More Presentations

I haven’t been blogging, but I have ideas to share and need to brush up on a few posts, as I got busy with work and setting up the Scholastic Book Festival the past few weeks.

Currently, counting down the day to the start of our Goose Hunting Break!  Up north, we do not have a March Break. Our spring break is delayed until the end of April, when the community shuts down, packs up their bag and heads for their bush camp for two weeks of hunting. Most of the non-native teachers or outsiders head “back south” to visit family and friends. This year, I’m doing something different and going to DisneyWorld for 6 days … YAHOO!!! I haven’t been since I was a tween!

Anyway, in our science course, we are currently in the middle of our ‘Earth and Space’ unit, exploring the origins of fossil fuels, the pros and cons of wind turbines and learning about other forms of energy resources.

This afternoon, my Grade 11s did a presentation comparing two types of energy resources, which they’d been working on for the last two weeks. Many of my students are fairly shy, but I didn’t have to drag any of them to the Smartboard (there were a few that put up a fight the first time we had presentations!). They were much more comfortable starting off, knowing what to expect. Also, my strategy with shyer students is for me to sit at the back of the room, zip my lips and just let them take the reins. The small group of students who were present today all did some excellent work!

If you recall, my students are English Language Learners. Cree is their first language and many of them struggle with technical science words. Kids “down south” might be exposed to the ideas of climate change or photosynthesis even through popular media, but I often have to break the ideas down to make sure every single student is on the same page. Especially in a classroom made entirely of ELLs, it is integral to go back to basic definitions. Recently, we’d been using Quizlet a lot and it’s working beautifully (a more detailed post to come).

Also, I’d written back in November that giving time for ELLs to research, read and create an oral presentation improves their literacy skills in a myriad of ways. And over the past several months, I’ve definitely seen some of my weaker students transform and show better engagement and improved confidence in answering questions and reading aloud! These are students that, at the beginning of the year, would sometimes stare at me in utter silence!

It’s really great when you’ve realized how far they’ve come. We will be finishing our presentations tomorrow and Monday. I’m looking forward to it … as well as the weekend!


“Test Flashbacks”: Science Lab Safety

This is my third year of teaching. One of the things I’ve neglected to do in the past two years is to to take up tests.

Often, I felt that students didn’t care about correcting their mistakes and/or it would take too long to go through every single question. But was this a projection of my own feelings? It really is the responsibility of the teacher to set the right tone if a task is important; just because I get the impression that they don’t care doesn’t justify not doing it.

And we started with the most important unit: science lab safety. I have an obligation to fix major misconceptions. I cannot afford to have students misunderstand a major safety rule when working with chemicals and dangerous lab equipment.

So today, I told Grade 10s and the 11s that I’d like to improve as a teacher, because having a growth mindset is important. I said that this year, we will always have a “test flashback” to discuss where we went wrong. This is how we learn and this is how I can enhance students’ metacognition.

There are four main purposes to the flashback:

  1. To note major mistakes – Which part did I struggle with?
  2. To learn from our mistakes – How can I improve next time?
  3. To see how the class did as a whole – Did everyone flunk? Did everyone do really well? How did I do?
  4. To review important ideas – What were the “big ideas” in this unit? What should I remember?

I don’t go through every single question. I look at the larger trends and identify the strengths and weaknesses of the group. I take photos of actually answers but never, ever reveal who wrote an incorrect responses; however, I might point out a nice drawing Joe or Sally made.

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I asked students, “How many got at least 8 out of 10 on the lab equipment section?” Nearly everyone raised their hand. I asked them to think, “Why was this an easy section?” We discussed how we had used digital flashcards on Quizlet to play a game and familarize ourselves with the equipment. We had talked and practiced saying words aloud (most of my students are English Language Learners so verbal practice is important).

Then we looked at “My Favourite Mistakes” and discussed the correct answers as a class. This idea comes from “My Favourite No” from the Teaching Channel.

Here’s one example:

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I made a joke out of this one. I held my coffee mug in my hand, turned it upside down and said, would this be a good way of heating my cup over the fire? Everyone laughed. Will they remember it? Of course!  Laughter helps with your memory.

At the end of the Powerpoint presentations, I gave everyone a slip of green paper. They were asked to choose one of the three mistakes and write an explanation of the correct answer. They were given thumbtacks and stuck it up on the bulletin board, which acted as “The Parking Lot”. Students were asked to write their response on the back and others could come and see what other responses were written.

It was a great little lesson and an easy way to give another mark!

End of First Week!

Just finished my first week of teaching!

It’s true what they say, the first couple of years is always the hardest. Being in my third year now, I feel as if things are coming together. It really helps a lot that the I have been teaching most of the same students for two years and they know what my expectations are. I couldn’t have imagined a better first week with such a smooth running classroom (although once I lost misplaced the photocopies I was going to teach with).

I took some more photos of my class.

Read on!

Below: Took an old cardboard paper sorter that the admin didn’t want anymore. I snatched it up as soon as I saw it! These things are actually quite expensive, often over $50! I covered it with some colourful wrapping paper, but still need to relabel the shelves. The students pick up their daily handouts from here.

Below: The pencil case system is working quite wellI. Pencil cases #1 through 10 are on blue and the others are red. A sign on the wall explains that each case has a calculator, a red pen, a pencil and an eraser; if anything is missing, the teacher should be notified during the same period. It is the first thing students pick up when they come in and they get the pencil case with their “special ninja code”.

About 90% of the students do this on their own; I still have a few stragglers that come in and sit down empty-handed, wondering what to do … I have to gently chide them but I never, ever, EVER help them get their pencil cases.

I have reinforced these expectations with a few resentful rants that “I am not anyone’s waitress.” I really got tired of cleaning up after every period last year. In the last five days, I have had practically no issues.

BelowThe ladder of consequences, which I started today. Each student – in total, I have approximately 44 on paper – have their name written on a clothespin. If there is any misbehaviour, their clip goes on “verbal reminder #1”.

I explained to students that this is how I treat everyone fairly; everyone is given the opportunity to have a couple of warnings. Transparency and consistency reduces escalation as students can clearly see the consequences and where they stand.

Below: One of my favourite posters. I printed this a couple of years ago and found that it was still fairly intact. These posters help students with their metacognitive skills and encourage students to flip from a ‘fixed mindset’ to a ‘growth mindset’.

One of my favourite students, L., was reading this aloud from the bottom to the top and dancing as he read the last sentence! It was pretty funny.

Below: Yesterday, I made a foldable for our INB (interactive notebook) to review the place value system. While this might obvious to a lot of kids, second language learners can struggle with the terms, so it’s imperative to review the basics. This is also an opportune time to do some diagnostics and helps me figure out where each student stands.

Today, we did a lesson on rounding and I encouraged them to review using their foldable; these good habits build independence and gives them a set of tools for them to refer to, when they need it. Better than flash cards and I don’t have to run around the room answer the same question half a dozen times!

Below: A little poetry to help with our rounding lesson! This rhyme comes from Math with Mrs. D.


Below: Our secret math ninja codes on their pencil cases.

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