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!


January 5

Teen Pregnancy

The relationship between teenage pregnancy and education goes in both directions. Teenagers who become pregnant are more likely to drop out of school and teenagers who drop out of school are more likely to become pregnant. Also, children of teen mothers are less likely to graduate from high school than children whose parents were older at the time of childbearing.

– Missionaries of the Sacred Heart

We often talk about poverty, race, and learning disabilities as key factors that prevent students from excelling in school. But another trend in education is the amount of teenaged pregnancies and their effects on success in school. During my time in high school, there were a few girls that I knew of that had given birth or had an abortion, yet the stats displayed below really intensified this topic for me:

Abortions and childbirths are occurring in astronomical numbers, and these stats are only from Canada! But just how serious of an effect does pregnancy have on the academic success of a study?

  • Only 38% of teen mothers who have a child before the age of 18 graduate from high school, compared to approximately 75% of women who delay child bearing until 20-21.
  • Parenthood is a leading cause of dropping out of school among girls. 30% of teen girls cited pregnancy or parenthood as a reason for dropping out of high school.
  • Woman who are 20-21 when they give birth are over 4 times as likely to have a college degree by the time they are 30 as woman who have a child before the age of 18 (9% compared to <2%).
  • 2/3 of children of teen mothers graduate high school, compared to 81% of the children of parents who were older at the time of childbearing.
  • Children of teen mothers are 50% more likely to repeat a grade as children of older parents.
  • Teenagers who drop out of school are more likely to get pregnant than their peers who stay in school.

Catholic schools teach abstinence; public schools teach contraception. Which is more effective? Is abortion a better alternative for teen students than childbirth? And what are the effects, if any, on the father? I will definitely look into these questions and more during further research on this topic.

November 13

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)

Yesterday, I wrote a post about EQAO testing. To continue with the theme of standardization, let’s take a look at PISA.

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is an international survey that is administered every 3 years. PISA aims to evaluate education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students. PISA discusses what makes them different on their website:

PISA is unique because it develops tests which are not directly linked to the school curriculum. The tests are designed to assess to what extent students at the end of compulsory education, can apply their knowledge to real-life situations and be equipped for full participation in society.

Just like the EQAO standardized test, PISA has created large debates within countries around the world regarding where they rank in comparison to the other countries. Here is a televised discussion regarding Canada’s PISA ranking:

What are your thoughts on standardization, either within Ontario (EQAO) or in relation to countries worldwide (PISA)?

November 12

Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO)

Standardized testing is a very controversial subject within the education system. The goal of standardized tests are to outline the achievements and shortcomings of schools within a specific subjects, as compared to other schools within a similar area. EQAO (Education Quality and Accountability Office) is an example of a standardized test within Ontario. EQAO seeks to measure Ontario students’ achievement in reading, writing and math at key stages of their education, such as grade 3 and 6. Here is a video outlining more about this process and mass amount of work that goes into creating these tests:


However, there are many opposing views to standardized testing. Tests perhaps aren’t the best representation of a student’s understanding of a particular subject. Questions are also raised surrounding the idea that Mathematics and Language are being placed at a higher importance than the other subjects simply because they are the only subjects represented in the EQAO tests. There is also a lot of money that is put into these tests that could be put elsewhere in the education system.

The EQAO test has also created some controversy by publishing the results of every school on their website. For example, here are the results for the school that I am completing my Community Service Learning and practicum at:

EQAO - Pinecrest Junior
Alternatively, here are the results from the school that I attended elementary school:

EQAO - St. Matthew Junior
The differences between these two schools are significant to say the least. Does this mean that my elementary school provided a better education than the other school? Perhaps. But also, perhaps not. Standardized tests provide a very narrow view of whether or not students are capable of achieving a high grade on a written test for a specific subject. There are many variables that go into the EQAO scores, yet these results are displayed at face value on an open forum. This could lead to the formation of a negative impression of a school, discouraging families from sending their students to that school or even living close to it.

Should standardized tests be administrated? Should their results be available to the public or used specifically for internal knowledge and making the schools better?


November 5

Learning is Subjective

SubjectiveBold statement, isn’t it?

Perhaps standardized tests wouldn’t like that statement, or even the curriculum for that matter. Nonetheless it’s true. Think about students in university: they are learning a variety of topics and taking from them what they will need to apply themselves in the real world. If an artist reads a picture book, is he going to focus on the literary devices present in the story, or the drawings that accompany them? Yes, there is subliminal learning that will occur during any lesson, but it is important to acknowledge what our students are interested in and what they will choose to take away from the lesson.

Once we open ourselves to the idea that students take away things that they are interested in from class, then we are able to adopt a student-centred approach to teaching and learning. How do we ensure that a lesson has something that every student will be interested in? Multi-modality in our approach to education is our best option. As Trent (2009) defines in Re-Placing the Arts in Elementary School Curricula: An Interdisciplinary, Collaborative Action Research Project:

“Multi-modality refers to the increasing combination of multiple modes of meaning – linguistic, visual, and auditory” (page 15).

Trent provides this definition to defend his claim that lessons in various subject areas can, and should, be integrated with the arts. As a subject that unfortunately gets overlooked by teachers, art is an important component of almost every subject area; not to mention it sparks interest for students that are not fond of the concept matter at hand. Abt-Perkins (1993), contributor to The Astonishing Curriculum, provides an exceptional example of how student success was fostered and achieved in a science class by allowing students to adopt a multi-modal approach to their education. While reading research reports:

“Our students resisted our framework and replaced reports of research processes with story plots, scientists with narrators, and scientific subjects with characters. They seemed interested in knowing the story of how the information came to be, not just the information itself” (page 100-101)

Does this mean that the students didn’t fully comprehend the research report because they were reframing it to be a literary story? On the contrary! This example goes to show how learning far beyond the teacher’s expectations can be achieved by framing the subject matter in a way that students enjoy and relate better to.

During each of these readings, the idea of subjective learning and incorporating art kept bringing be back to the same scene of the same movie. In Mona Lisa Smile, Julia Roberts shows her students that learning doesn’t have to be taught from a textbook and that it is encouraged to form your own opinions and guide your own learning. The following scene depicts this concept:

Just as the interpretation of art can be subjective, so can the learning that occurs within our classroom walls. By challenging our students to reframe the concepts being taught into relatable and enjoyable themes, as achieved through multi-modality, they will be more engaged in their education and learn far more than what we can provide to them.

September 29

Self-Assessment and the Self-Reflective Learner

How great would it be if students were able to assess their own work? Even better, how great would it be if students assessed their own work throughout the completion process, allowing them reflect on the quality of their work and set goals for improvement?

Thankfully, self-assessment is a thing!

As educators, we can do so much than simply teach students the curriculum; we can teach them how to be independent, self-reflecting individuals. These qualities will prove to be extremely beneficial in all areas of the student’s life, extending beyond their time in the classroom.

By including students in the evaluation process through self-assessment, they develop the habit of self-reflection. They learn to define the qualities of good work, how to differentiate pieces of work against these qualities, how to step back from their work to assess their own efforts and feelings of accomplishment, and how to set personal goals. Ultimately, self-assessment teaches the students to be active learners, being alert and constructive during the entire process of learning.

Additionally, self-assessment teaches the student that the idea of assessment doesn’t have to be scary, related to grades on projects, or administered by a teacher. Rather, it shows students that assessment can be a useful tool in the process of work-completion, allowing them to reflect on what they have done so far, what they still need to do, and how they will get there.

Both Cooper (2010) and Gregory & Chapman (2013) provide us with various methods of completing self-assessment. Two of the methods that I find to be most beneficial, as presented by Cooper, are the survey and the checklist. The survey provides teacher with an indication of where the student’s attitudes and skills fall on a continuum. This can be a great tool prior to the beginning of a new unit or project, as it allows the student to reflect on their own attitudes and behaviours while also priming the teacher with areas that might need more attention.

Checklists are a great tool in that they clearly define steps and tasks that must be completed, as outlined in the rubric. This is a great tool because it encourages the student to be self-reflective of their work, ensuring that every step and criteria has been met while also allowing them to be critical of the quality of their work.

Gregory & Chapman show us that self-assessment is not only possible for individual work; it can be conducted for group work as well. The students are able to reflect on their own contributions, they effectiveness of their collaboration skills, and outline areas of improvement that they will strive for during future group activities.

I’ve had many opportunities for self-assessment throughout my education, specifically in high school and university. As a teacher, I am going to strive to implement reflection into all areas of learning, despite what grade I teach. It is never too early to begin working on bettering yourself as a learner.


September 18

Photo Sharing: The Good and the (very, very) Bad

Photo sharing is a large part of our social media presence. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat are all apps that are largely, or completely, revolved around photo sharing. I am an avid user or social media outlets and I share photos of myself, my friends, and my family. In addition, I like seeing updates from my friends and family members through photos that they share. However, as a 21-year-old, I feel like I am responsible in the way that I conduct myself on social media.

But can photo sharing go wrong? What happens when children have not adequately been taught how to properly use social media and been given safety tips for photo sharing?

Lets look at Amanda Todd’s story.

Amanda Todd was a 15-year-old girl from British Columbia that got caught up in the negative world of photo sharing. While in an online chat room, Amanda was convinced to show her chest to a man on the other side. Unbeknownst to her, the man took screen caps of Amanda and later used them to blackmail her to get more “action” from her. Eventually, the photos were shared with Amanda’s friends and family. In the midst of all of the blackmail and bullying caused by the photos, Amanda Todd made the following video:

One bad lapse in judgement led to a photo going viral, bullying of all forms (especially cyber bullying), and eventually a suicide. Amanda committed suicide about a month after posting this video on YouTube.

This is clearly a tragic example of how what we do on the internet and what we share with others can have repercussions that we cannot reverse. Throughout the story, we learned that people continued to taunt Amanda, even when she was at her lowest during her self-harm. Teenagers can be cruel in these cyber situations, not realizing the full implications that their words and comments can have on the lives of real people.

Luckily, there are many people who have been outraged by what happened to Amanda. Most importantly, there are many teens that have been outraged. Watch the following video to see teens discussing Amanda Todd’s story, their own experiences with bullying, and their thoughts on internet safety.

This story is an clear explanation on why we have to teach our students the importance of internet safety, especially concerning photo sharing. Below are a list of questions we should all ask ourselves before posting a photo on social media. Photo sharing is a trend that will not be going away anytime soon. Therefore, it is important that we make lessons on this topic for the safety of our students.

Internet Safety2

September 16

Blogging: The Writings of the 21st Century

Technology changes so rapidly in our current day and age, and schools are doing a great job of keeping up-to-date with the trends! Many students have their own blogs and websites, or they are familiar with how they work based on their experiences with social media (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc.). Additionally, students enjoy reading blog posts compared to newspaper articles or textbooks. From what I’ve read, many teachers are changing their writing and English projects to be completed in cyber space in the form of a blog. This keeps the students engaged and invested in the school work that they are doing!

Check out the image below for more information about blogging is not necessarily about the technology, but rather about the continual engagement of the students:


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!