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.

Data Management
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:

Pyramid1 Pyramid2    Pyramid3

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 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…

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

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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 18

Bill 13: The Accepting Schools Act

Impressions of Bill 13

As teachers, we enter into the profession to change lives; we want to have a positive impact on every student we interact with, encouraging them to be the best possible version of themself. We do this in more ways than teaching students through a mandated curriculum; we promote and exemplify what it means to be a positive, contributing member of society. This is further promoted through creating an accepting and inclusive school environment.

In the past, the topic of bullying was approached with a reactive approach, tackling the situations as they arise. This approach is not enough; the principal office would regularly have students who were bullying or had been bullied by someone if the school only chose to react to situations. What I like the most about Bill 13 is its proactive approach, implementing mandatory preventative strategies and requirements. In a perfect world, if bullying can be prevented at the source, there will be no need to react to the situation because it would never get that far.

Equity and Inclusive Education

Creating an inclusive classroom is essential to the academic success of all students. It is one thing for a student to feel understood, but it’s another to feel accepted for who they are. In order to create a realistic sense of equity and inclusion within the classroom, I would strive to provide a culturally and ethnically diverse curriculum for my students. This could include reviewing educational material and selecting lessons that the diverse students in my classroom could relate to, as well as promoting and encouraging group learning experiences in the classroom which will foster a sense of cooperation among members of a diverse society.

Through implementing an equity and inclusive education policy, we can create an accepting school through mutual respect. By creating an environment of respect, I as a teacher can ensure that all students feel appreciated and valued in the classroom, thus leading to more confidence in their academic abilities. I could also show respect for students of different cultures by learning a few words in the student’s first language or demonstrating some knowledge of their culture’s traditions and beliefs. Ultimately, the key to respect for all cultures is understanding.

Professional Development Programs, Bullying and School Climate

Bill 13 outlines a number of different policies and procedures that teachers are expected to follow in order to ensure that the school is deemed safe and accepting. However, this can be a daunting task if not provided with the appropriate resources. Professional development workshops are an effective way of presenting, creating, and implementing bullying prevention strategies within the school. As educated professionals, staff collaboration is a great way to provide a support system while also making the task of creating an accepting school more achievable.

One hesitation I have about this section of the bill is that the professional development programs are only required to be provided on an annual basis. While I understand that teachers and administrations will be implementing and adhering to all of the other requirements of this bill to create an accepting school, I feel as though collaboration among school staff is essential. Bullying is a daily problem in schools, yet annual professional development opportunities seem too sporadic to effectively achieve the goal at hand.

Programs, Interventions and other Supports, Bullying

By having programs to support the bullied, the bully, and everyone else affected, Bill 13 assumes a very holistic approach to the topic of bullying. As a teacher, this will prove to be very beneficial. We may have a class of 30 students, and while only 2 of them are immediately involved in a bullying situation (the bullied and the bully), there are many other students that are either friends with the students involved or witnesses of the act. Thus, the issue becomes larger than what one teacher may have the resources to address. These programs can take many different approaches, while also recognizing that there is not a “one-size-fits-all” solution; the program for the bully can look very different than that of the bystander.

As teachers, we seek to create the best possible learning environment for our students. Through the help of social workers and psychologists, we can work collaboratively to find a solution to any problem that may affect the learning environment. Although I have an undergraduate degree in Psychology, I by no means have the training and resources that a psychologist would have. Therefore, by including professionals outside of our immediate profession of teaching, students will be given the support and behavioural management required to foster an accepting and inclusive classroom environment.

Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week

I have constructed three ideas that can be used in conjunction with one another during Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week. Firstly, I would have my class collectively construct an Anti-Bullying Mosaic. This will be completed by having students decorate a 12×12 medium (paper, fabric, wood), expressing what a “safe space” means to them. The final product can be posted in the front entrance of the school to promote the school as a safe environment.

Secondly, I would administer a Random Acts of Kindness Passport to my students, which would contain a list of multiple random acts that students can do. Throughout the week, the students would complete various acts and have someone sign as a witness. At the end of the week, the student with the most acts completed would win a prize. This would take a proactive approach to bullying, teaching students to be kind to one another and positive members of the community.

The last event would be an Eat Your Words Bake Sale, where students and staff bring in baked goods, pay $1 for an item, and write in icing a word that they have used to bully someone. They would then “eat their words”, expressing to themself and others that they will no longer utilize that word or any other negative words to harm someone else. All proceeds of the event would go towards supporting an anti-bullying campaign or future anti-bullying programs in the school.

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.

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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:

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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!

February 2

Adult Education: More than a Second Chance

Adult Education2 More than a Second Chance introduces the concept of mature student programs. These programs are provided to individuals who are over the age of 18 that wish to obtain their high school diploma, increase a mark in a specific subject area, or upgrade their overall skills. Often, these programs get referred to as a “second chance,” making the assumption that the adults enrolled in the program are there simply because they dropped out of high school. This is not always the case, and with the continual immigration of individuals into our country, Canada faces additional challenges with determining the level of education that these individuals must achieve to have their previous education equated to that of Canada’s.

In my teaching experiences, I have worked with diverse populations in various settings. At Essential Skills Upgrading in Kitchener, I worked with adults with a number of cultural, language, racial, and socio-economic differences. Essential Skills Upgrading is an adult learning centre, with many of the individuals using the centre to work towards entering into college or writing their GED. At ESU, the students learn in a classroom setting with other adult learners. However, since each student attends the program to achieve a different goal, they tend to work on their own lessons at their own pace.

Adult Education3During my orientation, the teachers at the program explained to me that these individuals typically have a lower self-esteem, especially because they are adults who did not do well in school in the past or they have recently been laid off. Therefore, the teachers make the conscious effort to call these individuals “learners” rather than “students”. It was explained that many of the learners are currently using the centre because they did not have positive experiences with the education system in the pass, thus leading them to do poorly in school, be truant, or drop out. Therefore, the use of the word “learner” is to remove that negative mindset, boost their morale and self-esteem, and ultimately allow them to do better in school.

While working with one of the learners at Essential Skills Upgrading, she opened up to me about her life and the struggles that she has gone through. She explained to me that her and her family lived in Palestine for a number of years before coming to Canada. She was a teacher in Palestine, teaching the Arabic language to young elementary school students. The learner told me that her life turned around when the war in Iraq began. She was afraid to put her three children in school in fear that they would be unsafe. Finally, in 2008, she immigrated her family to Canada to start a new life. Since her education was not recognized at an equal level in Canada, she must attend the program to upgrade her education.

This just goes to show that we cannot buy into the specific viewpoints that surrounds the adult education sector. Everyone has a story and each person is working towards their own end goal. We must be supportive in every venture that a student takes.

Adult Education

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:

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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:

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1) Yoke and buckets for transporting water
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2) Mortar and pestle used to make flour and various medicines
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3) Two-person saw used to efficiently cut lumber
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4) Device to carry blocks of ice
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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.

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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…

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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!