Teach it Tuesday: Videos


Today I am grateful for having an afternoon off to spend time with my mom. I absolutely love getting to have some time for just the two of us and it made for a really nice afternoon – Plus she is a pretty awesome person and I’m VERY lucky to be her daughter!

For Teach it Tuesday this week, I wanted to share some of the videos (YouTube, DVDs, Netflix) that I’ve either used or would use for teaching (organized by subject for your convenience). I think these can come in handy for a last minute substitute teacher lesson too! I don’t use videos often when I teach but I do know they can be an effective teaching tool when there is a good amount of discussion involved with the videos.


“Japanese” Multiplaction (YouTube) – I haven’t used this video yet but I can’t wait to use it at the beginning of the year to show students how we can think outside of the box with math. I would love to see what different ways they could come up with then the standard algorithms they have been taught. We did a lot of this in my “Teaching Math” course in university and it really helped me to gain a deeper understanding of what it is that you are actually doing!

Also check out this blog for links to more awesome math videos.

Language Arts

Hackschooling (YouTube) – I find that if there is anything that gets middle schoolers talking and writing it’s the topic of education – what they like, what they would change, what’s frustrating, and the list goes on and one! I would love to watch this video with students and follow it up with a good discussion and some persuasive writing. Think – a letter to the education minister or school principal about what they think is important!


Blue Planet (DVD) – I used these videos with my Water Systems on Earth unit in grade 8. It was a great thing to put on for a catch up block so some students could finish assignments but all students were engaged. My class really loved the videos and some interesting conversations came up after watching.


Un Monstre à Paris (Netflix) – An animated film that has lots of music and is engaging for younger students as well as middle school students (we watched the English version with grade 8’s for Halloween and they liked it!). Depending on your students levels I would watch it with French subtitles – they should be able to get a lot of meaning from the animation as well.

Physical Education

Bodyweight Exercises (YouTube) – I’m really not trying to say that you should show videos instead of getting physically active but this video is a pretty cool example of some of the things the human body is capable of doing! I find it pretty inspiring to think what we are capable of with some dedication and I think it would be an awesome introduction to a fitness class or discussion on health and wellness, and how we don’t need to be that extreme to be healthy. (I would definitely watch it on mute because I guess I’m old for my years but that music gets on my nerves after about 2.2 seconds!)

Social Studies/Music

Evolution of Dance (YouTube) – This could be used in so many ways! Obviously music/dance connections but I think it would also be neat to look at the historical events that took place during the years for each of the songs and build connection between music and history. Especially since most students will recognize at least a few of the songs in the video. Also the wedding video version is pretty awesome!

Do you use videos, movies or multimedia in your classroom?

What are your favourite student-friendly videos?


Teach it Tuesday: Music Lesson

I spent my day in a music class today and had a great time with the kids. Sometimes the best part of subbing in a prep job is that you get to try one lesson over and over again!music-notes

By the end of the day I felt like I had mastered my “Body Percussion” lesson with the intermediate students. I am not a trained music teacher by any means, nor do I have a lot of experience teaching music. I do, however, have a lot of fun teaching music the odd time I am given a chance! Here is the lesson for you to try (let me know how it goes!):

Body Percussion:

1. Discussion (5 min) – Talk about what percussion instruments are and how we play them. Generate examples of ways that we can create different percussion sounds using our bodies (stomping, clapping, etc.). Explain the challenge for the class is to (in small groups of 3-5) create a body percussion rhythm that represents a couple of lines from a well known song. I give two examples at this point – We Will Rock You and ABC’s/Twinkle Twinkle. Then discuss why “We Will Rock You” is so easy to recognize and suggest that they choose similar songs with strong beats when they do their own. I also mention how we can use the height of our body percussion to represent the pitch of the song (e.g. a clap over our head would be higher pitch then a foot stomp or knee slap).

2. Creation (20 min) – In groups of 3-5 have students choose a song and create a body percussion rhythm (no humming or lyrics) for about two lines of the song. Remind them that they need to be in sync for it to sound right and they will need to practice. Make sure students know that their first job is to decide on a song and that part needs to be done relatively quickly (rock paper scissors or take a vote if necessary), and then they need to create their body percussion to perform. During this time I make sure that I’m visiting each group to make sure they are on task and working well together. I will help get them started on a rhythm when necessary but try to leave this up to them.

3. Performance (15 min) – After the groups are ready we get back together as a group and each group gets a chance to perform their sequence. We then take three guess (charades style) on what the song might be. Most of them are pretty difficult to guess but they sure have fun guessing! After three guesses the group tells us what their song was and does their sequence one more time with singing or humming to show how it goes.

We had a lot of fun today with the body percussion and it was cool to see what the kids came up with. Let me know if you ever give this lesson a try and how it goes!


A Letter to Myself


Our envelope of self-addressed letters…

In class today I had the students talk about their goals for the upcoming year and then write a letter to themselves that will be given back to them in January. The point of this activity was to provide some time for reflection on their goal setting and also to allow them to be very personal (since no one else would be reading their letters but them!) I encouraged them to think beyond school goals and write about personal goals with friends, hobbies, home life, etc. as well. Most of the students were thoroughly engaged in the process and it was interesting to see how seriously some of the 8th graders took the assignment too. While I was in the reflective state of mind I decided that I would write my own letter and share it here with all of you…

Dear Me,

I hope everything is going well this year and that the job situation worked out one way or another! This letter is to remind you about how much you believe that everything happens for a reason… Even the crazy, unknown, stress of not knowing has a place in making you grow as a teacher and as a person. Although I would love to write and say that I think you must be in a full time job teaching your dream subjects, I know this very well might not be the case and I also know that’s okay! I want to remind you that some stress is natural and pushes us to do better, but you need to work hard to control and alleviate stress in your life as much as possible. Remember to run, remember to do yoga, remember to read and breathe and relax.

I know how easy it is to get caught up in this little world of job seniority, but I hope that deep down in the bottom of your heart you ALWAYS remembered that what matters the most is showing up (mentally, physically, spiritually) and being there for each and every one of your students.

I hope this year so far has brought you joy and that you took that joy and appreciated it. I hope you are practicing gratitude everyday because you have been privileged and supported through so much. Also, I hope you remembered to return that support whenever you could. Have you worked hard to be a good partner? Daughter? Friend? Did you remember that those relationships are the most valuable thing you have? Please take a moment to appreciate those people in your life who have supported you through the hard and stressful times you faced in the past few years.

The biggest goal I made this year was to enjoy. I hope you enjoyed the little moments and the big ones. I hope you took time to live fully and laugh a lot. In teaching, I hope you enjoyed the classes that you spent time in. In life, I hope you enjoyed a lot of laughter and love with great people. Continue your year looking for enjoyment in the everyday – be excited by your experiences and opportunities.

Be grateful. Be happy.



I want to hear from you:

What are your goals this year?

How do you do goal setting with yourself or with your students?


What Makes a Good Substitute Teacher?

Substitute teachers, Teachers-On-Call (TOCs), Supply Teachers… Whatever your title in your district is we are all in this together! Sometimes you feel like a babysitter, sometimes a drill sergeant, sometimes a self-promoter, and, hopefully more often then not, you feel like a “real” teacher. This substitute territory can be tricky to navigate for the classroom teacher and substitute alike. This post was written to bridge the gap a bit when it comes to expectations and what is helpful for the classroom teacher – as always we would love to hear your feedback!

In the last few weeks we’ve experienced some teacher angst among our more established teacher friends.  A new school year is about to begin and those teachers with their own classrooms and students are facing another year of struggles…finding a good sub. We can attest to these struggles because we both had small contracts last year and we both got sick and needed to book substitutes for our own classrooms.  Unfortunately, we never got the chance to sub for one another, but we did manage to find good people to cover for us when we needed them too.  So what makes a good substitute teacher, then? We’ve asked a few of our teacher friends to help us out with the answers to this question.

Here’s what they have to say:

Have a bag of tricks with varied lessons, games, activities and art projects for a range of subjects.  Be “friendly tough” with students – don’t put up with silliness or rudeness, but also don’t publicly shame students if they do cross the line.  Using your sense of humour goes a long way!  Don’t assign homework unless you’ll be around to mark it (i.e. longer term stints), or if the teacher has specifically asked you to assign homework (when a substitute assigns homework it usually doesn’t get completed and can turn in to a “make work project” for the enrolled teacher).  Similarly, when a substitute creates lessons that don’t get finished in class, it can be hard on the enrolled teacher because he/she doesn’t know how to finish up the lesson or mark it (if you, the sub, are doing an in-class project, make sure you have the time to mark it yourself).  *This next point is specific to the style of the teacher: Prepare to do your own planning/prep if you are subbing for more than one consecutive day.

A nice reminder for tonight, because we know that we will not be sleeping soundly at all! A mixture of nerves and excitement has taken over.

A nice reminder for tonight, because we know that we will not be sleeping soundly at all! A mixture of nerves and excitement has taken over.

Karley’s thoughts:  I am definitely not a pro by any means, but I’ve found some key things that really tend to work in my favour when I’m subbing.  When subbing I try my best to be as competent as I can.  I always show up at least 30 minutes before the bell rings (I’m usually more like 40 minutes early), I check in at the office in the morning and meet the office staff and principal/VP if possible, at the end of the day I make sure the classroom looks like it did at the start of the day, I leave a detailed note or email for the teacher, I introduce myself to neighbouring classrooms teachers (“Hi, I’m Karley Alleyn and I’m subbing for _______________ today.  I just wanted to introduce myself and let you know I’ll be here all day” kind of thing), and I always bring a few good stories (my own, personal stories) or quick activities.  I find that establishing myself in the classroom as best as I can before the school day starts is what really sets the tone for the day.  These things might seem like “no brainer” actions, but I do know of subs who don’t engage with the school and the students from the moment they set foot in the school; ignoring to establish immediate rapport can set one up for disaster before the bell even rings.

I always introduce myself to the students in a fun, yet clear and concise, way.  I make sure the students know that even though I’m “just a sub”, I mean business.  I frequently have had students switch names on me, or sit in different seats…when things like this happen I don’t let it bother me, but rather I approach the students in a warm manner (I’m not the kind who raises their voice and yells) and let them know that I have the seating plan right in front of me (most times I actually DO have it right in front of me).  I let students know that the name switching thing might be funny, but it is actually a safety issue.  I tell the class that if we were to have a fire or earthquake that I would be doing attendance outside and if they were joking around with switched names we could all get into serious trouble, or worse.  If it sounds like I’m in “lay down the law” teacher mode during these discussions, it’s because I AM! I can pull a quality “serious face” and in my experience kids seem to get the point straight away and come clean with the switched names.  Of course I never hold a grudge on the students who try to play games; they’re just testing the waters!  For me it’s basically just about setting the boundaries as the TOC from the moment the bell rings; if I let the kids know they aren’t getting away with their silly antics from the get go, then we are usually good for the rest of the day, and beyond, because we are able to establish trust with one another.

Meaghan’s thoughts:

I actually really enjoy subbing! Not that I want to do it for the rest of my life or anything and I definitely prefer being a classroom teacher but I think subbing is fun and that really helps me out with the job. For me, attitude is the most important part of it – I need to have a positive attitude about the job from the time I get the call to the time I leave the school at the end of the day. Yes there will be those moments where you have no idea what’s going on but hey, what can you do? That’s all a part of it.

Karley is exactly right with being prepared, that’s how you start the day off right! Now I’m not so much of a morning person so being 40 minutes early has probably never happened for me despite my best intentions haha but 30 minutes for sure! You never know what you might have in the classroom so it’s important to make sure you have enough time to prep, plan and photocopy. One of my best days of subbing was when there was absolutely no day plan for me – getting to do whatever I want for all the subjects = AWESOME! I got to try all of my best one off lessons for every subject all day and the kids really enjoyed it as well. However, many times you will get a detailed day plan left by the teacher and it’s important to try to follow the plan to the best of your ability. Most teachers will be fine if you couldn’t get to something or had trouble with a part of a lesson (as long as you leave a note) but I think it’s really important that you at least try to get through everything. I’ve heard of a few situations where a substitute just did their own lesson even when there was a detailed plan left by the teacher… This is a no go for me. Teacher’s have timelines and missing a day of work could really throw things off especially when there is a deadline like report cards or a holiday coming up. Unless a teacher gives you the option to do your own lesson you should always follow the plans that are left.

My best advice on being a good substitute teacher is to truly enjoy it: make connections with the kids, participate in your own games and activities, be positive, and be your best.  If you are anything like us we are working towards those full time contracts so we won’t be substitutes forever and there are many positives to being a substitute (little or no marking/planning, less time at school, etc.). We have the unique opportunity to try out different grades, schools, classrooms, and routines on a daily basis – Let’s enjoy it!


Go To Lessons: Phys Ed

So as you may have read here, we have been trying to compile some of our favourite “Go To Lessons” for different subjects. Most of these were developed for the substitute teacher but can easily be used as one off lessons for the regular classroom teacher as well. Also, check out our new Teachers Pay Teachers store for more ideas!

This here is really my “Go To” lesson for any PE class I teach (grades 4 and up) – I use it pretty much everytime I teach PE if there isn’t a lesson plan left for me. I like it because the three games are a progression on each other and all three are really popular with students. I follow the old adage where you finish a game on it’s high point and then switch it up but by keeping the games relatively similar I find that students are engaged throughout the class wondering what comes next.

I always play them in the order that follows and then if there is time left in the class I ask the students to vote on their favourite game and we re-play that one.

*Head Shot Rule: If anyone hits anyone in the head it is a 2 minute sit out whether it is an accident or not. I always use this rule and stand by it because it makes kids really careful about their throws and eliminates the he said she said of “But I didn’t mean to…”

1. Ga-Ga Ball

This started as a summer camp favourite for me but has soon become a go to indoor game as well.

Goal: To be the last one standing

Supplies needed: dodgeballs (usually 6-8 in a class of 25-30), half of a gym (must have distinct boundaries)

Rules: To start the game we throw the balls in the air and yell “Ga-Ga Ball” as they hit the ground. After that all the balls must remain on the ground and cannot be picked up at any point. Students must use and open hand or fist to hit the ball towards others (we play knees down for this game as the ball shouldn’t be leaving the ground). If you get hit below the knees you need to remember who hit you and go to the outside of the boundaries. When the person who hit you gets out then you get to go back into the game. I usually yell “free life” a few times and have everyone get back in just to keep it going.

2. Poison Ball

This is an easy progression from Ga-Ga Ball by just adding a couple of rules (same equipment and boundaries).

Rules: You may now pick up the ball but when the ball is in your hand you cannot move your feet. You must hit waist down for this game and if you are hit you sit down right where you were hit and can’t move from that position. If you get a ball while you are down you can hit someone who is standing up to get back up (so they go down and you get up). Again, I often yell “free life” and let everyone back up to keep the game going.

3. Chinook Ball

This game only has one change from Poison Ball but it definitely adds another element that works really well (especially in the older grades!)

Rules: Same as Poison Ball except now if you are down and you get a ball you can pass it to other people who are down (as long as it doesn’t touch the ground in between) to make a train. When someone who is standing gets hit by the ball then every person who was a part of the train gets to stand back up. This usually keeps the game going long enough without needing to call “free life.”

20130828-200512.jpgI love how well this sequence of games works together! I really like that by the time you get to Chinook Ball the kids really buy into the teamwork aspect. I find it makes a big difference doing the progression instead of just playing a couple of different games and the class feels way more organized to me. My biggest tip for PE lessons… Join in! The kids will absolutely love it if you play with them and it makes for a nice break in the teaching day to run around a little bit.


Go To Lessons: French

Since it’s almost that time of year for us… BACK TO SCHOOL! We thought we would do a couple of posts on our “Go To Lessons” for different subjects. Along with this, our Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT) site is up and running so go check it out!

Whether you are a substitute teacher or a classroom teacher we are hoping our ideas will start some inspiration for sharing those NEVER FAIL (ha!) lessons that you use.

I’m going to start with my “go to” lessons for French. I find French is the one subject where it’s always good to have a back up lesson in mind when you are substituting – and I know I always love those one off lessons that are a little more fun for a core French class.

1. Guess Who

I got a Guess Who sheet from a prof in my education program but I feel like it is pretty easy to create your own (if I make my own ever I will let you all know!). The sheet I use has 9 different aliens with various amounts of eyes, mouths, legs, etc. Basically I go over the key terms for the different body parts, how to ask questions (“Est-ce qu’il a…”) and then review the numbers briefly. I usually do a couple of rounds where I choose the character and they have to come up with a question in a group to narrow down their options. After we do a couple of rounds as a full class I have them play within their groups. This lesson is usually good for a 45 minute class when you go over the question asking and key terms before you play.

2. “Ami! Ami?” by Chris Raschka

Like any good substitute, I carry around a good supply of go to books in the back of my car. This is one of my favourites! I have a sheet (available for free here) that I carry with me in case I need a quick lesson for a French class. With the students in small groups I have them cut up the phrases and try to put them in order. It’s usually pretty tricky to get it exactly right but I try to get them to look for clues (like punctuation) and I explain to them that it is just a simple conversation between the two boys from the cover. After they are done we read the book and they see how many they got in the right order. If there is still time at the end I get them to read the parts of the book in two teams (with points for expression or prizes if you carry them with you!)

3. Verb Corners

This game requires a bit more knowledge of French then the other two but it is pretty simple to play and can be done indoors or out! I use four different verbs that they know how to conjugate (usually avoir, être, faire, aller) and put each verb in a different corner. With everyone in the middle I yell out a conjugated form of one of the verbs and they have to run to the corner with that name (e.g. “Je suis” and they run to être). If we are outside, after a couple of rounds for practice I have it become a race and the last one to the corner has to shout out the next conjugated verb from the middle (with help if needed).

Hope these ideas are helpful for you!

What are your “Go To French Lessons”?