mercredi 16 juillet 2014

Fractions, Decimals, and Percentages

This is one of the biggest challenges I have every year. When I don't manage to get through my curriculum it is usually because we spend so much time on this concept. This might be a way of making some of the review or comprehension checks a little more tactile. I like the idea of having them on some kind of plastic bottle caps...

What is the Problem?

This is one way of getting my students out of thinking there is only one right answer. It allows students to come up with their own problem and that they can each work at a level that suits them. Students who pick something too easy can be challenged to use different strategies or more difficult numbers. Something to keep in mind as I start to put my math centres together...

Class Promise

I like this idea even better than the idea of class rules. This defines what good people do. It makes it very clear that these are the behaviours we exhibit when we care about others. When there is an infraction, I can refer to this promise and help the students recognize that their behavious is not conducive to learning, whether it is their learning or the learning of others.

I especially like the last line where is reminds them that this is who we are "even when no one is looking".


This a great way to make the student take responsibilty for missed work. It doesn't take up much space and it's easy to maintain. It will be easy to verify who is picking up missed assignments and who is not by writing students' names on the sheets before placing them in the files.

Rules of Divisibility

This is an interesting visual way of putting it all together. This could obviously be used for many different concepts, but this is one that students struggle with regularly. They see the rule highlighted on the 100 chart and then they can verify the rule instantly. It's worth a try anyway. This could be the final entry in a math journal before assessing their grasp of this concept.

Request to Retest

This is a step that I think is essential when we are allowing students to retest. In the past, many of my students have expected a restest and have come to the conclusion that there is no need to study. "I'll just do it another day."

I tell my students this privelege is not free. Their eyes get all wide the first time, thinking they will need money and then I tell them the cost is time and effort. They have to prove that they have done something differently to ensure they will show an improved understanding of the concepts assessed.

After all, Einstein himself said it when he defined insanity as doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results. Some of my students will learn the long way that their teacher is not insane... (at least not where it comes to assessing).

What Stuck With Me This Week?

This is an interesting idea as well. Students add one thing to the chart every week so that I can see what is having an impact on their learning. This allows me to hear from those who never say anything aloud. Those who are not sure what to include will soon have lots of ideas from those who ALWAYS have something to say.

It would also help me see what is working and what needs to be reviewed. No more will I get to test day and realize they are still wondering what the heck we've been talking about for the past 2 weeks.

Idiom of the Week

This is a great idea for French or for English. Idioms can be so much fun, especially when you can find the origin of the expression. There are so many expressions that are less known to students today because of the technological language shift. This would allow me to fill them in on "Old-fashioned" language. I like the visual presentation of it as well...

My Class Gardens

What a great way to combine my love of photography with my work. Making a bouquet of my students like this for my desk is an easy way to show students that they matter to me. Now that I am in a high school, I no longer get that class photo as a memento and this would give me a little reminder of each student after the year is done.

Note to self: Get the petals made in the summer because once the school year gets started, time will be a precious commodity...

100 Questions

This idea comes from a younger grade's teacher, but I thought another good use for this would be my science class. When I teach ecosystems, we watch some awesome videos about different ecosystems in the world and this would be a very visual way of posting the questions students have about what they learn and what they might like to research later on in the unit.

It can also be used to have students respond and ask questions about what they are reading in French or English. Responses could be categorized (questions, connections, opinions, frustrations...) Just a thought.

dimanche 4 mai 2014

Clothes Pins Monitor Participation

OK, I know this will come as no surprise to anyone in the field, but there is a huge spread between those students who want to dominate in the area of "answering ALL the questions" and those who cringe at the thought of being called on in class. In my years in the classroom, I have heard so many words of wisdom about what to expect of students as far as participation is concerned. There is much controversy surrounding this issue. Some believe in the "tough love" approach, putting students on the spot and toughening them up to better prepare them for a less forgiving world. Others nurture and protect the student to the point of sheltering them from the experience altogether.

Now, neither of these will inspire a student to test the waters in an environment of safety and to develop learning habits which embrace error.

This year, I am faced with two very large groups (30 and 31 students). In each of the groups, I have a wide range of ability, activity and needs.

Each has a core of about 3 students who have their hand up as soon as they take their seats. They are ready to answer any and all questions that arise. They dominate conversations and they bask in the attention they feel they are getting from those who do not get the chance to speak.

The truth, however, is that those who do not speak, often do not bother because they have learned over the years, that there is no point trying to contribute to a discussion. They have experienced being cut off and being beaten to it by those who answer faster.

I saw very early this year that many of my quiet students were pretending to understand things in order to avoid questioning and taking risks in front of the others. It was obvious that the first thing I needed to establish was a safe environment in which they would be willing to take risks. We talked honestly about the importance of being respectful of the different learning styles of others. We defined a community of learners and the behaviours that help us to work well together. But this was not enough...

I needed to find a way to get my strong personalities to stop dominating the discussions and to get the reluctant speakers to find their voice. The idea hit me while in a Dollarama, shopping for birthday party loot bags...

Each student receives 4 wooden clothes pins with their names written on them. These are attached to name cards taped to the side of a bookshelf. Upon arriving for my class, students take their clothes pins from their card and place them on their desks. During lessons or class discussions, they hand one in when they contribute something to the class (be it a question or an opinion). To do this, they simply place it at the corner of the desk and the "used" pins are collected and counted at lunch by student volunteers. In such a large class, it helped me to see who was taking part, and who was merely observing.

What I noticed, was that the quiet students started to ask and answer questions more often and that the more dominant participants started to monitor their contributions. They were more aware when others had not had a chance to be heard and were sure to save their own "turns" for something worthwhile. I started to hear things like, "I'll let others have a go," and "I'll save my last clothes pin for another question."

There are several things to keep in mind here. The first is that students are not put on the spot. They contribute when they are comfortable doing so. They start to speak because others are no longer dominating, which gives them a chance to get a word in edgewise. The clothespins add a visual reminder that they are not participating, prompting them to ask or answer questions without fear of being cut off.

The second is that students who used to dominate become aware of how important it is for others to have the chance to engage in their learning. They become instrumental, not only in their own development, but in helping create a classroom setting where everyone can be engaged in their learning.

The third is that all this has nothing to do with grades. This is simply a visual way of helping students monitor
their level of participation to be aware of the contributions of each student. The tracking is just to show them that the rate of participation is improving. It also gives me some data about students who are reluctant to contribute anything in class. These are the students I can then turn my focus to in order find out if there are other reasons they are not asking or answering questions. This, however, is much easier to do with two or three quiet kids as opposed to 26 who never get the chance to speak.

And finally, the entire thing is monitored by students. Volunteers pick up the "used" clothes pins and record participation. Once counted, they replace these on the name cards. Other students replace the "unused" clothes pins on the name cards for the next class. The conditions for learning become the responsibility of all students after that.

mercredi 16 avril 2014

Getting Started with Blogs / Quelques directives pour les blogues;postID=3143297675363609778;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=0;src=link
So, you have a Google account and you have created a blog... What next? In the attached document, you will find instructions for a beginner in the world of classroom blogging. The best first step is to acquaint yourself with your own blog before you unleash it in your classroom. Take the time to create posts, add pictures and videos and play around with the various tools and features that you can exploit to encourage your students to produce professional looking work that they will be proud of.

Bon. Vous avez un compte Google et votre blogue est créé... Maintenant quoi? Dans le lien ci-dessous, vous trouverez des directives qui vous seront utiles pour déclencher le potentiel du monde des blogues. La meilleure première étape est de vous familiariser avec votre blogue avant de le présenter à vos élèves. Prenez le temps de créer des messages, ajouter des images, des vidéos et explorez les outils disponibles afin d'encourager vos élèves de produire des publications professionnelles dont ils seront fiers.

Blog Instructions / Directives de blogues