February 20

Practicum Reflection: Week #2

Monday: Family Day Holiday
Tuesday: Snow Day
Wednesday: Snow Day

Snow Day
This week was a short week, but a good week! My goal going into the second week of practicum was to truly understand each of my students and where they were at academically. Working at Pinecrest Public School has really opened my eyes to the necessity that is differentiation, since one individual classroom could have as many as 7 or 8 students working below grade level, with the other students’ learning being affected because of that. The importance of getting to know my students’ level of learning was so that I could allow each student to experience success, whatever that is for them academically.

The first thing I did was reviewed my students’ Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). In my classroom alone, I have 8 IEPs, 3 of which are modified. Reading through the IEPs allowed me to review what had been documented in the past, such as psychological evaluations, ways in which students’ learning is to be accommodated or modified, and what specific goals each student has outlined for the current term. With this knowledge, I was able to gain a better sense of how student learning could be differentiated in order to be successful.

During this week, I was able to implement various differentiation techniques, such as read-alouds, collaborative learning (pairs or small groups), graphic organizers, visuals (artifacts, PowerPoint presentations, videos), and devices such as chrome books. With this differentiated teaching, I was able to see a shift in the classroom culture, in both the students’ performance and efficiency, since I started my practicum.

This week, we started our novel study of The Giver. Before I started my practicum, my students had done two novel studies, during which the students read independently, answered reflection questions, and submitted them for evaluation. With this novel study, I wanted to change up the process, having it be more like a book club. As a class, we read aloud a chapter, discuss key points, and collectively and orally respond to some reflection questions. Following this process, I write a topic up on the board that relates to the chapters read during that class and each student individually writes a half-page “quickwrite”. I have found that this process allows for each student to gain a deeper understanding of the novel themes, provides an opportunity to reflect on and debate viewpoints presented in the novel and presented by students, while also placing every student on an even playing field, despite their reading ability.

One of the highlight moments for me this week was when I had my students construct the map of Canada using 36 tiles (courtesy of Canadian Geographic). This got the students moving, using manipulatives, and working together as a class. Oh yeah, I guess it helped them with their Geography lesson too…


After they finished constructing the map, we learned about the natural resources that Canada produces and discovered where each resource is abundant.

Following the success of this Geography lesson, I’m really looking forward to trying new ways to get the students moving around during their learning!

February 13

Practicum Reflection: Week #1

Here we go… My first week of practicum has arrived!

While getting prepared for this week, I was super nervous. More than anything, I was hoping and praying that after 18 years of telling myself I wanted to be a teacher, that teaching was in fact for me. Luckily, I chose myself the correct career!

My main goal going into my first week of practicum was to establish myself as the classroom teacher, both in a professional and approachable way. The students have seen glimpses of me throughout the community service learning portion of the placement, but once I started full-time teaching, it was going to be an adjustment for the students.

One of the ways that I established myself as the classroom teacher was by including the students in the formation of classroom rules. I handed out sticky notes to each student and asked them to write something that occurs on the classroom that distracts them from learning. The students were very candid and truthful, writing things such as student wandering around the classroom and talking over the teacher or other students. Next, I had the students write an appropriate consequence for that action. With this information, it allowed me to create a poster that was reflective of the students’ expectations for their classroom as it pertains to their ability to learn.


Since my students have known me since September, there was a base-level of rapport that I had established. They knew that I am approachable and fun, yet I have high expectations. By building on this foundation, I was able to incorporate high-energy activities and lessons into the classroom without running the risk of the students’ being unaware of my expectations of them.

One of the many lessons from this week involved creating a puzzle piece representing what “community” means to each student. Next week, we will be beginning our novel study of “The Giver”, which is based around the good and bad aspects of a community. With the completed puzzle pieces, I created the following bulletin board for everyone in the school to view:


IMG_6763On Friday, I had the opportunity to go to my first ever Professional Development (PD) day! And what a PD day to have as my first experience… All 3000 educators from the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board were in attendance! The highlight of the day for me was listening to Michael Landsberg (TSN’s Off The Record) give his keynote address. Lansberg spoke publicly about his personal battle with depression in an attempt to help reduce the stigma of mental illness. I’ve always seen him as the Bell Let’s Talk ambassador, but listening to him in person was incredible.

This week was definitely a transition for me and my students, but I can only expect next week to be even better!

January 15

Poetry: An Insight Into A Student’s Soul

There’s a big push in our society to “talk to someone” to solve every difficult situation that you are experiencing. While this has great merit and has produced so much positivity, there’s something to say about a child’s ability to portray themselves in ways we don’t expect at their age. Even at such a young age, students have experienced situations that we as adults may have never encountered.

I am currently student teaching at an urban school in Ottawa, Ontario. The students come from all different backgrounds and experiences, which makes for a dynamic learning environment. At the conclusion of our poetry unit, students were instructed to write a poem demonstrating their best literary ability. Students had the freedom to choose the topic and structure of their poems, allowing their full creativity to flow! The only restriction was that their poetry must be respectful to everyone.

There were a few pieces of student work that I just had to share.

Poem1 Poem2 Poem3 Poem5Poem4

True works of art. Was all the spelling correct? No. Did the students use proper punctuation? Not always. Did the students demonstrate an ability to portray a feeling in a descriptive way? Absolutely. While I used to think of poetry as boring and redundant, I now view poetry as an insight into a student’s soul.

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!


December 14

The Importance of a Positive Self-Image

Last week, there was a student that came in after recess and looked visible distraught. I motioned for him to come over to my desk and proceeded to ask him if everything was alright. At the drop of a dime, he started to cry. I took him out into the hall and let him tell me what was going on. He talked about how he got bullied during recess and the most hurtful comments were the ones directed at his weight.

This whole situation was very alarming for me, for a few reasons. This was one of the first experiences I had on the teacher’s side of bullying; that of counseling a student that was negatively impacted by their peers. This put bullying into the forefront for me as a teacher, especially as I reflected on some of the bullying I experienced at the same age as this student. Alternatively, the idea that comments about this student’s weight were more harmful than those directed at his character left me with a few questions.

Self-image may consist of three types:

  1. Self-image resulting from how the individual sees himself or herself.
  2. Self-image resulting from how others see the individual.
  3. Self-image resulting from how the individual perceives others see him or her.

Fostering a positive self-image is an important thing for everyone, students included. We need to realize that the negative things that people say about us should not be internalized, potentially replacing the positive aspects of our character. What that being said, I created an activity that centered around fostering a positive self-image and disregarding the negative things being said about us.

The activity started with a brief conversation about self-image, targeting areas such as what creates a positive self-image and why it is important. Each student then received a handout that looked like this:

Each student was instructed to write any negative comments about themselves that they’ve been told. Some of these comments included words like “gross”, “ugly”, “stupid”, and “gay”. Next, students were told to write the positive aspects of themselves that they cherish. After a few minutes, students then cut along the outline of the person, removing all of the negative comments said about them. I placed the recycling bin in the middle of the classroom and students were allowed to rip up and throw away these nasty words. Students were left with a “positive self-image portrait” that outlined all the characteristics that truly have an impact on our lives, which is often clouded with all of the negativity present around us.

Here are just a few of the final products my students produced:

Self-Image (3)

Self-Image (1)

Self-Image (4)Self-Image (6) Self-Image (5)Self-Image (2)

























The activity concluded with a video by Soul Pancake centered around the importance of giving compliments rather than spewing hate. This video definitely resonated with students, leaving a few in tears (happy ones of course)!

We can never truly know the impact that our words can have, positive or negative. But we must always strive to spread love rather than hate.

December 8

Field Trip to MacSkimming Outdoor Education Centre

Field Trip9
Today, I accompanied a group of grade 3 and 4 students to MacSkimming Outdoor Education Centre in Ottawa’s east end. This beautifully scenic education centre is located on over 40 acres of land! They provide high quality, hands-on outdoor programming that is designed and delivered to compliment classroom learning in many sections of the Ontario Curriculum. This trip was focused on the life of the pioneers! The students were introduced to the beauty of the natural world, as well as our place in it.

The day began in the central cabin, where many of the students ask the all-important question: Did those animals used to be alive? All I will say is that we had a great little introduction to the fur trade…

Field Trip1
After our initial gathering, we began a 5-station activity that introduced students to the many jobs that Canadian pioneers had to complete on a regular basis:

Field Trip2
1) Yoke and buckets for transporting water
Field Trip6
2) Mortar and pestle used to make flour and various medicines
Field Trip5
3) Two-person saw used to efficiently cut lumber
Field Trip4
4) Device to carry blocks of ice
Field Trip3
5) Manual drill to tap for maple sap

Next, we all worked as a community to build a log cabin! Families from Spain, France, and England worked well together, proving that many hands make light work.

Field Trip7

We ended the day by practicing our penmanship, memorization, arithmetic, and proper classroom behaviour, including writing with our right hands only (as was the case years ago). All of this occurred in a 1-room school house that was built in 1886! Mistress Crabbtree felt more like a drill sergeant than a teacher…

Field Trip8
Our day at MacSkimming Outdoor Education Centre was very educational and taught us just how fortunate we are to live in the world our ancestors worked so hard to create for us!

December 1

ABC Poems

Last week at my Community Service Learning placement, I lead a lesson for my grade 7 students about ABC Poems. —An ABC poem usually has 5 lines, but sometimes it is a little longer (which is great for differentiation!). Essentially, the poem has very few rules and restrictions except for the following 2:

  1. The first word of each line (1-4) is in alphabetical order from the first word (ex. G-J, P-S, etc.).
  2. —Line 5 is one sentence, beginning with any letter.

I instructed the students to choose a topic and brainstorm as many different things about the topic as possible. Next, the students chose a letter that they would use as the first letter of the first line. And was I surprised by the positive reception and amazing work from my students! What started as a simple writing strategy to introduce students to a different approach of poetry turned into something much greater. Some students decided to write from A-Z, while others combined two ABC Poems into one. The best part: the select few students who typically refuse to write or complete work were passionate about this activity and actually asked to perform their written piece to the rest of the class!

I definitely recommend this activity! Check out some of the final products below (Note: spelling, grammar, etc. was not assessed).






November 29

Re-Situate “Curriculum”

Ayers (2010) presents the struggle that every teacher experiences throughout their entire career: Defining curriculum as a “means to” rather than an “end goal”. The curriculum outlines the important aspects of learning that students should demonstrate throughout each year of their education. However, we cannot allow this curriculum to be the only accepted learning in our classrooms.

Teamwork, initiative, responsibility, interpersonal relationships… these are all skills that are important aspects of learning that perhaps aren’t explicitly outlined in the curriculum. Also, what about the teachable moments that arise each and every day in our classrooms? Should we refuse to build on those, simply because they are not outlined in the curriculum? What if a student wants to solve a particular problem that is covered in a later grade? Should we delay this learning to ensure that everyone’s education is at the same pace?

As every educator should do, we must re-situate our initial understandings of “curriculum”. Ayers poses an number of interesting questions that guide his approach to implementing a curriculum:

  1. Are challenges from classroom to community fair game for investigation?
  2. Are there opportunities for discovery and surprise?
  3. Are students actively engaged with primary sources and hands on materials?
  4. Is productive work going on?
  5. Is the work linked to student questions or interests?
  6. Is work in my classroom pursued to its far limits?

There is so much more to student learning than what is outlined in the mandated curriculum. I am by no means “rebelling” against these documents; in fact, I place extremely value on these documents as they truly do guide teaching and learning. However, I do believe that we as teachers must do more than simply follow the curriculum. We must create these situations in which students can explore and learn to become efficient learners, rather than focusing all efforts on ensuring each students achieves every specific expectation outlined in their grade level.


November 25

The Lesser Blessed

The Lesser Blessed is a film depicting the story of Larry, a 16-year-old Tlicho Indian that lives with his mother in the Northwest Territories. His past comes to surface throughout the film, displaying an abusive father and a fire that killed his dad and almost took his life too. Like most boys at his school, he has a crush on a Juliet, the most attractive girl that the school. Larry consistently gets bullied by one boy in particular, Darcy, and finds it difficult to fit in because of it. A new student, Johnny, befriends Larry, as he himself is Métis.

There were so many questions coming to mind throughout and following the film.

  1. How much of the plot was realistic and how much was Hollywood?
  2. Where was the parental involvement?
  3. What affect does all of this have on the teenagers?

The Lesser Blessed
1) How much of the plot was realistic and how much was Hollywood?

There were so many outrageous, and almost sad, moments throughout the movie, strictly based on the fact that I was unsure how much was “for the movie”. The main scene that triggered this question for me was during the student “slave auction”. Not only is this extremely offensive, but it was supported by teachers. The one teacher went so far as to bid on a student, giving the perception that the event was endorsed by adults and authority figures. I would hope that this would never happen in a school nowadays, especially with all of the inclusion, anti-bullying, and accepting schools legislature being implemented.

The Lesser Blessed3
2) Where was the parental involvement?

All I can say is that there would have been words had my actions as a 16-year-old even remotely resembled those of Larry and his peers. There were so many concerning elements of these teenagers lives: mental health (specifically Larry’s PTSD), aggression, illicit drugs, mass alcohol consumption, unsafe sex… And yet the parents only seemed to have a voice when they were kicking their child or their friends out of the house. What kind of message does this send the teenagers? Can the kids be solely responsible for their actions if the parents have had little involvement in preventing the actions?

The Lesser Blessed2
3) What affect does all of this have on the teenagers?

I think Larry was the definition of being numb; he rarely showed emotion, good, bad or otherwise. Perhaps due to him trying to keep his father’s abuse and death a secret, Larry resorted to internalizing his emotions. As expected, these emotions surfaced in negative bursts, such as when he attacked Darcy or when he ran away from home. I will say, the truest words in the entire film were the last we heard from Johnny:

“I’m just a kid, Larry.”

As with any life story, we know that there are troubles in our past and turmoil in our present, but it is important to look forward and make the absolute best of any situation we are given. We are the ones who decide how our lives will turn out, and for that reason, we must remain positive. As Larry says:

“I cry knowing that I don’t belong to anyone. But I smile too, knowing that my life is still unwrapped.”

The Lesser Blessed4

November 19

To Kill the Indian in the Child: The Apology

“At 3:00 p.m. exactly, Prime Minister Stephen Harper appeared on the screen and the crowd fell silent” (p. 165).


From the early 1830s to 1996, thousands of First Nation, Inuit, and Metis children were forced to attend residential schools in an attempt to aggressively assimilate them into the dominant culture. During Stephen Harper’s speech, which proves to me a monumental moment in Canadian history, he says:

“I stand before you – in this chamber so central to our life as a country to apologize to Aboriginal peoples for Canada’s role in the Indian Residential Schools system” (p. 167).

Residential Schools
Despite the importance of this moment between the Canadian government and the affected Aboriginal peoples, it was not universally received as a positive apology. It is always difficult when individuals of a marginalized group continue to feel as though the apology and the means in place of rectifying the injustice are insufficient. There continue to be individuals who take the “too little too late” response, accepting that an effort was made but refusing to recognize it as sufficient.

My questions is: What apology would be sufficient? Should they receive a massive monetary compensation for the disgusting and inhuman actions that took place within the residential schools? Should there be a First Nations, Inuit, and Metis subject introduced in schools to educate students on what really happened? What can we do as a country to make everyone feel proud of being a Canadian?

These will never be easy questions to answer. Hundreds of years from now, when there are no living victims of the residential school system, there will still be hard feelings because it still happened, affecting the ancestors of many families. So where does that leave us? Is there anything we can do? Perhaps not to the standards that will be universally accepted. However, with each action of rectifying the situation, more and more people are learning to start anew. As Knockwood shares in Out of the Depths (2015):

“My main reaction to this formal apology was to feel that although I wasn’t able to forgive the government and the church for what they did to my parents and ancestors by legislation, I was ready to accept the apology. […] This would also be a new start for me, and mentally I turned a new page and wrote the word “pride” on it.” (p. 169).

Residential Schools2