Teach it Tuesday: Read Aloud Time

We are starting a new unit in English right now that involves a read aloud novel that WILL be really good and intriguing but there is some getting used to with the style of language first. This means that although I wish the class was hooked from my first words, there was a lot of uninterested faces today…


How can we make sure read aloud time is engaging for students?

1. Choose the right book. (I know this book will work for the class once we get a few chapters in) I think it’s important to choose a book that is either at or higher than grade level so that they are engaged and maybe it is something that they wouldn’t be able to read on there own.

2. Discuss expectations. I find that in middle school this is very important (elementary kids seem to grab this read aloud time easier). Middle school students sometimes – most times – will choose any opportunity possible to turn class time into chat about the weekend time and read aloud can seem like an opportunity for this if you don’t discuss the reasons and expectations with them.

3. Allow for differences in listening style. Some students need to keep their hands busy, some need to put their head down, some just sit and listen, and some nod along. All of these ways CAN show that a student is listening as long as you have discussed expectations first and they know things like putting your head down does not mean nap time!

4. Give an easy activity for students to complete. Some things you can try are vocabulary hunts, key idea organizers, question developing, short summaries, AB Partner talk, doodle responses, etc. There are many ways to give students a small assignment that keeps them on task without it taking away from the reading experience.

5. Don’t be afraid to pause and ask questions. “What do you think they mean by that?” or another simple question can go a long way in engagement. Students will quickly understand that there is an expectation to be paying attention but they are also gaining a deeper understanding of the text this way.

What do you do to keep read aloud time engaging for your students?

Any suggestions for getting through those (sometimes boring) introduction chapters?



Science Curriculum: Where Is The Environment?

For those of you who are not teachers in British Columbia we currently have new curriculum drafts that have been put out for teachers to test and review. There is a lot of good intent with the new curriculum: more space for teachers to explore content on a deeper level, the focus on big ideas instead of small prescribed outcomes, and a push towards personalized learning. I really like this and the new focus towards personalized learning could be a really good thing – as long as we don’t forget to teach about compassion and community alongside.

Now for a variety of reasons we try not to get too “political” here on the blog and although we definitely have strong opinions we like to focus on the journey we are on more than the circumstances we are in BUT today I need to talk about the new science curriculum that’s been put out – and it won’t be sugar coated…

Remember back when I said I didn’t like teaching science? Well a lot has changed since then! In those first weeks of my fall contract I got to teach a unit about Water Systems on Earth and I began to love it for a variety of reasons, namely my students loved it and there was room for creativity and problem solving. I care so much about taking care of each other and the earth, and I was able to let this show in the unit. But even more importantly than that is that students care! They understand about the environment, they care about the environment, they are invested in their own futures, and they want to make a change.

When we learn about the environment we make connections to ourselves, connections that make the content come alive.

So if that is what I saw in my classroom, and that is what my colleagues see, than why is that missing from the new curriculum? Why is the most important, engaging, relative material being cut? Why, in times of environmental crisis, are we being told that learning about the environment is not important enough – that it’s not a “big idea”?

In the skills section, the new curriculum states students are to consider environmental impact, and I have heard the argument that teaching this skill will mean that environmental education is MORE embedded. I don’t buy it.  If it is not specifically in the curriculum it might not get taught. If it takes a back seat to cell theory and plate tectonics it is not made a priority. If environmental education is not spelled out in our curriculum it is too easy to forget about. And if the aim is to move towards integrated environmental education then this would appear throughout other curriculum areas and not just in science.


We cannot afford to wait any longer to make changes. In BC right now, we have some MAJOR environmental~political issues happening – Is this connected to the new curriculum? I can’t say myself, although I have my speculations. What I do know is that if we sit back and let this change happen, then we all lose.

Environmental education is arguably one of the most important topics we can cover in current times. Students love it and are engaged. Teachers enjoy teaching it. This is a need, not a want. The world needs it.

There is a petition to keep environmental education in the curriculum here. Also, if you are interested in more information there are two articles that explain further details here and here.

How do you incorporate environmental education into your teaching?

Any other thoughts on the new curriculum drafts?




Grade 8 Legacy Project

The students at my school were recently challenged by admin to do something in the community that would leave a lasting impact or legacy.  My teaching team and I got to thinking and after tossing a few ideas around I brought up the thought of “chalking the concrete”.

Two years ago, in the last year of my B.Ed, I took an excellent course called Community and Culture.  One of our main projects in this course was to do an “Act of Transformation” project.  Two friends and I came up with the idea to chalk the path at Dallas Road, a popular and stunning ocean side path here in Victoria.  We spent about two hours chalking the path one sunny afternoon, leaving little messages of hope, love, joy and inspiration for the runners, walkers, kite flyers and dogs.  Our Act of Transformation project was met with enthusiasm by total strangers; some people stopped to talk to us, others asked to join in.  I remember one man in particular who was working very hard on his new exercise regime; he told us that our notes along the concrete path had inspired him to keep running, even though he was totally exhausted.  Here are a few photos from our project:




You can’t actually see the view in this photo, but it is a glorious one!

Back to grade 8. For a few weeks we spent our CAPP time searching for inspirational/fun/silly quotes that might make people smile.  We talked about who our audience would be for this kind of community project (strangers, family, friends, children dogs, etc.) We wrote down our quotes and thoughts and I kept those pages stored on my desk because all teachers know that if you really want things to be saved, you better just keep it yourself (and then remember where you put said important pages!)  And then we waited for good weather.

This past Monday the sun was shining and there was promise of Mr. Sun hanging around for at least a day, so one teacher on my team ran out at lunch to buy a whole bunch of chalk and we canceled our afternoon classes.  All 85 of us (teachers, students and EAs) went outside and we did a “trial run” for our big legacy project – we chalked the concrete at our school!  I handed out the pages with quotes written on them and away we went…



I think our school’s art teacher did this one!

Admin and the amazing ladies in the office got notes outside their windows (how precious is this!?)

Admin and the amazing ladies in the office got notes outside their windows (how precious is this!?)

Some students really made their quotes and phrases pop by adding pictures and using the shapes in the concrete to enhance their work.

Some students really made their quotes and phrases pop by adding pictures and using the shapes in the concrete to enhance their work.

This one is my personal favourite.  This is the door I use (along with many other teachers) every single day.  Some darling child snuck around the corner and added this phrase to the side door.  On Tuesday when I got to school I saw this one for the first time and was brought to tears immediately.  I love that at least one of our 80 grade 8s understands that we are all in this together.

This one is my personal favourite. This is the door I use (along with many other teachers) every single day. Some darling child snuck around the corner and added this phrase to the side door. On Tuesday when I got to school I saw this one for the first time and was brought to tears immediately. I love that at least one of our 80 grade 8s understands that we are all in this together.

This project’s impact on our local community spread immediately.  Our concrete area at school serves as a walk through to get from one street to another so we often have all kinds of people passing through our school grounds on a daily basis.  The other day I had a conversation with a lady about the project while my class was getting ready for PE outside.  She was writing down some of her favourite quotes and asked if we had taken photos of the process, to which I replied, “Of course we did! I document everything!” ha.  Admin witnessed several people stopping to read and take photos of the work our grade 8s did.  I think it’s safe to say our trial run went very well!  We will bring our project to Dallas Road for the real deal sometime later in the spring when the weather is more reliable (if that’s even possible in this city). I promise to share photos!

Have you ever seen a project like this before? Have you been involved in other types of community or legacy projects? Share your experiences with us, we’d love to hear about it!




Guest Post: To Teach or Not To Teach?

Today’s guest post is brought to you by Naomi Keane, teacher, mentor, health-enthusiast, and dear friend of mine.  Naomi and I (Karley) met while working for ivivva, a children’s branch of lululemon, in 2009.  Our similar interests and passions connected us and we’ve been close friends ever since.  Naomi is a trained teacher, but she chose to take a different path with her teaching degree.  Read more to find out about where Naomi’s true passion lies and how her B.Ed helped her achieve her career goals and dreams.   i heart real foodI’d like to thank you for taking the time to read this post and for your ongoing support of Karley and Megan’s insightful blog. I have been asked by my beautiful friend to share about why I did not choose to go into teaching.  Without hesitation I said yes, but as I  sat down to plan out my post, I began feeling unsure about my decision to guest post on this topic. Not for one second do I regret my decision to pursue a different career path, but I do however hope you, my beloved tribe of educators, can feel my love, support, and pride I have for you and your sacred careers.

My name is Naomi and I was born and raised in beautiful Victoria, BC. As long as I can remember I have always wanted to be a teacher; rather I was born a teacher! Whether it was dance, fitness, or cooking, I would always find myself in these leadership/teaching roles. I also loved school, thus teaching was a natural career progression for me. Oddly enough when I take a moment and think back to my university experience I do remember stepping foot on campus and saying to myself, “this isn’t it.” There was something inside of me that knew this was only my beginning but definitely not my end. I grew up with an entrepreneurial spirit, and at the time of my B.Ed  I had no idea that my passion for small business would eventually become one of my ultimate life passions. I continued to study social sciences and Chinese with hopes of teaching both at the high school level. At this point I was already on contract for dance for grades 6, 7, and 8. I loved my life but something just wasn’t right. purple lulu   My love for movement transformed into a passion for group fitness and participating in fitness competitions. As you can imagine, juggling teaching, prep time, training, dance, aerobics, competing and a relationship, my life began to spiral. I always grew up with a busy schedule and large work load so it wasn’t so much how busy I was that was the problem, but rather how unhappy I had become. I wasn’t inspired, I wasn’t fulfilled, and I definitely wasn’t uplifting my community. Everything I was doing wasn’t because I wanted to but rather because I had to. I needed change and I needed it fast!

I left a loving relationship and disconnected from my everyday life. I remember being asked all of the time why I had left teaching. I hated that question! For some reason I always felt so guilty answering that question. Money! I would always say it was because of the money. I was making nearly double my teaching salary with teaching dance and fitness outside of school. So, money became my easy answer. Now let me make it clear, I always loved teaching and to this day thrive when I am teaching, but the entrepreneur in me was hungry to be challenged and I knew that I could make a good living doing what I loved on my own terms.

Over the course of six months I noticed I was still teaching heavily within both the dance community and fitness community and I was actually really happy! This was it! With the partnership of my sister we began Keane 2 Be Fit, a health and wellness company. Over the past few years we have worked hard to build a brand for ourselves. We have been on a mission to educate our clients and our communities how to live their happiest and healthiest lives possibles.   For the first time in many years I can say without doubt leaving my B.Ed was the best decision for me. I did indeed use money as my initial reason for leaving teaching; but today I would say I left teaching school because school wasn’t the best medium for me personally to inspire and help others to my full potential. I strive very hard to help my community feel and be amazing.

Today fitness and nutrition are my vehicles to motivating and inspiring. My passions, talents and core desired feelings motivate me everyday to live my best life possible. I am still a born teacher and will always spend my life teaching and coaching others. I believe that without proper nutrition and movement our bodies and our spirits cannot thrive at their full potential.   Once again thank you for taking the time to read about my journey. School teachers, I hope you are not offended but rather inspired by my courage. I love what I do today and wouldn’t give it up for anything. I know the world needs more amazing teachers! I thank you for the ongoing love and passion you have for your work and your students. In close, I’d like to ask you a few questions, how do you want to feel everyday? and not just feel, but REALLY FEEL? What is the first emotion you want to have when you wake up in the morning? Is your life serving you and allowing your core desired feelings to determine what you do everyday? I challenge you to incorporate this idea into your classrooms. Inspire your students and get them thinking now about what makes them happy and how will they continue to cultivate bliss in their lives as they grow.   Recipes:

Infused Water x4

Citrus juices are very alkaline and promote healthy digestion. Ginger root is a good
source antioxidants and has great anti-inflammatory properties._DSC9566

Blueberry Mint
1 1.5L pitcher of filtered water
2c ice cubes
1 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 cup muddled mint leaves

Mango Melon
1 1.5L pitcher of filtered water
2c ice cubes
1 cup mango chunks
1/2 cup sliced melon of choice

Citrus Ginger
1 1.5L pitcher of filtered water
2c ice cubes
2 slices grapefruit
2 slices lemon and lime
2 slices orange
2 large slices of ginger

Strawberry Kiwi
1 1.5L pitcher of filtered water
2c ice cubes
2 kiwis sliced
1 cup sliced strawberries

Combine all ingredients together into pitcher and allow water to steep for at least
30 minutes. The longer the water steeps for, the more intense the flavour will be.

Keaner Tip: Once you drink all your delicious infused water, just refill your
pitcher and let it steep for a few hours. You can reuse your fruit and herbs for up
to three days in the fridge.

Chocolate Coconut Disks

Servings: 12
Prep Time: 20 minutes

3oz finely chopped cocoa butter
2oz coconut oil
2oz coconut flesh
3 tbs cocoa powder
1/3 cup chocolate protein powder
1/2 tsp stevia

In a small saucepan, melt finely chopped cocoa butter, coconut oil, and coconut
flesh. Place all ingredients including melted coconut oil  into a food processors or
blender and blend until smooth.
Pour mixture into a small bowl and place in fridge for 3 minutes until mixture cools
and thickens but is still slight runny.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and pour chocolate into twelve equal disks.
Sprinkle with topping(s) of choice: dried fruit, coconut flakes, pumpkin seeds, date
powder, and cinnamon, course sea salt.

Keaner Tip: Have fun experimenting with any toppings of you desire. Fruit and nut
combinations, for example, are always a hit!

naomi@keane2befit.com http://www.keane2befit.com

Teach it Tuesday: Revising and Editing

Sometimes we have to do things in our classrooms that aren’t exactly “exciting” for our students… or for us teachers really. For me one of these is revising and editing. This is not something I particularly like to do for myself to begin with so sometimes it feels almost impossible to hook kids into this as a good practice.


Usually when I have to teach a skill I think about what works best for me first – so I can share a personal story alongside my introduction sometimes – and then I talk to other people or use that wonderful Google tool to find other ways that can help as well. My most clear examples of revising and editing recently have been through blogging so when I went to introduce today’s activity with my class I told them how sometimes when I write a blog post I re-read it aloud to myself or someone else and that is when I notice things like word choice, sentences starters, etc. After my introduction (and the explanation of “why do we have to do this?”) we jumped right into a four part activity for editing:

We used our AB Partner list for these activities so that it was easy to switch partners after each round.

1. First Partner: With your first partner, take turns reading your stories aloud to one another. When you are listening think about the general flow of your partners story and if there are any parts that don’t make sense, are choppy, or sound a bit awkward. At the end of your turn listening give your partner some specific feedback. 12 minutes

2. Second Partner: After you switch partners, exchange your story with your new partner. Read through their story and use a highlighter to highlight parts or sentences that could use further description. If you have an idea write an example on the margin for them to look at later. 6 minutes

3. Third Partner: With your next partner, exchange your stories again. This time you are reading through for word choice. Underline any words that you think could benefit from being changed to a synonym or by adding another descriptive word. 4 minutes

4. Fourth Partner: Exchange your stories with your final partner and this time you are editing their work for spelling, punctuation, and grammar. 10 minutes. In my class we were looking at paragraph structure in particular and I also gave them an editing symbols key so that we would all be on the same page with the changes to be made.

Overall I was happy with the amount of discussion that was going on between partners. I think that talking about the words and sentences they chose really helped my students to think about the intention behind their words.

How do you do revising and editing in your class?

What lessons do you find the hardest to make interesting?



Progression of a New Teacher

Throughout my marathon training I have often stepped back to look at how far I’ve come in my running and it’s pretty exciting! I started thinking about using this perspective with other aspects of my life. Last week I realized that I have a pretty clear cut example of how far I’ve come in my short career of a teacher and the more I thought about it the more excited I got! I think it’s so easy to become bogged down with all the things we want to do and strive for as teachers that we don’t often take the time to look at how far we’ve come. So here it is…


April 2010 – Grade 6 (three week practicum)

I was nearing the end of my first practicum and I was going to be supervised by the principal of the school I was at in Ontario. In preparing for the supervision, I decided that I should choose a language arts lesson that I had been dying to try out and I knew that it would be intriguing and dynamic for the students: The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg. If you aren’t familiar with these pictures then you need to go check out Van Allsburg’s work quickly because it is truly amazing.

For the lesson, I gave each group of students (sitting in pods of four) one of the pictures and asked them to discuss what they thought was happening in the picture. After a few minutes I switched the pictures to the next table and they repeated the process. The students absolutely loved looking at the mysterious photos and talking about what might have been happening. After they had seen all of them I let them choose the one they were most intrigued by and they started on a rough draft of a short story.

In the end I got one amazing short story from a student and then quite a few “okay” rough drafts, followed by a lot of blank pages with some writing crossed out on it. When I sat down with the principal and my mentor teacher after the lesson they gave me some suggestions on how to scaffold the lesson better to meet the learning needs of my students. During this meeting a key phrase really struck me and I have kept it in mind ever since, “What is necessary for one student is beneficial for all.” I think this phrase gave me permission to slow down my lessons and allow for better teaching to occur.

November 2012 – Grade 8 (first contract)

As we were finishing our short stories unit and working through the 6+1 traits of writing program I decided that this would be a great opportunity to try out “The Mysteries of Harris Burdick” again. This time I was ready with a lot more pre-writing strategies as well. Not only was this at the end of a writing unit where we had targeted the 6 traits, but I also had a better sense of what my students would need to be successful for this assignment.

This time I laid out the pictures with chart paper around the room and for the first half of class students were given time to go explore the different pictures and write down key words or phrases that came to mind with the different pictures. Once they finished looking they gathered in a group with the picture they had chosen and discussed the different suggestions their classmates had written on the chart paper. Each student then circled three of the ideas they liked the best from the paper and discussed where there story might go.

The next day we moved onto planning out our short stories and used the pictures and ideas to write notes on plot, characters, and setting before we started into the rough drafts. After the rough drafts were finished, students were paired up to do revisions and specifically check for different writing traits. Once we had the final drafts finished and edited the students were very proud of their final products. And I was proud of the improvement I had made to my initial writing assignments two years prior.

April 2014 – Grade 8 (second year teaching)

When I first received this contract and found out that I was going to be doing creative writing I was excited to use my favourite story writing assignment again. My goal this time was to be more intentional with my lessons surrounding the assignment, and I attended a wonderful workshop from our school district’s Learning Initiatives department right around the time I was planning. At the workshop we learned about Smart Learning and planning with the end in mind, as well as practicing strategies such as AB Partners with talking stems.

I decided that my end goal for this unit was going to be based around the question “How can we express emotion through writing?” With this goal I did several lead up activities including a short paragraph piece on emotion and looking at emotion through the lens of a reader with the story “The Tunnel.” By the time we had a good grasp of how emotion comes through writing we developed a rubric together for what the students thought would be most important in their own writing.

Now that we had already practiced AB Partner talk and using Smart Learning coaching cards (in our lessons with “The Tunnel), we used these strategies to discuss some of the Van Allsburg pictures. During this time every single student was engaged in speaking and listening with their partners and I was even able to walk around with a checklist for some oral language assessment. After the partner talk, students were all able to choose the picture they found the most intriguing and the next class we worked through a story planning sheet (following the RAFT outline, example here) in groups with the others who selected the same picture. They also had to discuss the emotions that they would be addressing through their writing.

For the rest of the week we did a mini lesson first thing (on voice, word choice, and flow) and then spent the second half of the block writing our rough drafts. We will be working through peer revisions and editing this week and their final drafts will be finished this week. So far the students have been actively engaged in the writing process through reading, listening, speaking, planning, writing, and revising. I can already see how much more thought they are putting into making the emotion come through in their stories and I can’t wait to see the final products!

I am amazed at how far I’ve come as a teacher and it’s neat to look back and see that my one lesson flop was actually based on a really good idea – it just needed a little more experience to back it up! I am so thankful for the feedback that I have received over the years and the ability to put it to use has been invaluable to my practice.

How far have you come as a teacher?

What are your goals for improving your practice further?


Yesterday’s Teachable Moment

So I think we can all agree that yesterday’s post was a bit depressing.  This morning I was determined to move on to bigger and better things.  I dropped my husband off at work and continued on my way to school, blasting a new song a dear friend sent my way a few days ago.  There have been a few sad unmentioned-on-this-blog things that have happened at school lately and I needed my drive to work to sing it out and, consequently, cry it out.  So that happened.

And then I witnessed a car accident right in front of my face.  While I was stopped in traffic the car crash literally happened right in front of me and my hands ended up covering my face, begging the Universe to let the people be okay.  Thankfully everyone was okay.  I pulled over, called school to tell them I’d be late, called 911 and gave my statement to police once they arrived.  The day’s first hurdle over, I got back into my car and made it to school right before first bell.

I was feeling rather frazzled as I pulled into the school’s parking lot, but one colleague at school wisely suggested I use my morning’s experience as our advisory discussion.  So I did.  I shared with my students what I witnessed only 40 minutes before and my goodness, were they ever concerned, attentive and alert.  We morphed into a conversation about “being the better person” (their “thinking homework” I assigned them after yesterday’s incident), which turned into a conversation about what we are proud of lately.  I had my students write down how they can be better humans and what they are proud of lately on slips of paper and then I collected their notes and read them out one at a time.

Here are a few examples.

Here are a few examples.

A few more examples:

“I’m proud that I’m the only female guard member (people in cadets who march with guns) because the other girls were too nervous to join”.

“I’m proud of getting on the competitive team in volleyball!”

“I placed top 5 in biathlon regionals”.

“I can be a better rugby player by taking in advice and when someone corrects me, don’t take it as an insult but rather a compliment to do better”.

“I’m proud of how I’m always there when my friend needs me”.

“I am proud for making the right choice [and for] sticking up for what I believe in”.

Needless to say, my teacher heart cracked open and let the love in again.  As I read out everyone’s statements the smiles, cheers and claps filled the classroom with pure, awesome joy.  I looked around the room and said to my students, “See…you ARE good, caring, amazing people.  It’s just sometimes you make choices that aren’t the greatest, and that’s okay because we learn from those mistakes, like we are doing right now, and then we move forward”.  (I just finished telling my mom this story on the phone and her response was, “Wow”.  I replied, “I know right? They don’t teach you how to deal with this kinda stuff at Uni…it’s nuts, Mom!”)

I also participated in the “What are you proud of” activity with my class.  I am proud of my running.  I run when I don’t want to and I stick to my training schedule even though I’m exhausted by the end of the week.  I’m proud of myself because my dedication to running is starting to show; today after school I ran a new 5k personal best (25min38sec).  That’s a 5min02sec avg pace, in case you were wondering.  Which leads me to my women who will represent kilometers 4, 5 and 6 of my half marathon:

Camille: My former rhythmic gymnastics coach turned close friend.  Camille knows me better than many people.  She's been in my life for 18 years and she's truly taught me the value of hard work.  I give Camille a LOT of credit for all my life's successes thus far.  Love you!

Kilometer 4 goes to Camille: My former rhythmic gymnastics coach turned close friend. Camille knows me better than many people. She’s been in my life for 18 years and she’s truly taught me the value of hard work. I give Camille a LOT of credit for all my life’s successes thus far. Love you!

Kilometer 6 goes to Naomi, affectionately known as MaiMai in our house.  Mai and I have been friends for a handful of years.  She constantly inspires me to work harder at my fitness and my nutrition.  Mai is also one of THE most go-getter young women I know.  You'll be hearing more from her tomorrow!

Kilometer 5 goes to Naomi, affectionately known as MaiMai in our house. Mai and I have been friends for a handful of years. She constantly inspires me to work harder at my fitness and my nutrition. Mai is also one of THE most go-getter young women I know. You’ll be hearing more from her tomorrow!

Kilometer 6 goes to Nadine.  Nadine was my Vice Principal last year and has turned into a dear friend.  When I need solid teacher advice I know I can go to Nadine with questions at any hour.  Kilometer 6 in my long runs is when I usually start feeling warmed up and ready to rock, so Nadine, because you have helped launch my teaching career in such an amazing way, you're going to launch my first half-marathon too! Much love.

Kilometer 6 goes to Nadine, my dear friend who gave me this card at New Year 2014.  She told me that every time I look at this card I can be reminded of my strengths, so I tacked it up by my desk at school (don’t mind the appendix!) When I need solid teacher advice I know I can go to Nadine with questions at any hour. Kilometer 6 in my long runs is when I usually start feeling warmed up and ready to rock, so Nadine, because you have helped launch my teaching career in such an amazing way, you’re going to launch my first half-marathon too! Much love.




Today’s Teachable Moment

I have an honest post coming at you tonight.  I’m feeling somewhat unorganized and a bit scattered lately.  Usually I take my Wednesday post inspirations from various pictures I’ve taken throughout the week, but this week I don’t even have a picture or image lined up to attach to this post.   Things have been going relatively well in my class academically, socially and emotionally.  We launched right into term three and we are working harder than ever in science and French (fun lessons and successes to come next week).  Hip-hip-hooray!

And then today ended on a bad note.  Something was written on the whiteboard in my class over lunch hour.  I don’t know who did it.  I actually don’t care who did it.  All I care about is that it happened and not one of my students did anything about it.  Actually, that last part is misleading, one of my students TOLD me about it at the start of last block today, an hour and a half after it was up for the entire class to read.  Note: I didn’t see it on the board at first because it was written in the same colour as everything else and I’m just not that focused on the board all of the time.  I guess it’s safe to say my students aren’t either, because not all of them caught on right away.

My heart sank as I faced my class, mentally preparing to give my students a serious lecture on inclusion, tolerance and community.  Internally I was fuming.  My mind was screaming, “How can this be happening? We’ve come so far!” And then I laid down the law.

I’ve only ever seriously raised my voice to a class twice in my short teaching career.  I chose to go the quiet and controlled route in today’s lecture; I feel like my students take me seriously when I am extremely to the point and unimpressed (which I was).  A theme in our school surrounds the question of “Who do we want to be?”  I think this is a great question to ask people because, in my experience, it helps align and focus one’s goals (academic or extracurricular).  So, in light of today’s whiteboard incident, I asked my students this question.  And then I asked them what they can do to make make themselves better?  I used myself as an example, which isn’t always the best thing to do as a teacher but I was scrambling for control of the conversation.  I told my students that every day when I come to work I am asking myself what I can do to be a better teacher. A better listener. A better planner. I’m asking myself what I can do to do make science more fun. To make French more accessible to all learners.  I’m also asking myself how I can be a better wife, friend, sister, cat owner? (I got a few chuckles on that one). I’m constantly seeking greatness in all that I do, not because I want to be perfect, but because I know I can be better.  I received some wide-eyed stares after that rant.

I asked my class what they could have done to make the situation we were currently in better?  Some suggested erasing the words immediately, telling a supervisor/teacher immediately, questioning the person who did it (if they knew).  I agreed.  And then I asked them why in the world they chose to be bystanders? Again, blank, wide-eyed stares.  One brave, darling soul raised his hand and confessed, “Mrs. Alleyn, you are a great teacher, but despite that we are still so mean to each other”.  I looked around into everyone’s eyes and my heart crumbled.  We have worked very hard in our class to create community and this was just a big slap in the face to me and my students.  But my brave student was right.  They are still so mean to each other…sometimes.

So, I left school today feeling disheartened.  Uninspired.  Sad.  Mystified.  It’s April and we’ve reverted back to October issues.  I have no idea how to fix this and I’m not certain I can fix it, actually.  I just want my students to finish off the year together on the same page while taking some happy memories with them.  They know that because I told them that today.

My students’ homework tonight is to think about how they can be better than they already are…and then, after we discuss that topic, I plan to ask them what they’re most proud of lately.  I’m hoping my positive approach to this negative situation will make me a better teacher and show them that big problems do not need to always be dealt with through yelling and punishment.  Hello, teachable moments.

Teach it Tuesday: Thought Block

In our district, middle schools have a schedule that includes “Advisory” (which is similar to homeroom, I think?). The time allotted for advisory varies depending on the school, but most school’s have it first thing in the morning. I really love advisory time and having it first thing in the morning allows for a nice buffer time between greeting students and jumping into a subject. I have seen teachers use this time for a variety of activities such as class meetings, health/career education, current events, etc. Lately, I have been trying out a few different strategies with my current class first thing in the morning and this is what our schedule looks like now:

  • Monday – Goal setting
  • Tuesday - YouTube (funny, interesting or inspirational)
  • Wednesday - Brain Teasers (logic puzzles, sudoku, etc)
  • Thursday – Thought Block
  • Friday – Feel Good Fridays

So far Thought Block has been my favourite because I have been planning activities for this one since my last contract ended and through some inspiration from a blog friend over at Olive to Run. Last Thursday my Thought Block activity was based on this blog post I saw floating around the Facebook world back in the fall. We only have about ten minutes for advisory once we get throught the basics of attendance, announcements, and form collection so I tried to make sure that this activity was as organized as possible.

  1. I wrote this on the board: “You have just been handed a microphone. When you speak into it everyone in the world can hear and understand you at the same time. You are allowed to make three statements. What would you say?”
  2. Every student received a piece of paper to write down their ideas and I gave them some time to discuss with their neighbours if they wished.
  3. At the end I collected their papers and compiled a list of the main ideas to post in our classroom.


(Yes, these are the “good ones” and I didn’t write down the comments like “please give me all of the jelly beans.” But most of the students were very thoughtful and there were a lot of overlapping ideas that I was able to combine into one or two phrases).

I posted this in the classroom yesterday and it was so great to see the students’ excitement as they searched to find their phrases and guess who wrote what. I loved seeing how thoughtful they were about what they thought was most important for the world. Some of my favourites: donate to kids in need, use your money to benefit everyone, have fun, be happy, stop the wars and raise the bar.

What’s up this week in Thought Block?

I’m going to be using this picture to see what kind of thoughts we can generate around what the world could be like.


Source: Alan Weisman

Do you have anything similar to a “thought block” in your schedule?

Any suggestions for thought provoking ideas?


Books We Are Reading

First off… We have a winner! Congratulations Kelli! You are the winner of a copy of the book “Quiet” that we will be reading for our next online book club. Here is Kelli’s winning entry:


We decided it’s about time we write a joint post on what we’ve been reading lately.  I don’t know about you guys, but Meaghan and I always have several books on the go and at least two more waiting in the wings.  This “habit” drives my husband nutty because I always have stacks of books on our bed’s headboard and “it looks messy”.  I think it looks AWESOME.

Here’s a quick glance at what we’ve been reading as of late:

Karley’s pile:reads

A Little House Traveller by Laura Ingalls Wilder: A gift from a good friend of mine who shares the Little House on the Prairie love.  This one is a day-by-day journal style account, written by Laura herself, about the Wilder’s wagon covered move from South Dakota to Missouri.  If you like pioneer tales and some classic humour, I recommend this book!

Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James: Sadly, this book is fictional.  The author pretends to have discovered some long lost personal journals, written by Austen, and writes a memoir-like account of Austen’s family life and love life.  A dreamy read…I’m on round two.

Quiet by Susan Cain: I received this one from my husband for Christmas and have yet to read it.  Thankfully this one is our new book club read!  Based on the title alone I am confident that this book will shed some light on the quieter, more introverted students in my class.

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen: Simply because one can never get enough Jane Austen.  That, and, I’m a hopeless romantic for the “olden days”.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: I haven’t read this one yet (I know, shocking!) I have this copy on loan from a friend and I started to read it and was, admittedly, weirded out by the style of narration.  I’ve had several people tell me, including my own mom, that because my most favourite genre is World War II history that I must read this book.  That will happen most likely this summer.

Meditations from the Mat by Rolf Gates & Katrina Kenison: I had to throw a yoga read in here because I take so much from my yoga texts.  This one is broken into small, daily chapters and includes a quote and a short story by the authors.  I often find myself digging through this continual read for applicable inspiration both on and off the mat.


Meaghan’s pile:


Lost At School by Dr. Ross Greene: This is a book I’m currently borrowing from one of our past guest bloggers and it is amazing so far! I have been keep a stack of sticky notes nearby so that I can mark away as I read. It is a great mix of practical advice and research based insight that I’m finding fascinating.

Play by Stuart Brown: I haven’t started this one yet but I am going to be reading it as part of a book club at school and I’m very excited about it! Play is also a topic of conversation quite often in our recreation/education household so it is very fitting.

Quiet by Susan Cain: Of course I will be reading this one soon for our book club! I’ve heard nothing but good things about it and I’m really excited to get started.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd: I just bought this book with a gift certificate I had and I am so excited for it. I’ve heard really good things and Sue Monk Kidd is one of my favourite authors since I first read “The Secret Life of Bees.

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai: This book I received for Christmas but didn’t start until about a month ago. It is just the most amazing story (I’m sure a lot of you have already heard it if not read it). I am feeling so inspired as I read it and its a good balance for me as a personal read with an education topic.


We want to know what you are reading! Leave us a comment here so we can have a great must read list for the summer.