Category: Planning

Nobody Said It Was Going To Be Easy

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It’s the start of October, which means that last month was the hardest month of the teaching year. In September, is when I lay out the expectations, the groundwork and the flow for the learning in our classroom. With this comes the hardest and most frustrating aspect; getting the students acquainted with technology as a learning tool.

I have heard the gripes from fellow teachers and I myself used to say it too ” They don’t know how to log in! They won’t ever remember log-ins! How can I manage 25+ kids with different devices and access?” etc. The key I finally discovered was that it wasn’t hard for the kids….it was hard for ME. I switched my mindset around and started to focus on how to make it a smoother transition for all of us because I have seen first hand the powerful learning that can happen when a student is using a device as a tool to empower, create and explain their learning. It becomes second-hand nature to have that device ready to go when it’s needed.

I have been asked many times how I manage to get the kids ready to go so quickly and my advice is “Roll up your sleeves, and dive in.” It’s messy, it can be frustrating, it can drive you to insanity, but at the heart of it all you know that it is what is best for them and their future.

Here are a few tips I have experienced first hand that may help:

Use the expertise in the room

You are not the only expert in the room, and I am willing to bet that there are a few students in your class who have done this before or are quick and savvy learners. Put them to work helping their peers. I always tell my students “I am only but one Miss Ariss”, however there are some of you in here who can help me and your friends so we can learn this quickly. If you stand and deliver and expect every student to follow your exact move as you click on your computer…..you will be in for a world of mental anguish. I liken this to going to a PD session and the presenter hasn’t gaged the level of expertise in the room and treats us as if we are all beginners. I’ll be honest, if its something I know already, then I’ve started to tune them out. Our students are no different. You will have kids who know how to log in, who know how to make the @ symbol, and who know how to troubleshoot. Honour their expertise and build a collaborative, caring classroom community at the same time.

Set High Expectations

I know some teachers will print out their student’s emails or login info and passwords and give to them. I find that level of scaffolding to be great as a start….but at some point they will have to rely on themselves. With the exception of the students who I know need this scaffold, I post their log in info on the board and give them the responsibility of logging themselves in. At some point, after numerous trials and errors (with support by me,) they get it. Is it easy for them to memorize and copy their log in info, password and websites? Not a single bit, but they are learning perseverance, problem solving and building their confidence in doing this hard thing on their own. There will be tears, there will be stress, there will be anxiety…but there will also be triumph and pride.

Keep Everything In One Place

Let’s be honest…as an adult I can barely keep track of all of the websites, passwords, logins etc and I don’t expect my students to do so either. I start off small with logging into the computer system with their information and we practice going to our classroom blog. This in itself is a feat because learning that the Google search bar is not the same as the url bar when typing in a website address is just one big lesson. I keep all of the important links that they will need – Google Drive, Classroom, Creative Commons, School website, Government tests, et.- all on the blog for quick and easy access until we are at a stage where they are comfortable and strong enough in their technology use to type in other sites.

So yes, it might be easier to just hit print on the photocopier and hand each student a neat little packet without the hassle of the above, but is it what is best for them or for us? Are we living in a neat printed packet world or is our world digital, messy and requires us to push buttons and try new things?

Integrating technology in the classroom is not easy and it’s not meant for all tasks, but no one ever said anything about teaching being easy. We all just know that it’s worth it.

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Countering Negative Self-Talk

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So often we hear how we must fill one another’s buckets, to be kind to each other, to treat others like we would want to be treated….but rarely, if ever, do we think to do the same for ourselves.

At the start of the year, I asked my students to apply for classroom jobs. Along with their application, they were required to provide me with a resume and a cover letter detailing their strengths and accomplishments. The cover letter proved to be the single most difficult task my students were ever asked to complete and not because of format, but because they couldn’t provide even one thing they thought was a strength was about themselves. I gave them suggestions from what I knew of them over the past two years, had parents weigh in and even had their peers discuss, yet I quickly realized that it didn’t matter if the whole world told them they were amazing, it meant nothing if they themselves didn’t believe it.

Over the past few years, I have been doing my own research on self-esteem, self-confidence and self-love because its something that I even in adulthood still struggle with. I grew up believing that in order to be loved, I needed the approval and the love of others. I didn’t know that I could be capable of providing myself with the same love I provided others. I was so focused on ensuring everyone else around me was always lifted and loved, that when I experienced one of the most devastating life experiences, my bucket was empty, there was no one to fill it and I realized I had to learn to fill it myself.

With all of this in mind, I wanted to start 2016 with a focus on filling our own bucket. I looked through our Health curriculum and created a unit on self-affirmations which targets the following outcomes:

  • examine how health habits/behaviours influence body image and feelings of self-worth
  • recognize that individuals can choose their own emotional reactions to events and thoughts
  • expand strategies for effective personal management; e.g., develop and implement a personal budget, assess the power of positive thinking
  • evaluate the impact of personal behaviour on the safety of self and others

I started my class off by gathering in a small circle and having a discussion on perception. We talked about the difference between real life and life portrayed on social media, we looked at before and after photos of photoshopped celebrities, we talked about societal expectations and how we can continue to be our true self.

As a middle years teacher, these discussions are crucial and I quickly realized the severe importance when we started talking about the inner negative voices we hear day in and day out that tell us we can’t do something, that we need to be this or that, or that we will never be what we want to be. I passed around the same colour sticky notes and had them take some time and anonymously write down some of the things they say to themselves on a daily basis.

What followed next was beyond what I ever expected. I asked them if they wanted me to read them out loud so they can know they aren’t alone and they all said yes. As I started to unfold the papers and read what they had written, I was heartbroken. At 11 years of age, they had already absorbed society’s expectations on how their bodies should be, how unworthy they are of love, how not good enough they think they are at everything, and the most reoccurring theme : Where can I go where everything is perfect? PERFECT….I read this word over and over.

I was so taken aback that I started to cry mid-reading which led some of my students to cry with me. To me, they are “perfect” in every way possible because they are all unique and bring so much of who they are to our classroom. I told them that the reason I am crying is because to me they are none of what they wrote about themselves, that I value each and every one of them and I wouldn’t want a single thing about them to change.

They were shocked to know that everyone else has these negative thoughts too and yet they would never think that way about one another. My reminders of to always be kind to one another really hit home because now they knew that their peers were also carrying these negative self-images of themselves around and they didn’t need to add to it.

Now that we know these thoughts are there, the next step is to challenge them with questioning their validity and logic, to put them into perspective, create goals and to start countering them with positive self-affirmations daily. We will brainstorm and each student will create their own meaningful personal self-affirmation every week. We will focus on these during our meditation time every day and save them in our own buckets (mason jars).

I don’t have the solutions, but I am hoping that by providing them with the strategies and awareness that they can and should love themselves before relying on the love of others, that they may have a head start as they get closer to those even harder teenage years. I want for them to value themselves for the amazing human beings that they are and for the joy they bring their families and our classroom community.

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The Chemistry Of Baking Bread

Groups made cinnamon buns, chocolate chip bread sticks, white bread, gluten-free cinnamon bread, garlic cheese bread and tic-tac bread!
Groups made cinnamon buns, chocolate chip bread sticks, white bread, gluten-free cinnamon bread, garlic cheese bread and tic-tac bread!

One of the best parts of teaching for me is finding ways to make learning relevant to student’s everyday lives and future.

We have been learning all about classroom chemistry this term and the topic itself is one of the most engaging and exciting units we have delved into so far. The students are learning about chemical and physical reactions, solutions, mixtures and the three states of matter through various hands-on experiments. One of the main outcomes for this unit was:

  • Produce carbon dioxide gas through the interaction of solids and liquids, and demonstrate that it is different from air.

So, the most relevant way for students to understand this concept was for us to get messy and bake our own bread! And just for additional learning, we also incorporated measurement and math understandings while in our Foods Lab by converting oz to ml, g to cups and differentiating between teaspoons and tablespoons.

My students were so eager to learn about cooking and baking because they see it everyday but have not been able to be a part of it yet and most importantly understand the chemical processes that occur when creating a meal.

Their main focus going into this lesson was observing and creating different chemical and physical reactions, solutions and mixtures while working on everyday life activities such as baking a loaf of bread. We learned and brainstormed together prior to engaging in the Foods Lab and students wrote down their hypothesis and their understandings of the criteria. Each group was provided with the same basic bread recipe and they asked if they could add variations. They worked in groups to determine what variations they wanted to include and how that would affect the reactions they were looking for.

Adding and observing the chemical reactions between yeast, warm water and sugar.
Adding and observing the chemical reactions between yeast, warm water and sugar.
Measuring, observing and kneading. Students were fascinated how dry ingredients came together to form dough.
Measuring, observing and kneading. Students were fascinated how dry ingredients came together to form dough.
Rolling, mixing and kneading.
Rolling, mixing and kneading.
Amazed by the carbon dioxide bubbles which allowed their dough to rise.
Amazed by the carbon dioxide bubbles which allowed their dough to rise.

The were absolutely amazed watching the tiny yeast granules activate with the warm water and the sugar. The shock was even more so when their loaves began to rise and through the glass pans they could see the carbon dioxide pockets.

Here two videos of a few of my students sharing their bread with fellow teachers in our school and explaining their learning:

Sharing with Mr. Letendre:

Sharing with Mrs. Krefting:

When we went to cut their loaves, I heard comments like ” It looks exactly like store-bought bread!” and “This is the best bread I’ve ever had!” I told them it sure is…because you made it yourself!

They also all blogged their reflections and observations on our classroom blog: www.psdblogs.ca/dariss

Next up for us is a Bake-Off Challenge this week with three executive chefs where students are going to be provided with $25.00 and will have to make their own food creations that feature 2 chemical and physical changes and 1-2 mixtures and solution.

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Not Another Game Of Bingo!

 

We complete a mini-problem every week focused on multiple strands of the mathematics curriculum as well as areas of student need for growth.

As we worked on our 2X2, 2X3 and even 3X3 multiplication learning, we were also moving towards division and I knew that a stronger understanding and focus on their multiplication facts was needed. I sought out ways to ensure their learning was meaningful, in-depth and not just rote memorization as they will need to have a strong understanding of multiplication in order to understand division.

My colleague, Jessie Krefting, forwarded me this problem called Multipingo. At first glance, one would think oh great, the students will roll the dice and play bingo, but that is not a way to grasp deep understanding of mathematics. While playing games is often a great way to engage students, the games need to be meaningful and allow them to think about what, why and how the things they are doing apply to their understandings. I decided to modify the problem to fit my student’s needs. I wanted my students to think, process and question.

What I also enjoyed about this was that it challenged them in the Statistics and Probability strand of our mathematics curriculum as well as problem solving and multiplication.

The following problem focused on:

  • Developing number sense
  • Understanding, recalling and applying multiplication facts to 9 × 9.
  • Describing the likelihood of a single outcome occurring, using words such as: impossible, possible, certain

What I watched happening in our classroom that day was incredible. The students were working in small groups and each provided with a blank 5X5 grid. Each group was also given two 9 sided dice. The first, and most important, task was that they choose a strategy to fill their grid with any products they thought would come up most when rolling dice and multiplying.

  • Some started inputting random numbers – 17, 23, 47, to which I posed the question ” What two numbers will you need to roll in order to reach this product?” The looks on their faces when they realized that no two numbers could ever multiply to reach these products was when the lightbulb moments began to occur. They then started to focus on their facts for possible products.
  • Some inputted products for the facts they knew which showed me which ones they were comfortable with. When I saw this, I asked them to input products they are not sure of. The goal was for them to expand beyond the basics to the more complex numbers.
  • Others began to get strategic. They were only inputting products to which multiple numbers rolled could bring about the same result. For example: 24 which is a result of 3×8 and 4×6 or 18 which is a result of 9×2 or 6×3 which increased their odds. This process required a strong knowledge and understanding of factors and probability.

They all were so heavily engaged in trying to fill in their grid with the best possible outcomes and working on factors, products, facts and probability that I couldn’t stop them, nor did I want to! They loved this challenge so much that the lesson extended into 3.5 periods that day with everyone fully engaged and learning.

They were also keeping track of which numbers rolled the most, which factors were more prevalent and why and what facts were correct on a separate google doc as they “played bingo”. Once their first round was completed, they then had to create another grid based on the information gathered from the first. Their task was then to change their first strategy using the new information in order to create a grid even more conducive to multiplication and probability. This required a deeper processing of information and statistics to which all then began to rethink their original ideas.

Upon completion, each student posted a reflection on their blog based on our problem of the week criteria.

Here are a few examples:

Ashley – Multipingo POW- Reflection 

Ian – POW Reflection – Multipingo

Kylie – POW Multiplication Reflection

I was very proud to see their growth especially as these concepts are some of our biggest challenges this year. They have come so far from just plugging in numbers and answers to actually breaking them apart, playing with them and understanding the relationships between them. This is an area that I hope to continue to grow and foster as we build a love of mathematics.

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Classroom Learning – Feb. 9 – 13, 2015

This month has been flying by as its been full of short weeks filled with a lot of activity! My students have been hard at work but we also made some time for celebrating the work and learning we have been doing.

Language Arts

We are well into our read aloud Wendell The World’s Worst Wizard. We have learned about the differences between gnomes, elves and trolls as well as wizards and witches. The students have been reflecting on their connections, inferences and predictions as well as other criteria as we move forward into this story. They have each chosen either a specific character from this book or a type of character and started brainstorming their profiles so that they can create depth for their character when we begin their narrative writing pieces next week.

This week we discussed juicy adjectives and descriptive words. Students researched a variety of words and then applied those to their peers in our Friendship Adjectives Hearts:

Each student left a descriptive adjective about themselves and their peers on their heart.
Each student left a descriptive adjective about themselves and their peers on their heart.

Students have also started their book clubs! I have never seen more excitement and enthusiasm for reading in all of my years of teaching so watching them jump for joy when books where distributed was wonderful! I credit this in part to the fact that they all chose their own books based on interest and abilities. They all decided within their groups as to how much they will read before providing reflections. Each group also created a collaborative Google Doc which they will record their questions, comments and information to share with me and the classroom.

Here are some photos from their meetings:

Reading!
Reading!
We use a variety of tools and resources. We read, converse and record our learning.
We use a variety of tools and resources. We read, converse and record our learning.

Mathematics

We are nearing the second loop of feedback for the student’s Resort Reports. I have asked that they each work on them this weekend whenever possible so I can provide them with additional audio feedback. They will be given more time next week to listen to feedback and apply to complete their work. I have loved using the add on Kaizena for the audio feedback!

Science

We completed a brief experiment together on growing crystals and students were able to observe their findings from last week’s  solutions.

Verifying our hypothesis and updating our observations.
Verifying our hypothesis and updating our observations.

Social Studies

The student’s jot notes and research skills are moving forward as they continue to research the two regions of the Arctic and the Great Lakes LowLands. I assigned each student a google doc for jot notes and one for a bibliography. They are loving using the add on Easybib to create their works cited. They are using both text and online resources and have learned how to cite each resource. They then also created two separate Google Presentations focused on each region of Canada and will compile their research into a personal presentation with a focus on guiding questions.

Starting our region research, creating our jot notes and answering our guiding questions!
Starting our region research, creating our jot notes and answering our guiding questions!
Students are required to use a variety of text and online resources for region research.
Students are required to use a variety of text and online resources for region research.

Art

Our Falling Backwards pieces have turned out amazingly! Some students are still finishing up and we will begin Dragons next week!

Some of our self portraits falling backwards...can you guess who we are?
Some of our self portraits falling backwards…can you guess who we are?

Valentine Buddies

This week we also gathered with our Grade 7B buddies to work on our collaborative art. We decided that this would be an awesome time for us to make our buddies some Valentines and they created some for us in return. We also set-up all of the treats brought in from both classes and shared while working on art together. It was so heart-warming to see them so excited in making, distributing and receiving Valentines. I truly believe one is never too old to celebrate love, kindness and friendship.

Distributing our Valentines and reading them!
Distributing our Valentines and reading them!
Our collaborative murals are coming along quite nicely!
Our collaborative murals are coming along quite nicely!
Cheers to lemonade, good friends, goodies and school!
Cheers to lemonade, good friends, goodies and school!

Skiing

We received some high praise from the ski instructors at Rabbit Hill Ski Resort on Friday. Two instructors approached myself and Mrs. Krefting at the end of the day with huge smiles on their faces and asked us if we were with the students from Greystone. We said yes, and they began to say how absolutely wonderful our students were. They said they have never had such an incredible group of kids who listened and were so respectful. They were so happy with them that they wanted to give them something and so they opened up another area for them that they normally never do. They wanted us to let our kids know just how much they were thankful to have worked with them today and they also said please bring them back anytime!

To say I am proud would be an understatement!

I tried to capture some photos of everyone skiing, however most were so far up on the hills that I was only able to capture a few in action.

Skiing at Rabbit Hill!
Skiing at Rabbit Hill!
Exhausted from a day of skiing but so very happy!
Exhausted from a day of skiing but so very happy!

We have had a great week! I can’t wait for the next!

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