Reflections of an eighth year teacher

As I mentioned earlier in November, I have started my first official journey as a teacher mentor, having my first student teacher experience. It has been an incredible experience so far. It is so fortunate that my students have a second adult to connect with and knowing that I can help a future teacher with their career. I have enjoyed learning from her and learning with her. This Friday marked the end of her third week with my students and we discussed all of the things to come, one being her unit plan. Planning a unit when you have been teaching for a few years is a whole different task compared to someone in school. When I was in school, I do not remember learning how to plan a unit. It is extremely hard to know what resources to use when you are in school or in your first year. Over the years, I have acquired so many great resources and those are hard to know about when you are just starting out. So something I have made sure to do so far is to pass on the locations of these resources, describing how to differentiate with them and how to lesson plan using them.

Having a student teacher is a great way to reflect on your practice. Reading over the mid-term evaluation made me reflect on many things about my teaching. I think it would be very beneficial for all teachers, no matter what year they are in, to reflect on these questions. Take time to pause and reflect on the following:

  • Do you demonstrate knowledge about how your student’s learn?
  • Do you organize purposeful student learning experiences?
  • Do you foster decision-making, problem-solving and inquiry?
  • Do you show insight into individual student’s progress?
  • Do you differentiate assessment techniques?
  • Do you provide written and verbal constructive feedback?
  • Do you have a consistent approach to student behaviour expectations?
  • Do you maintain a safe learning environment?
  • Do you motivate and sustain class involvement?
  • Do you adapt to the needs of all learners?
  • Do you generate enthusiasm and respect for subjects?

I started to reflect honestly about how all of these are evident in my daily practice. There are so many things to think about and a few of these have not been given enough time and effort as the years have gone on. I would like to reflect on one of the questions that stood out to me the most.

Do you organize purposeful student learning experiences?

Sometimes I find it hard to “reinvent the wheel” when teaching certain subjects such as History or Science. I look to use already created units made by colleagues that are kind enough to share. These units are great, they cover all expectations and provide the students with great readings, opportunity for responding and some inquiry projects. When I think about it, are they purposeful learning experiences? I am not too sure about that.

Recently, my students participated in a media literacy unit where their culminating task was to plan an advertising campaign to advertise “Sportswear Day” for the school. Leading up to this task, they evaluated the effectiveness of professional advertisements, responding to what worked for certain audiences. This had a purpose as it would lead to the eventual creating of their own advertisements. My students created posters, videos and announcements that incorporated students, teachers and celebrities, paying attention to the effectiveness of celebrity endorsements. These ads. were sent to all classes and the posters were hung on the walls. The school spirit was immediately uplifted by this ad. campaign; students and staff were looking forward to this spirit day.

The experience of creating advertisements for a purpose and hearing day after day about the success of each ad. was a purposeful experience that I am glad my students had. They are more likely to remember it when they have graduated and were involved in the learning experience. I look forward to creating more of these experiences in the future, especially as I continue to mentor my student teacher. As we head into the winter season, I hope to have a locker decorating contest, incorporating art expectations and having classes come view these lockers. We would ask these classes to vote and look at the data, commenting on students responded and why they responded the way they did.

I really appreciate this opportunity to mentor, not only to help a future teacher but to continue reflecting on my own practice.

 

My first experience as an official mentor

Yesterday began my first official day as a student-teacher mentor. So for the next six weeks, I will be blogging about the experiences of having a student-teacher in the classroom.

Since I have been teaching for longer than five years now, I am eligible to have a student teacher in the classroom. Since I was remote last year, I did not jump at the opportunity as I thought it would be more beneficial for that student teacher to learn in a physical classroom. This year, I could tell I have an incredible class who would give that teacher candidate a lot of experience and I was excited at the opportunity! Not only is having a student teacher an amazing opportunity to inspire the next generation of teachers with new ideas and methods but it also allows for all students to get an extra adult in the room. That is an incredible opportunity for all for those six incredible weeks.

My student teacher started yesterday and was visibly excited to start her practicum. She had been waiting for her placement to begin as her experience in the physical classroom got cut short last year as we switched to virtual. I could tell right away that her positive attitude and attentiveness would do so well in my 7/8 classroom.

The day started well with introductions, routines and the basics. As the day unfolded, I could see her getting to know the students and having chats with them. This was great to see as this is the best way to get involved right at the beginning. Almost immediately, a student shared about how they hadn’t slept the night before and how they were feeling upset. Right away, my student teacher got to see how if a student isn’t feeling mentally healthy or ready for the day, they cannot succeed in the classroom. I let my student know that they were heard and that we would support them at school and look to help them at home. Mental health and student well-being will be and should always be the main focus in the classroom so it was important for my student teacher to hear that discussion on her first morning.

During our planning time, we had great discussions around why she had decided to go to school for teaching, her teachable areas, any aspects of her placement that she was feeling anxious about, any extra-curriculars she would like to be involved in and a few more questions to get our journey together started. These answers are important to set the foundation for her placement. I also asked her to complete a small task for homework, to write out the seating plan and to write down any small comments or observations that she had made about the students on her first day.

This morning, when she shared all the observations she had gathered, I was shocked with how much she had learned about my students after she had only met them for five periods. I mentioned how knowing the learners, their needs and learning habits will ultimately determine the way that she teaches for the next six weeks. I cannot stress enough how thrilled I was to hear all she had observed in that short amount of time.

After school today she came to assist with volleyball, which was great to see. Funny enough, we have the same coaching interests so it will be great to see her get involved in these activities as well. I am so excited for this journey as I can tell she is an eager university student who was meant to be a teacher. I am happy to pass on all that I know and of course, guide and help her through this journey. I was so fortunate enough eight years ago to have two associate teachers who did so much for me. They made me the teacher I am today and allowed me to explore so many aspects of this profession. I can only hope I will do the same for her.

“I like this math better than real math!”

Fake Math vs. Real Life

“I like this math better than real math” was exclaimed by my grade eight student on Friday while we were playing Trust No One on Gimkit. Gimkit is a live, gameshow style learning that requires students to solve basic math problems in order to reach a common goal. Gimkit is an excellent way to see what students need more help with the math concepts taught that week and who understands what was taught. So why does my student consider learning in such a way “fake math”? I asked her and her response was interesting. To summarize, my student mentions how real math has to be with pencil and paper, must be boring and has to be done quietly. This is the exact opposite of the way that I like to teach math. It is interesting to hear the different perceptions of math from each student. After my student said this, I asked the class to explain the math concepts we were exploring in that Gimkit live show. My students then answered: solving for the greatest common factor, finding square roots, etc. I then explained to my student that all of that math is “real”.

My math program changes each year as I learn from different teachers such as the ones that presented last year at the OAME conference (more information can be found about that conference here: OAME) I like to integrate different ways of learning whether it be with whiteboards (non-permanent surfaces), manipulative based problems, problem of the week, asking the students which one doesn’t belong (WODB), solving patterns, estimating with a daily prompt (Estimation180) or my favourite, playing a math game that makes students think they aren’t even doing math. This was evident last Friday as my student thought we weren’t even doing real math.

I love hearing about all the different approaches to a math program. With the updated math curriculum in its second year, it is especially interesting to take a look at the different approaches to the financial literacy and coding programs. I am still getting used to the new curriculum but I love the easy online format that is available online: Math Curriculum I have printed this out and I look at what expectations work well together. I work with my grade team partners to take about what strands we report on each term. Ideally, I would love to try a fully spiralled math program but I am not 100% comfortable with this approach yet and am interested in learning more.

Challenges in Math Today

Today I struggled with a student who did not want to try the zeros principle when adding integers because she already knows how to add integers. I asked her a few times to try it out on her whiteboard and eventually, she did it. She asked me why she had to try this strategy if she already knew how to add integers. I told her that I teach many strategies so that students can pick their favourite. However, this student had already developed her own strategy, so did I just confuse her by adding another one to her toolkit? Should I have let her answer the question using the way she already knows? So many things to think about and at the time, I did not know the answer. How would you handle that situation? I love hearing many different ways that teachers approach math strategies and how to work with students who do not want to learn new ones.

With a split class this year, I am fortunate enough to tackle each lesson as a review for the eights and at the same time it being new content for the sevens. This allows for student teachers and a great review for the eights as last year was often interrupted by closures of classes and ultimately, the board. I am excited to teach the eights their new curriculum while inviting the sevens to try it out. At first, I viewed math in a split class as a challenge but now I just see it as an exciting opportunity to challenge students to be teachers and leaders. I look forward to continue blogging at my math program as the year continues. Next time you have the opportunity, ask your students if they consider any math task at any given time “fake or real”… a perception that I loved hearing last Friday!

Truth and Reconciliation Day Reflections

In my grade 7/8 class, we spent the month of September discussing residential schools, learning about how these schools horribly affected many people and their families to this very day. We spent the past two week doing an activity from a Canva slideshow that my principal shared with our staff. We listened to many residential school survivors tell their story and we commented on how these stories made us feel. During the time when these videos were on, my students were actively listening and not distracted by anything around them. I could tell that what they were listening to was important to them. We discussed and participated in activities from this link Canva Link

Then, during the week of September 27th to October 1st, we participated and listened to various live speakers from the Truth and Reconciliation Week activities. During these live videos and activities, my students once again were engaged and being respectful to the speakers. The events we participated in can be found by clicking on this link

After listening to all of the speakers and pre-recorded videos, my students made their own orange shirt out of felt that they could safety pin to their shirt if they did not have an orange shirt for our first Truth and Reconciliation Day on September 30th. This idea was shared with me by a fellow teacher in my school (who has done this every year with her class). My students wore them with pride on September 30th as they knew the significance and importance of wearing orange.

Some questions my students had about Truth and Reconciliation Week/Day were:

  1. Why do the government officials get a holiday?
  2. Why would anyone choose to put children in a residential school?
  3. How can we learn from this?
  4. What can we do to help?
  5. Why…just why?

One of my grade eights said it best when he was commenting on the total devastation a parent would feel if their child never returned home. This comment was met with silence from my students.

We also read an article about perhaps in the future moving to make Truth and Reconciliation Day a provincial holiday as well. This brought up a great discussion about why this year it was only for federal employees. One student made a comment along the lines of, “I wonder if those employees are taking the day to reflect.” A good question from a grade eight student.

I commented on the fact that even though we may not feel as if we can do a lot to change what happened, we can respect the time we take each year to remember those children in the unmarked graves and to learn and listen from all of those who were impacted by that. I can continue to teach my class during this month about this each year and my students can continue to remember the children who were found. I enjoyed looking at Instagram and Twitter to see how schools reflected and shared their learning on Truth and Reconciliation Day.

As we move into October and learn about Islamic Heritage Month, we need to do our best to remember how to honour and respect all that we heard during September for the entire school year.

 

First Days of School Through a Wellness Lens

The long awaited return to the classroom has finally come! After being outside of the classroom since March 2020, I was able to go back to the physical classroom this September 8th. I was so happy to be able to set up my room and await the arrival of students. Teaching online was challenging and did not allow me to have the face-to-face connections that are much needed in a classroom. I am so happy that schools are open and that my position is no longer online. This year, I am teaching grades 7 & 8. I hope to still be teaching the same class come October, but with re-organization, things could change. 

Preparing for the first day was challenging as it had been 14 months since I had taught in person. Luckily, our school board prepared activities for us entitled “Reimagining Wellness”, where teachers are asked to teach 90 minutes a day from the wellness activity choice boards. The choice boards have a variety of activities within one of these three categories: Community and Team Building, Physical Activation and Social Emotional Skill Development. Teachers select one activity from each of these categories to introduce each day (thirty minutes per activity). My students seem to enjoy the activities and have enjoyed getting to know each other without feeling pressured to jump into all the curriculum activities. I am thankful for these resources as it has always been important to start a class off with these types of activities, especially after many students have been away for 14 months as well.

Additionally, it has been great to get to know students such as finding out their preferred pronouns and to try to get back into the swing of things. Our school board is looking to start voluntary extracurriculars soon and my class has already begun planning for the Terry Fox Assembly. Myself and my students are looking forward to these leadership opportunities as we have been without them for much longer than the COVID shutdown. As long as we can stay safe and get back to doing the things at school that we love, the extra things make the day that much better. 

As October draws closer, teachers in our board find out if any students are leaving to go online/returning from online. Our school could undergo a massive re-organization and we are all hoping things will stay the same as many students have now had the chance to bond due to these wellness activities. However, after teaching online last year, I have gotten better at dealing with change and learning how to overcome challenges. So if my assignment changes, I will be able to accept that with a positive attitude. 

I hope all teachers and students had a great first two weeks and that everyone is happy to be back. I know that all students are definitely glad to be back in the physical classroom where they can continue to make connections and learn in the way we were always meant to learn. 

Final Reflections from a Remote Teacher

Wow, what a year it has been! And to think, we didn’t think things could get any wilder than 2020. I have taught grade seven online since the first week of school and am finishing up next week. I have learned so much this year about myself as a teacher and about the things that children go through each and every day. Taking away the physical aspect of school has been challenging for some students yet so beneficial for others. For most of the students in my class, it was an overall positive experience. I was so lucky to have my 29 incredible students for this online experience. 

As I mentioned in my last blog post, my students participated in an interview with me where they asked questions about their efforts in certain subjects. 

I am pleased to say that many of them took the opportunity to hand in extra assignments or to bump up current ones. My students also had a chance to reflect on the learning skills they were most proud of and ones that they hope to work on in the future. They also had great final reflections about their year online. I posed the question to them, “What are you most proud of about your grade seven year?” Here were their responses:

  • The fact that I am in a class full of kind people
  • I am most proud of my marks and grades. I have been working so hard and it has paid off
  • Not getting distracted 
  • Staying on task and asking questions if confused 
  • Attendance and coming on time 
  • How to use different websites, finishing my work on time and kind of mostly everything because online school can be hard sometimes
  • My participation
  • I think I am proud that I did everything on time and proud that I did well
  • Improved on tech. skills 
  • I try my best and that’s what I’m most proud of
  • Doing my assignments on time, coming to class on time and being respectful to others in the chat or either the mic
  • I’m proud of staying in class and working on difficult work
  • Participating, even if I get the answer wrong
  • I’m proud that me and the class did a whole year of online school
  • How well I did even though I was nervous starting
  • I’m proud of my first term report
  • Doing online learning and enjoying it even though I thought it would be boring
  • Work through the MS teams platform, virtual activities and enjoying the whole experience
  • I’m happy with my marks
  • For making it through the year 
  • Not losing focus from the IRL transition to online learning
  • The fact that i can learn both in this environment and outside in an actual school
  • Being nice 
  • Online learning in general 
  • Finding a really good friend 🙂 

As you can see, it was an overall positive experience as my students learned how to see the positive in almost all situations, especially, learning remotely.

I have also learned many things throughout this year. I have discovered some incredible new programs and have developed some new teaching strategies in math and literacy. I have also discovered some game-changing activities and routines that I hope to keep as a permanent part of my program.

Math:

 I would like to keep using the virtual whiteboard in the classroom, having six (or however many iPads I have) students using the iPad during math. These students will share their strategies with their classmates after solving on their whiteboard platform. This will be a leadership opportunity and I am hoping as time goes on, all students will want to share their strategies. This was my favourite math teaching style that occurred this year as many “ah-ha” moments occurred as a result of the students sharing their work. I think it is much more exciting working on the whiteboards rather than coming up to write on the physical whiteboard. This will also ensure that students can work in their own space if we still need to worry about physical distancing. Other students will work in their notebook or physical whiteboard until it is their day to have the whiteboard app.

 I would also like to save Fridays for games in math as a way to summarize the learning from that week. The games my class loved were: Kahoot and Gimkit (which offers about 12 different types of games within). 

Language

This year I loved meeting with a small group one day a week to teach a lesson and then they would have the rest of the week to work on that activity. I received the most amount of participation during the small group sessions and by the following week, students always had their test completed. Many students commented about how their favourite part of the day was the small language groups. Having that small group size allowed all students to share and have a turn. This was actually the only time where I heard from students that did not participate in the main call. The setting of the small groups made them feel more comfortable.

I also want to make sure I have another class novel next year. I would love having students as the readers once again and they would pass the book to the next reader after they read a page or two. This was a great way to cover all the reading expectations which I would post as questions that would follow that days reading. They would answer these questions in the chat and in the classroom I would love to have this continue either by them raising their hands or by documenting it in a notebook. 

Routines/Activities:

  • Saying hello to each student in the morning
  • Spending every Monday morning sharing about our weekends and creating a goal for the week (and if they met the goal from the week before). These goals contributed to their self regulation mark.
  • Having student shoutouts at the end of each week. A student would raise their hand and give a shout-out to a specific student who went above and beyond that week or improved in something, etc. It could really be for any reason
  • Independent work periods once or twice a week as catch up periods and instead of breakout rooms, having the middle table open for students who need one on one support
  • Asking how everyone’s break was when they come back in from break 
  • Morning music until the announcements start
  • Student-led movement breaks where students design and lead a 20 minute DPA activity on the days without physical education
  • Discussing current events rather than hoping they didn’t hear the news 
  • Openly talking about all board holidays, special weeks or months in the year and celebrating in our class 
  • Cooking lessons led by students

Teaching online is an experience that I found very rewarding as it really tested all of us to see if we could handle this change. I know that as a teacher I appreciated the challenge and I know my students definitely rose to the challenge. I look forward to blogging about my in-class experiences in September!

Have an amazing summer everyone! 

Note:

ETFO’s position on in-person learning remains unchanged. The union firmly believes that the daily, in-person model of instruction and support best meets the educational, developmental and social needs of students, provides the best experience for support, and is the most equitable learning model for all students.
 
ETFO’s expectation is that elementary virtual learning in any capacity, including through hybrid models of instruction, will end once the pandemic ends.

Student-led end of the year conferences

As we wind down towards the final report cards, I find myself wondering how I will be organizing my yearly student-led conferences. Each year on June 1st (or the first school day in June), I met with students one on one to discuss their upcoming final report. This gives students time to ask questions that relate to their final report. This year, I was wondering how I could run these conferences as a remote teacher (and having never met these students). I decided to use a sign up sheet with five minute intervals and then use breakout rooms for my interview spaces.

To introduce this activity, I told students that they would have the opportunity to ask questions about their upcoming report and to work towards improving some of their learning skills or doing some extra assignments to add to their lower marks. This is how the interviews with my grade sevens went:

  • Students created multiple questions to guide the interview such as:
    • What is my best learning skill?
    • What is a subject I should look for an extension in?
    • How can I bump up my math mark?
    • What subject should I look to participate the most in?
    • Am I lower than the class average in any subject?
    • Can I add to my grades in certain subjects or is it too late?
    • Are there any next steps you have for me?
    • How am I doing in health?
  • Students were given a personalized action plan which we worked together on, to come up with additional tasks that they could complete to improve their marks/ learning skills
  • Students were beyond thrilled to have the opportunity to bump up their lower marks
  • Students that had been idle for a while came to life!

All 30 student interviews took place yesterday. I emailed families to make them aware that their child had an interview on MS Teams and that they would have an opportunity to bump up their marks in time for their final reports. Parents were thankful for the opportunity and mentioned that they would encourage their child to work on these activities.

Today (the day after the interviews) I noticed a few students that had been silent for the past few months were starting to participate again. One student even led the discussions today in history, science and math. This is something that occurred as a result of a little encouragement and a private five minute discussion. Having students actively interested in their learning and the outcome is so important, especially in remote learning.

Student led interviews and feedback sessions are something that I was taught in my first placement as a teacher candidate. My associate teacher called over a student one at a time and let them see their “lower” mark and encouraged them to bump them up. It didn’t work for everyone but for some students, I noticed it gave them the extra drive and determination to finish the year on a positive note.

I know that it is already June but I wanted to make sure that students are not surprised when their reports come. I tried doing this in May in the past but I find June works best as reports are around the corner and students are looking to showcase their learning a few final times. I am so excited to get to some fun activities this month but I know these interviews can get students to really care about their final reports. This turns it into a working document rather than a piece of paper that students never care to read. They are proud to show their parents their areas of improvement and their marks rather than throwing it in the nearest garbage.

It is still early in June so you could try it out in your class and see how it works! Not everyone cares about their “marks” but for those that do, this is a powerful tool to motivate them even a little bit further.

Happy June everyone and enjoy your weekends 🙂

OAME Math Conference 2021: Equity Counts

I am very excited to write today’s post as I had the pleasure of once again attending the OAME math conference this year. The conference ran from Monday, May 17th and ends today Friday, May 2st. There were over 160 sessions to select from so it was hard to narrow it down to three per evening. I was offered a volunteer position with OAME to assist with moderating 3-4 sessions. This gave me access to the entire conference and as usual, this year’s conference did not disappoint. I would love to tell you about the exciting sessions I went to and some details about them. I also attached resources that were made publicly available and some ways I have already used my learning inside my grade seven math classroom.

Session Name: Supporting the new Elementary Math Curriculum: Educator Learning Modules
Presenters: Moses Velasco and Chantal Fournier
Summary of my learning: Moses and Chantal shared their presentation about ELMs. They shared a great resource as well! This presentation was geared towards more of a math coach audience which as I am not was not able to connect with much of their content. The ELMs were from 2017 and I know there were some questions about making new ones with the new math curriculum. Moses let the audience know that they will be coming out soon. The examples that we saw on the website were great! Feel free to explore their resource.
Resources: https://sites.google.com/view/operation-sense/home
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Session Name: Assessment that Moves
Presenter: Jordan Rappaport
Summary of my learning: Jordan was a gifted speaker and he had so many important things to share. Many of them I implemented in my class the very next day. Jordan spoke a lot about virtues in math:

  • Being creative
  • Being a thinker
  • Curiosity
  • Perseverance
  • Willingness to take risks
  • Ability to collaborate

Jordan shared that these virtues are important to people who hire mathematicians and essential in every math classroom. We also looked at a forward thinking rubric which had three boxes and a large arrow on top. He talked about using this so students can see where they are and where they should move towards. For the topic of collaboration, on the left column on the rubric, you would put terms like excluding, not being supportive, etc. and on the far right you would put the expected behaviours (opposite of the left side). You would then circle the place where the student was at. Jordan mentioned that building a rubric should be a collaborative process and he starts jamboards and shares them with his students. They generate ideas together when talking about a specific math virtue, what you should see and not see.
How I used this in the classroom this week: The day after hearing from Jordan, I posted the virtues on my slide and asked students to share what their best math virtue is. This allowed us to engage in conversations about why they take risks, why others may not, etc. This conversation was so meaningful and I loved hearing from my students.
Resources:

https://www.francissu.com/ 

https://buildingthinkingclassrooms.com/ 

https://www.peterliljedahl.com/ 

http://fractiontalks.com/
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Session Name: Designing Classroom Explorations that Engage All Students
Presenter: Gail Burrill
Summary of my learning: During this session, Gail spoke about many exciting topics. Gail shared that in her math classroom, she has her students complete various math tasks such as: book reports, research reports (math in art, etc.), write stories from graphs and many more. This connects math to many other subjects and is meaningful for students. Some other key takeaways included:

  • Data driven tasks are important in the classroom
  • Connecting math to student’s lives
    • Gail gave an excellent example where students had to find the problem with Fred VanVleet from the Raptors as his shooting percentage was in a rut. They had to solve if there was a rut or not and look at percentages with his shooting statistics.
  • Following instructions doesn’t mean your students have learned anything
  • Turning procedures into problems because then students will want to solve them and remember them
  • Vertical non-permanent surfaces
  • Visibly random groups
  • Comments before grades; feedback should be for thinking

Gail also mentioned a great resource where you can visit https://censusatschool.ca/ and have students answer: What do you notice? What do you wonder? These real life statistics engage her students for the first fifteen students of her class and she looks at real life scenarios. Gail also left us with some things to think about:

  • How much time do your students spend..
    • in silence?
    • talking to peers?
    • listening?
    • presenting?

Resources: https://censusatschool.ca/
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Session Name: Building Math Residue with Lessons That Stick
Presenter: Graham Fletcher
Summary of my learning: Graham shared many ideas that help students engage in explorations and lessons that really make students wonder, what is the answer to that question? I loved this idea from Graham:

  • Estimation Waterfall: asking students to wait until they hit enter so that they are not just copying the student who always gets it “right”

Of course, the focus of the session was what makes a good task? Here were Graham’s steps:

  1. Simple: Is it accessible? Avoid language due to any language barriers
  2. Unexpected: Does it fire up the guessing machine? Do students actually want to know the answer?
  3. Concrete: Do your students have any prior knowledge to connect to?
  4. Credible: What validates the math?
  5.  Emotional: Does it create an ah-ha moment?
  6. Stories: How will the math story be told?

Graham also mentioned the following ideas which are important to know and to understand:

  • Anyone can be good at math
  • Listening to a student’s thinking is more important than the answer
    • Graham showed a video of him working with a student and he was so patient, waiting to hear the student get the answer and listening to their process
  • Right answers should only matter at the end of a unit (assessment/test). The journey along the way is for making mistakes and for building understanding
  • A good math question makes you excited for the answer
  • Teachers shouldn’t jump on their students when they see a wrong answer, they should question them and wait for them to have that ah-ha moment

How I used this in the classroom this week: The day after hearing from Graham, I asked my students join a jamboard and I posed the above statements to them. I had them disagree or agree and if they wanted, they could share their reasoning on the mic. Students had such incredible things to say about all of the statements and we even got one anxious student to admit that making mistakes along the way is okay!  A huge breakthrough for this student.
Resources: https://gfletchy.com/Be sure to check out the tab “3-Act tasks” for some engaging lessons that stick!
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Session Name: Math, Social Justice and Actions
Presenter: Robert Berry
Summary of my learning: Robert Berry brought up incredible conversations that need to be had in our math classrooms. Robert shared a provocation for us: Who are our essential workers? What do you notice, wonder and how does it impact your community? Robert shared a lot of insight on how to create your own social justice math lesson:

  • Learn about relevant social injustices
  • Identify the math
  • Establish your goals
  • Determine how you will assess your goals
  • Create a social justice question for the lesson
  • Make student resources
  • Plan for reflection/action

There should be conversations about connecting math with students cultural and community histories. This was a great session and I was so engaged in his presentation, I did not take many notes!
Resources: https://padlet.com/rqb3e/sjmathresources Attached are incredible social justice mathematics resources
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Session Name: Some of my Favourite Problems
Presenter: Mike Eden
Summary of my learning: Mike is from the University of Waterloo and he shared many engaging math problems from various contests and from challenging math lessons. He asked people in the chat to share their answers and we looked at many ways to solve these challenging problems. I am sure you are all familiar with “Problem of the Week” from the University of Waterloo, well Mike took us further with these incredible problems!
Resourceshttp://: https://www.cemc.uwaterloo.ca/ https://www.cemc.uwaterloo.ca/contests/past_contests.html
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Session Name: Slow Reveal Graphs as Social Justice Provocations
Presenters: Kyle Pindar and Jennifer Fannin
Summary of my learning: This was such an engaging session that used the website https://trends.google.com/trends/ to design slow reveal graphs. The focus of the lessons are asking the questions these key questions: What? So what? Now what? Also, what do you notice? What do you wonder? Slow reveal graphs are innocently framed as hard hitting social justice questions. Kyle explained how to make these slow reveal provocations using these steps:

  1. https://trends.google.com/trends/?geo=CA Make sure you are using the Canadian trends (setting on top right should say “Canada”
  2. Download the image (graph) you want to use
  3. Open up a blank google sheet
  4. Upload the download and re-size the columns
  5. Delete the top two lines
  6. Create slide show

Then, show your students these graphs, slowly revealing new features on the graph such as: the actual data, x axis information, y axis information and then eventually, the title (trend). Kyle and Jennifer discussed generating expected students responses so that you can be prepared to have these discussions as a class. They had great examples, specifically a graph showing the googling of “BLM” and you could see the spike on the day that George Floyd was murdered. Both presenters discussed how you would have that conversation with the class of what made these search results spike up in May of 2020? These are such great ways to have social justice discussions in class!
Resources: https://trends.google.com/trends/?geo=CA https://www.statcan.gc.ca/eng/start

Overall, I am so grateful for the opportunity that was this year’s OAME Math Conference. I wish I had been able to attend/moderate more sessions but as an OAME volunteer, I have the ability to listen to recorded sessions I could not attend. I will listen to some over the next few weeks and post anything else I gather. I hope this post provides a snapshot of such incredible math presentations and all of their wisdom that they wished to pass on to math educators! I know it is late in the year to take in this much incredible math information, but this post will be here to refresh your memory after a well-rested and well-deserved summer vacation!

If you wish to learn more about OAME or how to attend the conference next year, visit their website: https://oame.on.ca/main/index.php

The Annual End of Year Pressure

Does any other educator feel that end of year pressure as we wind down to our final months of teaching? This year, I am feeling it more than ever. Usually, I stress to start the fourth science unit or the final math unit, but this year it is a different kind of stress.

I have been so lucky this year to have a group of 30 inspiring students. Every day they inspire me by showing up, typing in the chat, speaking and presenting in a group of people they have never met and most of all, by persevering. This remote learning idea was never supposed to work and for this group of students, it did much more that. I think many of these students are participating more than they ever had before. It gave shy students a voice for the first time, it gave busy students a time to do many tasks at once and much more. For me, it gave me the chance to respond and give feedback in real type, typing next steps in the chat that students would automatically implement. It also was my first year of teaching without any interruptions. For that reason, my stress is related to not having enough time to do all of the things I could do with such an engaged group of students. I am so thankful for this year as it has allowed me to really get to know them, even if I have never met any of them. This year I was able to focus so much time on asking the important questions such as:

  • How was your break?
  • How was your evening?
  • How are you doing today?
  • What are you feeling at this moment?

Some of these questions are questions that a busy day in a physical school have never allowed me to ask before. I think after break most teachers just quiet the class down and I have never taught to ask how their break actually was. I will take this lesson as one of the most valuable to my in person classroom next year.

As for the end of the year, there are so many activities I would still like to do. It is something that keeps me up at night, the thought of what are the most important lessons to leave with a group of students and which ones can be left out?

I am looking forward to these two topics which I will be starting soon:

  •  Coding: I left it for the month of June as I thought it would be the most engaging math concept and will be easier to teach at the end of the year when students need something very engaging to keep them up and running
  • Health: In my school board, we were asked to only begin teaching this unit after May 5th

However, there are still so many things I want my students to continue practicing so that they can try them next year in the classroom:

  • How to carry all of these phenomenal tech. skills to the classroom
  • How to remember to be positive when faced with challenges
  • How to greet their classmates in the morning
  • How to give positive feedback after a presentation
  • How to get right to work (this is probably impossible)

I am hoping to devote most of June to fun and exciting teaching opportunities. One of them is a fresh and interactive math game for all! For the past two Fridays, my students and I have enjoyed playing the most exciting math game which can be found on http://gimkit.com I encourage every educator that teaches math to download this program as it is so engaging and fun! In the past, I have reviewed math quiz apps and this one is by far the best. There are 8-10 different game show styles that students can join on to try to  show their math skills. Here are some of the gameshow styles we have tried:

  • Trust No One (my classes favourite and is a copy of Among Us)
  • The Floor is Lava
  • Humans vs. Zombies
  • Boss Battle

I have had the most participation in math with this game as a whopping 21 out of 30 students joined today! Yes, 30 would be incredible but there are often technical issues that occur right around math every day. I hope you can all try this soon with your students, especially now that every student is online.

Well as the year winds down, I hope that everyone has the strength to continue and has someone positive in their corner cheering them on to the finish! It has been such a challenging year and not everyone has been fortunate enough to have a group of students that refuse to let anything ruin their day. I will miss the online setting for sure but I know it is in the best interest of our students to get them back in a face to face setting. I will continue sharing my online journey until it is over! I look forward to seeing any comments about fun year end activities that should not be missed 🙂

Have a great weekend!

 

Teaching dance and health online, yikes!

Happy week after spring break everyone!

Is anyone else feeling super impressed with their students and their ability to get right back into things after a week-long break? I have never been able to say that before so I thought I may as well express these feelings of joy while I can.

As we get closer to the end of our school year, I am quickly compiling numerous tables with expectations, activities and number of periods needed for each subject. Since I have such an engaged group, I want to cover as much as I can so they are ready for their grade eight year. I think I’ve had about ten nightmares related to teaching dance and health since I started my online journey in September. I knew I wanted to start them sooner rather than later so we had time for more relaxed subjects in June. 

So, Tuesday our first day back this week, we started dance and I was overwhelmed with the amount of participation. I wanted to keep things manageable so I started with this specific expectation:

  • Exploring cultural forms, specifically, looking at the evolution of dance over time.

We watched an eight minute long YouTube video called “The Evolution of Dance”. Using what students saw in that video as well as researching on their own, students posted sticky notes on our jamboard link, sharing anywhere from 50-60 different styles of dance. We started in the 1950s and went all the way to present day. One student went so far as to share a comment about how nowadays, dances become popular overnight due to trends set by “celebrities” on tiktok. This app allows a worldwide stage for new and viral dances. This was such a great connection and was something we were going to address the following class. I was very nervous to teach dance, but I am glad I started with some discussions and video sharing. I have never taught this topic and was unsure of how to get a group of 33 grade seven students to dance, but I was able to see such engaging conversations take off around the evolution of dance. An engaging lesson for any who are skeptical about this hard to each subject (especially in a virtual space).

I am also gearing up to teach the health curriculum for the first time in my career. We were asked to send a letter home to parents where it outlines the expectations we will be covering. We also made parents aware of the exemption form that they would be required to fill out if they are requesting an exemption (as per board policy). These are the topics that I will be teaching this year to the grade seven students:

  • Describing the dangers associated with computers/social media and identify protective responses 
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the link between mental health problems and substance use 
  • Explaining the importance of having a shared conversation with a partner about delaying sexual activity until they are older  
  • Understanding consent and the importance of communication 
  • Identifying sexually transmitted, blood-borne infections and describe their symptoms   
  • Identifying ways of preventing infections and unplanned pregnancy 
  • Mental Health Literacy  
  • Substance use, addition and related behaviours 

 The following resources will be used to assist in the delivery of this unit: 

  • Ontario Curriculum sample questions  
  • OPHEA guidelines

We will also be able to attend a lunch and learn for more information as well as hear more about these topics at our staff meeting. For a teacher who has never taught health, never talked about these topics in an online setting and never met their students, it can be quite an intimidating subject. However, I know these topics are very important to talk about and my students are well versed in the importance of learning sensitive things, especially in today’s society. I am hoping I will be able to cover these to the best of my abilities and I look forward to reading the OPHEA resources before doing so. 

If any teachers have tips/tricks for dance and health, I am all ears! For now, these are my go to plans for the two subjects. As for the other subjects I still need to cover, even though they have their challenges, are pieces of cake compared to the unfamiliar dance and health!

Enjoy your weekends everyone and hang in there, we almost made it through this wild and unique year!