Saturday, July 19, 2014

It's a "Bright Idea" to Collaborate

For this month's Bright Ideas blog post, I wanted to share a personal anecdote from the recent TeachersPayTeachers conference I attended in the U.S. There's a moral to this story.

Image source:
I was sitting in one session, waiting for it to begin and took advantage of the spare moments to introduce myself to the woman next to me. Someone behind me heard me say I was from Ontario, and she and her friend got my attention to see if we happened to be from the same area. As it turned out, I'm from north of Toronto, and they were from the London area. At that point, one of the women kind of lost interest in trying to identify any connection saying "How would you know us from so far away?"  I persisted though... and guess what? The other teacher is a Core French teacher who belongs to a facebook group that I admin!  It's very exciting for me to establish that kind of connection with someone. (Lisa, I would have let you know about this post, but there are over a dozen teachers with that given name, so I wasn't sure how to establish which one you were!)

My thought was "why SHOULDN'T we have met in some capacity before?" Just because we are from different cities, different school boards... why not consider the Internet as your virtual school hallway? Yeah, you gotta get out of your own classroom and make an effort to find out what's happening with someone else. Yeah, it takes a little effort and a little time but look at the benefit. Energized teaching, improved learning experiences for your students, maybe avoiding spending $200 on a resource that might not be as perfectly suited for you as you thought... or finding out that it is, and having someone help you word your pitch for the principal!  Maybe saving time on planning a lesson if you swap a few PowerPoint mini-lectures you've each put together or co-plan some learning centres.   Isn't it worth it? I sure think so!!

I met many of my "colleagues" from around the world in Las Vegas... and hopefully I'll blog more about that soon (but I accidentally deleted my draft post!! So, starting from scratch on that one, and I'm not sure that you aren't all sick of hearing how much we all LOVED this opportunity to network and learn together.)

If you enjoyed this bright idea, please consider checking me out on Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter for more great ideas and sharing. For other bright ideas from more than 70 different edubloggers this month, browse through the link-up below and choose a topic or grade level that interests you.

Thanks for visiting!

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Not enough Subs? Freebie for on calls

What happens in your school when someone is absent and there is no supply teacher available to substitute teach?

Some arrangements I'm familiar with...
  1. Classes are collapsed so that a few students from the teacher-less class join several other classes.
  2. An unqualified teacher is assigned to the class (This practice was in place in my board about 8 years ago, but was eliminated at some point, and now seems to be making its way back into consideration)
  3. Other teachers lose their planning time throughout the day and the class without their regular teacher has a series of teachers who work within the school but don't normally teach this group of children.
Scenario #3 is what we've typically been dealing with in my school for the past 3-5 years. The "deal" according to our teaching contract is that on call coverages can be assigned, and planning time is to be paid back to teachers within a reasonable amount of time. Of course, in May and June, it seems perhaps some substitute teachers are a little less desperate to be working every day. The prospect of paid back planning time at the end of the year seems rather silly, except for perhaps those teachers changing locations who are desperately trying to get a classroom packed up while still keeping a room full of youngsters in check and engaged... not an easy balancing act!

Here's a little freebie that you can tuck in the front of your day plans binder, or somewhere else that's convenient for you to track the no-OT coverages you've provided & help ensure that you receive the planning time that you are owed.  (OR at least that the pay back periods are evenly distributed, and it's not just people who complained most loudly who get squared up in a reasonable amount of time!)

Hope you're enjoying your summer so far!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Canada Day Blog Celebration

Happy summer, everyone! School finally ended yesterday for me, and Canada Day is right around the corner. I'm participating in a Canada Day blog hop full of tips, freebies and best wishes to our Canadian teaching colleagues for a fabulous summer!

What's more Canadian than giving? 

I'm giving you a brand new freebie which I created for a grade-wide cross curricular project this year that shows off Canada's charitable side. To keep this blog post from becoming overly long, I'll sum up by saying that we had a fund-raising initiative, and part of that was chosing to whom we wanted to donate the funds that we raised. Our grade 8 team decided to use Kiva, which is an organization that provides micro-loans to people around the world striving to help themselves as well as to build up their communities.  I came up with the idea of a town hall meeting, so we had a series of "presenters" in class pitch their point of view and we followed it up by a class discussion (which took the form of a question and answer period) and then a vote.

I've got a graphic organizer that my students used to take notes to prepare them for the presentations. The one page recording sheet has three separate versions:
  • English
  • French with instructions still in English
  • fully French version for immersion or francophone classes to use 

Included with that download, I've also identifed the Ontario Language curriculum expectations and the French language expectations (specifically for the 2013 Curriculum document with a focus on Grade 8, but it can easily work for other grade levels too.) What's missing ... please don't judge too harshly! It's a freebie and I'm exhausted from just finishing this year!... is any reference to Geography expectations, even though there definitely ARE some that tie in. The cross curricular project I mentioned had a focus on the second unit of the new Social Studies curriculum for grade 8 as well, but was assessed in a variety of ways, so I didn't bother pointing anything out in this aspect of the project. You can read a little more about it here.

In the true spirit of giving, I'm leaving it fully editable as a Word document for you, so that you can customize it as you see fit. There's also a PDF version just in case you have any formatting issues, so you can see what it should look like to help you to rearrange your layout if necessary.
Happy Canada Day from Teaching FSL Joyeuse Fête Nationale du Canada

Happy Canada Day everyone! Be sure to check out the other blog posts below for more wonderful sharing & be sure to take a look at the sales we've also offered in our TPT stores over the next couple of days!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Include Student Input in Groups for Literature Circles: Another Bright Idea!

When forming student groups for literature circles, I KNOW you already keep student reading levels in mind, as well as considering what you know about who works best with whom, and varying student groups so that your kiddos have a chance to work with new friends throughout the year.

(Thanks to Jessica for the use of her digital background)

I think it's nice to consider student preferences too. Since I teach middle school, doing the "book walk" where students check over the cover, skim through and have a chance to chat about what they see inevitably results in the same groups of friends selecting the same book.

Instead, I took a different approach. I put together a one page student survey based on the books that I had available to offer for literature circles. (I haven't included a copy here because yours needs to be custom to the books you have to offer.)

It included pictures of the books' covers for students to rate as highest interest to lowest interest, as well as rating scales for genres, themes, general two-five word summaries of the plots, and a self-assessment area for students to comment on their own reading levels & abilities.

What I loved about this idea was that it still provided me with lots of flexibility in grouping students, and I truly ended up with groupings that I never would have created on my own without the students' input in this way.

I hope you liked this month's Bright Idea! If you enjoyed it, please consider following my blog, or joining me on Pinterest or Twitter for further sharing & collaboration.

For more exciting and practical bright ideas from over 100 different edubloggers, please browse through the link-up below and choose a topic/grade level that interests you. Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Co-Hosting Notice & Note: Part 5

This week I'm co-hosting the Notice & Note book study along with Meg of The Teacher Studio. We split two topics... she's looking at text complexity and I'm dealing with the question "Are we creating Lifelong Learners?"

To me, this was a simple one. The answer to most of the discussion questions at the end of this section (i.e. do you talk frequently with your students about being a lifelong learner, and describe yourself in those terms? Do we help students to value the right to an education and do they enjoy it?) was a resounding "YES!"

Differentiated instruction, teaching through inquiry, modeling curiosity, and letting the students teach ME about things they are interested in (parkour, anyone?  professional gaming competitions?) are just a few of the ways I try to foster lifelong learning with my students.  Gosh, I sure HOPE I'm successful at that, with most of them.

There were a few words that disturbed me... (page 63) - "As a nation - perhaps not in your individual school or your own classroom - we have a long way to go in reaching that goal."

What do you think we could do, beyond our own classroom walls, to make a positive difference to the way adults around us... our fellow citizens!... look at lifelong learning?  It's really not "just too late" for them, is it?  Feel free to comment below, or on any of the other blog posts about this section of the book.

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