April 8

Practicum Reflection: Week 8

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8 weeks ago, I walked into Pinecrest Public School to begin my first student teaching placement. Pinecrest is talked about as one of the “roughest” schools in all of Ottawa, with many of its students living in shelters or subsidized housing projects. Everyday brought a new challenge, whether it was related to academics, bullying, mental health, nutrition, or another area of concern. However, after 8 weeks of teaching fulltime, I truly came to know and understand each of my grade 7 students and their situations. Their life stories made me want to try harder and be better for them.

What does it mean to be a good student? Does it mean to have good marks? Does it mean being polite and kind to other students and teachers? Does it mean to be involved in extracurricular activities?

There are many times in the teaching profession when teachers fall into a trend of praising the small successes of the students who are struggling, while failing to praise the great successes of their “top” students. My goal for this week, especially as it was my last week of practicum, was to celebrate the success of all of my students, including those who I expect nothing less from.

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I was definitely more attentive throughout the week to my students’ academic successes, giving more vocal and written praise. I believe that this truly had an impact on my students’ effort and work ethic, since it allowed them to realize that someone else recognized their achievements. Also, for the last day of my placement, I wrote each student a personalized card thanking them for welcoming me into their classroom and for all of their effort over the past 8 weeks.

Speaking of my last day of practicum…

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Today was my last day with my class, and one that I will never forget. When I walked into my classroom, the students had drawn a chalk mural on the floor recounting all of the lessons and topics that I taught them. This blew me away; maybe they had learned something after all! Afterwards, they sang me a song they wrote, gave me a few cards they made, and presented me with an incredible cake, none of which was expected! Lastly, my associate teacher gave me a framed poster that was absolutely hilarious.

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I am truly going to miss 7A and I’m thankful to have been their teacher. In reality, they taught me way more than I could have ever taught them. Until next time, 7A!

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April 2

Practicum Reflection: Week 7

There were many times when I was in elementary and secondary school where I would question the teacher about the relevancy of the work we were doing. How or when am I going to use this in the real world? Now as a teacher and young adult, I can definitely see the merit in the content being taught to the students, however it still remains true that much of the work we do in the classroom may not be like the real world. Wouldn’t it be great if it were?

Including real-life applications into the curriculum may not always be the first thing that comes to mind when planning how to teach a lesson, but it should definitely be intertwined with everything we do. Allowing students to interact, manipulate, explore, collaborate, and discuss openly about real-life applications leads to a greater depth of reasoning and creativity. Essentially, it’s learning that sticks.

This week, I achieved my goal of making more real-world connections in my teaching in multiple ways. In our health unit on alcohol, students created and displayed public service announcement posters related to the topic of teenaged alcohol consumption. They were engaged in their learning, they actively researched various facts, and they were motivated by the fact that other students would see their work once it was posted. They turned out great!

Alcohol Poster (1)                      Alcohol Poster (3) Alcohol Poster (2)
After the success of the alcohol public service announcement posters, I challenged my students to encourage others to live more sustainable lives, thus extending our environmental units in geography and science. They did this in two different ways. Firstly, they demonstrated their understanding of subject matter by writing a letter to the local newspaper. They discussed human effects on the environment, why living more sustainably is a good thing to do, and how people can change their behaviours. Not only did the students learn the subject matter, but they exemplified a real-world social justice application of their learning. Secondly, the students created public service announcement posters related to the topic of sustainability.

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                                    Sustainability Poster (4)
Sustainability Poster (3)

This shift in my teaching was apparent in all subjects, especially in math (measurement). Not only where students more engaged in their learning, but I found myself doing less ‘formal’ teaching and more coaching, which was also beneficial for me! When students are engaged in real-world problems, scenarios and challenges, they find relevance in the work and become engaged in learning important skills and content.

March 25

Practicum Reflection: Week #6

March Break 2016
Who knew teachers got just as excited about March Break as the students? More than anything, the week-long break was a time to unwind, regroup, and re-evaluate everything teaching and education related. I’ve noticed so much growth in myself personally and professionally since the beginning of practicum, but without taking a moment to sit back and reflect, it is difficult to fully appreciate the experience and everything that it is teaching me.

Student Engagement
Over the last few weeks, I have noticed that the same group of students raise their hands to answer every question. In any classroom, there is always that one group of students that consistently raise their hand and compete with the others to get called on. Not only do these students have the magic ability to literally hold their hand up for hours, but if we could let them talk all day, they would. My goal for the week was to promote every student’s engagement within the classroom. I chose this to be my goal for this week specifically to reorient students’ motivation for learning following March Break.

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Students learn when they are engaged within the classroom, but what is engagement? In my opinion, students are engaged when they are actively thinking about the topic. For some students, it takes a little longer to think about the topic. For this reason, I now wait between 8-10 seconds after posing a question to the class before calling on a student. When I notice that students are disengaged with the lesson, I start to count the number of hands I see; this seems to encourage students to engage with the lesson and encourage their peers to do the same.

March Break wasn’t just a time to reflect as a teacher, but students reflected over the break as well. One of my more difficult students seemed to have a revelation during some reflection that led to him writing myself and two other teachers a letter. Here is a photo of the letter I received:

Student Letter
After he gave the letter to me on Monday, he has been a pleasure to teach ever since. I am not exactly sure what caused this change of attitude, but I can only hope that I helped to play a small part. Moments like these are why I hope to teach the middle school grades; teenagers are in such a critical period of their lives and as a teacher, you never know what role you might play in their life story.

March 12

Practicum Reflection: Week #5

After last week’s successful use of technology for the geography natural resource projects, I made it my goal to continue the use of computers and technology to elevate student learning. This week, I took it upon myself to implement more visuals for my students in the form of Google Slides, video clips, and photos and maps from the internet, among other images. My students are very receptive of technology, no matter what form it comes in, and my visual were no different; they proved to capture the attention of even my most distracted students.

Technology in the Classroom

In addition to technology, I used more artifacts than normal. For our life-sized ecosystem board game project, I created my own board game piece to show my students exactly what was expected of them. This was very effective and many of my students produced great work that mirrored the effort that I demonstrated for them. Additionally, for a geography lesson about water as a natural resource, I used beakers and water to show the various quantities that water exists in our world (97% ocean, 2% frozen, >1% underground, ~0.007% fresh). This visual was effective in putting into perspective how valuable our fresh water is and how important it is to keep it clean and unpolluted.

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Going back to the life-sized ecosystem board game project that I mentioned earlier… IT WAS AWESOME! I gave each student a blank “board game piece” and on it, they were to draw a visual representation of their assigned ecosystem and write a multiple choice question that correlated with that ecosystem. On the back of the square, they wrote the answer to their question and wrote a paragraph providing more information about their question. Once everyone had completed their square, I laminated them, laid them out on the floor of our classroom, and we played the life-sized board game! It was received very well by the students, and was educational to boot. The life-sized board game is definitely a culminating task idea that would work well with any grade level, and one that I will do again in the future.

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March 10

Teen Stress in our Schools


Teen Stress in our Schools
is an article written by a professor and PhD student that have worked to create the StressOFF Strategies program. This program features a 45-minute session that introduces middle and high school students to the concepts of recognizing stress and utilizing coping skills to minimize its effects.

The program features four key components: psychoeducation, decreasing stigma, coping skills, and follow-up. Psychoeducation seeks to teach students about stress and how to recognize it within themselves. The program seeks to decrease stigma around mental health by encouraging discussion and providing examples of celebrities that have talked about stress. The body of the program revolves around presenting three different types of coping skills: cognitive, physiological, and behavioural strategies. Lastly, a pamphlet and website accompany the program for future learning.

Teen Stress


It is important that the themes of stress and coping strategies are being addressed with a large emphasis in every school, starting at a young age. Every students experiences stress, perhaps even bouts of depression, and therefore it is important that students know what to do in these situations. In my opinion, while it might sounds like a great idea, I do not believe that coping skills can be adequately taught in 45-minutes. Yes, coping skills can be introduced. However, these strategies are behaviours that must be practiced and personally used, especially since coping methods vary from person to person.

It is important to have a plan in place within the school if a student feels overly stressed and overwhelmed. This can include telling students how to appropriate communicate their feelings to the correct adults in the school, such as the teacher, guidance counselor, chaplain, or principal. It could also be beneficial to implement mandatory meetings for students with their guidance counselor to check in with academic, family, peer, and personal struggles. This would provide students with an ongoing opportunity to share, discuss, and learn how to deal with the issues they are facing in their lives.

It is also important to look at the root causes of their stress. What is it about academics that are making students experience stress? Is it the unrealistic expectations place on their performance by their parents? Is the student struggling with the subject matter because they have an unrecognized learning disability? Or perhaps the student simply does not have proper time management skills, thus forcing them to feel the time crunch of attempting to finish work at the very last minute. Once we understand what is causing the stress, then we are able to adopt a proactive approach to stress, which is the best form of coping skill.

Here is an insightful infographic about stress among teenagers:

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March 5

Practicum Reflection: Week #4

This week was one that was full of culminating task work. With all of the snow days and student absences, I was forced to delay my culminating task for my math unit, thus placing it during the same week that the geography culminating task was taking place. In hindsight, this meant that the students were able to focus on the tasks at hand, rather than stressing about learning new material and being exposes to new topics.

At this point in the year, I’ve learned a lot about my students’ abilities, both intellectually and in work ethic such as time management skills. With the number of students in my class that have IEPs, both accommodated and modified, there is a great deal of differentiation that I must consider and implement so that all of my students are capable of achieving success. This poses some difficulty, especially since my grade 7 students range from a grade 2/3 level all the way to grade 8 in math.

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For the math culminating task, groups of students designed, conducted, analyzed and reflected on their own survey. In an attempt to achieve grade-appropriate evaluation while still setting my students up for success, I placed students in groups of 3-4 of varying abilities. Each student was graded on the group’s final product, their own individual reflections and conclusions, a peer evaluation, and a self-evaluation. I believe that this produced a fair evaluation of each student’s ability while also adhering to the grade 7 math curriculum that each student is expected to learn.

The geography culminating task had students using Chromebooks and Google Slides to produce a research presentation about their chosen natural resource. The use of technology truly allowed those students who typically struggle with writing to feel liberated through their comfort and ability to use the internet and typing. Additionally, it provided high achieving students with the opportunity to go above and beyond with their information by using photos, stating references, and including links to various internet content. The final products were a great testament to how much of an impact technology can have on the learning of today’s students.

Throughout the week, students rested their eyes from technology and picked up pencil and paper. We are currently studying optical illusion art, especially that of M. C. Escher. Here are some of the final products:

Escher Art
We continued the art into a science lesson, where we created food chain pyramids. The pyramids were a great visual representation of the various types of consumers, as well as the amount of energy that gets transferred from one level to the next. This task was extremely beneficial for my ELD (English Language Development) students because it exposed them to terminology while also providing a visual that they could refer back to throughout the week. Here is some student work:

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February 27

Practicum Reflection: Week #3

This week was officially my first full week of teaching. There was a PD day during Week 1 and a holiday and some snow days during Week 2. This week was five straight days of teaching, and I LOVED it! I really feel like I am getting into the groove of teaching, especially at the intermediate division.

The goal I outlined for myself this week was to gain a better since of my students through analyzing the social aspect of my classroom culture. At the very essence, my classroom is loud, but I have come to realize that a loud classroom does not necessarily mean unproductive. My students are very close with one another and show love and support for each other as friends. This definitely plays a role in the learning taking place within the classroom walls.

Implementing group work was something that I was hesitant with at first because my students were always so loud and sometimes distracted by their peers. However, after thinking about it critically from a teacher’s standpoint, I realized that the students would benefit from group work in many ways. Firstly, collaborative learning would greatly benefit the students that require differentiation or are learning at a lower grade level. Additionally, I could provide my students with more content-heavy assessments since they had more hands and minds to work on it. Lastly, my students would have more fun working with their peers, which at the end of the day is what gave me the confidence to implement group work.

There was an assignment due this week in Language that required group work. For this assessment, I allowed students to choose their own groups with the hopes of students feeling more comfortable to collaborate with each other. Here are some examples of the final products:

Utopia Brochure (3)Utopia Brochure (2) Utopia Brochure (1)

While most groups excelled at the task and demonstrated the necessary skills to accomplish group work, there were some that were not so successful. It was apparent that some groups were too distracted by their peers to complete the work in time and to the best of their ability. This is something that I will keep in mind as I continue to use group work in my classroom, reminding me that some students require knowledge and experience for how to properly and effectively collaborate with their peers.

This week, I also really wanted to get my students more active during their learning. To start with, I took my class on a little field trip… AKA a trip to the field. They got to discover the schoolyard ecosystem and list the various biotic and abiotic features that are right in our own backyard.

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IMG_6732Later in the week, I was trying to come up with a fun and engaging way for my students to practice their mean, median, and mode skills. Little did I know, the cards I was playing with at the time would soon become my next engaging math lesson! Realistically, I should have known… There are 101 ways that you can incorporate a deck of cards into a math lesson. I create 7 stations, each equipped with a random selection of playing cards, and they had to record the mean, median, and mode for each. The students seemed to get really into it, and they loved the fact that they were able to get up out of their seats and walk to each station posted in the hallway. Definitely a successful lesson that I will do again with my future classes! IMG_6756 IMG_6757 IMG_6758

Towards the end of the week, we unfortunately had to lose our our gym time to another event happening in the school. However, this did not mean that we would lose our Physical Education lesson! Luckily, I had a Daily Physical Activity (DPA) stored in my back pocket from the PD day that I attended two weeks prior. We used recycled paper to go “ice skating” around our classroom. Each student had two pieces, one for each foot, and had a blast skating forward, backward, and in circles. What would a winter-based activity be without a snowball fight to cap it off?! Yes, that’s right… We had an indoor snowball fight by crumpling up the paper, dividing the class into two teams, and trying to have the least amount of “snowballs” on their side at the end of a minute. The students had an absolute blast! Just don’t tell the principal…

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Looking forward to another full week coming up next week!

February 25

A Truthful Narrative: FNMI Inventions and History

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A Truthful Narrative
discusses the importance of including First Nations, Metis, and Inuit (FNMI) inventions and history in the current kindergarten to grade 12 curriculum. Many innovations have been pioneered by FNMI peoples, which is an important part of Canada’s heritage. Additionally, it is important for every student to be able to recognize themselves in the curriculum that they are being taught, and this will be accomplished for FNMI students by integrating their history into the mainstream curriculum. The article provides 6 different themes that can be covered at each age level:

Division

Grades

Curriculum Theme

Early Learning Kindergarten Holistic Engagement with FNMI Nations
Primary Grades 1 to 3 Building Community with FNMI Peoples
Junior Grades 4 to 6 FMNI Contributions in Our Lives
Intermediate Grades 7 and 8 Investigating FNMI Nations
Secondary Grades 9 and 10 FNMI Resources
Secondary Grades 11 and 12 FNMI Present Realities

Creating an inclusive classroom is essential to the academic success of all students. Teachers should strive to provide a culturally and ethnically diverse curriculum for their students, therefore promoting themes of inclusivity and acceptance in the classroom. In this type of environment, group learning experiences in the classroom are encouraged, which will foster a sense of cooperation among members of a diverse classroom.

An important attribute of a teacher is their ability to teach all students. This includes being informed, respectful, and accommodating to students of different cultures, religions, abilities, and socio-economic statuses. Students are complex individuals, and it is a teacher’s duty to acknowledge students’ academic and non-academic strengths. It is very important that teachers review educational material and select lessons that the diverse students in my classroom could relate to, which is main messages conveyed in A Truthful Narrative. This would ensure that all students feel appreciated and valued in the classroom, thus leading to more confidence in their academic abilities.

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