Teach it Tuesday: Language Arts Gems

This is going to be a quick post to give a few ideas on some of my favourite activities for language arts right now:

Partner Reading

I started doing this activity last year with a novel study and it has become one of my favourites. It is so simple but allows for some great opportunities! I pair kids up (we have AB partner magnets with their names so that’s quickest for me to do in the morning after attendance) and they read the assigned chapters out loud to each other switching at the paragraph or page, their choice.

Things I love about it:

  • The sound of 15 kids reading out loud (but quietly) at the same time!
  • How easy it is to just read with a partner that you don’t know well (I’ve noticed much easier than having a discussion at the middle school level)
  • The ability to poke my head in and listen to kids read – for assessment or enjoyment!

Beginning, Middle, End Writing

Reluctant writer writing away

This activity is originally from 6+1 Traits of Writing but I’ve adapted it a bit to fit with in class and tutoring. For one of the students that I tutor, this is the only activity that I’ve done where he has willingly sat down and wrote almost a page! Basically you just give students the beginning, middle, and end of the story and they fill in the rest.

Things I love about it:

  • It allows for creativity without that feeling of being totally lost in options that can come with creative writing
  • It can be adapted to different interests and situations (for tutoring we threw in the dogs name – always a hit!)
  • This activity can easily be accessed by students of different ability levels as a quick write with guidance
  • I think already having the ending there takes away the pressure of getting your story to the end and helps students write

Quote and Note

I’ve written about this one before (here) but it continues to be a favourite! I haven’t been able to get as in depth into this one this year due to time constraints but it has still been rather effective after a lot of scaffolding to get them to the right spot.

Things I love about it:

  • The concept is simple for students to understand but the writing you get can be really in depth
  • Again, it allows students to access at what level they are at
  • It really helps me to get a good idea of students comprehension of the novel we are reading

What are some of your classroom favourites these days?


My Three Week Mission

So… I got a job! It’s just for three weeks but it’s full time and I’ll be teaching grade 8 so I’m very excited about this start to the year!! I will be teaching Math, Science and PE for the three weeks to two different classes. It basically feels like a practicum again planning for such a specific time frame (but without the stress of having all those supervisions!)

Now I’m feeling very lucky to have this position (pretty rare after only a year in out district) and don’t get me wrong – I am so very grateful for everything I have and by no means am I complaining here…

Here’s my teeny tiny issue: I really don’t like teaching science! I absolutely love teaching Math, English, French, Social Studies, PE, Drama… You name it! I will happily teach a day of music even though I’m not musical! Art? Sure, anytime! But there is something about science that just rubs me the wrong way.

It doesn’t make sense either. I absolutely loved science when I was in school and most of my favourite high school teachers were science teachers! In grade 11, I was seriously considering going to university to do a double major in biology and chemistry – loved it! So what don’t I like about teaching it? I really don’t know! I have some fun lessons that I’ve done on practicum, a decent university methods course in science, lots of resources… everything I need to love it but I just don’t!

So I’ve made it my mission that by the end of these three weeks I’m going to enjoy teaching science! Maybe I won’t love it. It probably won’t become my favourite subject to teach. But I am very determined that I won’t dread it anymore!

And this is where it will start…


My Organized Mess of Resources…

I’m digging through my boxes for ideas and inspiration because I know if I feel inspired to teach it will help students feel inspired to learn! Grade 8 Science? I’m ready for you! With an open mind and creative juices ready to start flowing…


Getting science ready for our new contracts!

What better way to get excited about Science then prepping with a good friend? Karley and I got a good start on some fantastic unit planning today and I’m feeling better than I expected to start teaching science!

And my final way I’ve tried to get excited about this is by pooling awesome resources from people around me. I’ve found ways to turn my science unit into a creative project with lots of room for critical thinking! Turning science into something that I am excited to teach will take some effort but it is effort that I’m willing and ready to put in and I think (I hope!) that’s what counts in this situation.

How do you get excited about teaching subjects that aren’t your favourite?

Any great science ideas or resources for me?


Inquiring Minds

So back here, you may have read about my inquiry project that I did in my grade 8 English class last year. I got a lot of questions and comments about it and have been meaning to write a follow up post… Finally – here it is!

As I mentioned in the first post about this, the project was far from perfect and there were many things I will change when I get the chance to do it again. What I want to give you here is a starting place in case you want to do inquiry with your own class (which I HIGHLY encourage everyone to do!)

inquiry_learningStarting it off:

As a teacher, your first step is to determine your goal – What do you want students to get from the project? There could be many possible answers to this but the ones that spring to mind for me are: increased interest in learning, ability to self-direct their studies, increased knowledge of subject area, increased connection to classroom community, increased interest in global connections, relational accountability (being accountable to ourselves, community, and the earth).

Once you have a goal in mind it will be much easier to choose activities that suit your end goal. The inquiry project to me was ultimately a lot of strategic planning on my part. How can I guide the students from their personal subject to a global idea?


Here are a bunch of the activities that I used. Some worked better than others but in the end they all had their place. These activities were mixed in with a lot of class discussion, individual research time, and personal sharing. The one thing I wish I had done more of was the conversational aspect (between students and also with me).

1. Inquiry Partners: We used a clock partner schedule to have individual meetings with partners (I made my own but here is an example). During these times I would put questions up on the board to help guide student discussions. We talked about generous listening before we started and one time the listening partner was not allowed to speak until the time was up and they would switch. Teaching real listening is such an important skill – especially in middle school!

2. Image Representation: Each student had to create an image that represented their inquiry at the stage it was at. No words were allowed but they could use whatever they liked (computer, art, etc.) to create their image. The idea behind this activity is to access some other ways of knowing and learning.

3. Interview: Each student had to find someone in the community that they could interview – this turned out to be a lot of work for me – totally worth it! They developed a list of 10-15 questions that they were going to ask so we talked about what makes a good question and what kind of answers they were looking for, etc. This ended up being one of the most valuable parts for some students. One of them interviewed a professor at the university who clearly explained some of the complications with distribution of clean water around the world.

4. Self Reflection: Part of the final project was to look back at their inquiry journey so far to see the journey the had made. I asked for some reflection into the activities that really helped move their inquiries along and also got the students to look forward to where their inquiries may take them in the future.

5. Community Comparison: With a partner (either in the class or outside), they had to create a comparison diagram (venn diagram or other form) that showed similarities and differences in their thoughts and opinions. The goal of this activity was to open up the conversation from a one sided “sharing” piece to a more dynamic conversation where different points of view were expressed. For some students there was a LOT of learning that happened with this activity.

6. Global Perspectives: For my class’ inquiries this was the main component of the last two months. We were focusing on making global connections with their interests and creating an understanding of relationality. There were a couple of different parts to this but mostly it involved working in small groups with a map of the world and discussing how each of their topics connected to different parts of the world.

7. Sharing: This is the activity that was both the most powerful and least effective at the same time… And lesson learned for next time! As you may recall, I had never taught in June before and had no idea quite how crazy it would become. We didn’t end up having time for everyone to share and there was some frustration with the crunched timeline. The students who did share though really made an impact on some of their classmates. It was really interesting to watch the students reactions to their peers while listening to them talk about their passions. Many amazing questions came up and I think the full class sharing piece is a really important part of the inquiry project.

So those are the main components of my inquiry project last year and I hope they are helpful to you. Please let me know if you have any other questions and I would absolutely love to hear about how you use inquiry (or similar projects) in your own classrooms.


Let It Go…

As I’ve entered into this new profession of teaching I have really connected with a lot of people and made some great new friends… It’s really nice to have so much in common with people around you. But on the flip side I have noticed a striking common ground with a lot of teachers – Perfectionism! I’m sure it’s in other professions as well but holy smokes there are a lot of perfectionist teachers out there!

Now perfectionism isn’t something new to me (as you may remember from this post) but rarely have I been surrounded by so many other people striving for the impossible right alongside me! Unfortunately this has made my goal of allowing more imperfection in my life infinitely harder…

This summer has been eye opening for me when I realized just how much of a perfectionist I can be. From planning a friend’s wedding shower to writing compositions for French class, I have realized how hard it is for me to chill out and relax (even on my summer break!)

Enter in my new mantra…


I’m really working on just letting it go. Instead of stressing about not getting an A+ in the course that has been challenging from day one, I’m going to try to acknowledge that everything I have learned is vastly more important than the letter grade at the end.

Instead of stressing about the job I may or may not have in September, I’m going to remember that things happen for a reason and I will be able to find joy in whatever I may end up doing.

Instead of stressing over whether or not my new apartment is put together enough to have people over, I’m going to invite them anyways and enjoy what is set up here.

And the biggest stressor of all for me – I’m going to work to become okay with missing out on some things because it really is impossible to try to be at every social event with every friend all the time (most people probably know this already but it’s new news for me!)

I feel that life was somehow passing me by while I was try to make all the pieces fit in a row. I think learning how to let things go and live in the moment will help me become more of the teacher I want to be.

Next school year I hope that I will not miss out on as many of the little conversations or moments with my students. I hope that I will be more relaxed and able to focus on the beauty in my daily life.