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.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Canada Day Blog Hop!

reading with mrs d, canadian edu bloggers, canada bloggers, canadian teacher blogs, canadian teacher blog hop

Happy (early) Canada Day!

I'm linking up with Desiree at Reading with Mrs. D to participate in her Canada Day Blog Hop (and sale). Unfortunately, I don't have a TPT store to participate in the sale portion of the event, but I can offer up some freebies from my classroom! 
(Click on the links to access the files via Dropbox)

reading with mrs d, canadian edu bloggers, canada bloggers, canadian teacher blogs, canadian teacher blog hop
Editable Math Poster Set - Rainbow
These posters outline criteria for mathematical thinking and were
inspired by ones created by Sidney at Teaching is a Gift!
reading with mrs d, canadian edu bloggers, canada bloggers, canadian teacher blogs, canadian teacher blog hop
A close-up view of my "What Makes A Good Blog Post?"
checklist for our blogging station. It is a good run-through of
everything a student's blog post should have before it is posted!

reading with mrs d, canadian edu bloggers, canada bloggers, canadian teacher blogs, canadian teacher blog hop
Symbaloo Resource Collection!
Follow this link to access my Symbaloo page which features a collection of online resources, colour-coded by specific units for:
Grade 7 Science
Grade 8 Science
Grade 8 Art
Grade 8 Math
Grade 9 Math
Grade 9 Science
Grade 10 Math
Ed Tech (general)
Science (general)
Math (general)

To host your own Canada Day Blog Hop giveaway, 
link up with Reading with Mrs. D
and make sure to check out all of the other amazing Canadian bloggers who are participating!

Thursday, 26 June 2014

My Teacher Truths at the End of Year 1

Exams are done... 
graduation is complete... 
report card packages are stuffed... 
lockers are cleaned... 
and the hallways are quiet... 

my first year as a teacher is now complete!
what to expect your first year of teaching, first year teacher tips, teacher tips, first year teacher, first year teaching, what I learned as a first year teacher
New Teacher Cartoon. (Accessed on 2014). Uploaded to Cartoon Stock by aban705.
Available online at:

     This year has seemed to go by at incredible warp-speed and I can't believe that it is actually done. The first year as a teacher is an overwhelming roller-coaster of emotions that will sometimes make you laugh uncontrollably, make you bite your tongue or even swear under your breathe, make you beam with joy, and even leave you crying in the bathroom. When it is all said and done, however, you won't want to trade it for anything and you can't wait to get back in the classroom the next day. 

     As my first year as a teacher comes to a close, here are my Top 10 Teacher Truths, in no particular order:
- Investing in truly comfy and supportive shoes will save your life; the kind you 
  can stash under your desk and pull on with any outfit

- Pack lunches that can be eaten on the go because there is always something to
   do and eating spaghetti while walking down the hallway will not work out!

- Somehow drink enough liquids to stay hydrated... BUT not enough that you need
   to go to the bathroom (there is no time for that nonsense)

- Stay those extra few minutes after school to do any photocopying/printing/etc for
   the next day because the photocopier/printer/etc WILL break when you need it most

- Acknowledge those around you who help; whether its the teacher next door
  who lends you resources, the students who cleans up supplies at the end of
  class, or the parent who brings snacks into the staff room

- On that note, appreciate your school custodians and secretary because they run the 
   ENTIRE school and can essentially determine how easy or hard your job is!

- Your students will not notice how many hours you put into your bulletin boards, if
   your labels match (or are there at all), or if your classroom is colour-coordinated;
   organization and some personal touches are essential but don't stress if your 
   classroom does not look like a Pinterest page

- Remember to take a deep breathe, self-reflect, and ask yourself, "How am I feeling"
  because it is easy to get stressed and be very short (or even rude) with students
  without noticing and you don't want this to happen!

- Don't get so caught-up with the never-ending requirements that you forget to take the
   time to truly enjoy and appreciate your student's individual personalities and quirks

- Don't sweat the small stuff! Remember why you picked this career and start
  everyday with a clean slate!

What are your teacher truths?

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Free #EdTech - Apps For Your Class 4

     Free #EdTech - Apps For Your Class is a sporadic posting I do every time I find a neat new app that is not only being offered FREE (for a limited time) but that is also educational and could serve a purpose in your classroom.

     While no longer free, last sessions app: Fun Slides, is still awesome and I recommend you check it out! Today I've found:

Word Lens

This multi-lingual translation app blows my mind and I have literally been walking around our school sharing it with staff and students (yes... I am that person). It allows users to:
- translate typed text in real time through your device's camera
- look up definitions of words
- hear pronunciation of words

The app itself is one download and then users can download language features inside the app itself if they are interested in French-to-English, English-to-French, Russian-to-English, etc. I downloaded all of them since they are free.... you never know!

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Tech Club 2014-2015

     Through my first year I've been thinking of starting a "Tech Club" at my school for those students who are interested in technology, programming, and electronics. I've been closely following the awesome projects being completed by Clarence Fisher's students in Snow Lake and the innovative makerspaces in Eric Sheninger's school in New Jersey as inspiration.

      While my plan is to organize our projects around student interests and creativity, I do have many preliminary ideas that I hope to begin with. After meeting with my principal about my ideas, I've divided our year into two sections: larger year-long projects and small-scale independent projects.

Section 1 - Larger Year-Long Projects

As a club I would like us to focus on one of two projects: developing a video year-book to accompany our traditional printed version or developing an app for our school. The focus of both of these projects would be to share what happens at our school and improve communication, while allowing our students to:
- learn different programs and software
- improve their digital literacy
- take ownership of their school image

The video year-book project is definitely the more labour-intensive project of the two as we'd have to ensure we are at events throughout the entire year. The up-side is that almost all of our students have filmed video before and practised editing, to an extent. There are numerous video editing tools we can use on our school desktops or iPads and there wouldn't be a lot of new programs to learn.

The app development project is what I see being the winning project simply due to its relevancy and the fact that its something our students haven't had an opportunity to explore yet. With social media tools being blocked in our division, an app may be the perfect option to improve communication considering the high number of students and parents who have smart devices in their pockets.

I've been exploring different app development tools (those requiring coding knowledge and those that don't require it). After a lot of back and forth, I think it would be best to start off with a tool that does not require coding experience as the only experience our students will have is if they have explored at home by themselves. While I am trying to gain experience in this area, I'm even taking a class through Coursera, but I don't think I'll be prepared by September. I hope to include coding experience as we go (see Section 2) but it will take some time and I'd like to still include this project in the meantime.

So far I've really liked the look of iBuild  App as a starting point. Check out the video below:
I like the drag and drop options and it offers enough customization tools to meet our needs at this time. I'd like to learn more about different tools, however, so if you have a program to suggest please comment below!

Section 2 -  Small-Scale Independent Projects

I've been looking into a few different project ideas that are relatively  low cost and allow students to:
- explore new technologies
- be introduced to coding
- apply technology to different project ideas
So far, I've looked into three different options that I am really excited about:

Little Robot Friends  D.I.Y

* These are currently backordered, unfortunately. I've added myself to the waitlist and hope they become available again soon!

Little Bits

* Thanks to John Evans for sharing this with me!

Raspberry Pi

Do you have any project ideas I should look into?
Have you used any of these products & have suggestions?
I'd love to hear your thoughts!