October 19

Applying the Principles of a Positive Learning Environment

As someone who is just beginning my career as a teacher, I often wonder, “What is the most important thing that I can offer my students?” Can I provide them with an innovative educational experience that prepares them to become super geniuses? Can I ignite a sense of curiosity in my students that will later translate into the next best invention? Can I model for them what it means to be a responsible citizen that treats others with dignity and respect? Perhaps… But none of this is possible unless I first create a safe, supportive, and healthy learning environment for each and every one of my students.

I believe that creating a positive, safe and supportive classroom environment is one of the most important aspects of teaching. The one thing that I can guarantee for my students is an environment in which they feel safe, as we know not all students have a stable home life. Students want to feel comfortable to express themselves freely and not have the fear of rejection by their peers or their teacher. This not only benefits their self-image, but it allows them to take academic risks, which enhances their overall learning.

The way that I view a safe, supportive, and healthy learning environment is like a family. You may not have chose your siblings (your classmates) or your parents (your teacher), but you are all in this family together. As a family, you have each others backs in the hard times and always have each others best interests in mind. You support one another and want to see everyone succeed.

But how do we build the classroom community that houses our family? It is my belief that a safe learning environment must be based on mutual trust and respect and provide social and emotional support for students. This can be achieved by implementing practices that fosters support. Firstly, students strive on routine and stability. Most people are privy to the classic classroom guidelines, but it is important to take this one step further. As the facilitator of the classroom, teachers must take a step back and allow the students to create the classroom guidelines. Rather than telling the students what they ought to do and why, this approach allows students to collaborate in the process and feel a sense of responsibility and ownership. The teacher can prompt students throughout the process by asking questions like, “What helps to you learn while you are in class?”, “What stops you from learning?”, or “How should we respond if someone fails to keep these agreements?” but ultimately, the students should take ownership of their guidelines.

Another way to build classroom community is by developing personal relationships with each and every student so that they are understood as an individual and the teacher is aware of each student’s needs. I never liked it when my teachers or professors introduced themselves and shared all of their amazing life experiences and then never asked the students to share about ourselves. It sets the precedence that the teacher matters and the student doesn’t. It is important to provide students with the opportunity to discuss or share their backgrounds and cultures, expressing exactly what makes them the person they are.

I like to think of myself less as a ‘teacher’ and more as a ‘facilitator of education’. I do not transmit my knowledge to students; I learn far too much from my students to not have the learning be reciprocal. Rather, I provide students with learning environments in which they have responsibility for their own learning. Teacher facilitated, student-driven learning allows students to learn by doing, writing, designing, creating, making and solving, not just by listening.

Ultimately, when it comes to building a classroom community, believe in your students and they will begin to believe in themselves. It may take a while for you to instill this understanding in your students, but once students realize that we genuinely care for them, we know we are on the path to creating a positive and healthy learning environment.

Throughout my Bachelor of Education, I have come to learn that there are so many philosophies behind each teaching practice. Whether it’s about implementing the curriculum, student learning styles, classroom management, or student discipline, each teacher has the task of evaluating the many philosophies and adopting their own that guides their practice. When it comes to classroom environment and culture, I truly respect the idea of restorative practice. Although restorative practice gives the impression of being a reactive approach, when implemented properly and regularly, it has many proactive benefits.

As Bob Costello, Joshua Wachtel, and Ted Wachtel explain in The Restorative Practices Handbook for Teachers, Disciplinarians and Administrators, teachers must do things WITH students, rather than TO them or FOR them. By implementing a learning environment that uses both “high control” and “high support”, students will be both safe and supported in their learning.

There will be times in every classroom when conflict arises. However, the way we view and approach this conflict is very important. Conflict is simply a challenge that allows the opportunity to develop, learn, and grow through an exchange of different views and perspectives. As teachers, we have nothing to gain and everything to lose by arguing back and forth with a student, especially with other students as an audience. Even how we approach conflict between two students is important. The Restorative Continuum in The Restorative Practices Handbook provides insight for teachers about the various ways to respond to harmful behaviour.

Informal                                                                                                                 Formal
Affective statements Affective questions Small impromptu conference Group or circle Formal conference

 Rather than scolding the student for inappropriate behaviour, it is important to give the student control, allow them take responsibility for their actions, and rectify the situation. This is a different approach for many teachers, and I can tell you that it feels a little awkward at first, but prompting the students with questions like, “What happened?”, “Who has been affected by what you have done?”, and “What do you think you need to do to make things right?” will give students the opportunity to take ownership of their behaviour. It is important to remember that just like how students can make an error on a math test, students can also make errors in their behaviour. They are not “bad kids”, but they simply made a mistake.

I find that I remember to give the student ownership of their behaviour is by providing them with choice. I don’t believe that any student wants to misbehave; sometimes, students just don’t know how else to respond. By giving students choices, we allow them to take ownership of their response while also sending the message that we respect their decisions.

The main thing to remember when approaching harmful behaviour is to remain calm at all times. Students know when you are not happy, and they know when they can take advantage of your mood. When a teacher responds negatively to a student, it breaks down the trust that has taken so much time and work to build. It also disregards the concepts of a safe and supportive learning environment. Take a breath, smile, and set a positive mood for the learning environment.

There have been a number of practices that I have seen during my practicum experiences that help to contribute to positive learning environments. A restorative practice that I’ve seen is circle time at the beginning and end of each week. This time allows students to express their thoughts and ideas, share their feelings or apprehensions, build deeper relationships with their peers and teacher, and practicing collaboration. These circles, when implemented correctly, establish the classroom as a safe space and help to maintain emotional safety.

I am also a strong believer that collaborative learning is a practice that supports a safe and supportive learning environment. In my own teaching, I try to use pair work, as well as small-group and whole-class activities throughout the learning process. It is important to start this during the first week of school to help students get acquainted with one another and provide opportunities to from connections with students they don’t interact with as frequently inside or outside of the classroom. As I learned in the documentary #bullyPROOF, it is less likely that someone will bully a person that they know well. Therefore, group work supports both relationship building and academic achievement.

Within the walls of the classroom, we can engage in many actions that create supportive learning environments. Something as simple as displaying student work on the walls promotes student ownership of the room. When students look around and see their work and achievements, they feel comfortable and proud to be where they are. As I’ve said before, circle activities promote that everyone is equal and valued, and that we are all able to express feelings or solve problems. Circle guidelines such as a talking stick and the right to pass instill a greater sense of safety. When students need time to themselves to self-regulate, a predetermined safe space can provide that extra sense of safety.

The school itself can contribute to the overall essence of positivity. Initiatives such as “Caught You Caring” where school staff recognize students for their contribution to creating a safe and healthy school environment will encourage students to adopt their own positive actions. Assemblies that recognize student character and achievements sets the precedence that this is ultimately what the school values, not just marks or grades. Even something as simple as spirit points during intramurals or sports gives value to what is expected for everyone to win.

Safe and supportive learning environments can also be developed by extending the walls of the school to include the surrounding community. Engaging in community initiatives give students a chance to feel that they are doing something good, not for themselves but for others. This is especially important for students that feel they are being viewed as the “bad kid” at school.

Every teacher should create a safe, healthy, and supportive learning environment, but they cannot do it alone. Students must drive this movement and know that the classroom is their environment to create. I am just starting my teaching career, but if I continue to explore ways in which I can promote a positive learning environment for my students, then I know that I am doing what matters most for our next generation. I have a lot to learn and a lot to practice, but students are my focus and I will do what needs to be done for each of them to feel valued and successful.

October 5

Positive Self-Image through Growth Mindset

“Motivated students can conquer all; unmotivated kids on the other hand, who hold back because they think they can’t change themselves are destined to a long and tedious trail through their school years.”

Today’s generation of students are very different than the last. Children experience a number of different influences each and every day, such as friends, family, and teachers, and when you combine all that with celebrities, social media, and advertisements, students have no choice but to look inward. Our self-talk is an important part of our well-being; are we confident with the person that we are and the talents that we have, or are we inadequate in the standards that others put on us? The stories you tell yourself and the things you believe about yourself can either prevent change from happening or allow new skills to blossom. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the difference between a growth and fixed mindset.

growth-mindsetAs teachers, we must look at each of our students and identify the potential that they have, even when they do not recognize it in themselves. Students can think that they’ll never be as smart as ____, or as athletic as ____, or as popular as ____. But this inability to even consider or explore their potential is extremely damaging. The worst part is that teachers all too often play into this mindset for their students. We assume that a student will perform well on a test because they always do, but we never acknowledge how much they study or pay attention in class. Alternatively, we assume that a student will act out in class because they always do, without wondering about why the student is not engaged or distracted. To combat this trend and help instill a growth mindset into our students, we must focus on praising student work habits, encouraging effort, and supporting students’ potential rather than focusing on natural talent and abilities. In other words, we must believe in each and every one of our students and their potential to be amazing.

“When a teacher has an astonishing impact on a student’s life, it is because of one and only one thing: his or her complete belief in that student.”

In my own teaching practice, I often find myself seeking opportunities to compliment or acknowledge a student’s work ethic, especially those who I often find do not get the final answer correct. For those students, it could feel as though they are never going to get the final answer correct, but by making an effort to compliment them on an aspect of their process or their work ethic in general, these students will begin to internalize their efforts as positivity.

During my first practicum, I did an activity with my students that centred around self-image. You can read about it in detail HERE. Essentially, I wanted my students to figuratively throw away all of this external, negative rhetoric that is spewed at them and focus on their internal, positive self-talk. This leads students to feel more in tune with their intrinsic motivation; the drive behind why they do anything at all.

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I really like the idea of the TESA Studies: Teacher Expectation, Student Achievement. I believe this concept find a good balance between teacher’s having expectations of their students, with that of student achievement. Yes, students are expected to do certain things, but the students are also acknowledged for complying. Here are 15 TESA expectations:

  1. Equitable opportunity to respond – Ensuring every student has equal chances to respond
  2. Affirmation or correction, coaching, and feedback comment
  3. Proximity – Nearness to students for managing behaviours
  4. Individual helping – One-on-one tutorials
  5. Praise – For the learning performance or effort
  6. Courtesy – Polite manners, good etiquette
  7. Latency – Wait time, let students think
  8. Reasons for praise – Why, not just what
  9. Personal interest statements – Notice
  10. Delving, rephrasing, giving clues
  11. Listening – Attention to student comments
  12. Touching – Hand on a shoulder to encourage or affirm
  13. Higher-level questioning – Fostering deeper thinking
  14. Accepting feelings – Affirming, confirming, encouragement
  15. Desisting – Not letting student-to-student teacher challenges escalate

Lets help to create confident, driven, and successful students. They are our future, and they need to feel “able” to accomplish anything they set their mind to.

September 29

Perspective on Education: Doing to Learn

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The information I’ve collected about your practicum class definitely informs my goal-setting and planning. There are a lot of considerations to take into account when looking at my classroom makeup. I have students who are new to the country and have very low levels of English. I have other students who are on IEPs in various subjects, including Language and Mathematics. There are other students who have medical considerations, such as ADHD, that sometimes acts a distraction for the student themselves and the peers around them. I also have students who, for one reason or another, come to school in a bad mood and find it hard to follow instructions or get excited about the learning at hand. As teachers, we are to take each of these “ingredients”, mix them together, and bake a healthy, well-rounded cake… or responsible students and citizens.

Knowing everything that I have learned about my class, my planning and goal-setting will most definitely be directed to meet the needs of my students. For example, there are some students who are reluctant to partake in group work, whether it be because of the people they are asked to work with or the task that they are asked to work on. A goal that my Associate Teacher and I have been working towards is developing a classroom culture that embraces group work. We have brainstormed different ideas of what positive group work should look like, discussed and role played different situations involving group work, debriefed with the class about how a period of group work went, and celebrated the successes that positive group work accomplished. With that being said, I will continue to work towards developing a positive culture of group work in my classroom while also remaining reluctant to avoid group work altogether.

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My student’s academic levels vary widely from one another. For example, there is a span PM Benchmarks that range from 1 to 30+, which is essentially the entire system (most fall between 19 to 30). This is where differentiation is key. I will have to get creative with my planning, ensuring that all reading abilities are accommodated for during a singular task. This does not just account for Language class; reading comprehension is needed in all disciplines, including Mathematics. In order to account for differentiating my lessons for each student, I have adopted an inquiry-based, deep learning approach to education.

The concepts of problem-based learning, inquiry-based learning, and deep learning are all practices that I hope to implement into my own teaching. I am passionate about teaching student to enjoy learning and fun, engaging, and innovative approaches to education are what draw this passion out of students. “Doing to learn”, rather than “learning to do” is such an important perspective on education. Student-driven learning is deep learning, which my why currently in my practicum, I am implementing a Genius Hour. For 1 hour every Wednesday that I am there, the students get to learning whatever they want! Well, as long as it has been proposed and approved by me. The students are just started to research answers to the questions they had about their chosen topics and are documenting their learning in a research log book. Eventually, students will create a presentation or a product and teach their peers about their chosen topic. Students thus far have been engaged and are learning to learn on their own; they pose a question and answer it on their own. This will be a truly immersive learning experience for the students that hopefully equate to deep learning.

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September 28

Program Review – JUMP Math

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The JUMP (Junior Undiscovered Math Prodigies) Math program was developed by John Mighton, who lives in Toronto, Ontario. John create the JUMP Math with belief in mind that any student, despite whether they are gifted, average or have a learning disability, has the potential to excel in mathematics. The underlying philosophy of the program is that by breaking down math concepts into their smallest components and combining them with activities to build mathematical confidence, the differences in students’ abilities will be minimized and all students can be successful in math.

There are programs available from grades 1 through 8 and provide workbooks and teacher resources that are to be used every day in the classroom for the full year. They are available for purchase on www.jumpmath.org.


Strengths

The JUMP Math program prides itself on being an Ontario curriculum-based resource. JUMP Math covers the full curriculum for both Ontario and Western Canada through student workbooks, teacher’s guides, and a range of support materials. Despite satisfying the standards of multiple curriculums, it still covers the requirement outlined in the Ontario document.

There are many ways in which the JUMP Math program aligns with the principles underlying the Ontario Mathematics Curriculum, as outlined in the curriculum document. Firstly, the curriculum states that “students learn mathematics most effectively when they are given opportunities to investigate ideas and concepts through problem solving and are then guided carefully into an understanding of the mathematical principles involved” (p. 4). In a typical JUMP Math lesson, the teacher works with the whole class to lead students through a process of “guided discovery” while allowing them to adapt the lessons to their own level of understanding. These whole class lessons allow students to experience discovering knowledge about the concept together, as a collective rather than in an individual, competitive nature. The program’s method of “guided discovery” is very different from rote learning in that students are expected to take the steps themselves with the teacher as a guide rather than a lecturer.

Secondly, the Ontario Mathematics Curriculum states that the transition from elementary school mathematics to secondary school mathematics is very important for students’ development of confidence and competence. This concept of confidence in mathematics is pivotal for the JUMP program. The program starts with a 2-week long confidence building exercise that has demonstrably changed children’s perceptions of their abilities. In connection with JUMP’s approach to whole class lessons, the program promotes the idea that by following the program, students will feel more confident in their math abilities and thus will succeed in the subject

Lastly, the program aligns with the views of the curriculum in recognizing the diversity that exists among students who study mathematics. It provides teachers with resources to differentiate the learning of students. These resources include additional questions and multi-modal approaches to solving math problems, among others.

To further the conversation on differentiation, the Ontario Mathematics Curriculum explains that it is important to make valuable accommodations or modified expectations for students of varying exceptionalities. The JUMP Math program aides with differentiation by providing multiple representations of the same or similar concept help to reach a broader number of students. On the JUMP Math worksheets, concepts and skills are introduced one step at a time, with lots of opportunities for practice. The teacher’s guide suggests that struggling students can complete all of the questions on a worksheet while students who excel can skip some questions and do some extra work or bonus questions. The teachers’ guide even provides teachers with a 7-step process of making appropriate bonus questions for advanced students.

Lastly, the JUMP Program takes into account the fact that children are easily overwhelmed by too much new information. Students also require practice to consolidate the skills and concepts being taught and they benefit from immediate assessment and careful scaffolding of ideas. The program is mainly structured around the scaffolding model, in which students practice inquiry in manageable steps, mastering a concept before moving on. This proves to help immensely with student confidence and concept consolidation.

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Weaknesses

While the JUMP Math program describes itself as a complete resource for the classroom mathematics period, there proves to be a number of weaknesses in the program. First, let’s outline some of the generic weaknesses of the program. JUMP Math only offers programs for grades 1 through 8, which may prove to have a negative effect on students once they transition into the high school grades. If students get used to this singular framework of learning math, then they may struggle with the new structure come high school, especially if their classroom adopts a critical thinking and discovery-based method rather than scaffolding. Additionally, the program seeks to minimize the differences in students’ ability by having them work on the same material at the same pace. By using materials and methods that minimize differences, teachers can cover more of the curriculum and can narrow or close the wide gap in student performance that exists in most classrooms. While this may prove to make it easier for the teacher, it might not translate into the students’ learning. The scores of the low-level students may rise with this approach; however, it could be at the sacrifice of lowering the high achiever’s scores.

Arguably one of the largest downfalls of the JUMP Math program is that many of the process expectations are not fulfilled. Problem solving requires students to develop problem solving strategies. Even though the program has a “guided discovery” approach, they still provide students with the way to solve each problem. Pedagogy teaches us that students’ best learn mathematic concepts through practical exploration and critical thinking. The heavy reliance on workbook material goes against this research. Reasoning and proving requires students to develop reasoning skills and use them in during investigation. There are very few reflection questions present in the student workbook, thus emphasising that the focus is on mastering the skill rather than comprehending the concept.

Through the scaffolding model approach to learning mathematics, the JUMP Math questions are very direct to one aspect of a concept and the workbook provides spaces for students to write their answers. These spaces only allow students to complete the question using the method introduced at the top of the page (Appendix A). As such, students are unable to fulfill the selecting tools and computational strategies expectation. The workbook is organized into sections by curriculum strand and is to be completed in a linear fashion, completing pages in order within those strands. Students who struggle in one area must experience that strand, and only that strand, until it is completed. Additionally, this does achieve the connecting process expectation, in that cross-strand integration of knowledge is not achievable.

The communication process expectation is very much concentrated on the students’ ability to write their mathematical thinking, rather than orally or visually present their understanding. Even when students are asked to communicate work visually, the students are only given one way to do so (i.e. Draw a number line to communicate…). This does not allow students the ability to practice or perform the skill of demonstrating understanding by freeing communicating in whichever mode they chose.

Many aspects of the specific expectations in the Ontario Mathematics Curriculum are not fully achieved. Specific expectations that require the use of a “variety of mental strategies” are not fulfilled in the scaffolding method. In the JUMP Math program, students are expected to master one concept at a time using the strategy provided to them in their workbook. This also means that expectations beginning with “select and justify” or “create and analyse” will also not be achieved, since students can only use the strategy expected of them for that given question.

Students also fail to achieve specific expectations such as “through investigation using concrete materials, drawings…” and “determine through investigation using a variety of tools”. While the workbook sometimes asks students to draw when answering a question, the specific image to be drawn and method of drawing it is outlined for the students (Appendix B). Also, at the end of the day, students are only using one concrete tool: their workbook.


Conclusion

Admittedly, the JUMP Math program is enticing, especially for a newly hired teacher. The program contains a complete, year-long resource that allows the teacher to facilitate learning without the planning. It comes with a full workbook for each student, a detailed teacher manual, and SMART Board material that corresponds with each lesson.

Although the program prides itself on covering the entire Ontario Mathematics curriculum, the pedagogy in teaching methods and critical thinking prove to be ill-aligned. There will be a select few students that truly enjoy having a workbook as a focus for the majority of the lesson; however, there will be more students that would prefer to discover the concept through hands-on problem solving rather than pencil to paper.

The fact that the specific expectations are the focus on the program is practically irrelevant when looking at how many process evaluations are not fulfilled. Communication, reflection, and making connections are extremely important to the student’s learning, especially when working with a subject as complex at math. Critical thinking is a powerful way to promote student’s ability to use many different pieces of information to come to unique solutions to problems. However, the JUMP Math program introduces students to one concept at a time, instructing them how to achieve the required result before moving on to the next component. This scaffolding method, while important for understanding the essence of the concept, does not allow students to think critically about why that method works or how it can be used in another way.

With all this being said, I believe the program has merit in introducing students to the specific skills needed to understand a larger concept. Therefore, it would be a beneficial program to have as a supplementary material to activities, problems, and math games. If these two concepts were used in conjunction with one another, it would allow students to learn math in a variety of ways while also taking them through the learning process of scaffolding skills and utilizing them in practical situations. Based on the information outlined in the Ontario Mathematics curriculum, I do not believe that JUMP Math should be used as the only resource.

Works Cited

Mighton, J., Sabourin, S., & Klebanov, A. (2009). JUMP Math 6.1 (2009 ed.). Toronto: JUMP Math.

The Ontario curriculum, Mathematics, Grades 1-8 (Rev. ed.). (2005). Toronto: Ontario, Ministry of Education.

Appendix A

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Appendix B
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September 25

Year 2 Practicum Reflection: Week #2

My second week of practicum was full of creative instructional lessons, some “interesting” student behaviour, and many learning moments. I was fortunate enough to experience a school assembly that introduced the Terry Fox Run to our students, and I even got to participate in my first Meet the Teacher Night! Let’s go through my week moment by moment.

My first takeaway from my week is just how creative my associate teacher is with his lessons. He is able to take a concept and introduce it in a number of ways to ensure that every student understands and succeeds, while also having fun. An example of this is how we was able to integrate Math, Language, and Religion into one lesson. First, he taught the students how to find a reading in the Bible by looking up the book, chapter, and verse. Next, the students were to read two parables, each discussing the topic of loss (Luke 15: 1-10). This led to a discussion about the meaning of the parable and the lesson we can draw from it. Following this discussion, students answered math questions that combined the religious parables with our fraction unit.

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Finally, to integrate it into our Langauge lesson, students used chrome books to write a story about their own experiences of “loss”. Talk about an integrated and well-structured lesson!

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Later in the week, my associate teacher created Language stations that revolved around stories from my favourite author: Dr. Seuss! He formed 6 groups of 4 students and had them read together through a different Dr. Seuss book. At the conclusion of the book, students were given a handout to fill out which had them practicing their narrative writing skills by describing the beginning, middle, and end of the story. As with all Seuss books, there are important (and genius) underlying messages that the students had to discover. Lastly, to tie the lesson into Religion, the students had to choose a character and identify whether they exhibited a Catholic Graduate Expectation or not. Pretty comprehensive lesson if you ask me!

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This week also marked my first time teaching a lesson while using the full functionality of a SMART Board! The students seemed to be engaged and remain interested in the topic throughout the duration of my lesson. The SMART Board allowed for students to participate in the lesson, and in all honesty, it forced me to make my teaching more student-centred in that they were able to write on the board and teach their peers. The extra student engagement even allowed me to go deeper into equivalent fractions, a concept that we were exploring for the first time, than expected.

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Another neat little tidbit I learned from my other associate teacher is that the Ottawa Catholic School Board released a series of “Language wheels” that outlined the variations among each grade level. Board members found that with there being so many different types of writing that needs to be covered each year, teachers were focusing on some more than other. In theory, this is fine; however, when teachers year after year are focusing on the same types, then students find the others more difficult later in their educational careers. Therefore, these wheels were developed to outline which types of writing should be focused on (In-Depth Study) and which should be reviewed (Light Study) for each grade. Here is an example of the wheel and how writing should be varied between Grade 4 and Grade 5:

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Meet the teacher night was a great experience, especially as a Teacher Candidate. These are the types of events that you aren’t taught about in school and are usually left to figure it out on your own. I loved getting to see how teachers prepared their rooms throughout the week in anticipation of the parents. With our school being more in the urban setting, teachers were unsure of how many parents would actually attend. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw a crowd of parents and students join us for our welcome barbecue and later wandering the halls of our school. It is definitely an interesting thing to meet the parents of your students. It allows you to gain a holistic idea of the student, seeing where they came from and who they go home to. It’s almost like meeting the students’ “other parents”.

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You might have noticed the little numbers on the books above. These books are part of the PM Benchmark system that my school uses to determine student reading level and comprehension. It is a great system that has students to read aloud to a teacher and answer some recall questions about the story. I have continued to complete these assessments throughout my Wednesday visits to the school and its a great way to develop a deeper understanding of the student’s Language ability.

Another great moment from the week was when Mrs. Pickett came into our Grade 5/6 split class with her keyboard and amazing vocals. The students sang along to “Open The Eyes Of My Heart”, which had both English and French sections. It was great to see just how engaged the students were, and how memorized they were with the keyboard. I look forward to seeing our students have more music classes in the weeks to come!

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September 23

Schooling the World

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In one of my university courses yesterday, we watched the film Schooling the World: The White Man’s Last Burden. Admittedly, the internet does a better job of summarizing the video than I would, so here you go:

If you wanted to change a culture in a generation, how would you do it?

You would change the way it educates its children.

The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th century when it forced Native American children into government boarding schools. Today, volunteers build schools in traditional societies around the world, convinced that school is the only way to a ‘better’ life for rural and Indigenous children.

But is this true?  What really happens when we replace another culture’s canon of knowledge with our own?  Does life really get better for its people?

Deep, I know. But there were many good takeaway messages that I wrote down and wish to share here (I apologize if the topics and ideas jump all over the place):

  • The overt goal of residential schools was to kill the Indian inside the child
  • Traditional ways of showing kindness and helping others is being replaced by careers that “help people”, such as doctors or engineers
    • Changing away from teaching students about the heart and spirit, to teaching them about material wealth and gain
  • If you’ve lost your history, then you’ve lost everything
  • Traditional education taught students about their own soil, environment, and how to survive in their own community for generations
  • In modern education, students learn how to use corporate products in urban environments
    • They are unable to survive independently in their own community
  • “We are creating incomplete human beings” because we are teaching information that feeds into a consumer society’s beliefs
  • Schools are factories in which raw materials – students – are to be shaped into functional beings
  • People provide educational aid out of the goodness of their heart, but they don’t stay long enough to see the overall impact and they don’t look broadly enough
    • Forget their own culture, traditions, and language
    • More damaging than good

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September 21

Assessment: A Stool Metaphor

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Many people have the same question when it comes to discussing education: What is assessment and what value does it hold? Christopher R. Gareis and Leslie W. Grant, authors of “Teacher Made Assessment”, speak to the value of assessment and why it has merit in the education system. Curriculum is an important part of teaching, in that it outlines the specific learning expectations per subject in grade-level increments. Instruction is where the teaching comes to life. Teachers take the curriculum topics and provide opportunities for students to learn this knowledge. But how do we know that the students have truly learned from these lessons? To what degree have they learned the topic? This is where assessment comes in.

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Figure 1.1 displays the three components of student learning (curriculum, instruction, assessment) in a simple metaphor: a stool. Curriculum is what information is being taught, instruction is how we teach this knowledge, and assessment is the nature and degree of student learning. The imagery of the stool metaphor speaks volumes in that student learning can only be stable when all three components are present. Without assessment, education becomes a one-way, teacher-to-student transfer of information with no expectation or accountability of actually learning.

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In my experience as a student, I always feared assessment, but understood its value. Assessment typically becomes a grade, which can be intimidating and stress-provoking for many students. Without assessment, though, how does a teacher know we’ve learned? Also, what is the point of learning if we don’t put it into action? Assessment provides us with that opportunity to use our learning to complete a task.

Now, as a teacher, I find myself spending a lot of brain power into creating the assessment component of any lesson or unit. What do I actually want my students to get out of this? How are they going to show me that they’ve learned the information? How can I assess my students without scaring the you-know-what out of them? Assessment serves an important purpose. Let’s continue to explore assessment so that our students learning remains as stable as a stool.

September 19

The Seven Fundamental Principles

As I enter into the second year of my Bachelor of Education, we are further deepening our understanding of curriculum and assessment. Curriculum and assessment are at the core of the teaching profession; without competency in this realm, students will not have the most fruitful education. Growing Success, a document released by the Ministry of Education, outlines seven fundamental principles of assessment. In our class of Teacher Candidates, we explored the possibilities of these principles and shared our experiences relating to each principle in our own teaching.

Principle

Teachers use practices and procedures that…

Evidence

What are the possibilities?

Evaluation

What did you see in the classroom?

Are fair, transparent, and equitable for all students · Fair does not necessarily mean equal

· Differentiation  is key

· Criteria-based assessment, both for- and of-

· Supporting students

· IEPs

· Learning goals and assessment criteria

· Student-made expectations (displayed in an anchor chart)

· Examples of past work that students will be working towards

· Graffiti activity for Catholic Graduate Expectations and how students will achieve these

Support all students, including those with special education needs, those who are learning the language of instruction (English or French), and those who are First Nation, Metis, or Inuit · Providing additional support

· Additional time to complete tasks

· Create diverse learning spaces

· Modified curriculum and tasks

· Varied teaching practices and assessment

· Speech-to-text learning

· Centre-based learning

· Environment: Seating charts and modifications (exercise balls, body breaks)

· Tools: Diagnostic (PM Benchmarks) and reading IEPs

Are carefully planned to relate to the curriculum expectations and learning goals and, as much as possible, to the interests, learning styles and preferences, needs, and experiences of all students · Backwards design, well-prepared lessons

· Knowing your curriculum

· Student-driven learning

· Relate Geography lessons to the locations that the students are from

· Class shows a strength in Language, use to advantage in subjects like Math

· Cross-curricular lessons and activities

· Writing on topics related to students that ties in literacy concepts

· Providing manipulatives and various ways to solve a problem, while also providing extensions for the students that  can take their solutions further

Are communicated clearly to students and parents at the beginning of the school year or course and at other appropriate points throughout the school year or course · Open communication

· Feedback

· Good rapport with parents (leads to ongoing communication)

· Remind App to communicate directly with the students’ parents

· Google Classroom, Calendar, and Mail that the students and parents both have access too

· Regular use of agenda

· Use of school board personnel that can translate during conversations with parents who do not speak English

· Family Math activities that are sent home to build learning environment with family

Are ongoing, varied in nature, and administered over a period of time to provide multiple opportunities for students to demonstrate the full range of their learning · Variety of teaching methods

· Staggered units and assessment to avoid overwhelming students

· Seeing the student’s work change with further instruction during unit (structures changing based on concepts discussed, i.e. use of triangles)
Provide ongoing descriptive feedback that is clear, specific, meaningful, and timely to support improved learning and achievement · Anecdotal records

· Self-assessment

· Preparing students for the summative assessment

· Success Criteria (met/not met yet feedback)

· Gradual Release Model

· Comments on work that students turn in (strengths, next steps)

· Being aware of the students’ learning process and how they came to their end product, rather than just evaluating their final assessment

Develop students’ self-assessment skills to enable them to assess their own learning, set specific goals, and plan next steps for their learning · Student-centred learning · Class Survey: Thumbs up if the student understands

· Refer back to anchor charts for the learning processes

· Students editing or critiquing each other’s work

· Students building off of each other’s ideas during class discussions

September 11

Year 2 Practicum Reflection: Week #1

“For most of us, teaching is not just what earns our paycheck. Teaching is what we were put on earth to do.”

~ Robert John Meehan

Tuesday marked Mr. Burton’s return to the classroom, as I officially started my second year practicum! I am beyond fortunate to have the opportunity to be at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Elementary School, teaching alongside two incredible teachers. In the mornings, I will be teaching in a Grade 5 class, and I’ll have a Grade 5/6 class in the afternoons. From the moment I walked into OLMC, I was blown away by the positivity and faith-filled atmosphere that the school emits. This school and its staff are committed to faith-based education and creating a safe place for students to be.

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For my first week of practicum, I had 3 goals outlined for myself:

  1. LEARN about classroom routine formation from my associate teachers
  2. Begin making meaningful CONNECTIONS with my students
  3. Experience a MEMORABLE moment

I knew my first goal would be achieved during the first week, given how important establishing structure and routines are for classroom management and, ultimately, student success. Morning circles, icebreaker activities, team-building challenges, and student-involved guidelines were all important aspects of the first few days of the school year. When it came to curriculum, the teachers eased into the subject matter, while also establishing some routines (notebooks for each subject, participating in group work, etc.). The first few days of school are truly a unique time of the year, and very valuable for a teacher candidate like myself to experience.

olmc4In a matter of days, I realized that the teachers at OLMC are so creative with their lessons and they display a willingness to try new things, the latter being so important after teaching the same grades/subjects for prolonged periods of time. When it comes to teaching, I’ve already seen knowledge-building circles, placemat activities, turn-and-talks, Number Talks, and think-pair-shares. The thing that I am really fascinated by is the school-wide Brain Breakfast initiative. Every morning, students are given a grade-appropriate word problem, either in Mathematics or Literacy, to jump-start their thinking and learning. This serves as a great introduction to the day’s lesson, or just as a stand-alone critical thinking question. I am very interested to see how this initiative progresses throughout the year and how the students’ learning develops overtime.

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This placement also marks my return to the Catholic Education system. I only ever attended Catholic school growing up and I really appreciated my experience. I missed the prayers on the announcements. I missed the prayers before lunch. Most importantly, I missed continual attention to teaching morals, ethics, and the Catholic faith. Already this week, our students brainstormed way that they could fulfill the Catholic Graduate Expectations. A graduate of the Catholic school system is expected to be:

  • A discerning believer formed in the Catholic Faith community who celebrates the signs and sacred mystery of God’s presence through word, sacrament, prayer, forgiveness, reflection and moral living.
  • An effective communicator who speaks, writes and listens honestly and sensitively, responding critically in light of gospel values.
  • A reflective, creative and holistic thinker who solves problems and makes responsible decisions with an informed moral conscience for the common good.
  • A self-directed, responsible, lifelong learner who develops and demonstrates their God-given potential.
  • A collaborative contributor who finds meaning, dignity and vocation in work which respects the rights of all and contributes to the common good.
  • A caring family member who attends to family, school, parish, and the wider community.
  • A responsible citizen who gives witness to Catholic social teaching by promoting peace, justice and the sacredness of human life.

I am excited to immerse myself in the Catholic curriculum and teach a few Religion lessons of my own!

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I was able to make connections with a few students throughout the week, and I am proud to say that I know all of their names (which always seems to be a challenge for me at first). I’ve had students ask if I am Superman, if I am my associate teacher’s younger brother, and if I am a scientist – all of which are false, but it made for interesting conversations nonetheless! Through establishing theses connections, I was able to experience a memorable moment this week. On the first day of school, we had a new student that had moved from the Philippines two months prior. He was scared, crying, and latched on to his family. I had a conversation with him about how it was my first day at a new school and that I was scared too, but that we would both have a great year and meet so many new friends. Seeing the progression in this young boy from crying with his family on Tuesday to joking around with friends on Friday was truly a testament to how important a safe and positive educational environment is.

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There was so much learning in week #1 and I am looking forward to the learning that is to come!

September 6

Books Are a Teacher’s Best Friend

Books
Last year, I took a course called Teaching Language and The Arts in the Junior Division and our professor expressed her adoration for using picture books in the classroom. The wonderful combination of visuals and textual stories that picture books offer is a valuable literary experience. However, picture books do not have to be used exclusively during literacy; they provide valuable learning opportunities in a number of disciplines.

Our professor asked us to explore the world of picture books, in addition to novels that could be used cross-curriculum, and create an annotated document containing information about three different books. Together with those provided by classmates, a resource bank of picture books and novels was created! Below is information about the three books I happened upon:


Book2
Title: The Other Side

Author: Jacqueline Woodson

Illustrator: E. B. Lewis

Genre: Picture Book

Subject Area(s): Language, History (Social Studies), Art

Grade(s): 4 – 8

Summary: The Other Side is a story of friendship across a racial divide. Clover is a young, African American girl who lives beside a fence that separates her town into a white section and a black section. Her mother tells her that she is not allowed to climb over the fence because it is unsafe on the other side. Clover regularly plays with a group of friends, in view of a lonely white girl. Eventually, Clover starts a conversation with the other girl, Annie, thus initiating their friendship. They both recognize that they can’t cross the fence, but they get around the rules by sitting on top of the fence together, an area deemed no man’s land.

Significance: This book is a great resource when it comes to introducing complex subject matters in an engaging and creative way. The Other Side presents the history of racism, yet it takes a positive approach to a heavy topic. This story can be used in a number of different subject areas, including Language, History, and Art. The pictures can spark a Visual Arts lesson focused on analyzing the images (What types of images were used? Why did the illustrator use that type of art?), and exploring the cultural contexts of the art. Many discussion topics can be explored after reading the book, such as the history of racism and the role of each character in portraying the significance of the subject matter, among others. These discussions can lead to assessments that fall under a number of Language and History overall expectations.


Book3
Title: My Life as a Smashed Burrito with Extra Hot Sauce

Author: Bill Myers

Illustrator: n/a

Genre: Novel

Subject Area(s): Language, Religion

Grade(s): 4 – 8

Summary: As the first novel in the Incredible Worlds of Wally McDoogle series, we are introduced to twelve-year-old Wally McDoogle. Wally dreams of being a writer, being a superhero, and most importantly, writing about a superhero. His father registers Wally for camp, insisting it will make him a “real man”. Wally’s fears come true before he even makes it to Camp Wahkah Wahkah: he gets picked up and thrown against the roof of the bus by Gary the Gorilla, a humongous bully. As Wally continually gets bullied for being dork-oid, how he writes a story about a superhero defeating a villain, closely resembling the situations he is facing in real life.

Significance: This novel is a great resource for teachers in the Catholic school board that are looking for an age-appropriate story that teaches valuable life-lessons. Written with a comedic approach, Wally is a relatable character for many students in elementary school. He references God and the values and morals used to overcome tough situations. This provides a way to introduce students to morality, consciousness, and religion. Wally also dreams of becoming a writer and is in the process of writing his own superhero story. This concept alone presents many opportunities for further study, such as writing their own life stories in the creative outlook of a superhero character. There are 27 books in the series, which presents an interesting opportunity for group collaboration: if each student is able to read a different book in the series, the class can engage in Knowledge-Building Circles discussing the similarities and differences among the lessons learned in each of the novels.


Book4
Title: The Giving Tree

Author: Shel Silverstein

Illustrator: Shel Silverstein

Genre: Picture book

Subject Area(s): Language, Religion, Art, Social Studies

Grade(s): 1 – 8

Summary: The book tells the story of a boy and an apple tree who are able to communicate with one another.  As a child, the boy enjoys playing with the tree, climbing her trunk, swinging from her branches, and eating her apples. As the boy grows older, he uses the tree for purposes other than play. As a teenager, he picks and sells the tree’s apples to make money. In adulthood, the boy cuts the branches off of the tree and takes them away to build a house. When the middle aged boy wants a boat, the tree allows him to cut its trunk to make a boat. The boy returns to the tree as an elderly man, however, the tree tells him that it has nothing left to give. Surprisingly, the boy only wants “a quiet place to sit and rest,” which the tree’s remaining stump can provide. After every occurrence of giving throughout the entire story, the story reads: “And the tree was happy.”

Significance: As both the author and illustrator of The Giving Tree, Shel Silverstein serves as an example of cross-curricular connections. This story at its very essence details a relationship built on selflessly giving what we have to others and not expecting anything in return. In the upper elementary grades, this relationship can be interpreted and explored in many different ways: a parent and their child, God and humanity, the environment and humans, and two friends. Whether the picture book is treated as an introductory hook to a lesson or the basis of a lesson, these relationships can lead to discussions in a number of different subject areas, such as Language, Religion, and Social Studies. The simplicity of the illustrations allows the reader to internalize the story without being distracted by the images. The connection of the images to the plot of the story would make for a great Visual Arts discussion, and the lessons gathered from the story can lead into other areas of The Arts (Music, Drama, and Dance).