Guest Post: Math Teams with Nikki Lineham

We are very excited and honoured to have Nikki Lineham guest post for us today.  Nikki is a brilliant and masterful teacher in our school district; she specializes in teaching math using pictorial, symbolic and concrete methods, while keeping the learning process creative and engaging for both students and teachers.  Meaghan and I have worked with Nikki in various Pro D sessions and we have also both used Nikki’s math resources (available through her website Educating Now) in our respective classrooms.  Thank you, Nikki, for sharing your knowledge and passion for teaching math with us here on Tale of Two Teachers!  We hope all our readers enjoy Nikki’s post.

Firstly, I want to thank Meaghan and Karley for inviting me to be a guest blogger for Tale of Two Teachers; I’m honoured, as I have a boatload of respect for these two dedicated teachers and I love reading their posts and empathizing with their journeys. Although I’ve been teaching for 15 years, I still feel like I have so much to learn and try. This is one of the reasons why I love my job so much; I have the opportunity to try out new strategies and approaches that I read about. Not only that, but because I work with several teachers, I can try out these ideas in many classrooms, using trial and error to make the lessons so much better. Rarely do I ‘nail it’ on the first try, and having the opportunity to refine multiple times each week (sometimes even in one day) allows me the chance to share what I know really works with other educators. This is the approach I took when learning how to set up and use collaborative math teams in math classes. Trust me, there was a whole lot of trial and error before we figured out the recipe for success.
The reason that I’m so passionate about these math teams is that I saw, first hand, in multiple classrooms, how powerful of an impact they had on both teachers and students; teachers were so inspired by the level of student engagement and learning and they had time to better assess and meet the needs of their students during class time and they felt less exhausted after lessons.  I also feel very strongly that we ought to be focusing more on competencies (as we see in our new curriculum) rather than solely on the content, as we have been conditioned to do. When students are in these teams, the roles are assigned (based on Complex Instruction) and criteria co-created, students become deep thinkers, collaborators and excellent communicators. Here are some of my observations from the classes I had the privilege of working in.
In a grade 6 class, I was blown away by the questions that the students started asking after a few weeks of working in teams. Because of all the work we did around creating growth mindsets and developing criteria around the competencies, students changed from ‘doing’ math to thinking about math (they were also still doing math). They started asking questions like, “When does infinity start?” and, “Are there such things as negative fractions and decimals?”. Students became curious and excited about learning how the math worked and how numbers were connected. One lesson, when we didn’t give the students any methods for multiplying decimals, but rather asked them to make predictions and explore in their teams what it means to multiply decimals, they were literally begging us to teach them the method (how often does that happen?!).
In a grade 8 class, after about two months of working in teams, when we moved into learning about rates and ratios, we literally didn’t have to teach a single method of solving. Students used their math reasoning, communicating and conceptual understanding to solve rates problems based on what made sense in the given contexts; the students could clearly explain their procedures. This proved to me, once again, that if students have conceptual understanding they can develop procedures, conversely, if students have memorized procedures (without really understanding them) and then they forget the procedure or rule (which happens all the time), they have nowhere to go.  When students get stuck like this the learning stops and they become entirely dependent on you, or someone else, to show them the procedure again. To be honest, we gave them the problem on rates as a way to prime their brains for learning the procedure, not expecting them to actually solve them without learning the procedure. Yet again, my expectations were surpassed.
After watching in amazement how these teams transformed students into mathematicians, I wondered, ‘Why on earth aren’t we all doing this?’. One thing I realized is that, generally speaking, teachers tend to be control freaks and giving up control to allow students to struggle and problem solve on their own is a tough transition (but so worth it). Teachers are also incredibly busy with the gazillion other tasks during their days and it’s challenging to find time to frequently read articles and books. I did read a few articles and books on how to use these teams and still had a lot of trial and error, so it wasn’t a quick and easy change to make. This is why I spent my summer creating a course on how to use these math teams so that it can be easily done by any teacher. If you are interested in learning more, please join me for a free webinar that will give an overview of how to use the math teams and if you really want to dive in, then sign up for our 12 part course that provides detailed day by day support on how to set up and use these teams in your classroom.   We have a number of teachers signed up and taking this course already and are offering you an opportunity to sign up at a 25% discount (use code: TALEOFTWO). Course registration closes at the end of September.

Cheers!
Nikki Lineham

 

The Heart Of It

Here is the heart of it…

Last year I was waiting. The year started off with me being a substitute teacher while I was waiting to head off on my travels. I’ll admit it substitute teaching has never brought out the best in me. I don’t have the relationships with students that make me want to be a great teacher, and I happily leave at the end of the day to get home way earlier than if I had a contract. I remember telling someone that substitute teaching was the best for work/life balance but in my case that is really not true because there is very little on the work side of that scale. Enthusiasm went out the window after week one. I was waiting. Waiting for my travels. Waiting for a “better” job.

When I returned from my travels I headed straight back into the classroom, by straight back I mean that I returned on a Wednesday and started teaching full time on the Thursday. I neglected my work life balance here again but the scale had tipped the other way. My home life was suffering because I chose to dive into a classroom and everything that entails, right after I had been off traveling with friends for 5 weeks. It wasn’t fair to my (now) husband and it wasn’t fair to myself.

After the winter break I entered in to some of the toughest teaching times I’ve experienced. I talked about it a bit and I wrote about it but I wouldn’t say that I really ever dealt with it. During these times I was put in the place of defending what felt like every decision I made as a teacher. My confidence took a big blow but I never acknowledged that part of it. Instead I was back in the waiting game because I knew I had a way out into a different job. A new job meant a fresh start, or so I thought. But by ignoring the healing I needed to do I wasn’t setting myself up for success. Within the first few weeks I had that familiar drowning in work feeling – trying to deal with a new school, new grades, new students, and new colleagues. Again I switched into this “waiting mode” by deciding that I could make it to Spring Break and then start anew after.

Little did I know that after Spring Break I would break my arm, need surgery, and be out of the classroom for weeks. Again with the waiting. And then it was June and the craziness of end of year hit. This is probably the time I enjoyed most out of the school year, but I was still in that waiting stage. Waiting for summer. Waiting for my wedding. Waiting for a break.

No, it wasn’t all bad. I really loved both my classes and made strong connections with lots of students and families. I enjoyed experimenting with the new curriculum. I got to travel and see more of the world, and experience that change in mindset that comes with it. I planned my wedding that was a perfect love filled and fun day.

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Well since you asked I’ll throw in a photo…                 Oh you didn’t ask?

So what didn’t work? What did all that waiting mean? It meant that I was not being mindful. I was not living in the moment. I was not fully present for all those moments in my life.

With this in mind, and the fact that I am heading into a busy year with my Masters starting this weekend. By making some important commitments to myself I feel ready for the year and I’m so excited for all the learning and growth that lies ahead. This year I am making a commitment to wait less, process more, and be more mindful:

First, I will listen to constructive criticism from the people I respect, and ignore criticism that is meant to harm.

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Second, I will find ways to be happy in the job that I am in. Through good and bad times there are always ways to be happy – a connection with a colleague or a student, a creative teaching idea, an extracurricular, etc. (And no, I don’t have a job yet but I will! Positive thinking, positive thinking!)

Finally, I will practice yoga and/or meditation regularly. Focusing my mind always helps me to live in the moment and be present for the people that matter most.

Here’s to a year filled with mindfulness, love, and lots of laughter – We can do this together, teachers!

Meaghan

 

The “No” Girl: A Balancing Act

Meaghan and I decided that this year, along with our reestablished commitment to blogging with our authentic voice(s), we needed to figure out where we were at on our own personal blogging and teaching journeys.

My personal challenge this year will be to remain a “no” girl.  That is, I vow to say NO to most things asked of me.  No thank-you, I won’t coach that team. No sorry, I probably won’t make it to that extra-curricular planning meeting.  And, no, I won’t go in to school on weekends.  Let me be clear in saying that almost always I ask and expect myself to do these things.  I am a pleaser, a doer and somewhat of an extremist so if a colleague or my administration asks extra of me this year of course I will professionally consider doing the work, but not before weighing in how the “extra” will impact my family life.  Saying “no” is going to be my secret to balancing work and life this year. Thankfully I have my almost-two-year-old to remind me (quite often) how exactly to say it…noooooooo!

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I dabbled with this “just say no!” work/life balance strategy last year a little bit, but I wasn’t entirely successful because I was still an academic teacher who had just come off an excellent year of maternity leave.  I felt stuck as the “do it all” type of teacher that I am, while having a tiny daughter at home to care for.  Mad props to all you working parents. I learned a lot last year and even though I taught and was paid for .6 FTE (three full days a week) I actually worked full time (3+ hours per night at home after my daughter went to bed, even on my days off). Somehow I still managed to exercise and read for pleasure. I don’t want to cram all this in anymore; it isn’t a truly pleasant way to live, to be honest.  When exercising starts to feel like a chore, I know I’ve gone down a slippery slope.

This year, and years in the future, will be different.  After a lot of thinking and debating I have decided to say NO to the classroom for a few years. Instead I’ve chosen to delve back in to the amazing, exciting and fun world of being an exploratory teacher.  A few weeks ago I was offered a (part-time) continuing contract teaching middle school dance and drama and I immediately accepted the offer.  For me, this contract will allow me space.  Space to be the mama I want to be to my incredible toddler.  Space to exercise well. Space to cook and plan healthy meals.  Space to spend time with my family.  And space to take a dance class of my own!  While being an exploratory teacher is no joke (we teach every single student in the school over the course of the year!) teaching dance/drama will totally alleviate the workload because for me teaching dance is second nature.  The sheer joy I find in (teaching) dance can not be matched.  This part-time continuing contract is an incredible gift to me and I plan to do great things with it.  I’ll be working in a school that has never had an established dance program (that I know of), so one could say I am essentially starting from scratch!  While being an exploratory teacher will not be the duration of my entire teaching career, it definitely will play a prominent role for the next five years or so.  I am so excited to see what these next years have in store!

I am in my final year of my 20s and I’m finally learning to say NO to most things so that I can say YES to the things I actually want to do.  Heck, maybe I AM getting wiser with age!

Karley

A Story We’re Living

We have been discussing the direction our blog will take for a while now and this year we have made a commitment. Our commitment is not to just blog more, but to blog with a return to our authentic voices.

What spurred this decision? It started with a conversation we had with a colleague in the spring. He thanked us for sharing honestly on the blog and that prompted us to think about how our honest sharing has changed over our time blogging. When we first started blogging we wrote about very personal and professional stories with very little fear of our audience – mostly because we thought our parents would be the only ones reading. Both of us have felt that we have drifted away from this authentic voice over the years. Partly because the line between personal and professional can be a little bit scary on a public forum, and partly because it is often really difficult to share these stories. Elizabeth Gilbert expressed this struggle perfectly in her request for privacy during a difficult time:

“I trust that you understand how this is a story that I am living — not a story that I am telling.”

In response to this same message, Glennon Doyle responded, “Please let the world offer.. no advice, no platitudes, no criticism, nothing but love and gratitude for living and loving and hurting aloud – so that we can see how it’s done.” When we choose to put our stories out for everyone to read there is a lot of trust that goes with that and a lot of risk. But with this risk, this vulnerability, comes a real voice that breeds connection and growth. The best gift of blogging is connection and the more authentic our voice remains the stronger these connections will be. Of course there are stories that will be reserved for our loved ones, but we are committing to sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly of this teaching life.

We choose to share our stories.

We want to share our stories.

We love to share our stories.

So our commitment this year to you, our readers, is that we will return to authenticity in voices and our posts. We promise to be honest, truthful and vulnerable and, in return, we hope that you will choose authenticity and vulnerability with your own stories.
BreneBrown

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Things I Meant To Blog About…

When life gets busy blogging often falls to the back burner. Here are some of the things I meant to blog about over the past few months.

Rube Goldberg

We wrapped up our simple machines unit with a Rube Goldberg day. The kids planned, designed, and created some fantastic projects in our school’s Makerspace. Watch this video if you want some amazing project inspiration!

The one with the can and the light switch actually worked really well!

The Best PE Game

I found this online one morning when trying to plan a quick lesson for baseball… Now I can’t find the link for the life of me but basically in teams of 3-4 students line up and you spread hoops out all over the gym the first student in line runs and stands in a hoop. The next student throws them a ball or beanbag and if they catch it with two feet still in the hoop they bring the hoop back to their team. The team with the most hoops at the end wins! Super easy and can be easily adapted to many sports.


Rock the Salish Sea

Our school had the most incredible opportunity to work with Holly Arntzen and Kevin Wright to perform the “Rock the Salish Sea” concert. It was an amazing experience for the students and the show was absolutely incredible. Very proud teacher moment!


City Hall Visit

To wrap up our unit on government, we went on to City Hall and had a Q&A session with Mayor Lisa Helps. She was so great at answering all the kids questions (even the cringe-worthy ones!) and after they gave the students a snack and let them sit in the counsel chairs. It was such a cool experience for my students and some of the questions that came up were just incredible – I love watching them learn outside of the classroom.

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And now back to paper writing, report cards, and field trip planning… Happy June everyone! We are almost there.

Meaghan

Math: The Struggle is REAL!

I have struggled with math for as long as I can remember.  In high school I was the one who attended grade 11 and 12 math help three mornings a week and still shed tears over it every other day.  Throughout my prerequisite math studies for my B. Ed. I failed a stats course (the only class I’ve ever failed…too bad it cost $300). Upon handing in my final exam I was certain I did not pass my Math 360 course, which used to be a mandatory B. Ed course at UVic.  My life has been filled with many frustration filled math related tears and over time I have grown to strongly dislike math.

I am proud to say that the times, they are a changin’ over here in Mrs. Alleyn’s math world and that is largely to do with Nikki Lineham’s fantastic math website, Educating Now. Nikki is a brilliant middle school teacher leader in our district; Meaghan and I are both fortunate and grateful to have had access to her website through our respective schools.  Nikki’s site is a business, and therefore runs by paid subscription, so I won’t divulge the inner workings of her lesson I’m blogging about today, but I do want to share how the lesson went for my grade 8s.  I also want to share how Nikki’s work has turned me in to a more confident math teacher, which is something I never thought I’d ever be!

Today in math my grade 8s and I were working on the concept of “preservation of equality”, that is: “What does the = sign really mean?” My class came up with all kinds of answers to this question, but not a single student was able to tell me that the = sign actually means to BALANCE both sides of the equation.  I was so pleased that no one was able to tell me that = means “balance” because it meant I had found a weakness in their understanding (and, my own understanding, if I’m honest!) We then worked with the concept of a scale/teeter totter and I ended up holding various objects in my hands, arms outstretched, pretending I was on one end of the teeter totter and Charlee, my 1.5 year old daughter, was on the other end.  We talked about what would happen and came to the conclusion that because I am obviously heavier than Charlee, the teeter totter would launch Charlee high in the sky.  We then discussed what might happen if Joel, my husband, joined Charlee on the teeter totter.  Obviously his added weight would raise me into the air.  We then discussed how we could even out the weight between my family on the teeter totter and decided that if Charlee came to my side, perhaps she and I would balance Joel.  It was so interesting to me to use my family in the analogy because I had never thought of the = sign this way before.

Let it be known that my grade 8 class has a very wide range in mathematical competency – I’m talking a range from about grade 4 to grade 11.  I think the best part of today’s lesson is what came next…

After some more work with numbers and teeter totters and balancing my grade 8s set out to complete their learning task, which was to create five questions solving for x, while using the teeter totter concept to help them answer their questions.  Check out the differentiation that occurred once my students let loose:

Are you freaking out as much as I am freaking out over how awesome this learning task is? My struggling learners were able to use the teeter totter to help solidify what the = sign means; therefore, bringing them to a deeper understanding of algebra. My very advanced learners were able to differentiate the task to meet their level of ability, while still being challenged by the pictorial component (let me assure you, my strongest math students are rock solid when it comes to doing math in a procedural manner, but they do struggle when they need to show their work conceptually, as you will notice above).

As I sit here writing this post I am in awe that I taught this lesson today.  I keep thinking, “I did this!? I understand this!?” Today’s lesson was a huge learning experience for me and for many of my students.  I was not taught math like this, but our redesigned math curriculum calls for concrete, pictorial and symbolic representation of student learning, which is why I am so grateful for Nikki’s lessons and teachings.  Nikki’s work has certainly made me a more confident math teacher.

P.S: Meaghan and I, along with a handful of our teacher friends, plan to take Jo Boaler’s new online, self-paced math course this August.  Click HERE to check it out and let us know if you want to join our math posse.  We are certainly interested in collaborating about math over the internet with our international teacher friends and readers!

Note: Tale of Two Teachers is in no way financially affiliated with Educating Now. We simply love their work and both use it regularly in our respective classrooms.This post was written with permission from Nikki Lineham, teacher in SD61 and part of Educating Now. 

Karley

No pencils, no papers, no problems

My grade 8s have a very exciting year end trip coming up! In a few weeks all the grade 8s in our school will head out on a paddling and camping trip, which they have been preparing for since January.  Our school is incredibly lucky in that we are situated right on the ocean – some classrooms even have a pretty sweet view – allowing us easy access to the water.  Our school is also incredibly lucky to have two very dedicated teacher leaders who have taken on and developed the Big Canoe program over the last few years.  Check out last year’s trip!

It’s been an interesting experience hearing about all the prep my grade 8s have been doing because indeed they are not only “my grade 8s” – I share them with my teaching partner, Amy.  Most canoe prep days have taken place on Amy’s work days, not mine, so it has been easy for me to be far removed from the program.  That said, in the last two weeks our final paddling “training” days have taken place on MY work days and I definitely cannot complain!

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Happiest teacher in all the land.

Admittedly, most of my work days are filled with meetings before and after school and during breaks, two massive handfuls of behaviour issues, a handful of parent/staff emails to send, a handful of pencils to dish out (because while we can be prepared for canoeing, we are never prepared for math!), a handful of extra photocopying to do…you know what I’m saying?  There isn’t a lot of time to kick back and breathe in the glory that is these last few weeks of grade 8 with my students.  These last few weeks are precious.  Nerves are uncertain and sometimes behaviours come out stronger than ever (and with every behaviour being a form of communication, my goodness…So. Much. Communicating). The end of grade 8 is full of transition days to high school, final IEP meetings with families, ceremony prep galore, wrapping up assignments, report card writing, class party planning, field trips…it’s busy times.

Our days on the water these last few weeks have provided me with one calming thought:

No pencils, no papers, no problems.

During these last few weeks I’ve witnessed my (our) grade 8s work together in ways I thought were unimaginable back in November.  I’ve seen the struggling learners be leaders in the canoes.  I’ve seen my “usual crew” rise up and build shelters, row in sync with one another, and share chocolate treats with their friends.  I’ve seen the more reserved and reluctant students shine brightly as their confidence on the water grows.  There is just so much learning that happens out there with 13 bodies crammed into one canoe – we have no pencils, we have no papers, and we truly have no problems.  It’s beautiful.

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I think, for me, the icing on the cake was being present with some of my students and staff at a recent town hall meeting where our canoe program was presented to local politicians.  Three of my students stood up to speak about how the canoe program has impacted them and influenced their learning.  Things like teamwork, resilience, creativity and perseverance were brought forward.  As I sat in the (very small) audience my teacher heart glowed with pride for these brave, young people who spoke truth about their learning outside of the classroom and who brought the importance of our school’s canoe program to attention with their testimonies.

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I can’t wait to see what the next few weeks have in store for these incredible kids!

Karley

Letter of Intent

 Along with this news I thought I would share my letter of intent for my application process to help explain my starting place of this educational journey. Some more news to go along with my “Choices and Changes” post… I’ve been accepted to start my Masters of Education for September 2016. I’m very excited about this new step in my education career and even though I know it will be a lot of work I can’t wait for all the learning and growth that will come along with it

Education is constantly evolving: from new curricula to shifts in global society there is always rapid transformation taking place. As an educator, there is always something new to learn and new to experience with my students. I love this part of the job and I am continually excited by the opportunities that come my way. At the same time it can be a challenge to try and figure  out new ways of incorporating  elements like technology while maintaining a focus  on meaningful learning and building a strong sense of community in the classroom. In these early years of my career I have found the most energizing part of my job is meaningful collaboration with other teachers. As we move into a new era of education, I feel passionately that we, as educators, need to learn to find strength, creativity, and community in our fellow educators. Over the past four years there have been numerous times where planning, creating, and teaching with my colleagues has served to enhance, not only the quality of my teaching, but my overall experience as an educator.

Personally, I have experienced a number of very meaningful collaborative teaching experiences in my career. For example, in our school district there is a department called “Learning Initiatives” that creates opportunities for educators to gather together in action research projects. This has been one of the  best ways I have found to improve my practice, both from learning with mentor educators and being involved in comprehensive discussions with other teachers. Since my first year of teaching, a colleague and I have written a blog about our teaching experiences. Blogging has led to a larger network of professional connections and collaboration. Finally, last year I was fortunate enough to work on a team of three teachers, all of whom had a similar passion for teaching and collaboration. As a team we were able to create opportunities for both team teaching and collaborative planning. I found that through this process, students became more engaged and enthusiastic about learning.

Due to my positive experience engaging in action research and inquiry with my colleagues, I am very interested in pursuing research related to how teachers can engage in meaningful collaboration within the current school system, particularly at the middle school level. I feel that the Master of Educational Leadership program is a good fit for me because I am passionate about improving my personal practice and finding ways to bring my research and learning to those around me. The cohort model offered by Vancouver Island University will benefit me as collaboration and working with others is an important part of my learning process. Leadership seems to be the best fit for both the study of collaboration and my desire to become an agent of change in our school system.

Professional development is very important to me, and I have been involved in professional development organizations since my undergraduate degree where I spent two years as the Workshop Coordinator for the Education Students’ Association. As Workshop Coordinator I organized six workshops a year and was heavily involved in the planning and implementation of a large conference for new and pre-service teachers. Over the past four years of teaching with the Greater Victoria School District, I have continued to be involved in professional development through my school’s professional development committee and I currently sit on the Pro D Committee for the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association. I think these experiences show my commitment to being a leader in professional development at both school and district level.

In the future, I plan to use my experience as an educator and researcher to become a teacher leader in my district. I intend on continuing to be active  in our professional learning community and will take on leadership roles amongst my colleagues. Through my research I hope to find effective ways to promote and utilize meaningful collaboration in the schools where I teach. My past experience, passion for the job, and desire to learn and share make me an ideal candidate for the Master of Educational Leadership program. I believe that being accepted into and successfully completing this program is  an important and necessary step for me in achieving my teaching goals.

Meaghan

 


Teach it Tuesday: New Curriculum & Science

Disclaimer to our out of province and international readers:  Our curriculum here in BC has been undergoing a massive change throughout the last few years.  While utilizing the new curriculum is not mandatory yet, many teachers here in BC are starting to implement various aspects of it into their teaching.

Back in September, when I was still on maternity leave, I knew I’d be teaching grade 8 science again this year so I went to a Pro D session offering ideas on how to integrate some new curriculum concepts and competencies into science lessons.  I thought, “Great! Perfect! I already worked so hard at making all my grade 8 science stuff last year, so I’ll just reuse it all”.  I thought I’d be able to add in some new curriculum based ideas and be done with it.  It’s now February 2016 and guess how much of that stuff I’ve reused?

Precisely NONE of it.  Absolutely nothing. Nichts.

But this is not a bad thing, you guys.  I know it sounds like a lot of wasted effort and time, but it’s not.  Trust me.  One day I will use those resources I created again, but this year just isn’t the right timing.  This year, instead of reusing my old stuff, I’ve discovered something even more resourceful and brilliant…tapping in to my local community of experts. More specifically, I replied to an email from Green Team BC back in September and together with the coordinators, Amanda and Jenny, whipped up a hands on, outdoors science/ecology education program for my class (and a few others classes in our school joined in as well!)

My grade 8 students have been working in our direct community at a park up the road from our school.  Once a month we work with shovels, clippers, gloves and tarps in the park to remove invasive ivy and plant native species in the designated garden area.  So far we have completed two “field study” sessions and we have two more scheduled before spring break in March.

Jenny, our community leader, visits our class the morning of our field study days and does a short lecture with the students.  Recently Jenny shared with us some of the work she’s been doing with the the native plant species directly in our community and that sparked a whole conversation on seeking the indigenous names for the various native plants in the garden.

What I love most about this project is how it lends my students the opportunity to do some intense place based learning.  The park we are working in is an area that many of my students access every single day.  Since we engaged in our first field session in November, my class is starting to see the park in a new way; the students are leaving a legacy in the place they play and learn.

I encourage all educators who may be struggling with the new curriculum to open your minds to creative opportunities and connections your direct school community might have available.  I am proud to say we aren’t even touching the resources I worked so hard to create two years ago…this work we are doing is much more deep and connected to our space and place.

I am really proud of how professionally my students handled their 15 minutes of fame! Read more about what my grade 8s have been up to in science this year HERE.

Karley

 

 

 

 

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?

Meaghan