Teach it Tuesday: Measurement Lesson

This is one of my favourite lessons that I did on my second practicum in a grade 1/2 class. It was a part of a unit on measurement but I’ve found that it’s also a great stand alone lesson in most primary classes.

I always start the lesson in a circle with a pathway made out of masking tape in the middle of the path on the floor. We then have a discussion about wanting to see “how long” the path is (you could also do this as a comparison to a straight line path too). Then I use something to “measure” the path and ask students to put their hands up if they think there is something I need to do differently. The last time I did this I used clothes pins and the mistakes I made were things like starting the measuring not at the end of the tape, putting the pins vertical and horizontal, or leaving a gap between clothespins – The kids caught all the mistakes!

The next step is using something that won’t work very well to measure the path – usually used crayons of a variety of different sizes. I have them count how many crayons it takes and use lots of little pieces to get them laughing as we count really high. Then we talk about why the crayons didn’t work very well to measure the path and how using a new box of crayons might work better.


We used clothespins, markers, dominoes, and lego pieces as some of our stations. Don’t you love seeing kids working together like this?

After I have students think (thinking time – no hands up) about what objects they could use to measure the tape path and then we go around in a circle and share our ideas. We always talk about the objects that may or may not work (a good discussion came up last time about whether or not lego pieces were a good idea to use because of their different sizes). Then I choose a few of the objects suggested, split the kids into small groups and make a bunch of tape paths on the floor, tables, desks, etc. that they get to measure in their groups. We rotate stations and they end up using all the different materials while measuring a bunch of different paths.

Some groups may finish quicker than others so I often give extra challenges like having them measure using the unit in a different way (sideways, standing up, etc.) and I also carry a role of tape around with me so I can quickly add a new path to keep students engaged if need be.

I really love the discussion that comes out of this lesson and I hope you get a chance to give it a try!


Sochi 2014: The Spirit of Sportsmanship

Aside from the fact that I started teaching my grade 8s Meaghan’s Sochi 2014 French unit this week, this post does not have very much to do directly with education or teaching.  This post has everything to do with the Olympic Games!  Truth: I was almost late for yoga yesterday (yes, the class that I teach…) because I was watching Teams Canada, Russia and USA skate it out in the pairs ice dance competition. Oops. 

In case you haven’t noticed, Meaghan and I keep it pretty peaceful here on Tale of Two Teachers.  We aren’t overly political people and both of us utterly detest confrontation.  We are happy to educate ourselves on controversial topics and we often discuss both sides of political issues.  This doesn’t mean we don’t have our own opinions…trust me, we do!  But we’d rather just embrace the peace.  So, I am not going to delve too deeply into the scandals and controversy that seem to be enveloping the Sochi Olympic Games – you all can do your own Google searches on the latest rumors and ridiculousness people are Facebooking and Tweeting about (if you’re into that).  I will say, though, that I feel very sad about the fact that the hashtag #sochifails even exists.  I’m not a Twitter queen, but I know how a hashtag works (people need to create it and feed it in order to make it noticeable).  My opinion about #sochifails is that the people participating in the Olympic Games are doing a disservice to their own Olympic experience and detracting from the spirit of sportsmanship the Games create.  Yes, I realize I am not in Sochi to experience toilets without dividing walls for privacy, etc., but I have traveled to and through developing nations…and I survived the less-than-perfect living conditions.  If anything, I think it’s important for people to realize that the world isn’t the same place as our healthy, wealthy little corner in North America.  Just because a nation hosts an Olympic Games doesn’t mean they need to have separate toilet stalls for every athlete.  Just sayin’.

I feel for my thirteen year old students right now, children who are entirely immersed in our social media obsessed world, and who have probably seen things like #sochifails (guaranteed I’m going to hear all about some of the photos posted when I go to school tomorrow).  For many of my students, these Sochi Games are their “first” winter Olympics because they were only nine years old in 2010 during the Vancouver Games and; therefore, don’t have many clear memories of the whole experience.  Because of this, I am trying my hardest to soak in this Olympic season.  My good friend recently told me she thinks what keeps teachers alive in this profession is eternal optimism; therefore, I’m trying to share the sheer awesomeness that is the Olympic Games with my grade 8s so that they have more memories than the negative aspects social media is portraying.  Go for it, call me the eternal optimist 🙂

It is true that I have an entirely biased (and positive) outlook when it comes to the Olympic Games.  It’s hard not to when you were essentially raised by an Olympian…

This is my former rhythmic gymnastics coach, Camille Martens.  Camille competed for Canada at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.

Camille's children, Micah and Anastasia, dug out their mama's Team Canada jackets and wore them during Sochi's Opening Ceremonies.  They said, "Mom, these Games are important because they are about dreams..."

Camille’s children, Micah and Anastasia, dug out their mama’s Team Canada jackets and wore them during Sochi’s Opening Ceremonies. They said, “Mom, these Games are important because they are about dreams…”

So, in an attempt to conquer all the Olympic bashing that people love to do lately, I had my class watch our great country march out during the Opening Ceremonies last Friday morning.  Most of my students watched in awe as the world’s greatest athletes waved, shouted and smiled to the cameras.  We discussed important things while watching the Opening Ceremonies, such as Germany’s fantastic rainbow tracksuits and whether that was Germany’s way of supporting the Games’ gay athletes or merely a coincidence (we had previously discussed the former Communist Russia in class and questioned if some of those lingering ideals might have fueled the homophobic attitude at the outset of these Games).  We talked about what it might feel like to walk with the most incredible athletes, who are on your team, and listen to the sound of everyone cheering for you.  We talked about how we wished the athletes would simply put their iPhones down and soak in the moment they worked so hard for (and I did a little nudging to all my students as well…)  We celebrated with the world on Friday morning and no body mentioned a single “Sochi fail”.  It was beautiful.

It’s important to me that my students know and understand that the Olympic Games are much more than a gathering of really awesome athletes.  Celine Dion sang it best in her theme song for the ’96 Games, “…the strength of just “I can” has brought together people of all nations”.

My husband just called me to say that Jian Ghomeshi essentially read my mind and wanted to sum up this post with his own words (he’s much more eloquent than I am, anyhow).  Take it away, Jian: Q Essay: Dispelling the ‘cold’ Russian Stereotype.

The coming together of our nation was absolutely incredible four years ago at the Vancouver Olympic Games.  Doesn't get better than Tim Hortons and Olympic mittens :)

The coming together of our nation was absolutely incredible four years ago at the Vancouver Olympic Games. Doesn’t get better than Tim Hortons and Olympic mittens 🙂


Guest Post: Creativity in Late Immersion

We have a special guest post today from a teacher that we have had the pleasure of getting to know at a local middle school. Nora is a passionate French Immersion teacher and her post today is about her experience teaching Late French Immersion. Please read, enjoy and be inspired by her wonderful ideas!

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my job as a grade 6 late French immersion teacher lately. I’m currently on leave from teaching, awaiting the arrival of my second daughter so it feels like a natural time for reflection. I have also done two information sessions about the program for the school district and for my school in the last couple weeks so when Meaghan approached me to see if I wanted to do a guest post about my experiences as a late immersion teacher it felt very timely!

I came to my current position in 2009 after about six years teaching high school French as a second language in BC and international schools in Turkey. To say that my new job as a middle school “generalist” teacher in late French immersion was an adjustment would be a massive understatement! I spent most of my first year expecting that I would try to get a contract teaching French in high school the next fall. However, over the course of the year, I fell in love with the program and began to see all kinds of possibilities in having the freedom to explore and promote language acquisition through all subject areas. Now I can’t imagine a program more suited to my own interests and background and I count myself as very blessed to have stumbled into this unique teaching situation.

For those who are not familiar with late French immersion, essentially students arrive in grade 6 with little to no French background. Over the course of their grade 6 and 7 years, they become “immersed” in French and receive no English language arts instruction. By grade 8 the late immersion students are integrated into the regular French immersion stream (which comprises of students who have been in immersion since kindergarten) and are expected to be able to function at the same level. As a product of the early immersion system, I must admit that initially I couldn’t really conceive of how students could develop the skills they would need to do all their coursework in their second language in just two short years. But most of them are successful and many continue to be top performers throughout the rest of their French immersion schooling.

I think that one of my favourite things about this program is that it enables me to be a creative and experimental teacher. I have worked closely with many of the other late immersion teachers in our district and know that everyone approaches the job differently and has different techniques that they rely on. This is of course true for all teachers but there are no textbooks for late immersion and the focus is, above all, on language acquisition and because of this most teachers create their own resources which reflect their teaching philosophies or styles. I draw heavily on my FSL background and I give my students a great deal of support in English until I feel they are ready to do everything in French. I usually start insisting that they speak French exclusively around March during select periods and by June they spend most of the day speaking to me and each other in French. It’s not always a pretty French, but, as I am getting to experience firsthand with my two year old daughter, that’s how language is acquired. I also made the decision, after my first year, to teach math primarily in English to ensure that the students aren’t missing any important concepts and also to enable me to use the “social learning” style of instruction that I find particularly effective for teaching math. When their French is adequate, usually in the third term, we start doing math in French.

Every January I feel as though the students haven’t learned enough French. I start to panic that I haven’t been forcing them to speak French as much as I should, that they won’t be able to function in French by the end of the year. And then there comes a time, usually in around March, where they make a huge leap forward. That’s when things start to get really fun. iles2 ile1 île3 They start to be able to really use the language to express themselves and I can doing more creative and personal writing with them. And then around May, we start our island project. Basically, the students create new identities. They revisit learned structures and vocabulary to create quite a complex biography of a francophone passenger on a cruise. They can choose to be male, female, old, or young. They write a background story for their character. They keep a journal. We do regular activities in class to get to know each others’ characters and then the relationships between characters start to surface. They eat, socialize and gossip on board until one day there is an accident and they are forced to evacuate via life boat. They find themselves on a deserted island with only the supplies that they were able to rescue from the boat with them. In due course they build homes, dream of rescue, have disputes, and hunt and gather the various animals and plants they have discovered. Once a student said to me, “you know Madame, this is so much more fun than French!” and I knew that I had discovered something wonderful.

It’s very satisfying to teach in a program where the students are generally motivated, where the teacher has a lot of autonomy, and where the outcomes are so easily measured. I feel fortunate to have a job I (mostly) love and to teach in a school where the program is supported by my colleagues and administration to the degree it is. Thank you to Meaghan and Karley for asking me to be part of your inspiring blog!


I Wouldn’t Trade It

This is a follow up post to Karley’s reflective post from Sunday because the recent connections we have made with undergraduate students has really put us both into a reflective place.

What I want most for my students is what I’ve always wanted most for myself: Creativity, Passion, Compassion. I feel so lucky that I’ve found a career that allows me to utilize these traits on a daily basis.

How Did I Get Here?

I didn’t always know that I wanted to be a teacher. I have always loved working with children and loved tutoring and helping others, but as I finished high school I was looking towards international development careers. After high school I took a year off to do the Katimavik program, and it was during that program that I realized I wanted to be a teacher. I remember sitting on the shared computer in our Katimavik house looking at the courses I would be taking in the UVIC Education program and I started to feel the excitement of finding something I was truly passionate about.

University Days

Anyone who knew me during this time in my life would probably describe me as either an over-achiever or down-right crazy! For two semesters I took 6 courses instead of the regular full time 5 course load because I wanted to make sure my French would be good enough to teach at the middle school level.

I worked around 20 hours a week throughout my degree in jobs that gave me a lot of skills that help me in my teaching career. I ran developmental sports programs for kids. I worked as a leader in out of school care, as well as a one-on-one worker there. I became a research assistant at UVIC on an amazing research project. And then I became a Youth Programmer at a community centre. I was halfway to a career in recreation when I finished my Education degree.

On top of that I volunteered for two years as the workshop coordinator for our Education Students’ Association and put on many different workshops as well as co-planning a large student-run conference that was very successful. Through this I was able to make some amazing connections with people who have taught me so much about this education world and the importance of professional development.

Detailed school projects, themed youth nights, and art projects at the conference

Detailed school projects, themed youth nights, and art projects at the conference.

Are you tired of reading yet? I was EXHAUSTED by the end of my degree. I was burning the candle at both ends and although I don’t regret most of that (those were some of the most amazing opportunities I’ve had), I definitely don’t recommend it! (You can read more about how my end of degree breakdown helped me become who I am today here).

Hello, Teaching World!

Big graduation day!

Big graduation day!

After a two month break to rebuild myself after my final practicum, I applied to the school district to be a Teacher On Call. There are three districts in our area but I only applied for the one because that’s the only one I really wanted to be a part of. Looking back this doesn’t make a lot of sense but at the time I was so sure of it – And I guess I did something right! Karley and I both had our interviews the same week.

I’m not trying to brag at all but I ROCKED my interview! Sometimes (Ha! or always some might say) when you get me talking about teaching I just can’t stop so an interview for a teaching job is kind of like a dream come true (minus the nerves!). I showed my creativity, passion, and compassion throughout and my interview panel told me that as long as my references checked out I would be good to go and should hear back soon.

And then came the longest wait of my life… I waited past the date they told me I would hear by. I waited while others I knew accepted positions with their districts. I waited past the school district summer closure. I waited while my summer job was drawing to a close with no work planned for the fall. I waited and waited until the week before school started when school staffs were back at work and with some phone calls and hard work from people I am extremely grateful for, I officially got on the list the day before school started that September.

Since then I have taught French and English to a group of grade 8’s for a full year, while substitute teaching on my days off. This year, I have been a substitute teacher and learned so much about behaviour management and different classroom set-ups. I have taught full time for nine weeks in a grade 8 class. Now, I have a one day contract in grade 8 at a wonderful school. And in between all of that was a rocky road of excitement, disappointment, enthusiasm and grief.

And I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I am a strong believer that everything happens for a reason and, although that has already been challenged a lot in this new career, I still hold firmly to that belief. By holding on tightly to my creativity, passion and compassion I have started to find my place in this teaching world. I encourage all new teachers to do the same. Find a place that feels right – whether it be a district, a grade level, a school, a subject or whatever! Knowing what you want will help you work towards your goals and share your light with those around you – And be patient because this amazing career is worth those waits!


Teach it Tuesday: French Vocabulary

We have a new unit up on our TeachersPayTeachers site to go with this post: French Winter Olympics Unit

20140204-190316.jpgNew vocabulary goes hand in hand with a new unit in most French classrooms. I want my students to love learning new words in French! So how can you introduce it in a way that is engaging for your students?

These are some of the best ways that I’ve found over the years. (I am constantly on the lookout for new vocabulary ideas too – so please let us know in the comments if you have any ideas!)

1. Choose Your Own Vocab

This has been one of the best ways that I have had students engage in French units. I started doing this on my final practicum while teaching grade 7 FSL and have used it on and off ever since. I like have the class come up with their own vocabulary lists because they often think of words that I wouldn’t and it makes it more relevant to them (think suspenders, skinny jeans, and hoodies for a clothing unit!) I’ve gone about this a few different ways from having them look up a few words as an “Exit slip” type activity and then I compile a list afterwards, or generating a list of relevant vocab in English and having the students find the best translations themselves (we always double check as a group at the end). I have found that this works well to up the engagement in a class.

2. Mots Amis

Students love feeling smart – hey don’t we all? And I love the excitement (yes, excitement, in grade 8 French – it’s true!) they show when they already know or can take a good guess as to what the definition of a French word is. Those “Friendly words” or “Mots Amis” usually come up right away when students have a little time to look at a new vocabulary list and figure out what they already know on it.

3. Donne Un Mot, Prends Un Mot

This is a game I learned about at some point in my university degree (if anyone remembers where I’d love to give credit to the right person). I have used this almost every time I’ve done new vocabulary with a class. You take a 4×4 gird and have students fill out the first column with 4 words from their new vocabulary list (making sure they know the class on a whole needs to have a variety of words for it to work – so DON’T just choose the first four words). After everyone has filled out the first column students get up and walk to a partner where they exchange words by each taking turns reading one of their four words. If the partner gives them a word they don’t have they can write it down. One word from each partner and then they need to move on to a new partner. The trick is they can’t look at each other’s papers so they have to practice saying the words aloud.

4. Games, Games, Games

I believe that we learn best when we are having fun so… Board Scrabble, Pictionary, Charades, Password, Memory, Bingo – You name it, we play it! Not all the time obviously but I do try to incorporate a vocabulary game in once a week to help solidify the vocabulary in their memories. It’s much easier to learn words when you are using them on a regular basis.

So language teachers or language learners – What are the best ways to learn new vocabulary?


The Making of a Good Teacher

You know that moment when you take a peek around your life and think, “Wow, is this for real?” I’ve been having moments like that all week long, which means, dear readers, you need to brace yourselves for yet another reflective post from me.

I think what sparked this week long reflection was our “Dear Practicum Student”post from last Monday, where we offered our personal advice to those student teachers heading out on practicum. Our post was shared on Facebook and retweeted by many people over the course of last week. The number of views we hit on Monday got me thinking about all those soon-to-be new teachers, full of wonder, inspiration and hope for their upcoming teaching careers. It was only two years ago that Meaghan and I were beginning our final practicum experiences and we’ve been told numerous times since then how lucky we are to have work in our district of choice. It is true that the Victoria district can be “hard to crack”, and although I would agree that luck has been on our side, most of our successes have derived from really hard work.

I would be embarrassed to know the tally of hours I've spent staring at a screen over the past 8 years.

I would be embarrassed to know the tally of hours I’ve spent staring at a screen over the past 9 years.

I have what I like to call the “Western World Syndrome”. I have all my basic needs met and then some, and yet I still want more. I’m constantly looking for the next thing to do, planning the next goal to achieve – hence, the reason why I’m running a half marathon this summer. I take my goals seriously and I jump into them with my entire being. Yes, I fail. I have failed many times and have cried millions of tears over those failures, but I keep going. One day when I was 16, post gymnastics retirement and feeling somewhat lost, I was playing volleyball with my dad in our front yard. I didn’t play team sports growing up, but as my dad and I passed the volleyball back and forth he said to me, “Karley, you know, I think you could be whoever you want to be and do whatever you want to do, so long as you work hard for it. Gymnastics has taught you the dedication and drive to achieve great things in your life”. I took my dad’s message, stored it in my heart, and didn’t look back.

I’ve definitely had times in my life where I felt the negative pressure of not being good enough (by my own standards); however, those negative times have passed and the pressure I put on myself has turned into a positive quality. Now I aim to become better at what I do because I truly enjoy hard work and the success that comes along with it. I worked non stop throughout my B. Ed, which was a 7 year adventure for me. I recall spending my weekends cooped up at home (usually with my friend Leanne) working on unit plans, reading, writing, crying over ridiculous math assignments and asking questions about everything. One weekend Lee and I spent 16 hours working on a unit plan for a PE course we were in. Joel cooked and fed us dinner so we didn’t have to stop working (bless him). I was the ultimate keener in Uni, always pushing my hardest to get top marks and striving to eventually snag my dream job.

These lists of assignments and due dates would get posted by my desk as soon as I got my hands on a fresh, new syllabus each semester.  Nothing felt better than checking off those boxes!

These lists of assignments and due dates would get posted by my desk as soon as I got my hands on a fresh, new syllabus each semester. Nothing felt better than checking off those boxes!

I am focused (I planned my wedding in three hours), I am competitive (I usually just compete with myself) and I am goal oriented (I plan my summers in December). These three qualities have their positive and negative influences over me, but for the most part they are a winning combination. However, despite my “go getter” tendencies, it’s difficult for me to praise myself for a “job well done” because I grew up in a competitive environment where I was constantly working to be better. Similarly, over the years I’ve had to learn how to genuinely accept compliments from other people. I’ve been setting goals and working to achieve them since I was in grade 4, so achieving my dream of becoming a teacher has mostly just felt like another goal to check off my achievement list. In truth, I haven’t really taken the time yet to soak in this massive accomplishment.

Taken on the last day of my B. Ed.  So happy to be done!

Taken on the last day of my B. Ed. So happy to be done!

A few months before graduation from University I was feeling less than special. It humbly occurred to me that I was not above the other 150 people who graduated as new teachers alongside me. I’ll be honest when I say that this was a hard fact for me to accept (I’m extremely competitive, remember). I worked tirelessly for 7 years, and although I thoroughly enjoyed those 7 years, I wanted my hard work to pay off right away (okay, I’m a tad impulsive too). This epiphany was a moment of clarity for me; yes, I had worked hard in school, but this whole working world thing was going to be an even greater challenge. I could not control who hired me and when they hired me, so I had to trust in the Universe big time because I knew I had put the work in…the rest was somewhat out of my control. I was the most annoying human on the planet during this time.

Things got a lot more awesome for me though, as my final practicum came to a close. I discovered that I was nominated for a prestigious award for practicum excellence. I received the most incredible reference letters from my practicum supervisor, my principal, my beloved mentor teacher and my adorable students. I realized that all these people, who were complete strangers to me before my final practicum, were totally setting me up for success in a large way. I remember feeling overwhelmed with everyone’s kindness and I burst into tears in from of my mentors (and again in front of my students). I couldn’t really believe that I was as good as they were telling me I was. In those tear-filled moments I recognized the goodness this teaching profession holds and I promised myself to hold tight to that goodness, whether it be a good resource, a good teacher mentor, a good lesson plan or a good day in the classroom. I used the goodness to fuel my inspiration and launch me into my brand new, bright and sparkly teaching career. After all that hard work in Uni I didn’t win the award I was nominated for I didn’t even graduate with honors (but Meaghan sure did!) I was disappointed in myself because I wanted those accolades to prove to myself that it was all worth it. My friend Karen told me to ignore the awards and straight As because she knew that I was a good teacher and that was all that really mattered. Two weeks later I was hired by my school district and Karen got to kindly say, “See, I told you so!” (Thankfully for Karen my hiring process was speedy because I was one absolutely pesky practicum student. Thankfully for me, despite my continued peskiness, Karen still loves me. I think 😉 ).

This week I stepped outside my own head for a few moments and really thought about how far I’ve come and how hard I’ve worked since my graduation from University a year and a half ago…and I am so proud of myself. Allowing myself the space to reflect on all my hard work in the past 9 years has made me stop questioning my successes and the reasons for them (remember in the fall when I couldn’t believe I scored a full time job at the start of my second year?) I kind of hit myself in the head this week and realized that the reason why I have been successful thus far is not only because I trust the Universe and that all things happen as they’re meant to, but also because I have been working so hard my entire life for this job.

My first day of paid work as a teacher, Sept. 3 2012.  I took this as 2012's "First Day of School" photo for my mom, only this time I was going to school as the teacher.

My first day of paid work as a teacher, Sept. 3 2012. I took this as 2012’s “First Day of School” photo for my mom, only this time I was going to school as the teacher.

So this whole story kind of leaves me where I’m at now. I’ve TOCed, I’ve worked in elementary music and middle school dance/drama, and now I’m teaching grade 8 full time. My short, yet extremely successful, teaching career overflows with goodness every single day. I’ve come a long way in a very short amount of time and I know I deserve everything that comes my way because I’ve worked so hard for this. I’m not lucky, I’m diligent. I’m honest. I’m smart. I’m passionate. I’m a bit intense! And I have the greatest support team a person could ever dream of.

New teachers, I encourage you to harness your greatest qualities and use them to fuel your fire in this final practicum! And then go get what you’ve worked so hard for. You deserve it.


Tale of Two Teachers Online Book Club

So we’ve had a little project in the works and now we are making it official!


Click to read

Our first book will be announced on February 14th so get ready! All it involves is reading the book in a 6 week period (first session stretches over Spring Break in our district!) and then joining our online discussion. There will also be a face to face meet-up option for those of you in the Victoria area.

If you are interested in joining us on our little adventure here please let us know via comments, Facebook, Twitter, or email: taleoftwoteachers@gmail.com