Resource Page

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Sharing is the most important thing we will do as teachers… teaching cannot and should not happen in isolation. It’s that time of year where everyone is planning away for the school year and resource sharing is a big part of the daily interactions between teachers. So today we’ve decided to compile a list of our favourite resources, both from our blog and other sites.

Advisory

Advisory Activities – A variety of different activities and routines to start off the day.

Thought Block – Different thought provoking discussions and activities.

Classroom Rules – A great conversation to discuss class rules with students.

Video: An Open Letter to Students Returning to School – A video from John Green about why school is important

Erasing Meanness – One teacher’s lesson on kindness for her students.

Language Arts

Creative Writing Lesson – Showing the progression of a creative writing unit.

Read Aloud – Making read aloud opportunities meaningful for students.

Quote and Note – Strategies for meaningful quote and note activities in novel studies.

Poems for Two Voices – One of our most popular Teach it Tuesday posts.

Genius Hour – How to start and incorporate into your class, plus some resources that will help!

Reader Response Activity – A great tool for collaborative student responses.

Math

Teaching Math – A blog post of ideas for teaching math.

Drawing Circles – An interactive group problem solving lesson for students.

Educating Now – A review of a great resource for math teachers.

Interactive Math Journals – This is the best resource if you are going to do Interactive Math Journals for math.

Math Journals Blog Post – Another great resource for IMJs.

Estimation 180 – A great resource to help teach estimation in the classroom.

Social Studies

Research Projects – A Teach it Tuesday on starting research projects in class.

Mummified Potatoes – A great resource for a fun activity.

Inquiry Circles – A social studies resource for inquiry in the curriculum.

Law Connection – A resource for bringing law issues into the classroom.

Science

Creative Note Taking – A Teach it Tuesday with a few different ideas for note taking.

Science and Photography – A project based learning idea.

Body Systems – An exercise based lab for learning about the human body.

The Great Plastic Round Up – A book review for an environmental book by a local group.

The Science-Penguin – A great Teachers Pay Teachers store for intermediate teachers.

French

French Centres – Different centres and how to incorporate them into your classroom.

French-English Dictionaries – A great way to start the year and get your students using dictionaries in class.

Tellagami – Utilizing this app in the French classroom.

French Vocabulary – Ways to make learning new vocabulary more fun and engaging in the classroom.

Teaching FSL – This is a great blog full of ideas and resources for the French classroom.

Physical Education

Go To Lesson – A progressive ball game lesson.

PE Lessons – Teach it Tuesday post: basketball, soccer, volleyball, and kickball.

PE Central – Database of PE activities and lessons

What resources would you add to our list?

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Teach it Tuesday: Community Building Links

Happy Tuesday!

Today’s Teach it Tuesday is a compilation of some of our most fun and inspired community building ideas we’ve used in our various classrooms throughout the last three years.  We know the first few weeks back to school are energy filled, pleasantly chaotic and downright exhausting for everyone!  We hope this list of our favourites can ease some of the anxiety you, and your students, might be experiencing this Back to School season.

Communication Calendars – A way to initiate conversation with each individual student, every day of the week.

Feel Good Friday – Begin and end your Fridays with a message of kindness.

Quick Drama Games – Play with your students…they will love it.

Circle Time – You can use this activity for every grade/class/composition of students.

Thought Block – Tap in to some of your students’ genius they bring to the room.

Dreams and Ambitions – What do you students dream about doing, being, becoming?

What’s on the Walls? – Maybe let your new students help you decide this year!

We are heavy on the community building in our classrooms and welcome other ideas you might have (tested or untested!)  Please share with us if you’d like!

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Welcome Back

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We hope you all had a wonderful summer! We are excited to get back into the blogging world and our plan is to blog a little more regularly this year. You can expect our regular Teach it Tuesday posts, as those have been very popular! Also, expect some more general posts to let you know about our students, schools, good reads, and more travel tales. We are always looking for post ideas and guest posters so feel free to comment or email us with ideas – taleoftwoteachers@gmail.com

Like every Back to School season, we have spent some time thinking about what we want our respective classrooms, lessons and teaching/learning experiences to look like.  We decided to come up with three goals (or intentions, if you will) to help guide our planning and preparation for the upcoming school year.  Here is what we have in mind:

Karley

With the end of my maternity leave just around the corner, I am excited to announce that for the first time ever (in my three short years of teaching) I know where and what I will be teaching before the start of September!  I’m very excited to be teaching two grades this year: a grade 8 class at one middle school (job-sharing with a good friend of mine) and a grade 7 class at my 2013/2014 middle school (job-sharing with a very lovely teacher; we are already becoming fast friends).  I will be working three days a week, or .6 in teacher-speak.  I feel like this part-time return to teaching will be the perfect blend of time well spent in the education world and time well spent at home with my family.  I won’t be returning to work until November, but I plan to be active on our blog for the remainder of my maternity leave.  Here are a few intentions I have for this school year:

  1. Look good at school.  I know, shallow.  But hear me out…I’m just finishing a year of maternity leave and for the majority of this year my “real clothes” haven’t fit.  I’m very much looking forward to getting out of my lululemon and into my teacher apparel, just for the sake of feeling professional.  It’s okay if your jaw just hit the floor…I also never thought I’d be the one to admit that my lululemon closet needs a break.  Note: this intention is allowed to be up for alteration after my first week back to school.
  2. Maximize my focus/time at school.  This might sound obvious, but I really need to develop or adopt a few systems to help me stay focused and organized this school year.  I am the kind of teacher who works/plans/marks/preps better at home.  For some, getting this work done at school is preferable, but I’ve never been able to master this part of teaching.  I’d like to keep my work at work if I can this year so that my family time is rich and plentiful at home.  Also, sometimes I can get easily overwhelmed due to the amount of paper I carry around in a day…tack on a twenty pound baby to that load and I’ll be able to skip my strength and conditioning workouts!  Mama needs an action plan.
  3. Go with the flow a bit more.  My daughter has taught me lots this year, but one of her most valuable lessons is to occasionally ditch the plan and go with the flow.  I am a control freak.  I love to be in control of everything.  Job sharing will be a completely new experience for me in which I will not be in control of everything.  I am feeling open and welcome to change, thanks to Charlee’s teachings.

Meaghan

This year will be looking a bit different for me as I’m starting this year off as a TOC (substitute teacher) and I am looking forward to a bit of a change in pace from the full time scene. I have really enjoyed taking some time this summer to find that place of balance again in my life and I’m hoping to extend this feeling into the fall. Here are a few of my intentions for the fall:

  1. Be happy in the moment. Like Karley, I like it when I am in control of how things go and sometimes with substitute teaching I get caught up in trying to change things that I have no control over. If I don’t get work every day I will still be okay, if I miss a callout it’s not the end of the world… I have a lot of really great things going on in my life right now, I’m very fortunate, and I am going to try to remind myself to be happy with all of these great things!
  2. Allow my creativity to shine. One of the things that I really lost a bit in the full time job spiral was my creativity – in previous years I have found that I am most creative when I’m part time or substitute teaching because I’m in the schools but I don’t have quite as much responsibility. I’m hoping to really embrace this time right now and use it to be creative and daydream about future teaching plans.
  3. Balance, and re-balance. Why is balance always on my goals/intentions? Because it will constantly be something to work towards. The biggest piece of this for me is fitness – I need to find a place where I’m active and healthy but not fully dedicating myself to a training program. I find that I have been bouncing back and forth between training hard and doing nothing which really isn’t the best for any aspect of my life. Along with that and coursework, blogging, and teaching, I want to make sure I’m spending lots of time with friends and family.

Please let us know if you have any suggestions or ideas for blog posts!

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As Told by Photos…

It’s the end of June so as with any parent, student, or teacher… I’m busy and exhausted! Here is a sneak peak into my class over the past month or so as told by photos:

My Favourite

My Favourite “L-Shaped” Desk Arrangement: Good for group work, small group lessons, and easy viewing of the board.

Becoming Pompeii in Social Studies - Using drama to create an Ancient Roman world

Becoming Pompeii in Social Studies – Using drama to create an Ancient Roman world

Post-it Note Timelines

Post-it Note Timelines

Genius Hour for June - A great way to wrap up the school year!

Genius Hour for June – A great way to wrap up the school year!

Outdoor reading for our Human Rights Literature Circles

Outdoor reading for our Human Rights Literature Circles

Exploring Canva.com for our final project for Human Rights - Student engagement in June!

Exploring Canva.com for our final project for Human Rights – Student engagement in June!

Enjoy your last week of school fellow teachers – You can do it!

Meaghan

Teach it Tuesday: Genius Hour

Well this has been a post I’ve been meaning to write for a few months now… But it’s appropriate to put it up today as we just started our second round of Genius Hour this morning! It’s going to be our project as students finish up their work for the year they can move onto Genius Hour projects.

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Do you like my lightbulb? Ha!

So for starters, in case you haven’t heard of Genius Hour it is based off the Google policy of 20% time, where their employees get to work on their own projects for 20% of their work time. It is also very in line with the philosophy in the book “The Spark” in which children need time to work with their own passions in order to do the things they aren’t as passionate about.

The Introduction

This is a crucial part of your first Genius Hour with any age group! I was working with one of the other grade 7 teachers at my school for this and we planned the introduction together and ran it for both classes at the same time. We used the Kid President video to introduce the topic of passions and then also showed the video from the Genius Hour site to further explain it. After, we each shared an example of a project that we would be working on – Mine was to create an effective half marathon training program that fit with my lifestyle. We also shared a list of project ideas other kids have done but I’m not sure if I would do this again as I ended up having a whole group of students who did the same project and as much as it was a cool idea, I think it would have been better to see what they came up with on their own.

Most of the resources that we used came from Runde’s Room – If you have not seen this blog yet then you must go take a look!

The Research

This is the piece that everyone handles differently… I know a lot of people who go heavy on the research component for the kids Genius Hour projects. I am a bit more relaxed about this with my group. Everyone had to do some research but I also encouraged them to use their time to create something or practice a skill. We spent about 4-5 weeks on the research component as we ran into Spring Break. It was a good amount of time though because I don’t think the kids would have stayed focused that much longer and they are so excited to do another Genius Hour so I know it was a good experience overall.

The Presentation

I kept the presentations very informal for my class which worked well for our group. Each student talked for about a minute and then there were lots of questions. I think it would be cool for the kids to get to try each others skills, etc. next time – But we will see if we have any time!

Have you ever tried Genius Hour or Passion Projects with your class?

Meaghan

To Reward or Not?

Classroom rewards are often a point of contention… What is best for kids? And for the things you do want to reward what do you give as a prize? It has taken me a little while in my teaching practice to figure out what exactly I believe in here – when is it okay to give rewards and when does it undermine the values I am trying to instill?

Personally, I do not believe in rewarding behaviour on a regular basis. I think that being ready for class is an expectation. As is being a good classmate or helping clean up the class. My students do not expect to be rewarded for these behaviours, it is the expectation that this is how they act.

Having said that there are times when I do offer rewards in class. When we forget to clean up at the end of the day and I need incentive for a few to stay after and help with the cleanup. Occasionally during math (right after recess) I offer a reward for those that are ready to go and started on the warm-up without being asked, because even in May we still struggle with this transition. Prizes for classroom games we play every so often. And, although I haven’t done it this year, I believe that offering rewards to speak French in class is useful because speaking in another language is scary, students need practice, and often there isn’t a ton of intrinsic motivation for this one.

So then the second question – What do you give as rewards? This has always been a tough one because, especially in middle school, what can you give that students will actually like? I do not believe in giving any kind of food reward like candy but often find that it is the only thing students really seem to want as a prize so I cave and buy it anyways. This year, besides the odd holiday treat, I have not given out any candy or food prizes. I found the next best thing…

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Scholastic Mustache Pencils! And no, this post is not sponsored, I honestly just love these pencils so much! The kids get excited about them, they are relatively inexpensive (especially if you have Scholastic bonus coupons!), they aren’t made of sugar, and kids are less likely to lose them.

I also have a bunch of other fun pencils and colourful erasers as prizes, as well as glowsticks from the dollar store. I think if I offered a choice of candy or these then candy would still win but since they only get the choice of which pencil colour they still get pretty excited.

Added teacher bonus – the more pencils you give out the less kids say “I don’t have a pencil”! But yes, I still here it a few times a day.

I think students can get excited about whatever you give out if you do it in a fun way too! I had a really tough grade 8 class last year who were definitely in that “too cool” for anything phase, but we did Friday stickers after class cleanup and I just played it off as a big joke – in a mock preschool teacher voice saying “Okay class you did such a wonderful job cleaning up that I have a sticker for you!” Then they would roll their eyes at me… but 75% of the class would be lined up for their sticker at the end of the day!

So all in all, for me classroom rewards are meant for fun and to show students that you care but they do not reward for expected behaviours.

What do you use for classroom rewards?

Meaghan

Fascinating Learning

Hi everyone! I do exist! I honestly sat at my open computer for five whole minutes before I started typing this post – staring at my screen wondering if this piece was even worth documenting. Here we go.

Things are going well over here in maternity leave land.  Our baby girl is now 6.5 months old, we’ve been to Europe and back with her, and there is never a dull moment in any day.

I haven’t been posting here on Tale of Two Teachers very much because being “out of the field” (ie. realm of education) leaves me little to say or share on that topic.  I’ve only recently starting thinking about teaching again…why does maternity leave fly by so, so quickly?  I’m getting excited to be back in the classroom part-time, but I still have a handful of months before I become a working mama.  Interestingly, the opportunity to apply for jobs is just around the corner and I think it’s weird to be applying for contracts that I won’t even work in right away (my maternity leave ends in November). Moving on.

The thing about having a baby is that they change literally every. single. day.  This fascinates me to no end.  There is almost no space or time to celebrate a newly learned skill or discovery because the next day will find you marveling at something else.  Two days ago Charlee didn’t know she could roll off the rug to the bamboo floor, of course she had the rolling skills available to her, but she didn’t know how to access them, or what kind of fun was available beyond the rug.  Yesterday morning Charlee made her big escape to the hardwood floor…and today she figured out how to use her hands to push herself (like a seal, if you need a visual) to spin around on her tummy.

I'm so happy I captured the escapee in mid-roll!

I’m so happy I captured the escapee in mid-roll!

During all this exploration I just lounge on the floor with my coffee because it’s 8am and I’m still waking up (maternity leave, you guys). I usually don’t “help” Charlee out when she’s in full on discovery mode like she was this morning.  Of course if she’s going to bump her head or eat the cat’s toy I stop her, but for the most part it is all her…without me.  I love it.  The teacher in me just sits back and watches the tiny human figure out the world through trial and error, inquiry and sensory based learning.  It’s during these morning play times where I reflect the most on my teaching practice.  This morning’s particular thoughts involved the concept of enabling constraints.  Today Charlee didn’t have any toys on the floor with her – it was just her and the brightly coloured quilt.  In case you need a quick refresher on what exactly enabling constraints means, it has to do with limiting (or constraining) choice in order to open up the learning possibilities.  Not a lot of choice when it came to play things this morning, but opportunity for deep learning and exploration anyhow (because we can roll around on the floor! Yeah!)

The best part of all the learning Charlee has been doing is how she celebrates her successes.  I can praise my girl to the moon and back because she swallowed a mouthful of mashed peas, and while that is a big deal (you mamas know!), it’s the coolest when Charlee knows and feels the value of her newly learned skill and celebrates on her own with giggles, smiles, and an attempt to try again…and again…and again.  Some of you might think babies don’t know what they’re doing most of the time; therefore, making celebrations of their own learning impossible.  I (politely) disagree. That’s all I’m going to say about that for now.

Ohhh the things this teacher-mama is learning about learning while on maternity leave! My future students have no idea what’s coming their way when I jump back into teacher land!

And just because she is cute, I'll include a photo of Charlee learning how to plant carrots.

And just because she is cute, I’ll include a photo of Charlee learning how to plant carrots.

Karley

Meaningful Connections: iPads and Buddies

A few weeks ago, my friend Lindsay (her guest post is here) and I got our classes together for a buddy afternoon. We started talking about getting our classes together as soon as I got my job, since our schools are within walking distance. Before Spring Break we started planning what we would do together and since we both have been incorporating technology through iPads into our classrooms we decided to have our students use iMovie together to create a video.

I had a small group of my students create an example video on “How to be a middle school student” that we showed at the beginning of our afternoon together. Then, with a buddy they had to make a four shot iMovie under the “How to…” model. We gave them about 45 minutes to create their videos outside and then we came back inside and watched them.

Some video topics:

  • How to make a daisy chain
  • How to play tag
  • How to score a goal (soccer)

What went well?

IMG_3516I absolutely loved watching my students work with the younger students to create their videos. It is always so interesting to watch them in a leadership role and to see who takes charge or not. Leaving the instructions broad allowed for a lot of creativity and it became a good conversation starter between the students – “What do you like to do?” etc. Some of the videos turned out really well and the different experiences both classes have had with iMovie really allowed for some teachable moments to happen between the grades.

What would I change?

Initially we had paired them in groups of two, many students joined together to make a bigger group. I think I would just pair them in groups of 4-5 students from the beginning because it really seemed to help them with the ideas and the filming as well. Another thing I would change is the example video that we showed didn’t really end up being a great example and I think it led students off in a bit of a different direction. Now that we have some good examples to show I think this part will work better next time.

Where to next?

After our buddy day, Lindsay let me know that her students were now doing “How to” videos for their Social Studies projects and I thought I would incorporate that as well. My class ended up making “How to be an Ancient Greek” videos for their final projects on our Ancient Greece unit. They turned out really well and it was interesting to see how they turned their research into videos in a similar format to what they had worked on with their buddies.

In the long run the iPad is just a tool and what we need to do is make meaningful, engaging experiences for our students with this tool. The communication skills and leadership that were needed with the buddies was a great experience for all of my students! And the skills to make the “How to” video helped them to summarize their knowledge in a content area later on.

Do you have buddy classes at your school?

How do you use technology to enhance your lessons?

Meaghan

A Little Spark

“Wow, I’m going to leave early today,” I say as I pack up at the end of a 9 hour day of work. Then I realize I am putting another 1-2 hours of work in my bag to do at home and that really is the only reason I’m leaving on time. But, hey, at least I actually took a 30 minute lunch break today!

How did this happen? Remember when I mentioned here my schedule of when to leave each day and how I don’t bring work home with me? Well I lost it… and I haven’t got it back. I think it got lost somewhere between that pile of marking, the resources from all the amazing pro d activities I’ve been doing, and the extracurricular volunteer work. Yup, that must be where the balance went!

And along with the balance I seemed to have lost some of my passion, enthusiasm and drive. Yes, yes, I know it is normal to get a bit tired and stressed at this time of year but the past few weeks I’ve been in a bit of a negativity rut that I just can’t seem to shake. It’s been frustrating because it just isn’t who I am as a teacher or a person.

A Little Spark

What did I need to snap out of this funk? A little spark of inspiration! I’m planning my next social studies unit (Ancient Rome) and was feeling stuck. So I asked around, and, as usual, I got lots of great ideas that started the ball rolling!

Finally getting to visit Pompeii after reading a book about it when I was 12 years old...

Finally getting to visit Pompeii after reading a book about it when I was 12 years old…

I’ve been to Italy and Rome twice and I was trying to remember all the things I would most want to share with my students – then I remembered the complete awe I felt wandering through Pompeii. And with a little research I’ve been able to come up with an exciting idea (I will blog about it later – promise!) that also requires some collaboration.

In the long run it didn’t really matter what the lesson was, I needed the reminder of my own passion and the opportunity to collaborate with someone new. That’s what I love about this teaching thing – You can’t do it on your own! It’s like a team sport, if you don’t receive a pass sometimes you aren’t really in the game…

I don’t know how long this spark will last but I really feel revitalized and excited again… Maybe even enough to tackle that stack of marking on my desk in the morning…

What is the “spark” that keeps you going when your feeling stressed or negative?

Meaghan

Teach it Tuesday: Quote and Note

The “Quote and Note” strategy is a very common one with read alouds, novel studies, and literature circles. We just finished a novel study in class and I felt for the first time that I really had a good system going for the quote and notes that we were doing. We did Quote and Notes about once a week for this novel study.

Note: A lot of these suggestions come from my friend Jess and Faye Brownlie’s Grand Conversations but I have also gathered lots of suggestions from other people and sources over the years, so thank you to everyone that has helped along the way!

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Quote and Note Day 1:

Together we brainstormed what makes for a good, strong quote to choose. With this list in mind I read aloud a chapter and they all chose one or two quotes to write down and then they did the same with one more chapter one their own (three quotes total). I gave the instruction that a note needed to give more than just a description of the quote but also needed to tell why it seems important (What does it allude to? What does it make you think of? What connections/predictions can you make?)

When they handed in their Q&N sheets that day I noticed some good quotes chosen but a lack of meaning and depth in their responses. When I marked them I wrote suggestions for how to elaborate their notes and I also highlighted any powerful writing I noticed in student’s work.

Quote and Note Day 2:

I started the class by handing back the first Q&N’s and had any students with highlighted (powerful writing) examples who were comfortable sharing to read theirs aloud. I then did an example Q&N with the class based on one powerful quote from the novel but instead of just doing the one note I did three notes on the same quote: Good, Better, Wow! For the “Good” level I wrote something very similar to what most have them had done – I answered with an “I think this quote is important because…” For the “Better” note we brainstormed things we could add, like predictions or connections. And then for the “Wow!” level we talked about meaning and referred to our “What powerful writers do…” anchor chart. After the class example they had to choose one quote and do their own “Good, Better, Wow!” examples of notes.

The responses were much better this time and I did the same thing – marking, adding suggestions, and highlighting powerful writing.

Quote and Note Day 3:

We started the class with the same process of handing back the last Q&N’s and having students who were comfortable read out their examples of powerful writing. This time students were expected to do three quotes on their own (back like on day 1 except a lot more prepared).

I originally felt like I had failed with the Day 1 flop of not good writing but looking back I realize how much more powerful it was for them to revise their work from their own writing. Also, reading the students’ examples of powerful writing aloud before we moved onto the next Q&N was a great way to solidify their learning. It was also a great way for me to highlight different students – I tried to find powerful writing examples in my less confident students and I could see the surge of confidence they got with reading their work aloud.

Do you do Quote and Notes with your class?

How do you help students become stronger readers/responders during novel study?

Meaghan