May 26

The Empty Pickle Jar

I first came across this story on my Facebook timeline, and since then, it has been viewed by people all over the world. It’s a very inspirational and thought-provoking story, and one that I will definitely share with my students one day! Check out the story below:

There’s an inspiring, thought-provoking message here. After watching the video, ask yourself: Have you made enough room for the golf balls? Can you let some of that sand slip through your fingers?

Category: Ideas | LEAVE A COMMENT
January 13

Graphic Organizers

These things are KEY…

Often, students get into a rut of receiving the same grade over and over again. They are quick to see a trend in what they are accomplishing and end up settling for that mark as their goal. But how can students excel past their normal quality of work without receiving a little guidance from the teacher? How can a teacher help a student go from a level 3 to a level 4 while also offering differentiation to students who are not even reaching a level 3?

Graphic organizers help students classify ideas and communicate more effectively, which help students achieve that next-level quality of work. The many uses of graphic organizers include structure writing projects, help in problem solving, decision making, studying, planning research and brainstorming. These organizers provide students with the opportunity to transfer ideas from their minds down to paper while also writing them in structured, yet creative, ways. Most importantly, they’re FUN!

Here is an example of a graphic organizer that I created with some fellow teacher candidates in our Social Studies course:

Graphic Organizer

In Math class today, I had my students a chart-based graphic organizer about various types of angles:

Graphic Organizer2
Graphic organizers can be used in every subject and are a great learning activity for students. Try them; they might just become your favourite thing!


November 30

Sponge Activities

Some of the most awkward moments in the classroom are caused by a lesson ending 10 minutes before it is supposed to. There are no worksheets to work on, no more topics to cover, and no more to review. These ten minutes can quickly turn into a 10-minute battle of trying to keep students in their seats and keeping their voices at a low level.

Sponge Activities
That’s where sponge activities come in! Theses activities are used to fill the last 5-10 minutes of class time with activities that will not only occupy the students, but will also challenge them to think critically. The following is a list of sponge activities suggested by

  • Play a guessing game that challenges individual students or teams of students to identify as many historical figures as they can in a set period of time. You can also play the game by asking students to identify countries, cities, bodies of water, plants, animals, vegetables, authors, fairy tale characters, weather conditions, cars, television shows, or movies. This game is easy to adapt to a particular content area, unit of study, or student interest.
  • Invite student groups to add the numbers in their phone numbers, ages of family members, or street addresses. The group with the highest score wins.
  • Go around the room and ask students to name foods, cities, countries, boys’ names, or girls’ names in A-B-C order. (For example: Asparagus, Beef, and Crepes; Albuquerque, Boston, Columbus; Argentina, Botswana, and Cambodia; Aisha, Brittany, and Camilla.)
  • Use the newspaper or a supermarket circular to create your own version of The Price Is Right. Ask questions such as “What costs more this week, a head of lettuce or three cucumbers?” “Do you think a mattress costs more or less than a cell phone?”
  • Challenge students to identify where various geographic locations (continents, countries, cities, landmarks, bodies of water, etc.) are on a large map. Provide clues as needed.
  • Have students figure out the distance between two cities on a map using the scale. Start with short distances and increase the distance as students get more proficient at doing the math and identifying locations.
  • Call out states and have students name the capital. Call out capitals and have students match them with the state.
  • Call out sports teams (baseball, football, hockey, etc.) and have students identify the city and state they play in.
  • Have students identify careers in which people wear uniforms. Have students identify as many careers as they can in a set amount of time.
  • Provide students with the monthly average rainfall and/or temperature in your city or state (or have them investigate). Then have them use these figures to determine the average total rainfall for the year and average temperature during each season of the year.
  • Challenge students to write acrostic poems for the main character in a story they are reading, a topic they are studying, a favorite subject, or special interest.
  • Play short versions of word games like Scattergories, Boggle, Taboo, and Password.
  • Write three related words on the board or overhead and have students figure out what they have in common. For example:
    • Bears, bats, stalactites (things you might find in a cave);
    • Brake, bell, chain (parts of a bike);
    • Fiction, mystery, biography (types of books/genres)
    • Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento (cities in California); and
    • Niagara Falls, Grand Canyon, Redwood Forest (natural wonders).
  • Ask students to write down as many food items, animals, flowers/plants, boys’ names, girls’ names, colors, sports figures, historical figures, etc., that begin with a certain letter of the alphabet in two minutes. Use a timer. When time is up, work with the class to write a final list on the board. For example: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, beans, baloney, bagels, Boston cream pie, beef, barley, bell peppers, bok choy, or bread.
  • Tell students to list all the words they can using the letters in their last name, first name, a vocabulary word, month of the year, or day of the week.
  • Invite students to develop five quiz questions (with an answer sheet) and then exchange papers with their seatmates for an impromptu review.
  • Let students become critics and write or deliver quick reviews of recent movies, TV shows, video games, sports events, or restaurant/cafeteria meals.
  • Give individuals, pairs, or teams of students a chance to discuss the question “If you had $1,000 to donate to a worthy cause, what would it be and why?”
  • List five historical events on the board and ask students to put them in chronological order. Then ask them to list five important events in their personal history and put them in chronological order or on a time line.
  • Write a haiku about a favorite relative, holiday, hobby, emotion, or place.

What types of sponge activities do you find effective? Are there any others that you suggest trying?

October 14

Report Card Wows and Woes

Some kids get a laptop.

Some kids get grounded.

Other kids get a pat on the back. (… me)

In a child’s educational career, report card season can be one of the scariest and most dreaded times of the year. Every student wants to do well in school, but when it comes to report cards, their successes or shortcomings are in plain view for their teachers and parents to see. Can, then, the stress that comes along with distributing report cards be overshadowed because of the importance they contain?

Report Card2
Many teachers would probably say that report cards might be the least favourite part of their job. No, not because they take a very long time to write. Rather, it is difficult for teachers to represent months of a student’s accomplishments and experiences on a single sheet of paper represented by a single grade. If not analyzed properly, students and teachers might only see the grade and pass judgement based on that. However, it is almost impossible to paint a complete picture a months of work for anyone under those circumstances.

Despite multiple criticisms about the process, report cards are essential for informing parents of student progress, as they traditionally serve as the overall measure of assessment of a child’s success in school. Growing Success, albeit a government document, discusses the purpose of report cards:

“The report card grade represents a student’s achievement of overall curriculum expectations, as demonstrated to that point in time” (page 39).

This information can be used to communicate to students, parents, school administration, psychologists, and even college and university admission departments. So, yes, report cards do serve a useful purpose in the educational development of a student.

But back to my initial question: Can the stress that comes along with distributing report cards be overshadowed because of the importance they contain? I think the main problem with this whole situation is that there is stress, period. I understand that some students may not be proud of a particular mark they received, nor do they want to share it with their parents. Cooper had a great response to this topic, as one of his Guiding Principles states:

“A report card grade should not be a surprise to the teacher who determine it, nor to the student and parent who receive it” (page 212).

This is to say that teachers should be aware of all of their student’s progress, the student should be a self-reflective learner and know where they sit in terms of their achievement, and parents should be active members of their child’s education, thus getting involved with their learning and having check-ins with the teacher along the way.

And if parents or students are still scared about the upcoming report card distribution, you could always send home this letter a few days before they’re released:

Report Card

June 1

My Interest with Pinterest

Yup, I caved… I got a Pinterest account.

I held off for a long time, but honestly, there’s just too many teaching resources on there for me not to sign up. Everything from classroom ideas, to lesson planners, to bulletin boards, to activities… It’s got it all.


And now you can join me in my new creative way of procrastinating:

Pin away, my friends.

Category: Ideas | LEAVE A COMMENT
March 15

Internet Safety

Internet Safety3
Internet safety is a growing concern in our technology-saturated society. We’ve all been told over and over again that our identity is never safe, that we are never anonymous, and that what you put on the internet is out there forever. But how much of this concern is actually absorbed by our students? And how can we teach them about the severity of internet safety?

Back in high school, we had a guest lecture come speak to us about internet safety, specifically about Facebook. Unbeknownst to us, the presenters created a fake Facebook profile and added everyone from our school in the weeks prior to their presentation. Over 100 students accepted their friend request… They make this profile as a social experiment, showing us just how easy it is for someone to make a fake account and gain access to hundreds of people’s information.

A key way of teaching internet safety to students is through the SMART Rules system.

Internet Safety

March 5


I’m sure by now, most of you have heard about TEDxTalks. But I bet you didn’t know they’ve been around since 1984! For those of you that don’t know what TEDxTalks are, here’s a brief overview from their website:

TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.

These presentations are engaging and jam-packed with information, yet short enough to maintain the audiences attention. There are thousands upon thousands of TEDxTalks! On the topic of education alone, their website has 352 pages of videos! Theses talks are a great teaching tool and can be used with pretty much any lesson being given in any subject.

The following video is from a TEDx conference and features a number of big name presenters discussing the topics of education, teaching, and leadership:

Looking for a content-relevant way to fill up those last 10 minutes of class? Try a TEDxTalk!

January 23

Post-It Notes

What did we do without post-it notes? Seriously though… Those small, coloured, partially sticky pieces of paper possess a magnitude of magic that is unmeasurable. They got me to thinking: How can these amazing little things be used in the classroom to help a teacher? Check out 7 ways below:

Post-It Notes

January 20

Is Twitter An Effective Teaching Tool?

Yes, technology runs our world. Yes, everyone is consumed with the latest technology trends, gadgets, and apps. Yes, technology can be beneficial in our learning. But does there come a time when we stretch too far to qualify a specific technology as an effective teaching tool?

Take Twitter for example. Information is posted in condensed, 140-character posts in real-time from around the world. Seems useful. However, does allowing students to use Twitter for an educational purpose outweigh the distractions that can come with the website? Will a student be more interested in searching what the teacher has instructed them to, or will they want to know what so-and-so #subtweeted about so-and-so?

The following image displays some of the current ways that teachers can use Twitter with their students:


What do you think? Is Twitter a beneficial tool to be using with students in the classroom? Or are teachers trying too hard to adapt their lessons to their students desires in the hopes of maintaining their attention? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!