End of the Year is Near!

Summer is almost here and the kids know it. Their lack of attention and wanting to be outside in the beautiful weather is hard to compete with. What do I do to keep the boys attention? How or what do I keep teaching when my reports are completed and in? No air conditioning or fan – my room is known as one of the hottest in the school. Why fight it – I take their learning outside and still teach curriculum.


I try to keep them inside as long as we can handle it; which means sometime between morning recess and lunch. At this point of the year, I am changing my day plan slightly. It is based on which lessons do I need the whiteboard or computer connection for? I teach those lessons first. For language, I take a book and read it to them while the boys are lying down under a tree. I ask questions about inferring, point of view, comprehension and relating the reading to their own life experiences. However, this is all completed orally, some questions are discussed in partners (while I go to every group and engage the students) and some are large group discussions.


For Math, I may take them on a walk looking for 3D shapes or angles in nature. This can also be done in your playground. I also may play a game with them related to probability or multiplication baseball. I look for ways to connect Math to their real world experiences. Having the students show me and themselves why we need Math in our everyday lives.


For Art, we have gone out into the community and sketched trees and flowers; items in our environment. We also have used digital cameras to take pictures of structures in our environment and used photoshop to add to their pictures.


I also am finding ways to take the kids on affordable field trips. While planning field trips, the boys have an input and have often asked for the trip to be just our class. We have one planned for the division to go to a Park, and my class want to go to a different area of the park. We are taking the TTC and exploring our city. Doing a walking tour of the city (while taking pictures) was one of the boys’ most favourite trips this year.


At this point of the year, I am finding ways to have fun with the class and also relate it to the curriculum. They seem to be enjoying it and even understand why we are learning certain aspects of the curriculum. The community environment we have developed is one I hope the boys will always remember.

Planning for Next Year


As the school year is coming to an end I use this time to reflect upon my lessons and look forward to next year’s planning. What will I keep, what didn’t work, what needs to be tweaked for next year’s students? Some of this planning will be based on my next year’s students needs and learning styles. Where do I go for new ideas, support for planning and resources?


1)       I sit down with the previous teacher.

Most schools will have sheets or some sort of meeting to share information and build the new classes. Looking to evenly distribute the boys and girls, ESL, Special Education, HSP and which kids should be or not be placed together. The sheets are usually given to next year’s teacher to help understand the student. I find the information on the sheets give limited information and don’t always share who the student is as a learner. I listen to the information being given, take notes on every student and review all this information later. At some point, I go back to the previous teacher and ask for further information.  If the previous teacher is an LTO, I need to connect with the teacher before s/he leaves for a new school. If you are a new teacher to the school in the Fall, ask for the sheets and try to connect with previous teachers as soon as possible.


2)      If you are lucky to get the same grade, I look at my previous year’s planning.

Now I know a little more about my new students. What are they going to be interested in? What do I need to change? Everything should be tweaked for my new class.

If I am teaching a new grade, I still look at my previous year’s planning and build the new year from that starting point. I have learned more about my personal teaching strengths and areas of professional development which I will look into.


3)       Where do I get new ideas?

  • Most boards have teachers who specialize in curriculum areas and provide that support with ideas and resources. Some can even give field trip ideas, support with combined grade planning, will come to your class and teach a model lesson. If you are finding it difficult to locate a name, ask your librarian or administration.
  • Your board website should have some resources available to the teachers. Many board website resources are open to the public and are available for all to find information. There are Science and Social Studies units available for combined grades. I usually don’t use all the information available on the websites but it helps me gather ideas and lessons for my unit.
  • Sitting down with my colleagues to team plan. New people have new ideas. This year, I was the only grade 6 English teacher and my Extended French colleague had already developed his program and found it difficult to devote the time needed to team plan. But we still found smaller opportunities to team plan. I also found support on line, a volunteer who went to different classes throughout the board, student teacher and colleagues who were in the same board but in different areas of the board. Many people have ideas, I find ideas help get me thinking. Whether I take the idea as is or tweak it to suit my student needs, I find all ideas are helpful.


4)       Next year’s class – the students.

As we all know, students achieve more when their interest is in the lesson. At the beginning of the school year, I ask my students what you would like to do, what would you like me to teach you in language. This year, my students wanted to write a graphic novel using bit strips. I took their lead and used graphic novels to teach them about narrative writing and to help develop their plans for writing. I also share the Science and Social Studies units and give them an idea of when we are covering certain units.


At this point of the year, you are looking at finishing things off and planning for your next year. I personally prefer to reflect and think about my next year’s planning now. For some people, they need that down time before they reflect and plan for the following year. It is up to you and what suits your lifestyle best.

Working with or as an Occasional Teacher

When thinking about occasional teacher planning many questions could go through one’s thinking process (what do I leave, how much, what do I bring?). If you are an occasional teacher you need to be able to teach for the time you are in the class with plans or not. If you are a contract teacher, you want the occasional to teach what you would do even if you were there. I just finished having a student teacher in my classroom and as her practicum was coming close to an end, the conversation of occasional teaching came up. She wanted to know how I decided what to leave for an occasional and how much but also what she should expect as an occasional teacher. Below is a summary of what I shared with her:


Planning for an occasional teacher

1) Make sure you leave a current seating plan.

2) Leave tips and notes about your students but remember to be professional as sometimes notes are left in the room for kids to see. Only phrase things in a positive language, leave strategies to help the occasional connect with your students, and 1 or 2 students who the occasional can ask questions about the routine.

3) Leave as much information about your class as possible but remember all information will not always be read. Don’t forget to highlight the allergies in the class and if epi-pens are used (if so, where the epi-pens are stored).

4) Leave lessons which your students will be able to complete. Usually, I still leave my lesson (as if I am there), I make sure I am prepared to complete an assessment for learning when I immediately return. The reason for this is the classroom teacher understands how each student learns, the comfort is there for the student to ask questions and clarify misunderstandings. Also, sometimes occasional teachers don’t have enough background information to connect the lesson for the students, students sometimes behave differently with occasional teachers and lessons are taught differently; the full lesson might not have been taught. I can’t tell you how many times I have returned to my class with a note stating the effort was made but the redirection of behaviour took up too much class time. That being said, I make sure lessons are connected to the curriculum but sometimes I may need to do something different than following my unit plan. It sometimes helps to make the occasional teacher’s day a little more fun.

5) Schedules – leave them in the supply folder. All resource, yard duty, classroom schedules need to be available for an occasional to view.

6) If you need items for a science experiment or art lesson, leave items out or in one location and share the location of items with the occasional teacher.


Working as an Occasional Teacher

1) Arrive as early as possible to give yourself time to review notes and lessons left by the classroom teacher.

2) Be familiar with the grade curriculum (if possible).

3) Try to connect with the neighbour teacher and ask any questions you may have.

4) Have a Language, Math, Science lesson in your bag, as a back up. On very few occasions you may walk into a classroom which has no lessons available for the day. If you have a lesson for each of these subjects, you can fill the day. Based on the grade, have some addition, subtraction, multiplication, division review fun sheets in order for the kids to complete (begin with asking the students to complete any 5, then to pick another 2, and so on). If no photocopier is available, write the questions on the board or display them on the smartboard and have the students record the questions and answers in their math workbooks. For Science or Language, you can have a story book related to the environment. “Where the Forest Meets the Sea”by Jeannie Baker or “The Lorax”by Dr. Suess are two great examples which can begin discussion on environmental issues, based on a situation you give them have the students develop different endings. Another Science activity might be a recycle sort — go through the classroom garbage bin (bring plastic gloves) and sort out what can be recycled or put in a compost. Again, there are many story books you can tie this theme to. For Language, you can use the newspaper and have the students discuss an article you feel is age appropriate. You can also have the kids write down 3 truths and a lie about themselves — then each student presents the 4 statements to the class. The class has to guess which is the lie. The students really enjoy this activity and it does take up an hour and sometimes even more (if the class size is bigger). Please don’t forget about your diversity of learners and adjust your lessons as needed.

5) Don’t forget about yard duty.

6) Try to deal with classroom behaviour in the class. But of course, if safety of yourself or other students is/are at risk, make sure you immediately contact the administration. Having a little reward planned for the end of the day helps students to look forward to something. Making the connection by saying hello/good morning to every student as they enter helps to start off the day well.

7) Say good bye to the administration and thank you to the office assistant(s).

8) Most of all…enjoy the day!

Another good resource for teaching the Arts curriculum

Some time ago I shared a great website resource for  drama and dance lessons and units- http://code.on.ca/resource

I have another favourite on line resource created specifically for Ontario teachers.

Learning Through the Arts hosts dance, drama, media arts and visual arts lessons based on the revised Arts curriculum for Ontario teachers.  I like that I am able to watch the integrated arts lesson unfold with real students.  You can browse by division or by subject.   I am going to attempt the third grade animal legends unit in May.   I hope you find this resource as useful as I do!

The Whole Child

As a third grade teacher, I sometimes get caught up and distracted by the fast approaching EQAO assessment.  Our school doesn’t fair very well in the EQAO world and there is a lot of talk about getting the students ready.  One way our school is preparing students for the assessment is by providing them practice runs at previous EQAO questions.  As Sangeeta mentioned in a previous post, I also worry about the amount of pen and paper tasks our students complete.  Don’t get me wrong, knowing how to read and write are VERY important skills that must be acquired, but there are many ways to learn how to read, THINK and write, technology being one.

As we neared the end of the calendar year, I allowed myself to forget about EQAO and teach the way I taught when I taught grades 4 and 5 and kindergarten!  Even though my students receive their music and art instruction from other teachers, I decided to include it in my program as well. Visual literacy, music, drama, art, movement, design and technology were springboards for incredible thinking and prompted the most meaningful and well crafted writing I have assessed so far this year!   More importantly, the level of engagement in my class springboard as I observed students focus and participate in ways I was not able to observe when I did not integrate the arts in my teaching.

I know this! Why do I allow myself to get caught up in the EQAO frenzy?  Don’t get me wrong. I actually like the EQAO assessment and take the responsibility of teaching STUDENTS the Ontario curriculum very seriously— but sometimes I think we get turned around and teach the CURRICULUM to students.  I think there is a difference.   My goal for 2012, is to make sure I teach to the WHOLE CHILD everyday and allow students to explore the curriculum in different ways before bringing out the pen and paper:)