Empty the Cup

For me, this season has had its particularly stressful personal and professional experiences so far.  In other words, things haven’t gone as smoothly as this control freak would appreciate.  A few weeks ago I was in a yoga class and the teacher announced that the theme of the class was “emptying the cup”.  She went on to describe how in our society we often speak in terms of our “cups” being “full”; we’re encouraged to look at the cup as half full rather than half empty.  And then she shared this little story with us:

Once upon a time, a scholar came to visit a saint. After the scholar had been orating and propounding for a while, the saint proposed some tea. She slowly filled the scholar’s cup: gradually the tea rose to the very brim and began spilling over onto the table, yet she kept pouring and pouring. The scholar burst out: “Stop! You can’t add anything to something that’s already full!” The saint set down the teapot and replied, “Exactly.”

Whether it’s the blankness of a canvas to an artist, the silence between the notes in music, bare dirt for a new garden, the not-knowing openness of a scientist exploring new hypotheses, an unused shelf in a closet or cupboard, or some open time in your schedule, you need space to act effectively, dance with your partners, and have room around your emotional reactions.

Yet most of us tend to stuff as much as possible into whatever room is available – room in closets, schedules, budgets, relationships, and even the mind itself.

Source: psychologytoday.com

splash2Naturally, this wise yoga teacher and the story she shared got me thinking.  What could I do empty my cup? I had already accepted a job that was less than full time with the exact intention of “cup emptying” this year…so what else could I do?  I decided I had to challenge myself a bit and do something out of the ordinary, so I ended up allowing myself permission to be a little self-indulgent.  Note: This is usually pretty hard for me to do!

So, how has this self-indulgence taken shape in my life since I granted myself permission to do so? Let me count the ways!

1) Massages.  I love massages.  I’ve been booking myself a massage every week or two for the past few weeks simply because I have decent benefits through work and I didn’t use them for one single massage last year because I was too stressed out to even think about going for a massage.  Weird, hey?  I think I’ve used up all my massage benefits now, but I don’t even care.  It’s been a fantastic and completely self-indulgent experience.

2) Random seasonal small purchases.  There are a few things that make the autumn season simply that much more divine, in my opinion.  For me these things include: Starbucks salted caramel mochas, new guilty pleasure reads and Frasier Fir scented candles from Chapters.  Check, check, check.


3) Sleeping in.  Because my work schedule is somewhat choppy this year, sometimes I work in the morning and sometimes I don’t.  On my mornings off I’ve been sleeping in until 9am or later and it has been absolutely glorious.  Do I feel guilty about it?  Absolutely not.

4) Sunday family dinners.  Now that my parents are island dwellers we’ve reverted back to our Sunday family dinner routine.  It’s been eight years since we’ve had a structured Sunday family dinner practice and I’m really, really loving it being back in our lives.

5) Travel planning.  Now this is a big dream, but I think I’ve nearly convinced my husband that it’s a really good idea.  Our dear friends recently moved to Prague for two years.  Two years! We used to hang out with them at least once every week at volleyball and now we won’t see them for two years.  This is not acceptable, so I am trying very hard to convince Joel that traveling to Prague next fall is in the cards for us.  This will be a bit of a financial stretch, but I’m holding on to hope that we can and will make it happen.  Until then, I’m soaking up all the glorious European photos our friends iMessage us every few days.

6) Crafts.  I’ve always been crafty.  This autumn I’m making myself find more time to create.  The rule in our house has always been that no artwork/photography goes up on the wall unless it’s been created by us or by someone we know; therefore, I’ve recently been crafting up some new wall displays for us.


After reading this list it might seem I haven’t understood the message of the cup emptying story at all because I’ve been filling my time and my space pretty nicely.  However, in my opinion, I have done a pretty good job at emptying my cup because I haven’t allowed myself this much space or time to do exactly what I want to do in a long time.  I am grateful that this year of teaching allows me more space to breath and be calm.  I think I am going to learn a lot about work/life balance as the year continues.

splash1 I wish you all peace if you’re struggling to find or make some emptiness in your own lives.  I hope you can harness the ability to dig deep and say NO to a few extra tasks and responsibilities.  Like the cup of water on the left, too many drops makes life too full and crazy!








Teach it Tuesday: Research Projects


Oh the research project… Where the most important part of an assignment (the research) is often forgotten in order to attend to one of the lesser parts – like a fancy title page or a brightly coloured poster. So how do you get students to focus on the research when they all seem to want to jump ahead?

Introducing the research project without the product – no poster, no essay, no presentation!

For our unit in Social Studies right now, the students are working on researching one aspect of Mesopotamia without completing a final project. I want to see their thinking, questions, research and sources but that’s it – no frills!

This is the format I have been using to engage the students:

Step 1: What do you already know about the topic? Write a few points to show where you are starting from and what we’ve already talked about in class.

Step 2: What questions do you have on your topic? Write 4-5 questions you have about your topic. Make sure you choose questions that show deeper thinking.

Step 3: Where are you going to gather your sources from? Write down the names of any internet sites or books in which you gathered information.

Step 4: Write down all your notes on your research topic. Make sure you are linking your research back to your topic questions from step 2.

And that’s it! I’m collecting their notes and marking that they completed each step thoroughly. Although there was originally a lot of questions about the assignment, and confusion on why there was no final product, it has been going fairly smoothly.

As always, if you give it a try let us know how it goes!

What other ways do you use to engage students in the research process?




Book Tale: The Lost Girls

We’ve been experiencing some classic “Island Autumn Weather” here in Victoria lately; the wind and rainstorms have been quite impressive!  This time of year always finds me digging through my bookshelves in search of my favourites and “The Lost Girls” usually makes the cut for which books I reread.  I’m currently on my third read through “The Lost Girls” and I am loving it as much as the first and second reads.lostgirls2

“The Lost Girls” is true travel story written journal-style by three female friends nearing their thirtieth birthdays.  All three women worked in publishing/television in NYC during the time this book was written (2010) and they were all essentially slaves to their jobs, pulling insanely long hours at their desks and gaining extra, unnecessary weight on account of how much take out food they consumed on a weekly basis (sound familiar teachers?)  A series of events finds these three over-worked, stressed out friends ditching their jobs, relationships and connections in The Big Apple for the simpler lifestyle of backpackers.  Holly, Amanda and Jen find themselves shedding their NYC selves while spending one whole year conquering their biggest fears all over the globe, making new friends and discovering new passions as only authentic, true backpacker-style traveling will allow.

My kitty, Franklin, trying to model this book for you all.

My kitty, Franklin, trying to model this book for you all.

I love this book so much because it reminds me of my own four month backpacking experience through South East Asia.  I also love that these women were brave enough to escape the monotony of the daily (extremely unhealthy and overworked) grind and seek adventure to help them discover their true selves.  If you need some inspiration from people who take action to make positive change in their lives, this book is for you!

Find “The Lost Girls” website and blog HERE.

A Cause for Celebration

This post has absolutely nothing to do with teaching and everything to do with my incredible husband and chosen life partner, Joel.  Actually, maybe the one tiny role teaching does play in this post is that Joel is largely the reason why I am sane enough to teach and teach well.  Joel followed me to Victoria eight years ago to help me chase my dream of attending UVic to become a teacher.  He’s made me dinner and fed it to me on numerous occasions so I can keep marking/planning/prepping without interruption.  He’s held me close when I’ve cried endless tears over the students I’ve had the pleasure to work with over the last few years.  He always listens to my teaching stories…the good, the bad and the absolutely crazy.  He doesn’t bat an eye when I spend our own money on teaching supplies for my classroom(s) or food for my students who have nothing.  Joel deserves an award for marrying me, truly.  I am not an easy person to be in a relationship with and the fact that I chose teaching as my lifelong vocation, well, that adds a whole new level of crazy to my life!

Cheers to all you life partners of teachers; you are incredible and strong and probably more needed than you know.  We teachers tend to give all of ourselves to our work and our students and come home at the end of the school day with very little left to share.  Thank you, Babe, for being the pillar of support I’ve constantly needed while navigating my way through this career so far.  I couldn’t have done it without you.


Ten years ago today this cute and awkward nineteen year old boy asked an even more awkward (I won’t say I was cuter) seventeen year old girl to be his girlfriend and the rest is history.  We dated for six years before getting engaged, seven before getting married, and then we decided to get married on our “dating anniversary” because we’d already spent so many years celebrating October 22nd as our anniversary that we couldn’t imagine ditching that date for a new anniversary date.

I’ll do my best to walk you through a decade’s worth of photos of us:


Just babies! Note: worst haircut I've ever had?

2005: Just babies! Note: worst haircut I’ve ever had?

Grouse Grind: the first and last time I've ever done it.  Joel has a recording of me hiking and swearing off junk food for the rest of my life, hence the reason why we haven't done the Grind since?

2006: Grouse Grind – the first and last time I’ve ever done it. Joel has a recording of me hiking and swearing off junk food for the rest of my life, hence the reason why we haven’t done the Grind since?

2007: We spent four months in South East Asia.  This photo was taken in Koh Chang, one of our favourite places on earth.

2007: We spent four months in South East Asia. This photo was taken in Koh Chang, one of our favourite places on earth.

2008: The end to our first year in Victoria.  I got a harsh case of strep throat approximately 20 minutes after this photo was taken.

2008: The end to our first year in Victoria. I got a harsh case of strep throat approximately 20 minutes after this photo was taken.

2009: Horne Lake Caves.  We stayed at the Tree Spheres just outside of Qualicum.  For this anniversary we had the same events planned on different weekends.  We ended up figuring out that we had planned the same anniversary adventures (who does that!?)

2009: Horne Lake Caves. We stayed at the Tree Spheres just outside of Qualicum. For this anniversary we had the same events planned on different weekends. We ended up figuring out that we had planned the same anniversary adventures (who does that!?) and obviously we cancelled one of the weekends.

Engaged! We actually got engaged four days before our anniversary because an anniversary engagement would have been way too obvious.

2010: Engaged! We actually got engaged four days before our anniversary because an anniversary engagement would have been way too obvious.

2011: Married! This photo was snapped moments before we legally tied the knot down on Dallas Road in Victoria.

2011: Married! This photo was snapped moments before we legally tied the knot down on Dallas Road in Victoria.

2012: Starting the annual tradition of the wedding clothes! We got dressed up in our fancy clothes and since it was pouring with rain we posed on our condo's balcony with the camera's self timer as our witness.

2012: Starting the annual tradition of the wedding clothes! We got dressed up in our fancy clothes and since it was pouring with rain we posed on our condo’s balcony with the camera’s self timer as our witness.

2013: Year 2 of Marriage, wedding clothes on.  This one was a race against the fog up on Rainbow Hill in Victoria.  Again, self time as the witness.

2013: Year 2 of Marriage, wedding clothes on. This one was a race against the fog up on Rainbow Hill in Victoria. Again, self timer as the witness.

2014: Here we are as tiny specs on a beach in San Francisco in March.  Yes, this is the most recent photo of us.  Unfortunately today's torrential downpour deterred our wedding-clothes-wearing outdoor photo shoot today (that, and it's dark by 5pm now?!) Yay 10 years!

2014: Here we are as tiny specs on a beach in San Francisco in March. Yes, this is the most recent photo of us that I could find. Unfortunately today’s torrential downpour deterred our post-work-wedding-clothes-wearing outdoor photo shoot (that, and it’s dark by 5pm now?!) We might need to cheat a bit and do that photo shoot on a less soggy day.  Yay 10 years!


Teach it Tuesday: Get Candy, Get Candy, Get Candy

I think I may have mentioned this story on our blog before, but it’s so good and funny that I decided to dig it out again for this year’s Hallowe’en Teach it Tuesday.


I grew up traveling to gymnastics competitions in overstuffed minivans with volunteer parent drivers.  These were the days of cassette tapes in the minivan’s sound system – we didn’t have iPods, heck, we didn’t even have our own walkmans, so basically anything we listened to was heard by everyone in the vehicle.  We (driver included) had to find something to listen to that we could all enjoy.  Enter Jerry Seinfeld’s stand up comedy.

I was raised on Seinfeld’s stand up comedy.  If you think this indicates that I was raised in an overstuffed minivan driving to Vancouver or Seattle every other weekend to compete, you are absolutely correct.  I know Seinfeld’s “I’m Telling You for the Last Time” word for word and to this day I can still pick it up from anywhere in the show.  Yes, I still think it’s hilarious.

Imagine my excitement last year when I found Seinfeld’s Hallowe’en skit put into a children’s book! Oh glory! I bought two copies and showed it to my class immediately and they loved it.  Keep in mind, last year I taught grade 8 so they kind of got the sense of humour Seinfeld is going for in this skit.  Give it a listen and see if it would work for your class:

Another re-share from last year: Meaghan’s Hallowe’en math lesson on percentages.  You can find it for free on our Teachers Pay Teachers site HERE.





Review: Educating Now

Note: Although I was given access to the site in exchange for writing a review there was not additional compensation involved and, as always, all opinions expressed our my own.

If you remember from this post, I am working on teaching math better and more effectively this year. One of the main things I have been trying is to use manipulatives to introduce a topic and to help students with their conceptual understanding. I have been to a few workshops over the years on using manipulatives and I always find myself completely enthralled and amazed in the moment and then the second I go to plan my lessons I feel like I don’t remember anything at all! But now there is “Educating Now” a new website by Nikki Lineham. She is an amazing math educator in our district and I have been fortunate enough to attend two workshops with her in the past. This new website is a great resource for teachers and I honestly feel it will be one of the biggest factors in my growth as a math teacher.


What does it offer?

Educating Now includes videos and lesson plans for math instruction in grades four to eight. The best feature of the site is the videos for using manipulatives in class. The videos are organized into topics and walk you through the basics of a lesson. I found the instructions to be very clear and seeing the video before teaching the lesson was very helpful for me. Along with each video is a lesson plan that gives you something to refer to while teaching and ideas for reflections and lesson extensions.

How do I use it?

For math so far we have been working with place value and operations with decimals. I have watched the videos and practiced using the manipulatives the day before. In class we go through the lesson with manipulatives and use lots of examples to really reinforce the concept and the language. After this lesson, I focus on the transfer of working with manipulatives to the pen and paper work before getting to some practice work to reinforce the topic. Although I am definitely still in the learning phase myself I am very impressed by how well this system has been working for our class. The manipulatives are enough of a hands on activity that students who already “get it” are still very engaged and thinking in a different way.

Why do I recommend it?

This is the only site I have come across that offers exactly what I need to teach math with manipulatives. It’s like getting a quick refresher on all those math workshops I have been too before I teach a lesson. Manipulatives are the number one way I have found to increase my effectiveness as a math teacher. Students really seem to “get it” when you use the hands on side to math. The other thing that I love about Nikki Lineham is that she consistently uses the language that kids need to hear in her videos and workshops so that when I am in class and I’m about to say “3 times 4” a little something clicks in my brain and I remember to say “3 groups of 4.” When it comes to teaching math effectively I am astounded by the difference using proper math language makes.

And on that note, I’m off to the BC Math Teachers conference this Friday and can’t wait to share with you more about what I learn on my math teaching journey!

Do you use manipulatives to teach math?

What are your tips and tricks to share with us?


And This Is Why I Teach… (Plus Teach it Tuesday)

Well it was Canadian Thanksgiving on the weekend which means my brain hit holiday mode and I totally forgot to get my post up. So I’ve combined the Teach it Tuesday post this week with my regular post. If you enjoyed our Olympics unit for French last year than you are in luck! We just finished a new unit to start off French this year – L’École. With lots of games and activities along with French vocabulary practice, we would love your feedback on this product if you end up using it in your classroom. Grab a copy of our unit here on our Teachers Pay Teachers site.

This year I am teaching math, language arts, social studies, French, and PE. I absolutely love this teaching schedule and the balance it provides. I have taught language arts and French a lot so I find that I have lots of creative ideas and planning is very straightforward. Math is my focus this year so I have been putting a lot of energy into planning my lessons and assessing the students. PE is a subject that I am very comfortable with, especially after coaching multi-sport kids programs for four years during university and lots of summer camp work too. So then comes social studies… I absolutely LOVE social studies! I love travel and history and politics and social change! But I have never taught social studies and despite the help I’ve been given by friends and colleagues I was feeling uninspired (my best guess is that I was feeling uninspired because deep down I was feeling insecure about how to best teach Socials).

So on Friday I planned an “easy prep” lesson to get going with our short unit on Mesopotamia: a video from Discovery Education and an activity looking at the roles and jobs of citizens in ancient Sumer. It was not well planned or inspired. I wasn’t dreading it but I definitely wasn’t excited for it…

But then it happened. The simple discussion became something so much more. There was thoughtful responses, deep questions, and full class participation. I reminded myself not to lecture but to question students to draw out responses from students thoughts and knowledge. And they had so much to offer! Pure inspiration right from the source…


And this is why I teach.

As much as I often love to lose myself in the planning and prep work, that is not what it’s about.

As much as I want to challenge myself to become a master of the curriculum and different ways to teach it, that is not what it’s about.

As much as I love creative, inspired, well planned projects, that is not what it’s about.

It’s the moments of connection, learning, and growth. It’s the moments I can’t plan. The ones I can’t force. It’s the ones that catch me off guard when I’m feeling uninspired. Those are the moments when I come alive in this teaching job.

And this is why I teach.


In the Zone

Lately I’ve been doing some thinking about the experience that occurs when one is really IN the process of one’s desired art form.  Some people/athletes call this “the zone”, whereas others like to refer to this experience as “creative flow”.  Last year throughout Learning Initiatives this term came up occasionally; more recently I’ve been thinking about what exactly it feels like to be “in the zone” in my chosen vocation.

One of the main reasons I chose to go in to teaching has to do with the creative aspect of the job.  I decided I wanted to be a teacher when I was sixteen years old.  At that time I was fresh out of a long term relationship with my former passion, rhythmic gymnastics, and actively seeking my next “thing”.  I saw teaching as an opportunity to make a serious impact on the world, while having a fantastically creative time doing so.  My first “in the zone” moments in my teaching career happened on an almost daily basis during the first year of my B. Ed at UVic.  I was fortunate to be placed in a cohort that just meshed so well (shout out to my OC2 peeps!).  For the most part, we all got along and we laughed together every single day.  I remember feeling on top of the world that year and cruised through that experience with flying colours because the people involved just made life so joyful! I knew that if THIS is what the teaching world could be like, then I wanted it ALL!

This is how my first cohort did nearly everything - teamwork first!

This is how my first cohort did nearly everything – teamwork first!

Fast forward a handful of years to the present week.  This week the phrase “I will what I want” has been popping up in various places and catching my attention whenever I see it written.  I’m a firm believer in being clear with one’s personal goals and intentions and voicing those things out loud and in writing in order to will them to happen.  When I saw the posting for my current teaching job (high school dance) I said out loud to my computer: “That’s my job!”  Now, it’s important for me to state that I’ve said this a few other times about different jobs in the recent rounds of postings and as things unfolded I clearly didn’t get all the jobs the I claimed to be “mine”; however, that being said, I still think it’s important to state out loud what I want because somehow that practice always leads me to the best job for me.

I went out for Thai food with a close friend last night, who also happens to be a teacher, and she asked how things were going in the high school dance studio.  I couldn’t stop talking.  I couldn’t accurately describe to her how great things are in that studio after only three days of working there.  There are some serious “in the zone/creative flow” experiences happening around the clock for me these days and I feel completely liberated in my teaching practice because of the freedom my students and I have to move, dance, leap, create and choreograph all the live long day (or for eighty minutes to be more exact, which actually feels like the entire day compared to a middle school timetable!)

Because I don't take or post photos/videos of students (for obvious reasons), you're stuck reading this post littered with dance photos of me.

Because I don’t take or post photos/videos of students (for obvious reasons), you’re stuck reading this post littered with dance photos of me.

Yesterday, feeling the moment of inspiration from my students, I asked them to write me an exit slip before leaving the studio.  The question I asked them was, “Why do you dance?” Now, keep in mind some of these students have been dancing for their entire lives, while others only started this year – we have a wide range of skills and capabilities in our studio, which I love.  Here are some of their answers:

  • “Dancing is poetry, a release.  No other art form makes me feel this good and this alive.  Dancing makes me feel like I have electricity coursing through my veins and everything else falls away”.
  • “Every time I get on my feet I forget everything else”.
  • “I dance because I love music, rhythm and freedom.  I’m not a “dancer” exactly, but I love it just the same…”  (I love this one because I feel this student’s honesty is likely how most people feel about their own dancing, yet he/she chooses to participate anyhow).
  • “I dance because it’s a stress reliever and helps me escape from anything I’m dealing with in my life”.
  • “I dance because I love it – I plan on dancing until I die!”
  • “…I get inspiration and joy when I’m dancing”.
  • “I dance because it’s fun and because there really isn’t a right or wrong”.
  • “I dance because it’s a way to express myself, the way words can’t describe”.
  • “When I dance I don’t think about anything else other than what I’m feeling” (From a student in grade 9 – wow!)

So, it’s no wonder I’m feeling all inspired and loved up by this new job of mine, check out these students I get to work with! They get it.  They know exactly what it’s like to be “in the zone” or to be full of “creative flow”…it’s the reason they signed up for this elective dance class to begin with.  These students come to the studio filled with life and energy; I wish you could be me, sitting on the floor, listening to their conversations as they filter in to the studio and get ready for class.  No matter what is going on in their lives, there is joy in our space as soon as they enter the studio.


You better believe we danced down the aisle…to “Party Rock Anthem” I might add!

And to wrap this post up with a cherry on top, guess what happened yesterday while we were practicing our leaps and jumps?  Everyone spontaneously sang along to the music at the top of our lungs together.  My head and heart almost exploded from the level of awesomeness in the room.  This has only ever happened to me once before in my years and years and years of working with kids, but these kinds of moments go down in my personal history as the “Yeah – you’ve got a pretty sweet gig, girl” moments.


My long time friend and incredibly talented artist, Elyse Dodge, was recently featured as one of Vancouver’s up and coming

The lovely Elyse Dodge, best-friend-bridesmaid.

The lovely Elyse Dodge, best-friend-bridesmaid.

artists on VanCityBuzz (she’s number 24). Check out what she  has to say about her experiences with creative flow:

What does getting into the creative flow look like to me? Well, it typically starts with visual inspiration which I find and collect here: www.pinterest.com/elysedodge7/create/. After I have collected the imagery I put together the perfect playlist which I compile and dance to here: https://soundcloud.com/elyse-dodge/likes. I will then sketch what I want the painting to look like into my Moleskin, collage some of the photos together, and choose my colour palette of paint. Art is my therapy so when I get into the creative flow I make sure I am in a space that sparks my imagination, allows for happy mistakes and dancing.
Keep on creating everyone!

Teach it Tuesday: Quick Drama Games

Hey everyone!

We hope you’re getting settled into your fall routines and schedules now that the third week of school is here.  Since we’re now both teaching in part-time contracts we’ve found ourselves digging out those “go to” games and activities to keep students occupied either in our own classes or while TOCing.

Here are a few quick and easy drama games you can play with grades of ANY level/subject if you need to fill a few spare minutes.  *Note: most of these games are gleaned from Karley’s B.Ed first year drama course, taught by the hilarious and brilliant Phil Duchene.  Those who know him adore him, and those who don’t know him should!

Gotcha: Everyone stands in a circle with their left palm open and facing upward, while placing their right pointer finger in the palm of the person to their right. The teacher calls “Gotcha!” and players have to close their left hand over another person’s finger while pulling away their own finger on the right.  This game sounds tricky, but is actually very simple and fun (no materials required). Note: I often reverse the direction of the upward facing palm/pointer finger to switch up the sides of the brain used.  It’s pretty funny to watch students struggle with the change in direction.

Evo: Many students already know this game, but might know different stages/names for the game.  There are four stages of evolution: Egg, Chicken, T-Rex, and Super Human.  The stages look like this:

The chicken stage is supposed to have moving chicken arms, hence the little movement/line marks.

The chicken stage is supposed to have moving chicken arms, hence the little movement/line marks.

Everyone starts out as an egg (making the egg shape with their arms above their heads) and wanders around playing rock/paper/scissors with other eggs (ie. anyone, since it’s the start of the game).  After students play rock/paper/scissors with an egg-friend, the winner moves up to “chicken status” and the loser stays an egg.  As students win rock/paper/scissor games they move up a status and as they lose games they move down a status.  No one can go beyond the super human status or below the egg status.  Note: students may only play rock/paper/scissors with other people who are at their evolutionary stage. 

Find Your Herd: This game is best played in a studio space or a gym where students can walk around with their eyes closed and still be safe.  This game is also hilarious from a teacher’s point of view!  Have students spread out, sit down and close their eyes.  Assign students an animal by walking around and whispering an animal in their ear (I usually use four different animals for this game, e.g. cow, chicken, tiger, fish).  Announce: “Find you herd!” and have students get up and move about (or crawl about) with their eyes closed making their animal sound repetitively.  For example, a fish might crawl or walk around saying “glub, glub, glub”.  Once students find other “animals” in their herd via sense of sound they should stay by their fellow herd mates while continuing to make their sound.  The point of the game is to see if all students (animals) can find one another simply by making the same sound.

The Giving Vein: This game is one of my all time favourites to play with students who are really into drama.  This game has students sitting in a circle on the floor with one chair reserved in the circle for The King (or Queen) and an empty space reserved to the left of The King’s chair for The Minion.  The teacher chooses a student to play The King and that student gets to sit in the chair to receive his/her guests.  The peasants (the rest of the class) thinks of items they could offer The King and raise their hands when they have an idea.  The King chooses which peasant he wants to interact with and that peasant approaches The King and bows deeply (this is a must!) while saying, “Oh – my King! I offer you _________________”.  (The peasant states the offered item, e.g. seasons tickets to the Vancouver Canucks, or any other awesome gift the current King might enjoy).  The King decides whether or not he approves of the offered item.  If The King likes the item, he replies, “Yes! It pleases us!” and the peasant may sit in The Minion’s space on the floor beside The King.  If The King disapproves of the offered item he says, “Bah – it does not please us! Be gone!” and the peasant has to go back to his/her original seat.  I usually let each King/Queen have three or four turns accepting/declining offers from peasants.  If The King accepts an offering from a Minion, he may accept an offering from another Minion, at which time the second Minion replaces the first (the first rejoins the circle of peasants).  This game is all about knowing/getting to know one’s classmates better through ridiculous gift offerings.  It’s also about having fun and laughing together and really embracing the drama of it all.  I constantly played this game with my grade 6s a few years back and they all loved it so much…they couldn’t get enough.  Note: Sometimes the gift offerings can get somewhat out of control, for example: “Oh my King, I offer you a million billion zillion dollars and all the gold in the world!”  Eventually I had to make a rule that monetary offerings were no longer allowed – ha!

Enjoy! Please let us know of any surefire, rock star games you use as “go to” activities with your students, we love adding to our repertoire!


Jobs and Goals

You may have read about Karley’s awesome new job back here. While she is returning to dance teaching like her first year, I’m returning to the same school as my first year! I got a job teaching grade 7 three days a week at the same school I was at back when we first started our blog. I started off this year with some pretty set goals in mind of what I wanted and, after a little bit of stress and anxiety, everything seems to be on track for a pretty awesome teaching year.

Besides my goal of getting a job (and my dream of a grade 7 job at that!), I also have some more specific goals this year in regards to my teaching. Well to be totally honest I had A LOT of goals this year for my teaching… But then the school year starts and I realized that I actually would like to have the slightest bit of a social life and maintain a shred of sanity, so I’m going to pare back a bit and stick to two main goals this fall (and one more to add in January if I end up with another contract).


I really love teaching French – It’s fun, you get to play games, and there is a lot of creativity and flexibility in what and how you teach it! This year I really want to create some successful French centres that allow for students to be successful, practice their oral language in small groups, and to be independent. Although I have started the year off teaching in a more traditional manner, I have plans in the works for my French centres that I think I will be able to start up in November. Has anyone tried centres for language learning before? I would love to hear some more ideas! So far I want to have centres for read aloud, oral language, DuoLingo, games, and then unit vocabulary or project.


IMG_3217My main goal this year is to become a better math teacher… Now I realize that this may sound like a broad goal, and really I guess it is, but when it comes down to how I will be successful in this goal it is more narrow. I am going to be more adventurous in my approach to teaching math, I am utilizing many resources available to me (more to come on this), and I am accessing any and all opportunities that come my way for teaching math. I can’t be more specific about this goal because I don’t know exactly what will work for me yet. So far it has just meant that I clear the kitchen table and get to work with some manipulatives on a Sunday night…

Some of the methods I want to try are:

  • Interactive Math Journals
  • Manipulative Lessons
  • Creative “Hook” Lessons
  • Project Based Learning
  • Small Group Teaching
  • Centres Based Approach

I might not have time for all of these approaches this year, I also might find something that seems to work with my class and just stick with it to see how it goes. Math has always been a passion of mine and I am really looking forward to the journey of trying to make math relevant and engaging, while still reinforcing topics.

(If you are from BC and want to join me on my “math mission” you should come to the BCAMT Conference too!)

What are your teaching goals this year?

Any suggestions for my French/Math goals?