The Unspecified Parts of a Lesson Plan

As I was creating my lesson plans one day, I took a step back and thought about what my plans would look like if they were delivered exactly the way that I wrote them. Academic learning and curriculum connections are crucial to the lesson plan itself and seem to be my main focus when planning. I began to think about the ways I engage my students in learning that I don’t record in my lesson plans. I thought about my specific ways of being with students during certain times of the day. The times I exude calmness and the times I exude excitement. I wondered about the times I use words of encouragement, constructive feedback and the moments I applaud students efforts. 

I wondered what would happen to my planning and teaching if I added notes into my plans like “remind students they are important” or “remind students to be safe this weekend”. 

As a newly permanent teacher, I am constantly reflecting on best practices and looking for ways to plan meaningfully and effectively. I am teaching virtually this year and often add additional information about my lessons into the “speaker notes” section of my Google Slides. As I was creating my lesson, I added in some of the above mentioned “unspecified” aspects into my plans. I wanted to explore how or if this practice would impact my teaching or have an effect on student learning. After implementing this practice for one week, here are my reflections:

  1. Adding notes about social and emotional learning into my lesson plans allowed me to continue to be mindful and check in with students about how they were feeling throughout the lesson and the school day itself. 
  2. The added positive notes and words of encouragement to my class were a great way to remind myself that, along with my students, I am also doing the best I can.
  3. My focus remained on my students, rather than the curriculum. Especially during reporting periods, it is easy to get overwhelmed with the worry of meeting curriculum expectations. Adding in my “unspecified” notes grounded me to what was most important. 
  4. Even with my “unspecified” notes, I noticed that I still added meaningful dialogue into each necessary moment. Even though there are daily reminders or common phrases we say to our students – there is no way to predict what each of our individual learners are going to need to be successful or feel loved that day. There is no plan other than to be responsive.

What are the unspecified parts of your lesson plans?

Please 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.

 

Content and Copyright Considerations in Distance Learning

The move to distance learning has certainly had some pitfalls. On top of all of the programming changes and logistical considerations, we’re hearing horror stories of the inappropriate use of digital tools and teachers unintentionally violating copyright laws.  It is crucial for teachers to make themselves aware of the privacy and security guidelines for their school board while also being aware of Fair Dealing and Copyright laws for online content.  Here is some food for thought, and a few tools and resources that may be helpful for teachers while creating and linking to online content.

Posting YouTube Videos

YouTube videos may be used for educational purposes in Canada so long as the creator and the source of the video is credited.  However, you might want to consider not posting a direct link to the YouTube video on your learning platform.  This link will take the students to the YouTube channel and the student may then freely search other content.  Maybe it is just me, but I’ve experienced the liquor advertisement pop up while watching a video in my classroom or the next video automatically plays and the content is not suitable for students. Teachers may want to try using online tools such as ViewPure or Safesharetv before copying the link into a learning platform.  These tools filter out advertisement and connects only the the video itself.

Reading Books Online to Students

A number of Canadian Publishers have opened up access to Educators to read published works online.  There are guidelines that an Educator must follow in order to do post an online story time.  For a list of participating publishers and more information on how to respect copyright for Canadian authors visit access copyright.  Scholastic Canada has also extended access to Educators to read published works online. The instructions on how to use Scholastic works is a little different.  Visit the Scholastic Read Aloud portion on the Scholastic Canada website in order to follow their rules and regulations.

FairDealing and Copyright

There are copyright laws specific to Education.  If you want to make sure that you can use something without violating copyright laws you can use the Fair Dealing Decision Tool.  Teachers can also refer to the Copyright Matters Document.

Privacy Policies and Statement

At the bottom of every home page for an educational digital tools you will find a link to their privacy policy or statement. I highly recommend reading what you are signing up for as a teacher when you click on a new Educational digital tool. Be aware of what data is being collected, where it is being stored and which third parties are attached to the company and make an informed decision for yourself.  Be proactive and check with someone in the Instructional Technology department at your school board to ensure that you are following recommendations before asking students and parents to sign up for a digital tool.  It is a lot for teachers to think about while at the same time just trying to get a handle on teaching in the midst of a pandemic. There is a big learning curve for everyone. Try to continue to go slowly. The move to distance learning is helping Educators truly understand the importance of digital citizenship.

The Gender Gap in Technology

Quote for blog

According to a recent report* by ICTC (the Information and Technology Information Council) Canadian women represent about 50% of the overall workforce but represent only 25% of the technology industry workforce.  Of the 100 major tech companies in Canada only 5 have female CEOs and 1 Co-CEO.   26% of the tech companies have no women in senior leadership at all.  There is a gender wage gap in the industry of $7,000-$20,00 per year.  When I read these statistics I wondered as educators, what can we do about the gender gap in technology?  This is not an exhaustive list, but it is a place to begin:

1.  Build her confidence in her abilities.

2. Cultivate a community of supportive peers.

3.  Provide a STEM/STEAM club for girls.

4. Ensure that access to technology and computer experiences is encouraged and inclusive.

5. Foster interest in computing careers.

6. Be a role model as a LEARNER.

May 11th is National Girls Learning Code Day.  If you are looking to encourage coders in your school, why not begin on May 11th?  Below you will find links to resources for beginning coding.  Many students code on their own at home and may appreciate the opportunity to mentor fellow students.  The resources attached will get you started.  There is no special equipment or robotics required.  Teachers do not have to be expert coders to encourage their students.  Teachers can be role models of resilience, risk taking and problem solving by learning alongside their students.  Teachers only need to open the door and expose their students to the opportunities.

Girls Who Code Canada

National Girls Learn Code Day

Canada Learning Code

Scratch

Hour of Code

Code.org

 

*Cutean, A., Ivus, M. (2017). The Digital Talent Dividend: Shifting Gears in a Changing Economy. Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC). Ottawa, Canada.

Elaborated and written by Alexandra Cutean (Director, Digital Innovation Research and Policy). and Maryna Ivus (Senior Analyst, Research and Policy) with generous support from the ICTC Research and Policy Team.

Chime and Chant Language Learning

When I was in the Faculty of Education one of my Associate Professors was Jean Malloch, author of “Chime In” and other professional teaching resources.  I learned from her the importance of rhythm and rhyme in the early acquisition of language.  I also love to read and write poetry.   While growing up my sisters shared their own love of  the poetry of Ogden Nash and Dennis Lee.  These poets formed the beginning repertoire of poetry that I have shared with my students over the years with the addition of poets Shel Silverstein, Ken Nesbitt and Loris Lesyinski to name a few.

At the beginning of the school year when teaching in the primary grades, I would create a ‘Chime and Chant’ duo tang for students with two or three poems about September, fall, school and character. Each week during the school year we would add a new poem.  Sometimes it was just because they were fun to read and perform.  Other times they were connected to our topics of study.  We worked together reading these poems chorally in different ways: call and answer, parts attributed to groups of students, leaving out the last word of the line and having the students chime in as well as reading with actions, different types of voices and dramatic effects.  These short poems also provided opportunities for me to teach beginning reading strategies such as word prediction, reading word families and segmenting words.  We would practice our poetry daily and often the students would have the majority of the poetry memorized by the end of the week.  Sometimes while standing and waiting during a transition time we would chant a familiar poem together without even using our duo tangs.  We would take poems apart, mix them up, change the words and use the poems to identify word families, commonly used words and word endings.  Students would increase their fluency in reading and add to their vocabulary.  We stored our poetry books in the student’s book bags and which ensured that when students went to their independent reading time they always had something that they could read independently.  When students partner read they would often choose to read poems chorally.  When students read to their grade four buddies they would proudly show off their reading skills with their Chime and Chant books. As some students soared in their reading, they would choose some of the poems that they wanted added to their Chime and Chant books independently or I would provide some new more challenging poems during their guided reading time.  As the year progressed, the Chime and Chant books became more personalized. We would still chant some of our favourite poems together and I would still share a poem a week but students but less emphasis was placed on the whole class process as they gained their own reading strategies.

Beginning writing in the primary grades can be daunting for some students.  I used poetry writing to provide structures that were easily accessible for beginning writers.  Diamanté, list, free form and fill in the blank poetry structures were among some of the formats that we used.   When I taught students to write poetry we would create shared poems with the structure for a number of days and generate word charts to provide students with familiar vocabulary to reference in order to scaffold the learning and when they were ready, the students would put their own poems together.  After writing the poetry students would then practice reading their poetry, add actions and dramatic effects and then present their poems chorally in front of the class or create a video of their reading.  Some went further and created green screen effects to add to their poetry presentations.  Poetry generated student evidence of learning for reading, writing and oral communication.  It provided a routine and structure to a part of our day that was comfortable for the students and fostered their learning.  Poetry provides shared reading and writing opportunities in a format that is comfortable for children and doesn’t overwhelm them.

Loris Lesynski 

Shel Silverstein

Ogden Nash

Dennis Lee

Ken Nesbitt

 

Create Success in Intermediate Math through Play….

“What are you doing in Math today?” the VP inquires of my grade 5,6,7 and 8 students.

“We’re playing games.”

“You’re playing games?”

“Yes, we always play in math.”

The assessments gathered from these classes provide me insight of where everyone is in their learning. My experience with assessments are that individual conversations to understand the thinking process provides the most valuable information. The range of each of my classes is from a low elementary level to a low secondary level.  This is quite a span. As a school we have been, “Landscaping” these students using; Fosnots– Landscape of Learning.  http://thelearningexchange.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Creating-Conditions-for-Learning-Math-Viewers-Guide.pdf This provides an great snapshot of where your learners are on a continuum. Our board has developed some very specific assessment questions for all grade levels which include strategic numbers to help determine the strategies individuals use.

How do I managed this?

It took me a while with the continuous disruptions to the daily routine. The way, I have adopted my assessment sessions this year is similar to how a reading group would be managed.  Provide the lesson, give the class expectations, then work with a small group on a rotating basis. The entire class already understands the rules and class expectations which have been familiar routines followed to date.

Now what?

I find creating a growth mindset is most important. This is developed through creating a comfort zone for all, including the teacher. Each year I am challenged to ensure my learners grow and develop forward on the continuum. I use a variety of resources such as Sherry Parrish’s-Number Talks http://www.meaningfulmathmoments.com/number-talks.html This is a great beginning to each class.

I resource Dr. Small’s-Big Ideas https://search.library.utoronto.ca/details?7785153&uuid=5d3e7d21-dfef-4e3a-a3d3-9f33f13418b9 for different activities to compliment the concept of study.

Presently I am using, From Patterns to Algebra, by Dr. Beatty and Dr. Bruce https://school.nelson.com/from-patterns-to-algebra-book/

Play, yes these resources include play which I implement on a regular basis.  The students enjoy learning with and from each other while I guide them. During my classes, Play creates a class dynamic for success.

Taking the time to collaborate and learn how to bridge the gap

Once a month, my colleagues and I go to a highschool to look at a math sample from each of our “marker students”. There are a group of about ten of us which is made up of highschool teachers, elementary teachers and math facilitators. We take time to identify what the student knows, what they are struggling with and how we know this. The main point of these meetings that occur each month is to bridge the gap between elementary and high school. We are trying to review the necessary skills that kids in grade eight will need for next year and then we will spend large amounts of time focusing on these skills in addition to the topics we currently are expected to cover. It is very helpful to know which topics to spend the most amount of time on so I will look forward to the times in the future when we will be discussing those items.

 

At these sessions, we talk about what the student’s work shows us, if they are struggling with something, what does that tell us about how they are learning. We call this section of debriefing the interpretations.

The next part involves looking at next steps for students and teachers. It is a great use of time and helps us as teachers look at students we need to help further and then, we directly review how to help them reach these next steps.

All teachers get to share their marker students and then we spend time talking about how these students can get some help to further understand the questions and the overall math concepts.

The challenges we face when planning and attending these sessions include selecting a rich task that we can really dive into once we gather as a group. We tried using past EQAO assessments but couldn’t find any open ended questions. We then turned to some other test questions. I also find it hard to find the time to pull these students aside to help them once we find out ways to do so after the fact. The skill is so specific once we find out what they need help with that it seems hard to just discuss it as an isolated math skill.

The benefits to meeting like this is the amount of minds on tackling the questions and looking at helpful next steps. I really look forward to all of these educators coming into a classroom with me to help the students who are struggling in a real life setting. That will be great for all of the students, especially since they would then have at least ten educators in the room to help them grasp the challenging topics.

 

Education Acronyms

PLC, IEP, TPA,…. Just a few acronyms in the world of Ontario education. I managed to complete the expectations of those three letter words, this month.

WOW! Some may say, “What are you talking about?”, others may say,” HOW?!”

As a person who is a futuristic thinker, I am continuously planning, creating lists and maximizing my energy.  I plan each weekend to complete a portion of the upcoming expectations for the month. This past month, I spent time creating unit plans to ensure a smooth sail through the four Junior and intermediate Math classes I teach.  While knowing that IEP’s (Individual Education Plans), are due in early October and help me understand my students. I reviewed and updated these a few at a time.

Yes of course this is my TPA (Teacher Performance Appraisal) year. Things have changed since I graduated from Teachers College.  I was just as nervous as my first evaluation.  This one was much different because I have learned many new teaching strategies, and ways to interact with all the people we come in contact within our profession.  I look at each year with a lens of the time. October, pumpkins are in season.  Pumpkins are a great way to create a hands on unit in Math for all grades. If you are still learning about making the many connections to the Big Ideas, there are many units on the web.  This is a perfect topic to bring excitement into the class, being aware of all the variables from cleanliness, to the use of sharp objects, and social skill development for group work.  This TPA in my umpteenth year of teaching was successful. After I reviewed my assessment, I realized some things still need work.  I need to clearly connect to daily learning goals to guide the directions of my students and their exploration. I also want to find a way to create easily displayed information charts/word walls that can travel from class to class? Keeping abreast of recent research and data helps.  A specific focus is important  so ideas don’t become lost in the many theories of our closely connected world (www).

This year I’ve noticed my board is using Monthly meetings and PD (Professional Development) days to facilitate PLC’s (Professional Learning Communities).  To my advantage, our focus is on math.  The discussion and connections for all help create a purposeful direction in our teaching and learning.  The superintendents and lead teachers carefully create PD to learn from and directly effect board and school goals. As a team, we have each other to support our teaching and direction.  If communication is continuously supported in meetings, this assists in sharing and supporting each other and the growth of our students and programs. Some of my observations from these meetings are: Don’t get rid of the old…some strategies are still good. Things are changing quickly. It’s admirable to see colleagues rise to new and connected positions while keeping valuable connections.

At the beginning of the month, I was apprehensive about completing these monthly tasks.  Tah Dah…another successful month as an educator.

Links:

Learning for All: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/general/elemsec/speced/LearningforAll2013.pdf

Planning for Learning: 

http://www.etfo.ca/SupportingMembers/Resources/ForTeachersDocuments/Planning%20for%20Student%20Learning.pdf

TPA: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/teacher/pdfs/TPA_Manual_English_september2010l.pdffbclid=IwAR3rtRjDQ50iFr81Lb45e9SXuzhXJebIzEdjFhzqIFTNqtvnw_IMaGV-V3kspecific links

http://www.etfo.ca/SupportingMembers/Professionals/Pages/ALP.aspx

Pumpkin Unit Ideas:

Ultimate Collection of Pumpkin Math Ideas for K-12

Twitter EDU

Over the last few years many people have become disgusted and disenchanted with the platform of Twitter.  I agree that it can be an echo chamber for those who like to hear their own voice.  However, I also know that it can be an effective Professional Learning tool.  I have created an entire Professional Learning Network on Twitter because of the people that I chose to follow and I am diligent about blocking people who are spreading unworthy tweets.  My Twitter account posts nothing personal.  It is about my own professional learning. With Twitter colleagues challenge my thinking regularly.  Questions that I have for my educational colleagues are answered immediately and without judgment.  Global connections are made easily and then I use these connections to learn with my students.

Let me give you a few examples of how I’ve used Twitter in the classroom.  One of my students brought in a rock with a fossil on it from his backyard.  We took a photo and tweeted it out to find out if anyone could tell us what it was and the approximate age.  Within an hour we heard back from a scientist at the ROM.  He had an answer for us and was happy to help.  In fact, he told us that corresponding on social media at the ROM as a scientist IS his job! One of the students brought in a mushroom from the woods near their house.  We tweeted out to our PLN because they wanted to know whether or not it was edible.  We were answered immediately and there were many links to other sites for information that sent us on a further journey into the wonderful world of fungi.  Consequently, the advice from our Twitter contact was to never eat anything you find in the woods unless you are a scientist. In music, we were learning the words to a song by the Alternate Routes band and the students asked to tweet the band. They tweeted us back thanking us for the support and encouraging us to keep singing.  We found some great classes across Canada to Skype with through Twitter and did mystery number finds with other grade 1 and 2 classes. You get out of Twitter what you are willing to put into it.

I have gotten more out of 15 minute Twitter education chats than I have out of some day long workshops.  The educators on Twitter chats are there by choice and they are passionate about education. The questions are specific and the answers are in 140 characters. The best part is, you don’t even have to comment if you don’t feel comfortable.  You can just sit back and learn.  I have also met these Tweeters in person at IT conferences and taken their workshops.  Knowing the presenters ahead of time and having a connection is like going to a concert when you already know the newest album really well; it makes the experience richer and deeper.

Here are a few EDUTweeters that I suggest you follow to get started:

@dougpete  @peterskillen   @brendasherry    @avivalova   @mraspinall  @sylviaduckworth  @Toadmummy (that’s me)

Here are a few #hashtags to follow

#EdchatON    #edtechchat     #teacheredchat   #bfc530

Twitter may not be your thing, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it as your #PLN.  I guarantee you will find some ideas for #deeperlearning or #inquiryed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Occasional Teachers; Unsung Heroes

Unfortunately, I have had many health challenges this year that have necessitated having to take a significant amount of time off of work to recuperate.  These absences have provided me time to reflect on my practice as a classroom teacher and about how important occasional teachers are in our practice.  I had the pleasure of working in our local ETFO office as a released officer for 3 years alongside the incredible Marsha Jones, Occasional Teacher President extraordinaire.  She taught me a lot about Occasional Teachers, the obstacles they face and the little things that I could do to make their days go easier.  I thought I would share a few of my insights.

Occasional Teachers that come to our school like to return because of the friendly atmosphere.  In the staff room, they are included in our “tea days”, people engage them in conversation and always ask how they can be of help.  It sounds like a simple thing, but many of the Occasional Teachers that come to our school comment on our friendly staff.  So the next time you see an Occasional Teacher in your school, smile and say hello and ask them how their day is going.

Do NOT ask an Occasional Teacher “who” they are for the day.  What an insult!  You can ask who they are in for, who they are helping out, who they are rescuing or replacing, but they are themselves each and every day they come to work.  We should appreciate the fact that we have access to qualified teachers to replace us for the day so that we can take sick days when we need them or go to conferences for professional learning.

Speaking of insults, please try not to call Occasional Teachers “substitute” or “supply” teachers.  We rely on these colleagues. “Occasional Teacher” is their job title.  Be respectful of it; we rely on them.

Remember to have a few days of “emergency” plans in advance of your absence.  It takes the edge of having to type up plans in between trips to the washroom when you have the flu.  Leave them in a place that is easy for the Occasional Teacher to find.  This makes your life easier too.

If you generally have an active classroom that engages in centres, activities etc., then TRUST your Occasional Teacher and leave plans that include those lessons.  Chances are your students know how this stuff runs and will let the Teacher know.  It may mean giving up a bit of control; deal with it.  If you leave all day seat work that you’ve photocopied or a movie that isn’t connected to anything that they are doing in the classroom, it will not be enjoyable for the students and likely your Occasional Teacher will have more behaviour issues.  Consequently, you will not get the quality of work that you normally see from your students. Don’t have huge expectations.  No matter how wonderful the Occasional Teacher may be, they are not you and the students know that.  We also need to remember to trust the judgment of an Occasional Teacher.  I’ve heard it and I’ve said it; “The ‘supply’ didn’t follow my day plan. I worked for hours on that detailed plan.”  We don’t know what kind of a day that teacher had with our students.  They may have experienced a lockdown, fire drill, class evacuation, pizza money, scholastic money, a student injury or even a skating field trip.  (My sincere thanks to Occasional Teacher Rachel Johnston on that one!)  We need to remember that they are qualified teachers and they have the right to exercise their professional judgment in order to keep the class calm and engaged.  Let them do their job and thank them for it.

I write my day plans on my computer for myself each week.  This makes writing a day plan for the Occasional Teacher much easier.  I have all of my emergency information, how to deal with specific students, who to count on and the general rules and routines in a separate document to attach to daily plans.  I always attach a class list.  Try to keep your plans as close to the regular routine as possible.  If I am going to be away for a meeting I will try to find out who will be replacing me for the day and I email them the plans in advance and ask if they have any questions.  I include my cell phone number in case they can’t find a password or an item and few of them ever use it but if they do then I know that they care about my students and the plans that I have left for them.

Finally, show your gratitude.  Some Occasional Teachers drive an hour to get to our school and in bad weather.  Some are called at the very last minute, through traffic, to an unfamiliar school using GPS.  Their mornings are often stressful before they even arrive on site.  So when an Occasional Teacher has done a great job and your classroom is still standing when you go in the next day, write a quick email and say thank you. Occasional Teaching is often a thankless job but we can’t be sick without these wonderful people.

 

What 21st Century Learning Looks Like in 2017

Learning-Featured1

While considering what 21st Century looks like to teachers, students, and in classroom, my Primary/Junior Math AQ colleagues, Ms. Sicondolfo, Ms. Hawkyard and I, developed this summary.

This summary has helped me consider how modern learning looks in 2017.

Modern Learning

What 21st Century Learning Looks Like in 2017 chart

This work was inspired by Peel District School Board’s Empowering Modern Learners #peel21st.