specific piece, and after the cleaning is finished, tells the students what the piece was (it can be anything, such as a specific piece of paper on the floor) and who picked it up. This way, the children are encouraged to pick up as many pieces of garbage as possible. Again, the scented stickers or candy can be used for rewards. 

This is it for now. I'll post more strategies as I learn more from the different classrooms I'll be substituting in as an educational assistant. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The benefits of Khan Academy

Yay! My first post!

Today I worked at Shoreline Middle School as an educational assistant with an amazing group of grade sixes. Ever since I worked last year with the grade sixes at Gordon Head Middle School, I've really enjoyed working with this age group. I spent the morning in the resource room, and was pleasantly surprised to see the teacher use Khan Academy to teach equivalent fractions to the class. I became really excited, since I had just learned about Khan Academy in my information technology class last term. It's always great to see different things we learn in university classes implemented in actual classrooms with children. The students spent about 15 minutes to try the program out for the first time. I didn't know this before, but if you create an account, you can actually create avatars which you can change as you earn more badges in the program. I noticed that this function seemed to drastically increase the students' motivation, since it gives the program a game-like feeling. The students were discussing with each other which avatar they wanted to get later on as they advanced in the program. When the teacher asked them at the end of the block how they thought about using Khan Academy, the majority of the students said that they really liked it because it was "fun" and "cool", and that they would use the program at home as well.

Although I believe that a computer program can never and should never replace an actual teacher, I feel that Khan Academy is a great empowering tool to enable students to work independently. I would recommend this program especially to students who need reviewing but are embarrassed to admit that they are confused in class. Such students would be able to watch the same video as many times as they need to without feeling rushed. Others who need more of a challenge would also benefit from it, as they have the freedom to move ahead, and choose topics that spark their interests.